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Stephen Schauer

Many of us live in Montana because it offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the country, and I’m no exception. Two weeks ago, I was able to fill my freezer with elk from a public lands hunt.

As I was packing the quarters back to my rig through the falling snow, I began thinking of warmer days, when I’ll hopefully be fishing for trout on the Clark Fork and Big Hole rivers. Whether I’m able to enjoy clean mountain streams next summer—and whether my daughter is able to do the same years from now—will be thanks, in part, to the way that Sen. Jon Tester voted recently in Washington.

You see, on Nov. 3, the U.S. Senate tried twice to overturn a rule that’s meant to ensure 63 percent of Montana streams remain clean and healthy. Though the Senate succeeded on one of these attempts, that bill is destined for a veto. In another bit of good news for Montanans, our outdoor heritage and the outdoor recreation industry, Tester fought these misguided attacks on clean water.

The Clean Water Rule is a much-needed and long-overdue clarification to the Clean Water Act that will improve protections for streams and wetlands. Clarity will also give more certainty to farmers, ranchers and foresters—and the rule strengthens necessary Clean Water Act exemptions for this community. It is not a federal land-grab, as its critics claim; it simply ensures that the Clean Water Act can sensibly protect headwaters and wetlands that have been at risk of degradation since two confusing Supreme Court decisions more than 10 years ago.

The kinds of waters protected by the Clean Water Rule in Montana include mountain streams in the west, Prairie Potholes in the east, and the headwaters of two of the greatest rivers in North America—the Missouri and the Columbia. These waters provide trout habitat, nesting grounds for game birds, and an oasis for wildlife in the arid prairies, and they should be protected for Montanans and our downstream neighbors. That’s why more than seven in 10 sportsmen support the Clean Water Rule.

But, of course, more than just hunters and anglers will benefit. The rule protects the waters that one in four Montanans rely on for drinking water. It restores wetlands that absorb flood waters, filter pollutants and recharge groundwater supplies. And it will sustain many Montana businesses that need access to clean water, like outfitters, guides and breweries.

Montana has a $1.4 billion hunting and fishing industry supporting thousands of jobs in the state. Many renowned American brands—like R.L. Winston Rod Co., Simms Fishing Products and Bozeman Reel Company—have set up shop here because of our world-class natural resources. If we fail to do the things necessary to safeguard those resources, we will be putting American jobs at risk.

Tester has been a stalwart champion of the outdoors for the good of our people and economy. His votes are further proof of that, and all Montanans owe him a debt of thanks.

Joel Webster is the Missoula-based director of the Center for Western Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

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