An opportunity lost to politics
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.
Many 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 government.
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 away downstream.