Guest Column

Pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

The BCSA is a reflection of neighborly, common sense spirit, and deserves the support of our entire delegation

By Connie Long, Jack Rich, Jim Stone and Gordy Sanders

For over 15 years, we’ve shared this goal: Congress passing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA). Thanks to the continued support of Sen. Jon Tester, we are back on track to reach this goal, with hopes that this is the year when all of our tireless work in Seeley Lake, Ovando, and beyond puts us across the finish line. 

Support from our entire delegation would make our goal easier to attain, and it’s our fervent hope that Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale can join Tester and work together to pass this legislation for the benefit of all Montanans. 

Seventy-five percent of Montanans support the bill, according to the 2020 University of Montana Public Lands Survey.

That’s because the bill that was made by Montanans for Montanans. It was crafted around kitchen tables in Seeley Lake and Ovando, and around the conference room table at Pyramid Mountain Lumber with the intention of benefitting as many Montanans as possible while permanently protecting what makes us want to live here – our healthy fish and wildlife populations, clean water, and breathtaking landscapes. 

Portions of the forest restoration work that came about as a result of the BCSA are already underway with the Southwest Crown Collaborative, which has created or maintained 138 local timber jobs in Seeley Lake and injected $33 million into the local economy. The collaborative has not only supported local jobs, indications are that thousands of acres of completed forest restoration activities near Seeley Lake are helping protect our communities from wildfire, an increasing concern across the Rocky Mountains.

Timber is just one component to the BCSA. Recreation and wilderness designations are the other two. The BCSA enhances recreational opportunity through increased snowmobile access in the Otatsy area, opening up high elevation, north-facing slopes, which bring in snowmobilers from across the country each winter and early spring to vacation and spend money in Seeley. Mountain bikers also benefit with riding opportunities on backcountry trails of Spread Mountain, buying gas, food, and gear at local businesses along the way. The BCSA also directs the U.S. Forest Service to perform an additional recreation study to identify other opportunities for trails and access, to ensure everyone can enjoy our national forest lands. 

Outdoor recreation pumps $7.1 billion in consumer spending into our state’s economy each year, supporting small, local businesses up and down Main Street, Montana. Through the proposed additions to the Scapegoat, Mission Mountain, and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas, the iconic Blackfoot River’s tributaries and headwaters streams will be permanently protected, ensuring guides, outfitters, fly shops, local restaurants, hotels and more can continue to support their families by ensuring clients return to float and fish for blue ribbon trout each year.

The BCSA has been a connector for us locals. We show up to meetings and find commonality with those we might not normally see eye to eye with. What we’ve done is create a homegrown solution to public lands management challenges, where everyone comes away a winner. We’ve been good neighbors to each other, and want to be equally good stewards of this land we are so fortunate to call home.

Now is the time for the BCSA to pass through Congress and become law. We’ve done our work on the ground, and we look to our delegation to cooperate across the aisle and get this done for Montanans. We have always led by working together for the betterment of all. The BCSA is a reflection of that neighborly, common sense spirit, and deserves the support of our entire delegation. We need them all to come together, pull as one and get it done. It’s time. 

Connie Long of Charlo is co-owner of Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters; Jack Rich of Seeley Lake owns Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch; Jim Stone of Ovando owns the Rolling Stone Ranch; and Gordy Sanders of Missoula is the Resource Manager for Pyramid Mountain Lumber.

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