By Ben Gabriel, Marne Hayess, John B. Sullivan III, Frank Szollosi, Becky Edwards, Scott Brennan and Jim Klug - July 19, 2020 - Originally published in the Missoulian
Dear Sen. Daines,
Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in the Senate is cause for celebration during a trying time. Thank you for your work in the Senate advancing this public lands and outdoor recreation bill. The full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund included in this package will benefit Montana communities for generations to come, and is something to be proud of.
Now that the Senate has passed the GAOA, we request that you support the bipartisan, locally crafted Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA). Like GAOA, BCSA recognizes the value of outdoor recreation and public lands in sustaining healthy communities and economies.
The BCSA achieves balance by focusing on three areas: timber management and restoration, outdoor recreation and conservation. This balance was carefully considered and achieved by a coalition of local community members representing a wide range of interests, including timber, ranching, conservation, hunting, angling and local businesses. The coalition members committed themselves to finding common ground, and they found it.
The BCSA will create recreation areas specifically designated for mountain bike and winter motorized use, initiate a five-year period in which other outdoor recreation proposals can be presented to the local district ranger for consideration, and will designate additions to the Mission Mountains, Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
Expansion of these wilderness areas will serve to keep the Blackfoot watershed and fishery vibrant and healthy, which in turn will help ensure the fishing economy — the Blackfoot River sees nearly 10,000 guided outfitter days annually — remains healthy as well. That expansion will also help ensure that elk, deer and other big game populations remain abundant, and that hunters will continue returning to the area and supporting local businesses, including guides and outfitters.
Almost 160 businesses and other organizations currently support this legislation, and the list grows each week. The list demonstrates the breadth of support for the legislation, support that resounds in a recent bipartisan survey conducted by the University of Montana that shows 75% of Montanans support the legislation.
The dedicated, hard-working Montanans who crafted the BCSA have committed 14 years to this bill that will benefit not only the Seeley Swan and Blackfoot Valley communities, but also our state’s outdoor recreation economy at a time when it is struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now is the time to honor the hard work and dedication of so many Montanans by supporting the legislation they developed to keep their community healthy for current and future generations.
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we ask you to secure a positive hearing and mark-up for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act before the August recess begins.
Ben Gabriel is executive director of Montana Wilderness Association. Marne Hayess is executive director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. John B. Sullivan III is board chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Frank Szollosi is executive director of Montana Wildlife Federation. Becky Edwards is executive director of Mountain Mamas. Scott Brennan is Montana state director of The Wilderness Society. Jim Klug is director of operations and founder of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures and Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation.