Senators move to protect Flathead forever

Baucus, Tester Working with Canada to Halt Mining in North Fork

(Washington D.C.) Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced their plan to introduce federal legislation to ensure Montanans will be able to hunt, fish and hike in the North Fork of the Flathead for generations. The legislation, in conjunction with similar measures in British Columbia, Canada, would prevent mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction on either side of the border.

“Canadians and Americans- and especially Montanans- are forever linked by the beautiful Flathead valley,” Baucus said. “Together, we live, work, and prosper because of the resources in this valley. We must step up and protect this gem- and our outdoor heritage for future generations, no matter which side of the border we live on.”

“Keeping pollution out of the Upper Flathead isn’t just important to Montana—it’s important to the entire world,” Tester said. “Canada stepped up to be a good neighbor, and now we’ll do our part to safeguard this area so our kids and grandkids can fish, hunt, hike and camp in it like we do.”

More than 2 million tourists spend more than $150 million every year in the Flathead valley.

Will Hammerquist, Glacier Program Manager for the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association, supports the Senator’s efforts.
“Every Montanan who cares about passing on our great outdoor heritage should applaud Senators Baucus’ and Tester’s legislation to retire these oil leases. This is another significant step by Senator Baucus in his 30-year commitment and leadership to protect Glacier and its surrounding lands. Over 90 percent of the land-base in the U.S. North Fork is publically owned federal land; and only through the leadership of Montana’s Senators at the federal level can such a significant policy change be made. I can’t think of a better birthday present to celebrate Glacier National Park’s Centennial.”
Earlier this week, British Columbian leaders pledged to prevent mining on the Canadian portion of the North Fork. Baucus and Tester will move forward with similar federal legislation to guarantee that Montana’s Flathead valley will be permanently protected.

While most of the legal action needed to protect British Columbia’s Flathead can be completed within the province, in Montana over 575,000 of the more than 610,000 acres of the North Fork is federal land. This means that Congress must pass a law in order for Montana to protect its portion of the North Fork for traditional uses like hunting, fishing, and logging.

“Montanans are outdoors people- and British Columbians are the same,” Baucus said. “Anyone who’s had the privilege to visit the Flathead Valley knows it is a special place. Folks come from all over the world to see it- and many more will get a firsthand look when the Olympic Games startup. This is important, and we are moving forward together to get this done, once and for all.”

After Canada’s announcement, Baucus and Tester, wrote a letter to British Columbian Premier Gordon Campbell, asking to meet as soon as possible to solidify the details of the new policy.  Baucus and Tester have long pushed to ban any new mining or development activities and praised the British Columbian government for making this important announcement. Earlier this year they asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work with Canada to protect the Flathead.