Montana Headwaters Legacy Act Introduced

The Stillwater River is one of the numerous river segements in the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. Photo George Wuerthner 


On November 16th, Senator John Tester reintroduced the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act that would designate 384 miles of rivers and streams under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The legislation includes protection for Bear Creek by Gardiner, the Upper Yellowstone in Yankee Jim Canyon, Slough Creek, Hellroaring Creek, Taylors Fork of the Gallatin River, Gallatin River, Madison River, Cabin Creek near Hebgen Lake,  Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone near Cooke City, the Stillwater River and West Fork of the Stillwater River, Boulder River, West Boulder River, Hyalite Creek, Lake Fork of Rock Creek, Rock Creek and West Fork of Rock Creek by Red Lodge, plus Tenderfoot Creek which drains into the Smith River.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was originally created to protect waterways from dam construction; however, it also provides an additional layer of protection that can preclude intrusive developments, logging, mining, and other activities.

Many of the river segments in the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act are within designated wilderness where in theory dam construction, logging, mining and other developments are prohibited.

Livestock grazing is permitted on Wild and Scenic River. Photo George Wuerthner 

However, livestock grazing is permitted in wilderness and can be a major source of water degradation and harm to fisheries, riparian areas, and wildlife use. Therefore, a further benefit of Wild and Scenic status is that livestock grazing in such river segments can be eliminated or reduced if domestic animal use harms the main features of the river. For instance, a portion of the Owyhee Wild and Scenic River in Oregon had livestock removed after it was determined grazing was harming the riparian area along the stream channel.

Designation can also sometimes create a favorable situation for Voluntary Livestock Permit Retirement. Ranchers using these river and stream segments might choose to give up grazing privileges when confronted with restrictions or adjustments designed to protect Wild and Scenic River values.

A further benefit is that W and S River designation can provide an incentive to purchase private lands that may exist along river sections to preserve the river corridor values.

I do not see a down side to this legislation and hope that Tester successfully passes the Act


  1. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    How about some Wildlife News!!!

    Artificially feeding of wildlife is just wrong. Wyoming can’t pin this on wolves.

    There were too many elk on the Horse Creek Feedground where a feeder had spotted the sick juvenile ungulates: nearly 40% more than the 1,250-elk goal for the state-managed site just south of Jackson. The already long, cold and snowy winter would likely mean a long feeding season. That meant 1,733 elk being fed every morning on top of feces-filled ground in the feedground’s flat valley floor.

    According to the report, 155 calves died or had to be killed on the Horse Creek Feedground, and “most” had to be killed by Wise and other wildlife managers “due to inability to move.” Another 64 dead calves suspected to have succumbed to hoof rot were discovered on the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest or on private land. All told 45% of the calves counted on the Horse Creek Feedground died. 

    Historic die-off at Wyoming elk feedground prompts management changes – WyoFile

    1. Maggie Frazier Avatar
      Maggie Frazier

      Thanks for the link. Having read that there has been an animal in Yellowstone now with CWP.
      I wonder how the elk feeding ground hasnt had it – altho this hoof rot disease sounds bad. Then feeding alfalfa that apparently causes damage?
      I’ve wondered for years how bringing together this many animals – whether wild or domestic – could possibly be thought of as a “good” idea!
      But I live in NY – far from the West. There is concern with CWP here! Thanks to the commercial deer farms (not sure if they still exist) but I think that might have been the start of the disease. You know, penning up many animals in one confined space!!!!
      Again, thank you for the link – I do get that particular site every once in a while.

  2. Duane Short Avatar
    Duane Short

    One detail often overlooked is the fact that where protection designations overlap, the WSRA mandates that the more restrictive designation takes precedent over designation(s) with less restrictive rules.

    This detail renders the WSRA a wonderful companion designation with other land, water, and wildlife protection designations.

  3. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Wasn’t quite sure where to post this, but I thought it should be. I sincerely hope that there is an intervention or that Federal law will prevail over any state law, so that a developer of any kind doesn’t get their hands on this:

  4. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine


    “The parcel borders the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge and sits on an ancient elk and pronghorn migratory corridor. It also offers habitat to dozens of other species of nongame mammals, birds, and fish and hosts premier elk and bison hunting access and ample fishing opportunities on the Gros Ventre, according to Joel Webster, the vice president of Western conservation for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. If the National Park Service were to acquire the parcel, conditions allowing for bison hunting could be written onto the deed when it transfers hands, Webster tells Outdoor Life. (A very limited elk hunt already occurs in Grand Teton National Park every year as part of the park’s elk management strategy.)”

    This is really important. I hope the Federal government/Interior Dept./Park Service does the right thing and gets involved, and/or a preservation/conservation group. They can’t babble on about climate change, and yet willingly allow this important land to be lost to development. How can I help?

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