A Montana-Made Compromise

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is a result of unlikely allies working collaboratively

By Amy Beck and Reed Gregerson

What do timber, recreation, and conservation have in common? The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA). Over 10 years ago, Seeley-based timber company Pyramid Lumber, snowmobilers, outfitters, business owners, ranchers, and wilderness advocates came together to discuss the future of the Blackfoot River watershed. The BCSA is a made-in-Montana proposal that is the result of these unlikely allies working collaboratively to create a sustainable and multi-faceted plan for Montana’s public lands. This solution expands snowmobiling access, preserves mountain biking trails, and adds protections for key grizzly habitat, and keeps one of the region’s largest employers, Pyramid Lumber, thriving. The BCSA has something for everyone.

We are Montana born and raised businesses, and we depend on our unmatched wild places. The success of our businesses largely depends on the health of our public lands and waters. They inspire the creation of our products, and allow us to recruit and retain top talent because of the quality of life they afford us. By protecting and preserving the Blackfoot River watershed as the BCSA proposes, we create economic certainty for Montana. We are proud to endorse the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, and call on the entire Montana delegation to work together in the 116th Congress to pass this bill.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) will permanently protect the most important tributaries of the Blackfoot River — the North Fork of the Blackfoot, Monture Creek, Morrell Creek, and the West Fork of the Clearwater — by expanding the boundaries of the Mission Mountain, Bob Marshall, and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas. The bill increases winter recreation opportunities for snowmobilers in the proposed Otatsy Recreation Area and preserves great mountain biking access in the proposed Spread Mountain Recreation Area. Furthermore, it makes room for more future recreation opportunities by requiring the Forest Service to perform a recreational study to understand where additional trails and amenities could be developed within the Seeley Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest. Moreover, it ensures timber jobs continue in the area through the forest restoration work already underway with the Southwestern Crown Collaborative. The BCSA keeps logs on trucks, bikes on trails, snowmobiles in the mountains, and wildlife and wilderness intact.

Preserving Lolo National Forest’s varied assets will continue to support a growing section of the state’s economy — outdoor recreation. The Blackfoot River boasts strong native fish and wildlife habitat and therefore world-class fishing. Its trout fishing in particular draws Montanans and visitors from around the world to the Big Sky State to throw flies, book hotel rooms, and eat meals. Outdoor recreation brings in $7.1 billion annually to Montana’s economy and employs 71,000 Montanans, making it one of the largest economic drivers of our state.

Norman Maclean put the Blackfoot River on the map with “A River Runs Through It” and Brad Pitt solidified its stature when he brought Mr. Maclean’s words to the big screen. What many forget is the storied Blackfoot river was too degraded from mass timber harvest and pollution during filming of the motion picture, forcing filming to take place on the Gallatin River near Bozeman. Thanks to years of coordination amongst a wide array of stakeholders, the Blackfoot is again a healthy fishery, and a major driver behind the region’s sustainable recreation-based economy.

It is up to all of us to continue the legacy of this storied river through passage of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. By focusing on commonalities instead of differences, the BCSA enjoys the support of not only the local community, but also 73 percent of Montanans, according to a bipartisan poll from 2018. We must work together to protect and preserve the Blackfoot River’s watershed for future generations of Montanans and Montana-lovers.

Amy Beck is the President of Oboz Footwear, based in Bozeman. Reed Gregerson is the President and Co-Founder of The ZaneRay Group, based in Whitefish.