What does I-191 do?

I-191 would subject large stretches of the Gallatin and Madison rivers, and their tributaries, to the same strict regulations currently found only in national parks and wilderness areas. The result would restrict ranchers from watering livestock, farmers from irrigating, and anglers from accessing these rivers. I-191 would devalue neighboring property, prohibit road and bridge maintenance, shut down an entire area of Gallatin County to affordable housing development, and undermine current environmental restoration efforts.

Montana has some of the strongest water quality laws in the country—I-191 would circumvent the existing laws and process by overriding the protections that Montanans worked together to put in place.

Under I-191, the Department of Environmental Quality would be prohibited from approving a permit for any new or increased discharge that causes a change in water quality, including only a temporary change. I-191’s sponsors tried before to shut down activity on these rivers, but they were denied by the Board of Environmental Review and the Montana courts. Now they are attempting to set a new precedent that could be used on waterbodies throughout the state.

How does I-191 hurt Montana?

Agriculture is the number one industry in southwest Montana. This initiative would restrict the ability of farmers to irrigate and ranchers to water their livestock and could cause some family agriculture operations to go out of business.

This initiative would reduce public access for local anglers on their favorite fishing holes on the Gallatin and Madison rivers and prevent construction and maintenance of hiking and riding trails. These changes could devastate Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, which generates nearly $300 million in economic activity annually in southwest Montana.

I-191 undermines local control of our water resources. There is already a rigorous process in place to protect our vulnerable waterbodies that includes years of public input and planning. This initiative blocks that collaborative process and institutes a new, top-down rule that ignores input from local Montanans who will have to live with the consequences.

Who opposes I-191?

Nearly 50 business, outdoor recreation, agriculture, and conservation groups have voiced their opposition to this initiative because it is too restrictive and has far-reaching economic impacts. State policy experts are also united in their opposition. In a rare bi-partisan action, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats on the legislature’s Water Policy committee voted to oppose the initiative.