A crucial migration route for Yellowstone elk and the waters of a pair of Yellowstone River tributaries have been placed under protection celebrated by a signing ceremony on Thursday.

Members from Kinross Gold, a Toronto-based mining company and officials from both the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Trout Unlimited made the protections official yesterday in Jardine.  The basis of the agreement would see an abandoned gold mine outside of Yellowstone transformed into a wildlife protection area, preventing the development of 549 acres of crucial habitat.

With last summer’s fish kill along the Yellowstone River, Gov. Steve Bullock, who was on hand for the ceremony, believes the agreement will undoubtedly reduce the risk of a similar problem in the future.

“A threat to the health of Montana’s fish population is a threat to Montana’s outdoor economy and the thousands of jobs it sustains,” Bullock said at the ceremony.

The announcement came just as residents, businesses, and conservation groups are in the process of trying to stop two addition mines from being developed in the same area north of the park.