I-191 restricts public access, agriculture, and more in SW Montana

By Senator Walt Sales

As part of a multigeneration farm/ranch family in the Gallatin Valley, I understand the vital importance of protecting our land and water resources. Farmers’ and ranchers’ stewardship of the land and water is our livelihood.

When I heard of the proposed ballot initiative 191 that would apply new, strict regulations to stretches of the Gallatin and Madison rivers—the type of regulations usually reserved for national parks and wilderness areas—I looked at the fine print.

The proponents are selling this initiative as a move to protect the rivers. But as is typical with ballot initiatives, there are significant downsides they won’t tell you about.

I-191 is aimed at shutting down most human activity on these water bodies. That includes current restoration efforts driven by science and being conducted by local and statewide conservation groups aimed at improving stretches of these rivers. Because it would stop these restoration activities, I-191 could actually result in degrading water resources. That’s why several prominent conservation organizations oppose I-191.

Senator Walt Sales, from Manhattan, represents Senate District 35 in Gallatin County. He is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee.