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Clearwater Lake

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (S. 1765) represents the best of Montana politics: collaborative, consensus-based policy intended to benefit everyone who lives and recreates in the Blackfoot River watershed. Diverse stakeholder groups have spent years creating a comprehensive plan for one of the most productive and storied landscapes in all of Montana. I will note that the BCSA’s incredibly broad base of support — ranchers, timber companies, hunters, anglers, conservation groups, off-road enthusiasts and die-hard wilderness advocates — is rarely found in our era of partisan squabbling.

The BCSA has a lot to offer, and at last count, more than 73% of our citizens support it. Try finding another piece of significant legislation supported by three in four voters in this day and age. That stunning statistic reflects the numerous benefits that a comprehensive policy for the Blackfoot’s public lands would provide to stakeholder groups in the region. The BCSA allocates ample opportunity for agricultural enterprise, timber harvest and off-road recreational pursuits like snowmobiling and cycling, while also safeguarding 79,000 acres of wilderness in the Lolo National Forest.

As a Montanan, I’m proud to have determined conservation champions who campaign for our public lands while supporting our outdoor economy. Along with the men and women who have stewarded the creation of the BCSA for more than a decade, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has persevered to ask Congress to protect the public lands of the Blackfoot watershed. As the bill’s sponsor, he has repeatedly gone to bat to move this legislation forward, in recognition of the incredible support Montanans have expressed for the bill.

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As an avid outdoorsman, my fondest memories are of teaching my sons to fly fish on the North Fork, hiking to pristine mountain lakes overlooking the Clearwater, and enjoying the wildlife and quiet places from Ovando to Lincoln. Anyone who has experienced the beauty and solitude of this area knows that we need swift and effective protections for these lands and waters so that the same experiences will be available to our children. The elk, deer, bear, waterfowl, bull trout and Westslope cutthroat populations that abound in this watershed deserve the security and habitat that this legislation will provide.

What can you do? Montanans must step up to ask Congress to pass the BCSA. We need the other two members of the Montana delegation to unite with Senator Tester and act on behalf of Montanans by advocating for this legislation. Please join me and the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in asking U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte to support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. This proposal is a model for how we get things done in Montana — let’s persuade Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte to get on board.

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Lou Bahin is a board member for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He bikes, hunts, forages, fishes and camps in the Blackfoot. He lives with his wife, Lila, in Missoula.

 

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