A coalition of Seeley Lake and Ovando-area residents say they’ve developed a plan to both protect and use local public lands. The group’s rebooted its public relations campaign to attract some congressional attention.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project is made up of loggers, hunters, conservationists and snowmobilers. They all think a decade is more than enough time for Congress to make up its mind.
"It’s time for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project to move forward. I would like to ask our [congressional] delegation to take it on and see it through."
That clip is from the first of a series of videos the group will release. It vows to produce and distribute one video a month until Montana’s delegation embraces its plan and ushers it through Congress.
That plan has three basic components: recreation, conservation and a sustainable timber economy.
Here's Stewardship Project member and Ovando-area rancher Jim Stone.
“In whole, it really is about a working landscape. That’s been the hinge-point of the Blackfoot for many years. We want all the traditional uses; we want to be able to work and we want to be able to function.”
The plan’s forest restoration component is underway with the establishment of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative.
The recreation and conservation portions are still only proposals. Simply put, they call for guaranteed hunting, fishing and snowmobiling opportunities. It also calls for adding 83,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat and Mission Mountains Wilderness areas.
That approach of combining working lands and protections hasn’t mustered much support in Congress, but retired outfitter Smoke Elser says he believes Montana's delegation can get the job done.
"You know, if we present the Congress in Washington, DC with a good, clean, pure apple I think they will take a bite.”
But convincing congress to take a bite out of that pure apple could be a challenge – especially during an election year.
The groups hope their new website and PR campaign will help whet lawmakers’ appetites.