The Other Side of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act Explained
I've had a few radio listeners who reached out to me. They were wondering what this Montana Headwaters Legacy Act was all about. Who better to check in with than former Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman), who also has served as a leader in a pro access group called Citizens for Better Use (CBU).
Here's the headline from The Great Falls Tribune earlier this summer: "Is the Headwaters Legacy Act Far-sighted or Federal Overreach? That was a piece by David Murray, and in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle they note that the bill would designate 336 miles of rivers and streams in the Lewis and Clark and the Custer Gallatin National Forests as Wild and Scenic. Okay, well what does that mean? And what type of restrictions would that then come with?
Kerry White: People should understand that under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, when you designate a stream or river as wild and scenic there's a certain amount of acreage that goes with that. That becomes a corridor. And for every mile of river you designate, it's a quarter mile on each side of the river, so you are restricting activity on 320 acres for every mile of stream. Now I added up all the miles of streams that's in Tester's bill here, and there's 357 miles. And that equates to restricting 114,240 acres of land that goes along with that corridor. Now the thing about wild and scenic is when that is designated that restriction applies not only to public land, but it also applies to private land within that quarter mile corridor on each side of the river. Now that restricts all commercial activity within that corridor.
Kerry White then gave an example out of Idaho where a logger wasn't even able to drive timber on a truck over a road, simply because the road was in a Wild and Scenic corridor- even though the actual timber harvest didn't take place inside the Wild and Scenic corridor.
The challenge with Tester's Headwaters Legacy Act is that it is simply too far-reaching. Under President Trump, and thanks to Montana Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Montana actually saw its first Wild and Scenic River designation in 40 years on the East Rosebud. But that effort had local support and was isolated to a specific chunk of the East Rosebud, whereas Tester's bill is simply too far-reaching and doesn't have the local support.
Speaking of the East Rosebud, that area was hard hit by the flooding that impacted Southcentral and Southwestern Montana this past summer. Campers and their vehicles were stranded after the road into the East Rosebud was damaged by the floods. Kerry White says the road may now not be able to get repaired due to the Wild and Scenic River designation.
Here's the audio of our full chat with Kerry White: