A certain “bully” president made an appearance in Helena Thursday as part of a ceremony honoring the creators of a collaborative forest management plan in the Blackfoot Valley.
President Theodore Roosevelt, portrayed by impersonator Adam Lindquist, made camp on the lawn of the Montana Historical Society along with the Montana Wildlife Federation to present the federation’s newly created Collaborative Conservation Achievement Award to the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project steering committee.
The project, first proposed more than a decade ago, has generated attention during the last few months as several conservation groups reinvigorated the call for Montana’s congressional delegation to push legislation forward.
The project’s components include designation of nearly 80,000 acres of new wilderness in four sites along the Swan Range and Mission Mountains, some new snowmobile access, timber production and restoration work. The areas are widely considered prime wildlife habitat and strongholds for both bull and cutthroat trout.
Much of the timber production has already been realized through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program in 2010 while the recreation components have yet to come to fruition.
The project has seen opposition from some conservation groups opposed to trading logging for wilderness as well as those opposed to collaboration for excluding some interests.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., first supported the legislation as part of his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in 2008. Republicans U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke have not co-sponsored legislation formalizing the project, although they are said to be interested, the Missoulian reported.
Speaking in character, Lindquist chronicled Roosevelt’s early life as he suffered from asthma as a child to the passion for conservation that would come to define his presidency.
“We must inspire our children to take up the pursuit of hunting, to spend their day in the wilderness, to spend their day in the forest, to fish the streams and to enjoy all we have in this amazing country,” he said.
In that spirit of outdoor legacy, conservation historian Jim Posewitz presented the award as an example of citizen driven cooperation to solve complex land management issues.
“The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project emerged from the womb of time at a critical time in Montana conservation history,” he said. “It is the time when the last wild lands, the last high quality blue ribbon rivers of this Last Best Place hang in the balance. It is to our great satisfaction and appreciation that we recognize these grassroots, boots-on-the-ground Westerners.”
Longtime Bob Marshall outfitter and member of the steering committee Smoke Elser was on hand to accept the award. Waiting more than a decade is too long for a project that brings together diverse interest to a management consensus, he said.
“It’s going to set aside a piece of land so that it can be managed by the national forests in a good way and setting it aside so that it can be conserved in a doable way for wildlife and habitat in particular,” he said. “We’ve got to get our congressmen to move ahead and get it done with.”