Tester Introduces Landmark Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act to Protect Public Lands, Strengthen Montana’s Outdoor Economy

Senator: “This bill is a shining example of what can happen when folks come together to build commonsense legislation from the ground up”

To protect Montana’s public lands and strengthen our outdoor economy, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today reintroduced his landmark Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act in the Senate.

A made-in-Montana bill, the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) will create jobs, protect thousands of acres of public land, and ensure future generations can access the world-class outdoor recreational opportunities available in the Blackfoot River watershed.

“The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act is the result of more than a decade of collaboration among the folks who live and work on this breathtaking landscape, and who want to ensure that it’s managed in a way that works for everyone,” Tester said. “This bill is a shining example of what can happen when folks come together to build commonsense legislation from the ground up, and it will help protect some of our most treasured public lands, create jobs, strengthen our economy, and secure Montana’s outdoor heritage for our kids and our grandkids.”

The result of a collective effort between ranchers, recreationists, loggers, mountain bikers, and business owners, Tester’s BCSA is a multi-use proposal that would protect thousands of acres of public land, ensure future generations can access outdoor recreational opportunities, and strengthen Montana’s outdoor economy in the Blackfoot River Watershed.

Specifically, the bill would protect 79,060 acres of wildlife habitat in the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountains, and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, open 2,013 acres of currently closed land to snowmobiling, and protect 3,835 acres for mountain biking and hiking. It would also require the Forest Service to prioritize its review of future recreational trail proposals from the collaborative group, and to conduct a forest health assessment that will help identify new timber projects on the landscape.

Montana business, outdoor, and community leaders praised Tester’s bill:

“With increased forest restoration activities through implementation of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative, our communities have been able to create and maintain 138 jobs at Pyramid Mountain Lumber and many other businesses, injecting $33 million into the local economy,” said Pyramid Mountain Lumber resource manager and BCSA steering committee member Gordy Sanders. “Collaborative efforts like the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act serve as a model to bring together wilderness, recreation, and healthy forest management for a common goal. Thanks to Senator Tester for his continued support and interest in working across the aisle to craft the solution for all interested parties and ultimately get this bill across the finish line.”

“Legislation like the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship has great potential to impact our Main Street, Montana businesses,” said Business for Montana’s Outdoors Executive Director Marne Hayes. “When local residents and business owners come together to create management strategies for our local economies that hinge on our shared public lands, sustainable solutions are created for our communities. The BCSA was developed by Montanans, from the ground up – with 75% in support. We thank Senator Tester for his continued support of the BCSA, and look to Senator Daines and Representative Rosendale to join Montanans in their support.”

“Thank you to Senator Tester for continuing to move the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act through Congress. The BCSA is vital to the health of the Blackfoot River – which is vital to the health of our business,” said Blackfoot River Outfitters owner Terri Raugland. “We depend on clean and clear water for healthy fish to ensure our clients return to fish Montana’s beautiful rivers. This will allow us to keep our staff of twelve employed at a living wage, with client dollars also trickling down to local hotels, restaurants, and retailers. We need Senator Daines and Congressman Rosendale to prioritize Montana-made-solutions, and support the BCSA’s swift passage through Congress.”

“The BCSA has been a home-grown collaborative effort for over 15 years,” said Jack Rich, owner of Rich’s Montana Guest House. “We are grateful for Senator Tester’s steadfast support and his continued leadership to see our proposal through in Congress.”

“Western Montana hunters and anglers revere the sporting opportunities found within the Blackfoot and Clearwater Valleys,” said Hellgate Hunters and Anglers President Walker Conyngham. “We thank Senator Tester for moving forward with a bill that will protect our hunting and angling traditions for future generations, and we urge Senator Daines and Congressman Rosendale to join us in support of this made-in-Montana legislation.”

“Our mountain biking community thrives on not only having diverse local trails to ride, but also access to out-of-town destination rides,” said MTB Missoula Interim Director Brian Williams. “The BCSA maintains bike access to the rugged, backcountry trails around Spread Mountain. The impact recreation has on our local economy in Montana is impressive, to the tune of $7.1 billion annually. Mountain bikers buy gas, hotel rooms, and post-ride burgers at Lindey’s Steakhouse. Thanks to Senator Tester’s continued support of the BCSA, we are getting closer to this homegrown bill becoming reality.”

“The BCSA is a big win for snowmobile access – opening up the prized bowls and north facing slopes in Otatsy,” said Rolling Stone Ranch owner and BCSA steering committee member Jim Stone. “I look forward to exploring the new terrain with my son for years to come. I’m proud to stand with my neighbors in support of this locally grown legislation, and am greatly appreciative to Senator Tester for continuing the work in Washington, D.C. that we started right here in Seeley and Ovando.”

“We can’t thank Sen. Tester enough for his unwavering support of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a bill that stands as a beacon for bipartisanship and cooperation in these polarizing times,” said Montana Wilderness Association Executive Director Ben Gabriel. “The 75% approval the bill enjoys signals that Montanans still fiercely believe that protecting our lands and waters as wilderness is paramountly important for our wildlife, our waters, and our economy. It’s well past time to get this bill passed.”

“Thank you, Senator Tester, for your leadership in protecting the values that truly make Montana the Last Best Place,” said Alec Underwood of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act will protect high quality habitat for our fish and wildlife, as well as our sporting opportunities for present and future generations. Whether it’s casting a fly for rising cutthroat trout on the fabled Blackfoot, or pursuing bugling bull elk with a bow in the fall, Montana’s hunters and anglers will benefit greatly from this legislation.”

Tester first introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act at the request of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project with the support of the local timber industry, and he testified in support of the bill before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last September.

Text of Tester’s Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act is available HERE.