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When the daily grind of running two businesses in downtown Helena catches up with me, I hitch my drift boat to my rig and go in search of a river. I’m not only a business owner, but also an avid angler. Owning a business in Montana is what I do, but recreating on our rivers and streams is why I live here. Access to the great outdoors is why we choose to live here. This is why we need to protect it. It’s also why I support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project.

The secret is out about Montana’s blue ribbon trout streams, world-class skiing, mountain biking and hiking. I, for one, always welcome visitors to our great state. Their presence boosts our economy. They grab lattes at my coffee shop and burritos at my taco shop. But we also need to preserve Montana’s great wide-open spaces so that we can all continue to enjoy them for generations to come.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project is a grassroots proposal created to protect public lands, boost timber production in a rural community and increase outdoor recreation on lands where it is appropriate. It’s a win-win solution that helps the lumber mill, benefits snowmobilers and mountain bikers and preserves open spaces in an area that has some of the highest density of wildlife activity: the Seeley-Swan corridor. With all these balanced interests advanced in a single bill, I find myself asking: Why has this proposal not been adopted by Congress?

I hope that Sen. Jon Tester again reintroduces this legislation, and that Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte support it. The proposal would add additional wilderness to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat and Mission Mountains wilderness areas. It would expand snowmobiling into Lake Otatsy, an area not currently open to winter motorized use. It would protect and expand mountain biking near Spread Mountain. And it helps deliver timber to the log yard at Pyramid Lumber via restoration projects on public lands that improve habitat, water quality and forest health.

I urge my fellow Helenans to learn more about the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act and endorse the proposal as I have done. Because if there’s one thing I know, we get more accomplished together than individually.

Several years ago, I was a fly-fishing woman in search of other female anglers. Today, the nonprofit Last Chance Fly Gals, which I created in conjunction with several other local female anglers, helps connect women who love to fly fish, educates them on the sport and brings a larger, louder cohesive female voice to the fishing industry.

Like that experience, today I am a business owner, conservationist and proud native Montanan looking for others who want to help protect some of our most wild and precious lands in the Blackfoot Valley. Please join me.

Shalon Hastings is the owner of Taco del Sol and Hub Coffee in Helena. 

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