Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Guest column: The time is now for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

by Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project Steering Committee

For nearly twenty years, we’ve been regulars at each other’s kitchen tables, fence posts, and truck tailgates. For those twenty years we’ve been at the table — with many other interest groups, locals, elected officials, and organizations — crafting a road map to passage of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA).

And for nearly twenty years, Senator Tester has listened, learned, tweaked, and fine-tuned the BCSA. We’ve progressed through Senate committee hearings, and we’ve sent residents of Ovando and Seeley Lake to Washington, D.C. to chat with delegation members about why 83% of Montanans support the BCSA. It’s our hope that this legislation will be reintroduced to the 118th Congress soon, and that THIS is the Congress when we finally get to see our seeds of collaboration and trust bloom into permanent protections for the headwaters of the storied Blackfoot River, new recreational opportunities for snowmobilers, mountain bikers, and more, and continued forest restoration work to sustaining timber jobs for our neighbors and ensure healthy forests.

For the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, the time is now.

We thank Senator Tester for continuing to champion our Montana-made proposal, and we implore Senator Daines, Representative Zinke, and Representative Rosendale to join the 83% of Montanans who support the BCSA, and swiftly send this legislation to the President’s desk to be made law. We’ve given you want you wanted: a broadly supported, fully vetted, grassroots driven, landscape scale solution that benefits Montana communities. Now, we are asking you to do your job in Washington, D.C., and pass the BCSA.

The BCSA is comprised of three components: conservation, recreation, and timber. The BCSA would designate an additional 80,000 acres of public lands as wilderness, as additions to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountain wilderness areas. These are places like Grizzly Basin, and the North Fork of the Blackfoot — some of the wildest places left in Montana and home to grizzly bears and bull trout. These wilderness protections will provide a vital insurance policy to the historic Blackfoot River, that was severely imperiled as recently as twenty years ago. Thanks to local support and restoration efforts, the Blackfoot is once again home to bull trout. Providing wilderness protection to its headwaters streams ensures it will stay that way.

The BCSA also gives local and tourist recreation a boost, with the addition of the Otatsy snowmobile recreation area, and the Spread Mountain recreation area for mountain bikers. Additionally, the BCSA would engage the US Forest Service to do additional recreational studies to create additional trails and amenities for all to access the national forest. These investments in recreation on our public lands also benefit our local economies, from breakfast at the Stray.

Bullet to dinners at Lindey’s steakhouse and fuel at Rovero’s, usage of our public lands by recreationalists helps support our local communities.

Lastly, the Southwest Crown Collaborative is a component of the BCSA that we have already been able to implement, and to date has maintained local timber jobs through forest restoration activities and stream restoration work. In the new reality of our changing climate and devastating wildfires — as we saw in 2016 — ensuring our forests are healthy is paramount.

As a steering committee, we’ve faced wildfires together, economic booms and busts, a global pandemic, and the loss and gain of community members and businesses. We are proud that we’ve stuck together for nearly twenty years. We have faith in our elected officials, and we are asking them to come together — as we have — and pull as one. The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act deserves to be law, and Sens. Tester and Daines, Reps. Zinke and Rosendale: we need your help to do it.

Guest column: The time is now for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act | Guest Columnists |