Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project thanks Tester, calls on Daines to support Blackfoot Bill
SEELEY LAKE – U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act will receive a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Feb. 7. Members of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project (BCSP) reiterated their thanks to Senator Jon Tester for sponsoring the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. Senator Tester introduced the bill last year.
“Almost 12 years ago, we started the painstaking work on a timber, recreation, and conservation proposal for managing public lands in our backyard,” says Jim Stone, a rancher in the Blackfoot Valley. “Senator Tester has championed that proposal by introducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. We can’t thank our senior senator enough for seeing the fruits of our work through.”
“Montana sportsmen and women, mountain bikers, loggers, hikers and conservationists spent over a decade working together on the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act,” Tester said. “I am proud to join their fight to break the forest management stalemate and protect thousands of acres of public land. We will finally take our next step forward by bringing some Montana common sense to Washington.”
At the request of the BCSP and with the support of the local timber industry, Tester introduced his bill to implement the remaining recreation and wilderness designations that were included in the original forest management agreement between the local collaborators.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act:
- Protects 79,000 acres of land for the next generations.
- Authorizes a comprehensive trail plan to provide recreationists with increased access to the Lolo National Forest.
- Opens up 2,000 acres of currently closed land to snowmobiling.
- Permanently protects access to 3,800 acres of mountain biking and trail recreation.
BCSP members also sent Senator Steve Daines a letter repeating their request to support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act and to do so without tying the BCSA to S. 2206 or any other legislation.
S. 2206 is a bill Senator Daines introduced last month that would remove protection from five wilderness study areas in Montana, Sen. Daines told members of the BCSP in a meeting on Jan. 12 in Bozeman that his WSA bill would need to advance in order for him to support the BCSA.
“Our focus has always been on our collaborative proposal and the honesty, integrity and empathy with which we built it among diverse local stakeholders,” says Jack Rich, owner of Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch and Snowmobile Adventures. “If Sen. Daines supports collaboration, he should support the BCSA, the gold standard of collaboration, and not make our broadly-supported proposal controversial by linking it to any legislation that has not been thoroughly vetted through a collaborative process.
The BCSA would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat and Mission Mountains Wilderness Area. S. 2206 would remove protection from nearly a half-million acres, including the West Pioneer, Blue Joint and Sapphire WSAs in southwestern Montana, as well as the Big Snowies and Middle Fork Judith WSAs in central Montana.
“Our proposal is the result of over a decade of transparent community meetings, compromise and working together locally to collectively manage our public lands,” says Connie Long, co-owner of Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters and immediate past President of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of America.
“Our bill has incredibly diverse support and deserves to be backed by our entire delegation no matter what happens with any other bill.”
A 2016 University of Montana poll found that 74 percent of Montanans support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship proposal. Republicans favored it by 74 percent, Independents by 75 percent and Democrats by 73 percent. Supporters include Powell, Missoula and Lewis and Clark County Commissions, as well as Pyramid Mountain Lumber, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, Blue Ribbon Coalition, Seeley Lake Driftriders Snowmobile Club, Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Wilderness Association, The Wilderness Society and the International Mountain Biking Association.
“The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) is proud to endorse the BCSA because it is the epitome of collaboration and respects the spectrum of interests in the Blackfoot Clearwater,” says Eric Melson of IMBA. “This is exactly how we should be tackling the challenges we face in managing our public lands.”
The BCSP helped to establish the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC) in 2010. To date, the SWCC has created or maintained an average of 138 jobs and has brought $23 million in federal investments and led to overall investment of $47 million in local economy, resulting in 50,828 acres treated for noxious weeds, 133 miles of stream restoration, and 2,446 miles of multiple use trails maintained. “Through its work with the SWCC, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project has helped the economy in the Upper Blackfoot and allowed for some good work to get done on the ground,” says Loren Rose, chief operating officer at Pyramid Mountain Lumber. “Now it’s time to follow through on the recreation and conservation components of the BCSP proposal and get this bill passed. It’s what Montanans want and what we’ve asked for.”