Collaboration is at the center of preservation, and in November, Wilderness, traditional conservation groups, and mountain bike clubs in Western Montana finalized a precedent setting agreement for locally driven land management.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project (BCSP) is a win-win management solution just northeast of Missoula that protects classic backountry mountain bike opportunities as well as the pristine character of the Bob Marshall fringe. The plan expands the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Wilderness areas by 80,000 acres, while carving out a recreation management area that protects and preserves the backcountry riding opportunities that local communities cherish.
What’s in it for bikes?
The BCSP creates the Spread Mountain Recreation Area. This is a 3,000 acre trails complex that protects, in perpetuity, mountain bike access to Spread Mountain, Camp Pass, Canyon Lake, and Otatsy Lake. These are classic backcountry rides that have drawn mountain bikers for decades, but that were on the chopping block for bike access in the original proposal. MTB Missoula, the Montana Mountain Bike Alliance, and the International Mountain Biking Association successfully protected mountain bike access to these iconic rides.
What’s in it for Wilderness?
The proposal expands existing Wilderness by 80,000 acres. This includes Monture Creek, portions of Grizzly Basin, and the North Fork of the Clearwater River, which finalizes Wilderness protections on the entire headwaters of the Blackfoot River. This area is prime Grizzly bear habitat, and protecting it strengthens the wild character of the place that we call home.
What’s in it for the equestrian community?
The equestrian and horsepacking community has relied on Monture Creek and Lake Creek trails for generations to access the Bob Marshall Wilderness. They use these trails for recreation and for a livelihood; hunting and outfitting is a major economic driver in the Ovando and Lincoln communities. These trails are included in the expanded Wilderness, and new connector trails in the Camp Pass area will keep mule trains and mountain bikes separate.
Who else wins here?
This agreement was successful because it was built on the foundations of mutual respect. There are very few examples of Wilderness, horsepacking, and mountain bike communities coming together to emphatically support the same proposed legislation. This is an example of collaboration driving preservation, and confirms the premise that we’re all pushing for the same thing. This proposal strengthens mountain bike access, Wilderness protections, and horsepacking heritage. In doing so it strengthens the local communities and is another building block for an alliance of responsible land users. We all win.
How do I read more?
- BCSP Website
- Missoulian Article
- LTE by Eric Melson, IMBA staffer and former MTB Missoula Board Member
- Montana Wilderness Association Endorsement
Now what happens?
This is proposed legislation. It’s hugely popular among the Montana constituency, and now it’s up to our legislative delegates to propose it. If you support this legislation, please take a moment to reach out to your representative and let them know that you expect it to be introduced.