Senators announce more lease retirements in Flathead watershed

Chevron Becomes Second Lease Holder to Relinquish Land in the North Fork

(Washington D.C.)  Montana’s Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced that the energy giant Chevron is retiring its interest in over 11,000 acres of oil and gas leases to help protect prime outdoor recreation areas in the Flathead Valley. Chevron is the second oil company to retire its holdings in the area.  In April, ConocoPhilips retired its interest in nearly 170,000 acres in the North Fork.

After meetings with Baucus and Tester the company voluntarily relinquished its interest in 4 federal oil and gas leases covering approximately 11,000 net acres in northwest Montana.

“The good news just keeps coming for the North Fork of the Flathead River. I’ve worked towards this for 35 years to make this happen and we are getting closer and closer to protecting the Flathead once and for all,” Baucus said. “I’d like to thank Chevron for their stewardship of this beautiful place.”

“There are just some places that are too valuable to us, to our kids, and to our grandkids to develop,” Tester said.  “The area next to Glacier National Park is one of them.  It’s good to have Chevron as one of our partners in our ongoing effort to protect this important landscape. “

The announcement comes in the wake of Baucus’ and Tester’s visit to the Crown of the Continent yesterday.  The senators lead a community discussion in Ovando with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Montanans.  The discussion focused on the efforts to manage working landscapes through local collaborative efforts and to promote access to public lands.

In March, Baucus and Tester introduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2010—legislation that will prevent new oil and gas development and mining in the North Fork watershed.  The bill is in conjunction with similar measures in British Columbia. The moves will put a moratorium on future leases on federal lands in the North Fork of the Flathead Drainage, which borders Glacier National Park.

However, since Baucus and Tester’s measure does not affect leases already held in the area, they are working with energy companies and current lease holders, such as Chevron, to retire existing oil and gas leases.

The North Fork of the Flathead and Glacier National Park are major economic drivers in northwestern Montana. Every year, more than two million visitors spend more than $150 million in the area.