Voices: Advocates call on Daines, Gianforte to back Blackfoot-Clearwater bill
On June 7, Senator Jon Tester reintroduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.
As members of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, we sincerely thank our senior senator for his leadership, and for continuing to champion this bipartisan bill that 73 percent of Montanans support.
The reason for the bill’s popularity is simple: It offers something for just about every Montanan.
It opens up new snowmobiling opportunities by creating the 2,000-acre Otatsy Recreation Management Area near Ovando.
It preserves prized mountain bike access to Spread Mountain, Center Ridge and Camp Pass by creating the Spread Mountain Recreation Management Area.
It keeps logs on trucks, maintains forest health, and supports timber jobs in Seeley Lake.
And it adds nearly 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas, permanently protecting the Blackfoot’s most vital tributaries – the North Fork, Monture Creek, Morrell Creek, and West Fork of the Clearwater.
Protection of the Blackfoot’s tributaries will help ensure that the Blackfoot River remains the storied river it is and that its native trout – westslope cutthroat and bull trout – continue to thrive up and down the river and deep into the backcountry. (You can learn more about how the bill protects the Blackfoot by watching the short film “Hallowed Waters” at blackfootclearwater.org.)
The BCSA includes provisions that will help sustain the tremendous work the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project has already accomplished through its offshoot, the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC).
As of 2018, the SWCC has created or maintained an average of 140 jobs, brought $23 million in federal investments, and led to overall investment of $36 million in the local economy. The SWCC has resulted in noxious weed treatment of 52,214 acres, the restoration of 172 miles of stream, and the maintenance of 2,000 miles of multiple-use trail.
Another reason for the bill’s overwhelming popularity is because it was born out of respect for Montanans and all of the different interests we have vested in our public lands – be it timber, conservation, backcountry horse riding, outfitting, hunting, angling, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and more. Montanans representing all of these interests came to the table to hammer out the proposal that Senator Tester is championing as the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.
Our work was transparent, inclusive, and publically vetted – as it must be when crafting public land legislation.
Indeed, nothing unifies Montanans and other Americans like public lands, as Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Congressman Gianforte all acknowledged when they helped pass the hugely popular public lands package S. 47 earlier this year, which included the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the designation of 1.3 million acres of new Wilderness in Utah, New Mexico, California, and Oregon.
We ask our Congressional delegation to come together around the BCSA in the same spirit that brought them together around this public lands package. We request that Senator Daines support the bill by cosponsoring the legislation. We request that Congressman Gianforte support the bill by introducing BCSA companion legislation in the House of Representatives, as he did for the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act.
The time is now to reward the hard work, respect, compromise and perseverance that Montanans of all stripes poured into this bill.
Let’s pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act in this session of Congress. You can help us get there by adding your name to a list of endorsements at blackfootclearwater.org.
Loren Rose is chief operating officer at Pyramid Mountain Lumber. Ben Horan is executive director of MTB Missoula. Mack and Connie Long own and operate Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters.