In President Clinton's 1997 State of the Union Message, he introduced the Heritage Rivers Initiative as a means to address the management issues of 10 notable American waterways, and as a vehicle to provide federal assistance and funding to complement state and regional efforts (HCN, 3/30/98: River heritage plan sent downstream).
Linda Moss, at the
Yellowstone Western Heritage Center in Billings, saw it as an
"opportunity for citizens to work with the federal government to
achieve a shared vision." She spearheaded the campaign to sign up
the Yellowstone, and supporters were enthusiastic about the rare
opportunity to adopt a holistic approach to a watershed plagued by
problems associated with micromanagement.
landowners didn't see it that way, however. At public hearings up
and down the river, property owners shouted down the proposal and
accused proponents of being "environmental elitists." More extreme
elements claimed the Heritage Rivers Initiative was a United
Nations' smoke screen plot to impose world
The vocal minority got its way.
Montana Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Rick Hill, both Republicans,
were persuaded by landowners to officially request removal of the
Yellowstone from consideration, and it was. Whether or not the
initiative represented the best and most intelligent program for
river management, one more chance to see the river whole slipped