Sen. Tester: Committee support needed for Blackfoot Stewardship Act

Posted at 10:36 AM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 12:36:40-04

MISSOULA – Senator Jon Tester says if the newly re-introduced Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is going to become law, it will need firmer support from Montana’s other political leaders, and bi-partisan work in Washington, D.C.

We’ve heard of Hollywood “re-booting” movie franchises, in order to not only restore a fanbase but find new fans.

And in essence, that’s what’s started with Tester’s announcement last week that he was “re-introducing” the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, that sweeping proposal to set aside new wilderness in the Upper Blackfoot Basin, while promoting clean water, resource management and recreation.

The legislation he introduced in 2017 did manage to score a committee hearing last year, but didn’t make it to the floor. Tester tells me he’s still optimistic about winning support in the Senate, and convincing Senate leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“Talk about the advantages,” Tester said. “There’s a lot of things we can talk about this bill having positive impacts, both the quality of life and economically. And if we’re able to do that, get it out of committee, and once we get it out of committee I can put pressure on McConnell and Schumer to get it to the floor. Especially McConnell. Or we can attach it to a bill that goes through because it will have been heard by the committee of jurisdiction and passed out of that committee.”

Tester feels the benefits are convincing ones, but it will take more “aggressive” positions from Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte to help make the case in D.C.

“This is going to end up adding dollars to our economy and employing more people and improving quality of life. And it will be around for our kids and our grandkids too. It is a win on all levels.”

Tester says the primary objective is to get the Act passed through committee since it’s hard for proposals to be independently attached to other bills in the current political climate.

“It’s really, really hard to get a piece of legislation attached, unless you’re in leadership, to a bill unless it’s gotten out of committee. That’s varied a little bit over the last year and everything it’s happened it hasn’t been good.”

At the kickoff Friday, Tester urged local supporters of the Blackfoot Act to get busy writing letters so that others can see the broad base of support for the set-aside, and what it means to the future of the Blackfoot Valley.

“This ecosystem’s not going to be around. I don’t think it will be around another 10-years if we don’t do something about it. And I think our kids and our grandkids deserve better.”

Tester believes the heated debate over public lands management may be hindering efforts to get the Blackfoot Stewardship Act approved.

-Dennis Bragg reporting for MTN