Last month, Sen. Jon Tester introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act in Congress. This prospective piece of legislation is the result of a decade long collaborative effort among local timber interests, conservationists, snowmobilers, mountain bikers and wilderness advocates. The BCSA will protect the headwaters of the Blackfoot River by designating 80,000 acres of new wilderness in the Scapegoat, Mission Mountain and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas. In addition to protecting critical fisheries and wildlife habitat, the act will open 2,000 acres of new snowmobile terrain via the Otatsy Recreation Area and enhance backcountry mountain biking opportunities in the Seeley-Ovando area. Sounds like a monumental bill, right? With all the talk of tweets, vacations and supposed wiretaps, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t hear the news.
While the national media and D.C. politicians are bogged down in fleeting controversies, Montanans are busy working on forward-thinking solutions to land management issues. The BCSA responsibly balances diverse user group and business interests with permanent protections to critical habitat for fish and wildlife. Arriving at this agreement was not easy. It took 12 years of discussion and cooperation between Montanans from different walks of life.
Progress does not come in the form of one administration undoing the achievements of the last. It comes from taking the time to build consensus and do it right the first time.
If you’re tired of the dysfunction and disaster narrative, tune into what’s going on in your own backyard. The BCSA, as well as the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition, which is working to build the same consensus toward responsible public land management and end a pattern of stifling litigation, embody the values of democracy and our great state. Contact your delegation and let them know you support these collaborative efforts and all they stand for.