Tester announces new wilderness bill; would add to Bob, Missions

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Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., announced recently that he is introducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a proposal that includes expanding the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex by 79,000 acres while opening up timber harvest and recreational use elsewhere in the region.

Tester’s legislation is the result of a decade of collaboration between the timber industry, sportsmen organizations, ranchers and business owners.

“The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is the perfect example of what happens when Montanans work together,” Tester stated in a press release. “This legislation will create jobs, strengthen the local economy and preserve our outdoor way of life for future generations.”

At the request of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and with the support of the local timber industry, the legislation will implement several recreation and wilderness designations.

It includes 79,000 acres of wilderness. The wilderness component includes additions in the North Fork of the Blackfoot/Monture Creek area, the grizzly basin on the Swan Front, just south of Holland Lake and a new addition to the Mission Mountain Wilderness, in the West Fork of the Clearwater.

The Monture Addition is about 39,000 acres, the Grizzly addition just under 7,784 acres, the Mission Mountain addition 4,400 acres and the Scapegoat addition about 27,392 acres.

The wilderness additions do come with a compromise — if cattle grazing rights were held prior to the law, grazing will be allowed in the wilderness after its passed.

The bill creates the 2,200 acre “Otatsy Recreation Management Area” north of Ovando, which allows traditional uses as well as snowmobiling in the winter. It does, however, ban other motorized use outside of the winter months and it bans most timber harvest in the area, with some exceptions and to keep snowmobile access open. It also prohibits oil and gas exploration in the 2,200 acre area.

The bill also includes the Spread Mountain Recreation Area, a 3,800 acre region that prohibits motorized uses, but does allow mechanical uses, like bicycles, on trails. The Spread Mountain area is adjacent to the Otatsy.

The bill also allows for groups to create a collaborative trail plan on the Lolo National Forest.

The bill is the work of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, a group of local stakeholders who, over the years, have come together to create sustainable timber harvest projects, expanded recreation opportunities and conservation.

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