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Tester to introduce stand-alone legislation for Blackfoot conser - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Tester to introduce stand-alone legislation for Blackfoot conservation

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Ovando rancher Jim Stone thanks Sen. Jon Tester for Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act during this morning's announcement. (Dennis Bragg photo) Ovando rancher Jim Stone thanks Sen. Jon Tester for Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act during this morning's announcement. (Dennis Bragg photo)
OVANDO -

Efforts to protect 79,000 acres of forest land in the Upper Blackfoot Valley are going through a pivot with Senator Jon Tester launching a new effort to win Congressional approval for the set aside.

A coalition of user groups has tried for more than a decade to push through a bold plan to add wilderness adjacent to the Bob Marshall, while still accommodating recreational and forestry uses.

Senator Tester tried to get the plan endorsed as part of his Forest Jobs proposal. But with the set aside not getting any traction, Tester announced Wednesday morning he'll introduce separate legislation for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act next week. 

"It's going to create jobs. It will strengthen this local economy locally," Tester said. "It will strengthen the economy of the state, generally, and it will preserve our outdoor way of life for the next generation."

The news was met with enthusiasm during an announcement at the legendary Rich's Montana Guest Ranch north of Ovando, with user groups saying the Act represents a perfect balance of protection and job creation that will appeal to Montana's growing tourist trade. 

"They didn't come to see our Walmarts! They came to see our prairies, our mountains, our streams and our lakes," said Lee Bowman of the Montana Wilderness Association. Our twelve-million guests came to Montana because they wanted to experience the magic of Montana. Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project helps ensure the magic of Montana will remain strong forever."

"It's a rejuvenating place, and it's actually what I like to call a spa for the mind," said Connie Long with Bob Marshall Wilderness Outfitters.

Everyone here knows it will take a lot of work to get the Stewardship Act through Congress. But they believe that the 'on-the-ground' collaboration will be the convincing ingredient.

"Montana is now in a place to show the rest of the country that there's a better way," said Pyramid Lumber COO Loren Rose.

"This Blackfoot Clearwater Valley surrounding us has become a global role model of how successful collaboration works," said Rich's Montana Guest Ranch Owner Jack Rich.

"Senator, we appreciate your never give up attitude. That is so Montana," sid Missoula Co. commissioner Jean Curtiss. "This legislation is key to fulfilling the goals of this project, that's a made in Montana project, achieving that balanced approach."

Tester said he'll introduce the bill for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act Monday.

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