The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project is back in play in the U.S. Senate, but getting to that point was not at all an easy or comfortable task . . .
Smoke Elser agreed to share his favorite place in the world with his least-favorite pastime, and it nearly broke his heart.
“I will support what we’ve done,” Elser said. “I’m the only one who voted against it. But everyone else agreed. And I want Grizzly Basin. I want that Monture drainage. So I had to compromise. But I’m not going to compromise anymore.”
What the dean of Montana’s horse-packing heritage did was concede to a deal that unified an unprecedented coalition of supporters around an expansion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. In return for endorsing full federal protection of 80,000 acres, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and two Montana mountain biking groups laid claim to about 3,800 acres for future cycling trails. That’s next to a proposed 2,200-acre recreation management area designated for snowmobile use.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Wednesday announced legislation that would add 79,000 acres of public land to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex while expanding access to snowmobilers and mountain bikers and boosting forest restoration projects with timber harvest.
The Democratic senator introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act in Seeley Lake at Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch, adjacent to the 1.5 million-acre wilderness area, surrounded by outfitters and wilderness advocates.
The act would expand the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area to include Grizzly Basin and the Swan Front, the Scapegoat Wilderness Area to include the North Fork of the Blackfoot and Monture Creek, and the Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas to include the West Fork of the Clearwater.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, a coalition of loggers, ranchers, outfitters, recreationists and others that formed a decade ago to find collaborative solutions for public land uses in the Seeley Lake and Ovando area, crafted the proposal that became Tester’s legislation.
Members of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project are still working to get the wilderness components of their 2008 agreement implemented . . .
It seems odd to stand beside Seeley Lake, looking at the mountains that border the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and not actually see the wilderness.
The border of that 1.6-million-acre, federally protected backcountry runs along the crest of the Swan Range. The western face of those mountains, where all the trailheads start, has no special status.
That makes sense from a scenic standpoint. The Seeley-Swan Valley lacks the churning peaks and glittering lakes that glorify the Bob Marshall and Mission Mountains wildernesses on either side. From the air, the state Highway 83 corridor offers no contest to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is 60% contained and continues to burn with its existing perimeter. According to the InciWeb site, “Suppression efforts will continue on the north and east edges of the fire.”
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is now 60% contained, with further progress expected today.
Some 45 people are assigned to the effort. Three helicopters are making water drops. A Type 2 team started work yesterday.
According to the InciWeb site, “Fire personnel will remain working on the north edge in the heavier dead and down fuel (within the 2005 fire’s burned area), while the Type-2 fire crew will move to the east-side of the fire today, after making progress yesterday on the south edge.”
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Fifty people (up from 30 yesterday) are tied up with the effort so far. Three helicopters are making water drops. A Type 2 team is going in today.
The fire is still uncontained, although it doesn’t appear to be spreading significantly.
In general, not much has changed since our previous post, except for the increased number of folks on the ground.
Personnel from the Lewis and Clarke National forest are busy suppressing the Elk Hill Fire, a 1000-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Thirty people are tied up with the effort so far, as well as three helicopters. (Update: There are no significant changes as of April 11 at 10am.)
The Elk Hill fire appears to have been started by a warming or campfire, but is under investigation.
Currently the fire is actively burning near lower North Fork Sun River, southeast of the Forest Service cabin on Cabin Creek, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Ranger District. The Elk Hill Fire is burning in grass, and in downfall within the perimeter of a wildfire from 2005, moving into stands of mature Douglas fir. Although the weather is warm, this fire is primarily fuels-driven with potential for continued rapid spread.
The most active part of the fire is along Circle Creek in/around the 2005 fire area, because of the dead and down fuels within that area.
Fire personnel are continuing suppression efforts where it is safe to do so; and focus structure protection of the Forest Service Cabin Creek cabin. Three helicopters–one Type 1 and two Type-2–are assisting the on-the-ground efforts, as needed.
UPDATED TRAILS CLOSURES:
–North Fork Sun River Trail #201 from jct. w/#268 north to jct. w/#231.1 (northwest of Cabin Creek Cabin).
–Circle Creek Trail #231 from jct. w/#201 north to #231.1 and southeast to jct. w/#208.
–Cabin Creek Admin. Connector #231.1 closed in it’s entirety.
–Circle Creek Connector #268.1 closed in it’s entirety.
The Missoulian has an interesting report on the April 2, 2016 Bob Marshall Wilderness complex annual meeting in Choteau . . .
For all the work needed in the woods, there’s at least as much to do back in the office regarding the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
U.S. Forest Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks analysts have several long-term projects underway that will affect how hikers, riders, hunters and neighbors experience the 1.5 million-acre backcountry. Much of the to-do list was reviewed at an annual public meeting on Saturday that’s been convening every spring for more than 30 years.
This years’ gathering attracted everyone from Choteau business owners and ranchers to horseback riders who could trace three generations of family experience in the Bob. In between were outfitters, airplane pilots, snowmobile riders and representatives from conservation groups like the Montana Wilderness Association.
The public is invited to the annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC) Public Meeting on Saturday, April 2 starting at 10 AM at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau, Montana.
“This is a great annual opportunity to meet with the National Forest Wilderness Managers and Montana Fish and Wildlife staff”, says Deb Mucklow, Spotted Bear District Ranger. “The challenges of managing wilderness are often not understood. Historically the participants at this annual meeting have helped with solutions or ideas that we as managers may be to incorporate. Specific updates will be shared from the Fire Season of 2015, the Wilderness Stewardship Performance program, and specific trail needs/projects, wilderness issues and more.” All of the participants will be encouraged to interact with the managers present and have time for one on one questions. We’ll also be asking how they value the wilderness we have today and what the expectations are for the future. In addition, updates will be provided on specific activities and projects, and ongoing monitoring across the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The monitoring and actions are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable change for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC).”