At a ranch near Seeley Lake Wednesday, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced he is introducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. The bill would protect nearly 80,000 acres of wilderness and develop a comprehensive trail plan to provide recreationists with access to the Lolo National Forest. This would include opening some areas to snowmobiling and protecting access for mountain biking.
"We want to guarantee that the next generation of folks that work in our woods, our timber workers, our outdoor adventurers, ranchers, outfitters, can create the same kind of life right here in the Lolo National Forest that has occurred in the past," says Tester.
Tester's legislation is the result of a rare collaboration between the timber industry, ranchers, sportsmen and recreationists.
"This process was about neighboring up," says Land Tawney, the President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a non-profit sportsmen’s organization based in Missoula.
BHA is one of several groups that worked for a decade on the proposed act.
"You may not agree with everything your neighbor does, but it’s about being a neighbor in Montana trying to find solutions rather than being at each other’s throats," Tawney says.
If passed, the Act will add land to the Scapegoat, Bob Marshall Complex, and Mission Mountain wildernesses. It will also create two recreation areas near Ovando. The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act needs approval from both the House and Senate before being written into law by the president.