The United States has long been at the vanguard of conservation, and the Trump Administration has furthered these ideals more than any administration in generations, investing in public lands more than the Obama Administration and calling on Congress to fix our crumbling infrastructure through the Great American Outdoors Act. Notching yet another breakthrough in the President’s growing list of conservation accomplishments is the world’s first Backcountry Conservation Areas, or BCAs, which will be designated in the great state of Montana.
BCAs draw their inspiration from the direction of President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt’s mandate to conserve habitat and enhance recreational opportunities, namely multiple Orders that have been signed by Secretary Bernhardt to ensure conservation stewardship and outdoor recreation is preserved and expanded upon.
Montanans deeply care about being able to access their public lands, especially when it comes to the diverse recreational opportunities available throughout the state. These newly designated areas underscore the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting and enhancing opportunities for public hunting and other wildlife-dependent recreation across these unique landscapes.
Within BCAs, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) promotes public access to support wildlife-dependent recreation and hunting opportunities and facilitate the long-term maintenance of big game wildlife populations. The BLM will be able to restore riparian areas and streams, eliminate invasive species, manage vegetation, improve fish passage, reduce the risk of wildfires, and increase forage.
These innovative designations are a reality now with the approval of BLM’s final Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the Lewistown and Missoula areas. These RMPs, covering a combined total of 814,200 surface acres, are being updated for the first time in over 30 years. Designated with enthusiastic public support, as well as the participation and encouragement of over 100 conservation and sportsmen’s groups such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), BCAs represent the epitome of the BLM’s multiple-use mandate.
The Lewistown RMP establishes two BCAs of over 106,000 acres, which are equivalent to about 80,000 football fields and encompass one of the best big-game hunting areas in North America, as well as undeveloped grasslands and mountain ranges.
The Missoula RMP establishes three additional BCAs totaling 13,014 acres and includes lands that encompass the last remaining intact wildlife habitat in the Garnet Range important to westslope cutthroat trout, elk, white-tailed deer, moose, forest grouse, grizzly bears, lynx and wolverines. These BCAs include intact forest habitat for big game and wet meadows along Wales Creek that support beaver and moose. They also incorporate important habitat for bull trout, moose, grouse and deer in an intact area adjoining the Lolo National Forest.
The BLM has an obligation to facilitate multiple uses in the lands it manages for the American people. BCAs are a straightforward management tool that ensures the BLM can meet its multiple-use mission and provides flexibility, while encouraging management of habitat for big game species and recreational access.
These incredible backcountry areas are the first in Montana, America, and the world, representing a significant step forward in our efforts to manage public lands for the benefit of all. President Teddy Roosevelt used to hunt big game in these areas, and I imagine he would be proud to know that we preserved the area for the same purposes. President Trump, who pursues a conservation ethic second only to the Rough Rider himself, continues to build upon his conservation legacy. We hope Montanans will get out and enjoy these incredible places; after all, hunting season is just around the corner.
William Perry Pendley is Deputy Director for Policy and Programs for the Bureau of Land Management.
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