Around Yellowstone national park, mining companies anticipate the end of the Obama-era moratorium, but local businesses are fighting back

Bruce Gordon’s Cessna Centurion floats off the runway south of Livingston, Montana, quickly escaping the confines of Paradise Valley, walled on both sides by the Absaroka and Gallatin mountain ranges. Snaking through the alfalfa fields, cottonwood thickets and ranches below, the Yellowstone river is still surging with late spring snowmelt.

As soon as we crest the ridges, the whole of Yellowstone national park is visible to the south, with Grand Teton towering on the far horizon. Places that would take hours to drive between – because of impassable mountains and roadless wilderness – are revealed to be only a handful of miles apart. The nearly 1 million acres of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is spread out to the east, teeming with unseen elk herds, mountain lions, and grizzly bears. Gordon, who runs the nonprofit EcoFlight, based in Aspen, Colorado, pilots flights like this one to help people understand conservation issues with a view from above. “We’re coming up on Emigrant Gulch now,” Joe Josephson, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, says over the intercom as we fly over the green-roofed buildings of Chico Hot Springs resort, skirting the conical 10,915ft Emigrant Peak. Josephson, an avid mountaineer who recently summited Emigrant Peak to celebrate his 50th birthday, is the Montana Conservation Associate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a nonprofit devoted to defending the 20 million-acre Yellowstone ecosystem from degradation.

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