Tester looking for new approach to push Blackfoot Stewardship pl - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Tester looking for new approach to push Blackfoot Stewardship plan

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(Mikenzie Frost/MTN News photo) (Mikenzie Frost/MTN News photo)

Frustrated with the complications of trying to push through his broader Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, Senator Jon Tester is searching for new ways to get Congress to approve on the key elements of that plan -- a proposal to set aside a mix of conservation and wilderness in the Upper Blackfoot.

Montana's senior senator is turning to the people who've been backing that concept for a decade to find that new approach.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project would take a unique collaborative approach to managing wilderness, wildlife, timber harvest and recreation south and west of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. But Tester told backers of the idea in Missoula Tuesday it's been a tough sell as part of the much larger Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

"We haven't gotten the solidarity from the delegation I had hoped for quite frankly. And the delegation has changed a couple times since then," Sen. Tester said.

"This was a pilot project. So more money was going to be coming to Montana for management. Some of the other states said 'hey, we don't want to see that happen', even though it's a pilot project. And quite frankly I think if we could have got this done, 7-8 years ago, when it worked here, this pilot project would be throughout the West," he added.

Sen. Tester told the stakeholders he's considering several options, from the timing of reintroducing the broader bill, to splitting off the Blackfoot Stewardship into its own measure. 

The group expressed continued support, and said that might not be a bad idea.

"We've always been big supporters of seeing something bi-partisan. If we could get all the Congressional delegation board that would be great. Something jointly from the two senators would be excellent," said Gordy Sanders with Pyramid Lumber.

"Our businesses are not healthy. Our schools are not healthy. Our workers are not healthy. This state is not healthy. So an economic driver is essential," said Adrian Marx who owns a business in Seeley Lake.

."We need to do a better job of really telling what this does and getting the folks that are out there to help support you," added Jim Stone with Rolling Stone Ranch.

"But I think that's going to give our future generations a place to fly fish for cutthroat trout. And of course our grandsons and future grandsons and granddaughters, it will give them a great place for hiking and riding horseback," commented outfitter Smoke Elser. "You know, there's nothing better for the inside for a man than the outside of a horse."

Sen. Tester appreciated the input, and promised he'll come up with a new plan of attack shortly. 

The first work with the Blackfoot Stewardship -- the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program -- has already resulted in the creation of 130 jobs and $33 million of economic activity in the Seeley-Swan. 

RELATED: Blackfoot Clearwater Project: Flyover to see proposed wilderness expansion

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