By Kevin Farron and Alec Underwood - September 24, 2020 - Originally published in the Missoulian
Many Montanans depend upon our public lands to provide productive wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. We, like most public land hunters, have secret haunts that produce year after year, and often those reliable locations are located deep within our wildest lands. Senator Tester introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) to protect these enduring landscapes that we return to time and time again to bring home wild game and stock our freezers.
Elk, deer, black bear, grouse, mountain goat and more thrive in the Blackfoot and Clearwater valleys and surrounding peaks. The wilderness additions identified in the BCSA are extremely important to hunters who head to the hills around Seeley Lake and Ovando. The BCSA would designate roughly 80,000 acres into the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountain and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, permanently protecting key summer range habitat for big game and helping maintain vital habitat connectivity. Big game need plenty of room to roam, and these safeguards would ensure that we can continue to hunt healthy populations of game in the Blackfoot and Clearwater valleys for years to come.
It’s no secret that folks from across the nation (and all over the world) are flocking to places like Montana to escape traffic, the hubbub of city live, and most recently, COVID. As our state population grows, we’ll see growth in our communities and our rural areas, competing with wildlife for elbow room. The BCSA ensures that some of our wildest places in Montana stay intact for future generations, keeping our state the last best place.
The BCSA supports the businesses that rely on us hunters too, to the tune of $390 million per year statewide. Outfitters offering hunting pack trips, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, gear shops and more all benefit. And without reliable game and public lands that are owned by all, those businesses – and our economy – suffer.
Recently, the BCSA received a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – a great step ahead for this grassroots legislation. But there are more ridges to climb to ensure the work of countless Montanans over 15 years finally bears fruit. Hunters applaud Sen. Tester for continuing to support the ranchers, outfitters, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, timber mill workers and more who, along with sportsmen and women, drafted and continued to hone this legislation. We now need our entire delegation, including Sen. Daines and Congressman Gianforte, to publicly support the BCSA, whereby all interest groups come out ahead.
We’ve got a real chance to see the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act cross the finish line this fall. We implore our entire delegation to work together and get it done. A robust 75 percent of Montanans – and 80 percent of Montana sportsmen and women – are behind the BCSA; we need Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte to join us.
Alec Underwood is the Federal Conservation Campaigns Director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. Kevin Farron is the Montana Chapter Coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. Both are avid hunters with freezers full of wild game courtesy of our public lands.