Where America’s longest free-flowing River leaves the nation’s first National Park, you find Paradise Valley. Flanked by towering summits, high-alpine lakes and a lifetime of backcountry exploration, this small section of Montana truly is one of the last best places around. Known for hot springs and fly fishing, backpacking and grizzly bears, this region is often the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Beautiful beyond words, Paradise Valley lives up to the name, but if mining interests have their say, that might not be the case for much longer.

In an area right near Yellowstone National Park, where bison and bears roam around geysers and hot springs, two industrial-scale gold mines are threatening the recreation-based communities located at the doorstep of America’s first National Park. Because of the threat and possible destruction of their home mountains,  businesses of all types, environmentalists, the tourism industry and land owners throughout Montana’s Paradise Valley have joined forcing, forming a group called the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition. Their goal is to stop the mining companies and protect the area’s existing economy and way of life.

They are not alone.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana looks toward a speaker at an event to stop mining in Paradise Valley.
Senator Jon Tester of Montana peaks at an event to stop mining in Paradise Valley, while a dog takes in the scene in the packed room.

On a snowy, spring Wednesday in Bozeman, hundreds gathered at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds at noon to rally with Senator Jon Tester to protect Paradise Valley. What was once considered a done deal by Congress has now stretched to an ongoing saga, showcasing a raging war between resource extractors and local residents. At stake for Montana is the health and future of one of the most unique, accessible and beautiful valleys in the Big Sky State. At the Bozeman rally, Senator Jon Tester and supporters of spoke with urgency and passion for the region, asking everyone in attendance to get involved to ensure protection for the region for future generations.

“We understand that there are appropriate places to mine, but the gateway to Yellowstone National Park isn’t one of them.”

Tracy Raich,Owner of Raich Montana Properties LLC

The issue at hand is quite simple and has been reported on numerous times over the past two years. There are two mining interests hoping to drill for oil just north of Yellowstone National Park, in the Yellowstone River Watershed. They aim to find gold and other resources, using new techniques to search in lands that have already been mined. Locals, including business owners, hunters, anglers and environmentalists, have all teamed together to fight the proposed mines, saying that it could ruin the region. Even Secretary Ryan Zinke agrees with a mining ban in the region, but Congress has once again stalled on passing an act that would spare the valley from a potentially devastating mining operation. On March 27th, 2018, Congress once again delayed getting the ball rolling on protecting this land.

Paradise Valley is special, and not just because I am writing this post from the valley. It is a gateway to Yellowstone National Park that once had the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt visit. It is full of elk and deer, eagle and osprey, and a place where the colors of sunsets change lives. Rising from the banks of the Yellowstone River and Paradise Valley are the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains and Wilderness, one of the most densely populated grizzly habitats in America. The region’s creeks and streams flow into the Yellowstone River, making this one of the most famous fly-fishing rivers in America. Throughout the mountains and valley, seemingly endless recreation opportunities exist, giving all ages of outdoor enthusiasts a wonderland to explore. Mining can happen, but juts not here. There is too much to lose.

Don’t Mine Yellowstone from Eric Ian on Vimeo.

If you are against mining in Paradise Valley and right outside of Yellowstone National Park, contact the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and ask how you can help. They, like the region, need all the help they can get to protect and save Paradise Valley and the Yellowstone Ecosystem.