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Clean water.

We turn on our kitchen faucets or water our gardens here in Montana, and we just expect clean water to come out. It’s the stuff of life, and Montana is the birthplace of so many of our clean rivers. What we do up here impacts everyone downstream. Clean water is essential to human health, to vibrant economies, to our food producers — such as farmers and ranchers — to bustling cities and growing businesses.

Clean water is especially important to the outdoor recreation economy in Montana, which pumps more than $7 billion into the state every year. Companies like Orvis, which I help run from my home in Montana, are part of that industry — one that is sustainable, as long as we keep our water clean. More than 70,000 Montanans depend upon the outdoor-recreation economy for jobs, jobs that run on clean water.

At Orvis, we have more than 800 partnerships with small, Montana-grown businesses that also depend upon that water being clean. Those are businesses like fly shops, guides, lodges and outfitters. Those businesses support working families across the state, all of whom rely on what makes Montana a special place. Our industry is a vigorous one that only promises to grow if we are good stewards and keep our water clean.

That’s what we at Orvis like about Initiative 186. It will ensure that our most treasured resource, water, remains clean and pure after a hard-rock mining company has finished its business in the state. A new mine that is built in Montana — producing materials upon which companies like Orvis depend — will need to prove that it won’t pollute forever after its operators have left the state. If they can’t prove that they won’t pollute, they won’t be allowed to mine. It’s that simple.

A "yes" vote ensures that the right kinds of mines, and mining companies, come to Montana to provide jobs and produce metals. The wrong kinds of companies — the kinds that leave all of us taxpaying Montanans holding the bill for cleaning up their mess — are not let in. Right now, Montana has no way to say no to those wrong kinds of companies. A "yes" vote on I-186 will fix that.

Thousands of miles of stream in this state are already polluted. These are often headwater streams carrying acid mine drainage and dangerous metals like arsenic, lead and mercury into our water system. This is pollution that lasts lifetimes and costs the state’s taxpayers millions every year. Some of that pollution comes from historic mines. Some comes from mines permitted in recent memory.

We can’t turn back the clock and change mining practices of old, but we can make a positive impact now by passing I-186, so that our outdoor industry and our hard-rock mining industry can achieve a balance, can work together to make sure Montana’s clean water stays clean, and businesses, large and small, continue to thrive.

We can’t do it without clean water.

Dave Perkins lives in Wolf Creek on the banks of the Missouri River. He is vice chairman of the family-owned-and-operated outdoor retailer The Orvis Company. 

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