Montana Sen. Jon Tester Introduces Bill to Protect 385 Miles of Rivers in State

On Thursday, June 24th, Montana Sen. Jon Tester reintroduced the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act which aims to designate 385.4 miles of Montana's rivers as Wild & Scenic, nearly doubling the state's protected river segments.

Wild and Scenic designations would mean that public access and many traditional uses of these rivers continue, but would ensure that these waterways remain undammed, wild, clean and free flowing, forever. There's no doubt that this level of protection would benefit Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation industry while securing some of the most iconic stretches of river in the state for current and future generations. Anyone who has floated the Smith, fished the Madison, camped along the Taylor Fork or hunted within earshot of Hyalite Creek can understand the need and the desire to protect these undammed waterways. Nearly 80 percent of Montanans support these designations, according to a 2020 bipartisan poll from the University of Montana.

The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is the result of more than a decade of work and collaborative outreach by the Montanans for Healthy Rivers Coalition. Focusing on the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone River watersheds, the Coalition worked with Montanans from many walks of life, including business owners, hunters, anglers and all sorts of recreationists to identify the free-flowing rivers in Montana worthy of the staunchest level of river protections: Wild & Scenic designations.

Thousands of individuals have endorsed the plan and 1,000-plus Montana businesses and organizations have chimed in with support as well. The legislation would permanently protect 20 river sections found to be unquestionably deserving, including portions of the following:

  • The Smith River and Tenderfoot Creek in the Upper Missouri watershed 
  • The Gallatin River, Hyalite Creek, Upper Madison River, Beartrap Canyon of the Madison River and the Taylor Fork in the Missouri Headwaters region
  • The Yellowstone River, Boulder River, Rock Creek, Bear Creek, West Boulder River, West Stillwater River, Slough Creek, Hellroaring Creek, Lake Fork Rock Creek, West Fork Rock Creek and the Stillwater River in the Upper Yellowstone watershed, and more!

We're excited to see the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act introduced, and we encourage you to use your voice to help get it signed into law.

About Montana BHA

The voice for Montana's wild public lands, waters and wildlife