For businesses like ours, it’s crucial that Montanans find consensus around public land policy that preserves our natural heritage and supports our outdoor economy. That’s because the success of Montana businesses largely depends on the health of our public lands and waters.

Folks are drawn to and remain in Montana because of access to our recreation and the high quality of life that our public lands and waters provide. Whether we are talking about tech companies, those in the service industry, the building industry, businesses that focus on recreation, or others – we are all much more directly tied to such opportunities as catching cutthroat trout in our storied rivers and taking after-work mountain bike rides right out our back doors than we are in what we do in business. Recreation and our appreciation for our public lands and waters have always been the great qualifiers, and this is no different.

Crafted by a dedicated group of Montanans who live in and around Seeley Lake and Ovando, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) will permanently protect the most important tributaries of the Blackfoot River – the North Fork, Monture Creek, Morrell Creek, and the West Fork of the Clearwater. These tributaries are the lifeblood of the Blackfoot River, and protecting them will not just protect the river; it will also help ensure that the surrounding Montana businesses succeed well into the future.

The superlative health of the Blackfoot, evident in its crystalline waters and abundant native trout populations, are why people travel here from around the world and end up spending money with our businesses and throughout our communities. Our businesses can’t take that health for granted. We need the assurance that the BCSA provides.

The BCSA also maintains existing mountain bike access and secures new snowmobile access. It orders the Forest Service to perform a recreational study to ascertain where additional trails and amenities could be developed within the Lolo National Forest. Moreover, it ensures timber jobs continue in the area through all of the forest restoration work already underway with the Southwestern Crown Collaborative. In addition to keeping logs on trucks, the collaborative is also improving stream health and helping protect against wildfires.

Public lands policy, at its best, involves a lot of hard work and some thoughtful compromise. Both have gone into the making of the BCSA. Well over a decade of kitchen table conversations and community meetings have gone into crafting this proposal. By focusing on commonalities instead of differences, the BCSA Steering Committee and other contributors to the proposal have created a truly made-in-Montana piece of legislation that has the support of the local community members and 74 percent of Montanans.

The beauty of this effort is that local folks from different backgrounds were able to come up with this bill that enjoys broad support from timber, recreation, business, ranching and conservation communities. It’s time now for our elected officials to move the BCSA through Congress, and see that this labor of love, which helps safeguard our $7.1 billion recreational economy, becomes law.

We thank Sen. Tester for carrying this grassroots proposal in the Senate, and we encourage Sen. Daines and Congressman Gianforte to help usher it through to the finish line. Montana jobs and our outdoor way of life depend on their leadership. The BCSA is the right thing to do for Montana and our businesses. It’s time to get it done.

John Herzer and Terri Raugland own Blackfoot River Outfitters in Missoula; Shalon Hastings is the owner of Fly Fishing Adventures and Hub Coffee in Helena.