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Guest column

Guest view: Montana's congressional delegates should all support Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act

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Grizzly Basin

The Grizzly Basin just west of the Bob Marshall Wilderness would get federal wilderness protection under the proposed Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act.

Folks come to the Tamaracks Resort to connect with family, relax into a slower pace and experience what makes Montana so exceptional — the lands, waters, fish and wildlife that make our region one of the most beautiful and wildest in the Lower 48.

Our guests marvel at the mighty larches, delight in the clear, clean lakes and streams, and head out by horse or foot to experience the mountains. While they are here, they learn the names of lakes, waterfalls and creeks. They might see a moose, elk or black bear. They come back to the lodge having experienced something unique and priceless.

That’s why it’s so important to me, as a resort owner, that we do not lose or diminish the natural wonders in the Blackfoot and Clearwater valleys. That’s also why I support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a bill that will permanently protect so many of the natural wonders our guests come to Montana to experience.

Last year amid the pandemic, Montana State Parks reported a 36% increase in visitors to Placid Lake and a 43% increase at Salmon Lake. Seeley Lake’s Forest Service staff were already remarking in early July that it was one of the busiest summer they’d ever seen. We anticipate the same crowds this summer, and I don’t think this pressure will wane in coming years.

Before the pandemic Montana’s public lands and waters fueled a $7 billion dollar outdoor reaction economy, supporting over 70,000 jobs and contributing $287 million in consumer spending. Closer to home, the Blackfoot River was, before the pandemic, generating over 9,000 guided outfitter days a year. These figures are likely outdated now. I suspect they have only grown as a result of folks near and far retreating to Montana.

This is, of course, good news for local businesses and communities. But the crowds present challenges as well, such as more pressure on fish and wildlife populations, more wear and tear on our recreation sites and trails, and likely more development, all of which could undermine the health of our public lands and the quality of outdoor experiences that are critical to sustaining our state’s outdoor recreation economy and my business. The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act would help maintain that health and quality.

The bill would add nearly 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Mission Mountains, and Scapegoat wilderness areas. It would also permanently protect four tributaries of the Blackfoot and Clearwater Rivers. The Clearwater River feeds Seeley Lake, and Tamarack Resort sits on the lake’s shores.

My guests swim, boat, fish, and wildlife watch on the waters that this act will protect. They hike, hunt, and snowmobile on the lands this collaborative has come to agreement over. Best of all, the bill was developed by my neighbors right here in Seeley Lake, by fellow business owners, outfitters and guides, timber mill workers, local ranchers and others.

When neighbors come together and make a plan for their economy and outdoor way of life, we must listen to and support one another. Thank you to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester for reintroducing the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, please join him in supporting this legislation that was locally developed and offers solutions that our community wants and needs.

Jessica Kimmel owns the Tamaracks Resort in Seeley Lake. 

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