Opinion

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Guest Column

Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act a Common-Sense Bill

The act brings together folks from all walks of life, industries, and backgrounds to enjoy and protect our outdoor heritage

Nowadays, politics in Washington creates a lot more problems than it solves — we’ve been led to believe that every issue, big or small, is an all-out battle for the soul of our country.

But, quite frankly, when you take a step back from the dysfunction coming from the Capitol and spend some time in the great outdoors, these knock-down, drag-out fights start to fall apart at the seams. You find out that the neighbors you disagree with usually want the same things you do.

And that’s why the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is so special: it brings together folks from all walks of life, industries, and backgrounds to enjoy and protect our outdoor heritage.

It’s taken more than a decade of hard work, understanding, and straight-up Montana grit to negotiate this plan that will protect 79,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, as well as open up more than 2,000 acres to snowmobiling, and 3,800 acres for mountain biking and hiking.

This is why I always say that D.C. needs to work a lot more like Montana: Congress and the White House wouldn’t know a bull trout from a bull moose when it comes to negotiating a solid deal. If they could use the same respect, civility, and desire to find common ground that was used to write the BCSA, then every American would be better off.

Right now, we’re facing an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, and the lack of leadership from the national level has put us on track to be dealing with the fallout for years to come.

That’s why the BCSA is so critical: it would create more opportunities for Montanans who have found solace in the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing more folks to get out of cell range and do what makes them happy from a social distance —whether it’s hunting, angling, backpacking, snowmobiling, mountain biking, or anything else under the sun.

And to top it off, the BCSA would help local businesses, strengthen local economies, and create jobs. In 2017 alone, anglers spent nearly $1 billion in the state, and hunters nearly $400 million — all money that went directly into local economies and helped small businesses thrive.

This is why I’m honored to have introduced the BCSA, and why I’ll continue fighting to get it across the finish line.

But it’s critical that folks in Washington work with me to get the ball rolling with a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before the end of the year.

The recent signing of my landmark Great American Outdoors Act shows that we have to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to passing public lands bills that the majority of people can get behind, because it’s initiatives like these that can do a lot of good in such difficult and divisive times.

At the end of the day, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is a common-sense bill. It was made in Montana … by Montanans … for Montanans … and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Jon Tester is a Democratic U.S. senator from Montana.