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Rivers Month: Call to Protect More of Montana's Iconic Rivers

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022   

June is National Rivers Month, and in Montana, a push to protect more rivers is swelling.

The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act in Congress would nearly double the amount of river miles protected as Wild and Scenic in the state. After being reintroduced in 2021, it's finally scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Breweries from around the state have sent a letter to Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, both R-Mont., urging them to support the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act.

"The number one ingredient in beer is water. We should not forget that, and that is really the crux of our interest in this," said Matt Leow, executive director of the Montana Brewers Association. "We know that it takes clean water to make great beer, and so, brewers definitely have a vested interest in protecting our water in Montana."

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced the bill. In a statement to Public News Service, he said, "This legislation is built from the ground up with the backing of a diverse coalition of stakeholders, and it will ensure that some of our most breathtaking rivers will stay that way, protecting our outdoor economy and way of life."

There doesn't appear to be any organized opposition to the bill.

Maggie Doherty, co-owner of Kalispell Brewing Co., said protecting Montana's rivers and landscapes - which are key to the state's outdoor-recreation economy - can benefit everyone.

"We see that once we take care of the environment around us, business, everything else can boom," she said. "It's not an and/or. We don't have to pit business against the environment. It can work in concert."

Doherty, who considers herself a "river rat," said her kids now are exploring Montana's rivers, too.

"Rivers teach us so much about ourselves and the understanding of the natural world around us," she said, "and it gives me a place and a space to think about the future and the places that I want my children, and hopefully future generations, to enjoy."

The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act would protect 385 miles of river in the state, including segments of the Gallatin, Smith and Yellowstone rivers.


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