Recently, a made-in-Montana public lands bill received a hearing in the U.S. Senate. I’m grateful for this opportunity to celebrate in a year lacking in such opportunities. Before the pandemic, Montana had a $7.1 billion recreation economy that accounted for 71,000 jobs. And it was growing. The pandemic has hurt our economy and our communities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do what’s necessary to protect the foundation of that economy – healthy public lands and waters.
The bill that recently received a hearing — the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA), does just that. The BCSA is the culmination of more than a decade-long collaborative effort that involved people up and down the Blackfoot and Clearwater Valleys who represent a wide spectrum of interests – conservation, timber, ranching, outfitting, local business, and conservation. The BCSA will permanently protect the four most crucial tributaries of the Blackfoot River – the North Fork, Monture Creek, Morrell Creek, and West Fork of the Clearwater – places that I cherish, having spent 20 years fishing and floating the Blackfoot when I lived in Missoula. Not only will this bill help our outdoor economy, but it will protect the public lands we depend on for our Montana way of life.
The pandemic has been a wake-up call that Montanans absolutely depend on public lands — for our physical and mental wellbeing, our wildlife, and our economy. Senator Daines, please work with Senator Tester to pass the BCSA this session.