By Missoula Current
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester announced Wednesday that he is introducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act to protect thousands of acres of public land in western Montana.
Tester’s legislation is the result of a decade of on-the-ground collaboration between the timber industry, sportsmen and women, ranchers, and business owners.
“The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is the perfect example of what happens when Montanans work together,” said Tester. “This legislation will create jobs, strengthen the local economy, and preserve our outdoor way of life for future generations.”
In 2009, Tester introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act that, among other things, allowed for timber harvest, forest restoration work, watershed protections, and wilderness and recreation designations in the Upper Blackfoot-Clearwater Valley.
Since that time, Tester helped secure $19 million in federal funding to implement much of the restoration work, creating and sustaining more than 100 jobs, spurring a $33 million investment into the local economy.
However, the recreation and wilderness aspects of the legislation never came to fruition.
At the request of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and with the support of the local timber industry, Tester is moving forward with legislation to implement the remaining recreation and wilderness designations.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act:
- Protects 79,000 acres of land.
- Develops a comprehensive trail plan to provide recreationists with access to the Lolo National Forest.
- Opens 2,200 acres of land to snowmobiling.
- Protects access to 3,800 acres of mountain biking.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, conservationists, outfitters, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, ranchers, and local business owners all praised the measure.
“Jon Tester knows how to bring communities together,” said Jim Stone, Ovando rancher, in a written statement. “I hope this collaboration is just the beginning to making this country better.”
“Pyramid Mountain Lumber has been a citizen of the upper Blackfoot since the ‘40s,” said Loren Rose, chief operating officer of Pyramid Mountain Lumber. “While collaboration was in the dictionary back then, it was not in our vernacular, yet it is what all of us in the upper Blackfoot have always done. Senator Tester has put forth the legislation to affirm all those discussions of collaboration. Thank you, senator.”
“Wilderness is incredibly important to the communities that surround it, for the jobs it creates and the businesses and economy it sustains,” said Connie Long, owner of Bob Marshall Outfitters. “I have a real privilege of taking folks from all around the world into this place we call the wilderness. The North Fork of the Blackfoot is pretty special to me. It was my first trailhead and it was my first exposure into the wilderness, just like it is with my grandsons who are 8 and 10.”
“Folks come to Montana to experience the magic of Montana, and the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project helps ensure the magic of Montana will remain strong forever,” said Lee Boman, President of the Montana Wilderness Association. “The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project will produce immediate benefits, but will become more valuable in the decades that pass.”
“Missoula County thanks Senator Tester once again for validating the hard work of a diverse group of Montana citizens who came forward and found common ground,” said Jean Curtiss, Missoula County commissioner. “This is a made in Montana project, and it can be a model for the rest of the country.”