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Couple Snowmobiling

Snowmobiles and Seeley Lake go hand in hand during the winter months. Our community sees an average of 125 inches of snow per year, making it a perfect destination for folks looking to unload their sled for a few days and venture into the backcountry. One of our biggest tourism drivers in the winter – which any seasoned Montanan knows lasts longer than our summers – is snowmobiling.

Ten years ago, several diverse interest groups came together to strategize and plan for the long-term future of our public lands, in a method that benefited all. The result of this collaboration is the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, which holds three main components. Our timber industry gets a boost through federal dollars supporting harvest and healthy forests, our conservation community comes out ahead by designating additional wildlife habitat as wilderness, and our recreation economy gets a bump by creating the Otatsy Snowmobile Recreation Area, among other recreation provisions.

The Otatsy Recreation Area would earmark nearly 2,000 acres to snowmobiling in the winter months, adding a huge playpark and numerous new trails to our snowmobile network. This additional resource is a significant investment in our winter recreational economy here in Seeley Lake. Folks from across Montana and around the nation migrate to our neck of the woods with their sleds, families and friends to partake in our high-quality, groomed trails. Adding this additional resource equates to longer stays and more money invested in our economy.

Additionally, the BCSP’s timber components would thin some of our nearby forests, protecting our community from fire danger and offering snowmobile terrain we’ve never been able to venture into before because of tight elbow room with trees. Another bonus for snowmobile recreation is that we don’t lose a single mile of terrain in the proposed wilderness designation. Everything that is currently open to sleds stays open, and we gain so much more.

I’m a proud member of the Seeley Lake Driftriders, our local snowmobile club who maintains our groomed snowmobile trails. The Driftriders were proud to endorse and support the BCSP, as did the Ovando OHV community group called "The Club." We all see this proposal as a win-win for all interests in our community and region, and are eager to see our Montana delegation pick up the torch and see this through in Washington, D.C. We’ve done the work on the ground here in Montana, and we have the support. Now is the time for our delegation to work together on behalf of Montanans, and finish what we’ve begun.

Recently I had the great pleasure of taking a staffer from Sen. Steve Daines’ office out on sleds in Seeley Lake, to see our world-class trails and chat about the proposed Otatsy Recreation Area addition and the BCSP. We had a beautiful day under the big sky, and I was pleased to now see both of our senators become engaged in our made-in-Montana proposal.

Those of us in the Seeley Lake and Ovando areas have spent a decade refining the BCSP, and making certain it represents all interests. We’ve done our job. Now we are looking to our delegation to do theirs. 

Steve Thompson is retired from the Seeley Lake Ranger District and is a member of the Seeley Lake Driftriders.

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