Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act Advances in U.S. Senate

News for Immediate Release
Sept. 21, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

Made-in-Montana bill would protect important headwaters, facilitate timber harvests in appropriate areas and designate close to 80,000 acres of wilderness

WASHINGTON – Early this morning, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a multifaceted land management bill incorporating diverse regional interests and values, advanced out of a U.S. Senate committee for the first time.

The bill, which was first introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2017, would protect important headwaters of the Blackfoot and Clearwater rivers, continue to encourage and allow timber harvests in appropriate areas and also designate nearly 80,000 acres of wild public lands bordering the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountains, and Scapegoat wilderness areas as federally protected wilderness. Additionally, the BCSA would open more than 2,000 acres to snowmobile use and set aside nearly 4,000 acres as a designated mountain biking area. It is the product of more than a decade of collaborative work between ranchers, timber harvesters, local communities, and recreational groups like hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, and snowmobilers.

"Hunters, anglers and 84% of Montanans applaud Senator Tester for his determination to pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act,” said John Sullivan III, board chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Given broad stakeholder support of the bill and the collaborative efforts that went into it, we remain surprised by the politicking it’s taken to get us here; nevertheless, we’re thrilled by today’s news and look forward to the bill passing a full Senate vote, which we are one step closer to now. We're incredibly fortunate to have a conservation-minded leader like Sen. Tester representing our interests in D.C.”

A decision was reached by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, of which the other member of Montana’s Senate delegation, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), is a member, that allowed the BCSA to move forward by voice vote. This decision by the committee, typically done when a bipartisan agreement is made, also required Daines’ Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act to move by voice vote alongside the BCSA, otherwise Daines suggested he would have continued to block the BCSA from advancing on the Senate floor.

The Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act would remove protections for more than 100,000 acres of wilderness study areas in Montana. Despite overwhelming support for the BCSA by Montanans, Daines has long sought to tie the two bills together. The only objection noted to the BCSA in committee today came from Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY). 

“Montanans rely on our public lands to make memories with their families and to create good paying jobs that support our $7.1 billion outdoor economy – and passing my Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act will ensure that we can do both for generations to come,” Tester said today.

“BHA has long supported the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act as a collaborative, made-in-Montana effort,” Sullivan concluded, “and we believe the BCSA has the necessary stakeholder support to move through the Senate and pass a full floor vote on its own merits. We encourage the entire Montana delegation to support that effort.”

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