Yellowstone mining opponents press Gianforte to join cause

Opponents of two gold mines proposed near Yellowstone National Park pressed Tuesday for Montana's lone U.S. House member to seek federal legislation to withdraw public lands near the park from future mining.

After a measure stalled in the Senate, businesses and conservation groups said the support of U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is crucial to making permanent a temporary mining ban enacted last year on 47 square miles (121 square kilometers) of land north of Yellowstone.

Gianforte and Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines have said they support the concept of a permanent ban. But Gianforte has previously said legislation needs "something in it for both sides" and has criticized environmental groups for blocking mines in northwest Montana despite local support.

Gianforte said in a statement Tuesday that he intends to introduce legislation on the issue but did not specify when that would happen or offer details on its contents.

"I continue working toward a permanent solution that protects the Paradise Valley community, its economy, and its way of life," Gianforte said.

A Yellowstone-area mining ban measure sponsored by Democrat U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has stalled in the Senate in the face of Republican opposition.

Mining opponents say gold exploration proposals from Lucky Minerals and Crevice Mining Inc. threaten to degrade waterways and turn away tourists who come to the Paradise Valley north of the park for its natural beauty.

"We need desperately to introduce identical legislation in the House," said Colin Davis, who owns a resort, Chico Hot Springs, near one of the mining sites. "We're protecting our jobs. We're protecting our way of life."