Gianforte hears concerns of East Rosebud Creek residents

Photo by Alastair Baker

Left to right: Clint Branger, Branger Ranch; Friends of the East Rosebud Vice-President Frank Annighofer; U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) and J.O. Hash, of MyRanch, Inc., check out East Rosebud Creek this week.

The message from residents and ranchers to U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) was clear; namely to protect the headwaters of the East Rosebud Creek from any and all proposed power installations.

At present, legislation is going through the Senate to designate the Creek as a wild and scenic entity. The bipartisan bill, spearheaded by U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines would preserve the Creek under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The visit was arranged by Friends of the East Rosebud whose vice-president Frank Annighofer had met with Gianforte early in July.

“He said he needed to come out and talk to people on the ground,” explained Annighofer.

In return Gianforte listened to passionate statements about the importance and need to save the Creek.

Gianforte, himself no stranger to traversing the wilderness trails of Montana with his family, told the assembled audience that his role was to “collect this input to get to a final conclusion.”

“Since January, 270 bills have been passed by the House. 230 (bills) are stuck in the Senate. We need them to get some stuff done,” he said.

“My goal today is to hear from the residents. I’ve been here before and done the beaten path and I know how precious the public lands are and the desire of the com- munity here to preserve this,” said Gianforte. “What’s impressed me about the work Frank (Annighofer) has done is there is such unanimity in the support of the landowners. My job is to be their voice. This is the real world; D.C. is not the real world.”

“We want to preserve the Montana way of life against Federal reach,” said Gianforte.

Among those at the gathering was Debbie Miller, a geologist and geo physicist in the oil and gas business.

She talked of the importance of this “free stone stream.”

“It starts in the Beartooth Mountains at Fossil Lake and flows through a series of lakes with the creek connecting them.”

She said “there is no barrier to this water” that empties out into the Stillwater River and then into the Yellowstone River.

“There are no dams on it until it comes to the Missouri River,” said Miller. “When you damn it, it changes the quality, the temperature, the whole aquatic habitats. Fresh water is something we all need to be con- scious about because you don’t create new fresh water unless it comes from precipitation and once you ruin the ground water system or the surface water system you’re in big trouble.”

“We are the headwaters for the United States. We feed the heartland through our snowpack,” she said.

Miller hoped that Gianforte stands on “the backs of people who created these wildness areas.”

“They had the moral imagination when we created wilderness, and this is one resource, water, that flows out of it that is so important in keeping those wild lands. We are not creat- ing more wild land, we’re not creating more earth to have wild lands on.”

Clint Branger, who has Branger Ranch, said the creek is “essential to my living and way of life and essential to my vacation. When I’m done, there is nothing I love but going up this rivers, fishing, swimming it. It covers all areas of my life.”

Branger’s family has ranched in the area since 1913.

“It’s a playground that is unimaginable. Just between here and the East Rosebud, just the things here; the trails, the water, the mountains, it’s unending. It’s a wonderful beautiful place. All these mountains are pristine.”

“It makes me feel good that he (Gianforte) wanted to come down and he fitted this into his busy schedule. You know it is a top priority,” said Branger.

J.O. Hash, of MyRanch, Inc., a 4th generation ranch- er who likes to fish, reiterat- ed the importance of water from the Creek.

Hash’s wife, Erica, used to own Kibler and Kirch in Red Lodge and said that the town depends on all this being wild and free.

“It brings people in from across the world, and provides a balance for ranching and retail,” she said.

Jo Ann Eder of Red Lodge was pleased that the area “meant something to his (Gianforte’s) family. I was happy to hear that, so he can understand our love for it. We need someone who cares about it, not someone who puts it on their to-do list.”

Annighofer was pleased with the turnout. He called the creek, “energy for the soul” as he described seeing “families out fishing and having fun.”

If a power plant goes through, bringing with it a pipeline, and a power gener- ating plant above Jimmy Joe’s Campground, “all will be spoiled,” he said.

“And all for 3 months of the year,” he said.

East Rosebud Creek would become the fifth sce- nic river in Montana and the first so designated since 1976 if the bill goes through.