BCSA supports local economy and recreation
September 17, 2020
Over fifteen years ago, folks from Seeley Lake and Ovando sat at the conference table at Pyramid Mountain Lumber with three goals: support local timber jobs and healthy forests, increase recreational use in the Lolo National Forest, and permanently conserve some of the wildest places in Montana. What resulted from that meeting and countless gatherings after it is the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, which Senator Tester introduced as legislation in June 2019.
We’ve held many public meetings and have honed the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) to reflect comments and priorities by interest groups that have shown up and rolled up their sleeves. Working in a collaborative group is hard work, but when folks put their differences aside and focus on their commonalities, we can get a heck of a lot done.
One of the first examples of hard work among BCSA partners began when the North Fork Bowls and Morrell Mountain Bowl, some of our most important snowmobile riding areas that draw riders from across the country, were threatened with closure in the early 2000s. The Seeley Lake Driftriders and Montana Wilderness Association worked together to protect snowmobile access for the Bowls while also securing the headwaters of the West Fork Clearwater as recommended Wilderness. This unique partnership resulted in an amendment to the Lolo Forest Plan to ensure we can continue to ride in the North Fork and Morrell Mountain Bowls.
Our recreational economy is big business. The BCSA would add desirable snowmobile access in the Otatsy, which is a prized area due to its northeast facing steep slopes. The Rice Ridge fire opened up new riding terrain, and through funds with the recently passed Great American Outdoors Act, we can now do needed clearing of deadfall for safety and access.
In the summer our streams and rivers are flooded with anglers and recreationalists, and the protections the BCSA would provide for headwaters streams like Monture Creek and the North Fork of the Blackfoot would be a safety net for the historic Blackfoot River. We’ve lived here long enough to remember when the Blackfoot was a scenic float, and not much else. Now it’s full of trout, which keeps anglers eating in our restaurants and pumping gas.
Since the beginning, BCSA partners have worked together to deliver on joint goals. For Pyramid Mountain Lumber and other Montana mills, this has led to production of over 60 million board feet of green timber, maintaining over 150 timber jobs.
We continue to hold meetings and listen to our neighbors; everyone is always welcome. We are proud of this process by which ranchers, timber mill operators, outfitters, mountain bikers, business owners, wilderness advocates, snowmobilers, and more all worked together to create something where everyone comes out ahead.
We’ve got a real chance to see this Montana-made bill become law, and we need our entire delegation to pull as one for the 75% of Montanans who support it. It’s time for them to find the path to get Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act across the finish line.
Jack Rich, Gordy Sanders, Jim Stone and Tim Love
Seeley Lake, Ovando and Missoula, Montana