Recently representatives from the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Montana Mountain Bike Alliance and MTB Missoula signed on as supporters of the collaborative landscape proposal: the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project.

There have been numerous stories from across the country of mountain bike advocates butting heads with wilderness and conservation groups over the past year. Mountain bikers across the west are concerned about a potential loss of riding opportunities, and finding permanency for our local trails is paramount to many of us. Working with diverse, collaborative proposals such as the BCSP is a perfect way to preserve our riding terrain while advancing a proposal that benefits all, not just a select few.

What we’ve been able to accomplish right here in Montana should be a guiding light for cooperation and collaboration between mountain bikes and wilderness advocates across the nation.

The BCSP originated over a decade ago between neighbors in the Blackfoot and Clearwater valleys of Montana, as a community-driven solution to management of public lands. The timber provisions will put people to work restoring our forests and reducing wildfire risk, creating jobs in the woods. Other provisions will permanently protect storied landscapes like Monture Creek, Grizzly Basin and the North Fork of the Clearwater River, adding these lands to the Bob Marshall and other wilderness areas.

The BCSP would create the Otatsy winter recreation area, creating new snowmobiling opportunities. Through the latest changes, the proposal will now create the Spread Mountain Recreational Area and ensure continued access to trails that are important to us. The recreational area includes Spread Mountain, Camp Pass-Canyon Lake and Camp Pass-Lake Otatsy trails, which will remain open to mountain bike use. In addition, we will work together to build new trails to create great mountain bike loop routes.

With these latest changes, the recreation provisions of the BCSP are a powerful example of how outfitters, snowmobilers, hikers, mountain bikers and hunters have come together to create a win-win proposal that benefits everyone involved.

As Montanans, we have long prided ourselves on our ability to put differences aside and work together to find commonalities to get the job done. IMBA is proud to join the diverse ranks of supporters of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, and implore our Montana delegation to do the same. By working together, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke can take our Montana-made proposal to Washington, D.C., and turn it into law.

Eric Melson is the advocacy manager for the International Mountain Bike Association and resides in Missoula.

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