OPINION: It’s time to pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: It’s time to pass the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

By JOHN SULLIVAN and HANNAH NIKONOW - Dec 21, 2017 - Originally published in the Missoulian 

It should come as no surprise that the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers supports the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. BHA was founded in part to advance policy like the BCSA, and the areas conserved under the bill happen to sit right in our big western Montana backyard.

The bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester would establish 80,000 acres of new wilderness and maintain recreational areas for snowmobilers and mountain bikers. Timber harvests would be streamlined and expanded, and active forest management would be promoted where it is needed in the Seeley Lake area.

This BCSA has been in the works for more than a decade and has the support of conservation and environmental groups, ranchers, as well as recreation groups including Drift Riders Snowmobile Club, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, and the Montana Mountain Bike Association. Additionally, Powell, Lewis and Clark, and Missoula counties, which would be directly affected by the BSCA, all have endorsed the legislation.

This proposal is a win for backcountry lovers of all types, especially sportsmen. Wilderness areas provide crucial habitat security for a variety of big and small game species alike. The protected watersheds would guarantee cold, clean-flowing streams and tributaries on which native fish such as cutthroat and bull trout depend. The conserved areas facilitate wild and non-motorized sporting opportunities. These areas provide hard-to-find seclusion where hunters and anglers are free to roam, harvest or disappear as they so choose — opportunities all Montana sportsmen value. Furthermore, they offer some of the best hunting and fishing, holding the biggest bucks, biggest bulls and hardest-fighting trout.

The BCSA, if passed, would boost the economies of the upper Blackfoot and Clearwater areas. The increased recreational opportunities would bring outside revenue, which is harder to come by for rural Montana communities. The increased timber harvest not only would support that sector of the community; it also would help maintain its character and health.

The community of Seeley Lake has felt this all too keenly this year. Establishing playgrounds for those who like to ride on wheels, both motorized and non-motorized, would help too: Year-round recreational opportunities would keep motels and restaurant dining rooms full every month of the year.

On Sept. 12, Tester called for a hearing on the BCSA, urging the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider the bill as soon as possible. As Montana’s lone voice on that committee, it’s time for U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to add his support and help Tester shepherd the bill through Congress.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is championed by many diverse voices and it's good for the economy, good for the community and good for sportsmen. Let’s get behind this and get it passed.

John Sullivan III is board chairman for the Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Hannah Nikonow is a board member for Region 2.

About Hannah Nikonow

Hannah works as a communications specialist for a bird habitat conservation organization in Missoula. She is eager to follow in the boot tracks of those currently speaking out for the protection of public lands.

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