Voices: The need to pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

David Clumpner

On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation that fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provides long-awaited support for our beleaguered public lands management agencies.

The importance of this legislation cannot be overstated; this bipartisan act signals the most significant development in American conservation in decades. Through the relentless grassroots work and dedication of hunters, anglers, conservation organizations and legislative champions, we rallied lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to join together in supporting our public lands and waters.

Here in Montana, we have a chance to build on this momentum and pass legislation protecting one of our most storied places: the Blackfoot watershed.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) is that rare piece of policy crafted by stakeholders from across our community, designed to benefit all who rely on this incredible landscape for their livelihoods, their outdoor traditions or their identity. Over the last decade and a half, ranchers, loggers, hunters, anglers, off-road enthusiasts, wilderness advocates and conservation organizations have gathered to create a plan to sustain true multiple use of the lands and waters of the Blackfoot valley.

The BCSA will strike a critical balance between ranching, logging and off-road recreational pursuits while also safeguarding 79,000 acres of wilderness in the Lolo National Forest. This is land that protects vital Blackfoot River tributaries like the North Fork and Monture Creek and safeguards big game habitat for the benefit of hunters and wildlife viewers.

Balancing outdoor recreation and the sanctity of wildlife habitat is no easy task, yet this legislation will effectively mitigate the impacts of human activities on big game populations while at the same time allowing the local outdoor recreation economy to thrive.

This legislation is a pragmatic, commonsense effort to build our community and protect our wild spaces as Montana grows, but it has not yet received the support that it deserves from our congressional delegation. Sen. Jon Tester has introduced this legislation twice now in back-to-back sessions and has championed this landscape for years, yet neither Sen. Steve Daines nor Rep. Greg Gianforte has expressed public support for this bill, despite the fact that a robust 75 percent of Montanans support it.

Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte: As a hunter, angler, small business owner and one of your constituents, I urge you to endorse this nonpartisan, balanced legislation. While I sincerely thank you for voting for the Great American Outdoors Act, your failure to step up and support the BCSA gives me significant pause.

You have both publicly stated that Montana’s public lands and our hunting and fishing heritage are firmly ingrained in your world view, but have consistently refused to support pro-public lands legislation until pressed. Well, I’m pressing you now. This is your chance to build your conservation record, serve Montana’s public land owners and boost our thriving $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.

I join the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in asking Montana’s citizens to call Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte on their lack of support for this legislation. It’s high time they put their best foot forward in serving Montana’s interests.

David Clumpner is a business owner, photographer and member of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He lives in Missoula with his hunting dog, Max.