Photo submitted.

Making Waves — Montana

March 4, 2024

Climate problems may seem overwhelming, but people all around this great nation are taking action. This week’s column looks at MONTANA and the question is: How do “Green Amendments” in a state constitution work to level the legal playing field?

Montana is one of only three states (shortlist includes Pennsylvania and New York) that lists among their residents’ inalienable rights “the right to a clean and healthful environment,” and cautions that in “enjoying these rights, all persons recognize corresponding responsibilities.”

These environmental rights amendments are not new to Montana’s state constitution; they date back to the 1970s (as it also does in PA). They periodically make news, invoked to mitigate or head off environmental degradation.

In 1999, the MT Dept. of Environmental Quality was sued to stop the permitting of mining activities east of Missoula that would put higher levels of arsenic into the Blackfoot and Landers Fork Rivers than exist naturally. These are critical spawning waters for the Bull Trout species. This early test case ended in a loss but on appeal was ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

In more recent years, the Green Amendment was the underpinning of a court ruling in 2020 that blocked gold mining operations on the Yellowstone River, and presently, in 2022, residents in the Gallatin River watershed are using the amendment to push for clean-up of excessive nutrient flows causing algal blooms in this important Blue Ribbon trout fishing river. You might know the Gallatin as one of the film locations for Robert Redford’s “A River Runs Through It.”

Currently, 10 states are considering bills similar to what already exists in Montana, Pennsylvania, and most recently, New York. In PA, which holds considerable legal responsibility for cleaning up its tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, fracking activities along the Delaware River were stopped with this legal argument.

To learn more about the environmental lawyer who launched the comprehensive campaign to encourage the adoption of Green Amendments in states across the nation, listen to the following interview. All it takes is internet access.
Podcast: Earth911 (Sept 21, 2022)
Episode: Maya van Rossum on the Green Amendment for the Generations [~46 mins]

You may remember hearing about Maya van Rossum in an earlier Making Waves column covering her work as the Delaware Riverkeeper, spearheading watershed protection in PA. Having these rights baked into the state constitution has made a big difference, and the movement is gaining traction internationally.

Let me know if you have a podcast to recommend, have a comment about my column, or have trouble finding a particular podcast I’ve mentioned. Happy listening!
[email protected]

Note: This column, part of a series looking at examples of positive climate action, state-by-state, first appeared in the Forest Press 11-02-2022. If you are interested in this state’s topic, check online for updated news, as a lot may have changed in a year and a quarter.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Previous Story

WCVB Teaming with Miracle Mountain Ranch for Eclipse Retreat

Next Story

March 5, 2024 Morning Cup ‘O News Fueled by White Cane Coffee

Subscribe to our newsletter

White Cane Coffee presents Coffee & a Conversation

Don't Miss