Following up on last week’s hearing in a Senate committee, Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act, calling it good for the mind, body and soul, as well as the economy.
In twin letters to Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, the county described the legislation as a long-time coming and urged members of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining to support the measure and move it on.
“It is a welcome opportunity when we can show support for a wide-ranging proposal backed by many diverse Montana communities,” the letter reads. “We are proud to reaffirm our support of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which aims to address multiple challenges and opportunities in a single place-based collaborative effort.”
The measure, introduced by Tester, won a brief hearing in the Senate committee last week, though it was largely overshadowed by other legislation aimed at wildfires, including a bill introduced by Daines and Sen. Diane Fienstien that was heard on the same day.
Tester reintroduced his bill more than a year ago after initially sponsoring it in the previous Congress. The act would add about 78,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and create two recreation management areas for snowmobiling and mountain biking.
“This has been decades in the making, so it’s kind of exhausting that we have to keep doing this,” Commissioner Juanita Vero said Tuesday of the county’s continued support.
The bill is the last piece of a collaborative concept that started in 2005 and brought together recreationalists, timber companies and wilderness advocates. Their work has already produced timber and restoration projects, but wilderness designation has had to wait on Congress.
So far, Congress has been slow to act, though county leaders would like to see that change.
“This legislation stems from extensive collaboration … and promotes cooperative public-private stewardship across the southwestern Crown of the Continent,” the county wrote. “Collaboration is not an end in and of itself. As a tool, it has the opportunity to show the way toward better solutions for public land management.”