Help protect the Gallatin by joining us in Helena
On Jan. 31, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and the Gallatin Wildlife Association filed a petition with the Department of Environmental Quality to designate the Gallatin River, from the Yellowstone Park boundary downstream to Spanish Creek, as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW). This designation is the only effective measure, under state law, to permanently protect the Gallatin from wastewater discharge. Designating the Gallatin as an ORW would be the first use of this law in Montana.
Why is this important?
Many in favor of direct discharge will point to other mountain communities across the West and simply say, “They do it, why shouldn’t we?” Oft cited examples are Jackson Hole, Vail and Park City. Park City holds two separate permits to discharge into McLeod and Silver Creeks, the Vail area holds permits to discharge into the Eagle River and the Jackson Hole area holds a permit to discharge into the Snake River, a federally designated wild and scenic river.
Importantly and unbeknownst to many, the state of Montana has not widely stocked trout into rivers or streams since 1974. Every trout in the Gallatin is a wild fish. Unfortunately, all of the mountain communities that are being held up as justifications for why Big Sky should be allowed to discharge still stock vast amounts of trout every year. It is uncertain what affect pharmaceuticals and other concerning substances, which are cost prohibitive to treat out of wastewater, would have on the wild, naturally reproducing trout population in the Gallatin.
Where are we in this process?
The ORW process can be broken down into four parts. First, the petition must be accepted by the Montana Board of Environmental Review (BER). Second, an environmental impact statement must be produced. Then, the board, based on the findings of the EIS, can recommend to the Montana Legislature that the river be protected. Finally, the Legislature votes on whether to protect the portion of river covered under the petition and the EIS.
The BER previously accepted a petition that was submitted by American Wildlands to protect the Gallatin as an Outstanding Resource Water. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality then produced an EIS in 2007 that recommended designating the Gallatin an Outstanding Resource Water, but never issued a final decision. Cottonwood has updated the original petition and included the previous EIS prepared by Montana DEQ.
What is there to be done?
An online petition can be found at bit.ly/ProtectTheGallatin. Please sign and share this petition with your friends and loved ones. As of April 2, there were 2,535 petition signatures. The goal is to get 5,000.
The April 6 meeting of the BER will be held at 9 a.m. in Helena (1520 E. 6th Ave, Room 111), and include a public comment period.
Cottonwood is helping coordinate a carpool from Bozeman. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Seckinger’s title is “Chief Rabble Rouser” at Bozeman’s Cottonwood Environmental Law Center.