There are rivers and streams every angler holds dear. We wince when their names are mentioned in public, fearing that the word will get out on our secret honey hole and that our next fishing trip will feature fewer trout and more people prodding its banks.
For me, the North Fork of the Blackfoot River is such a place. It’s a place I don’t even like to mention because the fishing is that good. However, I care far more about protecting this water than keeping its publicity to a minimum. This is why, against my fishing instinct, I publicly urge our congressional delegation to finally move forward with the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.
Beginning high in the Scapegoat Wilderness, the North Fork of the Blackfoot River tumbles down toward the valley bottom. The deep plunge pools and gin-clear water provide pristine habitat for many fish species, including westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout. Like many of the other tributaries to the Blackfoot, such as Morrell Creek and the forks of the Clearwater River, the North Fork is a haven for these fish that so many anglers hold dear.
I recall the first time I ever fished the North Fork. I raced down the long dirt road on Kleinschmidt Flat toward the fortress of mountains that supply snowmelt to feed the North Fork. As I reveled in a seemingly endless supply of chubby westslope cutthroats slowly rising to bushy dry flies, I knew I'd found something special. But the dark shadows of lurking bull trout in the deep pools nudged me into another realm of admiration for this tributary. I think about that day now and hope the North Fork remains this way so my young sons can have the same wild experience.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act was developed for over a decade by everyday Montanans. Ranchers, loggers, anglers, hunters and wilderness lovers came together, each group sacrificing a little in order to find a way to protect the economic, social and ecological health of a landscape that means so much to our communities.
The BCSA would protect the headwaters of the Blackfoot River by expanding sections of the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountain wildernesses. It would also provide for active forest restoration and increased recreational opportunities. Although it is difficult to find a balanced proposal in a time of stark political division, the BCSA does just that and the University of Montana’s 2018 Public Lands Survey showed that 73 percent of Montanans support the BCSA.
Now is the time for the BCSA to be passed, in order to protect the Blackfoot River and its tributaries for future generations to come. I urge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester to reintroduce the BCSA and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte to join him in protecting Montana’s heritage and these hallowed waters we love.
Please join me and Hellgate Hunters & Anglers in supporting this legislation. I look forward to seeing you out on protected water in the Blackfoot drainage, just not too close to my honey holes!