GARDINER- Federal land in the Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin could soon be closed to mining for the next 20 years.
The U.S. Forest Service made the recommendation on Friday.
In a letter to the Bureau of Land Management, Regional Forester Leanne Marten proposed to withdraw from mining on more than 30,370 acres of Custer Gallatin National Forest Land.
The land is in Park County, just north of Yellowstone National Park and known as the Emigrant Crevice Mineral Withdrawal.
According to the letter, the change would provide habitat for wildlife, including grizzly bears and Canada lynx.
Marten also cited outdoor recreation, the local economy and the flow of streams into the Yellowstone River as reasons for the change.
“Today’s news is a positive step forward, but we must not rest on our laurels,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. “The entire delegation must throw their full support behind our bill, which full protects the region’s economy for future generations.”
Tester co-sponsored the Yellowstone Gateway Protections Act.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said the area deserves protection.
“After an extensive process and public input. I’m glad to see that the Forest Service listened to the voices of the residents and is recommending this withdrawal,” said Daines.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman, called the Paradise Valley a unique place.
“I’ve long fought for the protection of the valley since I was in Congress,” Zinke said.
Zinke also said the Interior Department is looking at finalizing the withdrawal in the coming weeks.