WASHINGTON, DC — While Montana will see a number of proposals and investments in the new stimulus bill passed by Congress, a measure to protect the Upper Blackfoot Valley won’t be on the list.
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) had hoped to win passage of the Blackfoot Stewardship Act during this session of Congress. A few weeks ago, he was hoping the proposal could advance during the “lame duck” session.
The proposal would create a unique block of conservation, wilderness and natural resource tracts in areas bordering Seeley Lake and the upper reaches of the Blackfoot River.
But Tester said the latest bill isn’t making the legislative cutoff as the session wraps up, saying it just wasn’t possible to get the bill moved past committee, despite the best efforts of local groups showing support.
“The folks on the ground and the Seeley area have been absolutely marvelous. If they’ve helped a lot. It’s like anything. Oftentimes, good things don’t happen immediately. You just have to keep working and working and working,” Tester said. “And pretty soon the logjam breaks and it happens.”
Tester had hoped that logjam would break in the final session, with the latest bill introduced to great fanfare in June 2019.
Support has included sportsmen, conservation groups, wilderness advocates, business and industry, who see the value of a collaborative approach to preserve everything from water quality and wildlife habitat to jobs and recreation in the Upper Blackfoot.
Tester believes determination is what will eventually make the difference, as long as that message of collaboration and support can cut through the politics in D.C.
“As long as we keep that bill out there, as long as we keep talking about it, as long as we keep taking input on it and informing people about it, I think it’s got a chance of passage,” Tester said.
“And so I, I feel strongly, because number one, I didn’t write this bill. This bill was written by the people on the ground in that region. And it helps folks with chainsaws,” he added. “It helps folks with snowmobiles. It helps folks that want wilderness. It’s a really well-rounded bill, and we’re going to keep pushing it.”
Tester and his staff are expected to analyze the timing and details or reintroducing another version of the Blackfoot Steward Act after the next Congress settles into work.