Baucus, Tester return more than 80 percent of leased acreage near North Fork of Flathead River at no cost to taxpayers
Senators Vow to Continue Efforts, Reintroduce North Fork Protection Bill Next Congress
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester have secured the return of more than 200,000 acres held by energy companies near Montana's North Fork of the Flathead River this Congress. The Senators have brokered the deals to voluntarily retire the primary interest in more than 80 percent of the total leased acreage at no cost to taxpayers. Baucus and Tester vowed to continue these efforts in the new year after the Senate adjourned today and announced plans to reintroduce their legislation to prevent new oil and gas development and mining in the watershed next Congress.
The maps here, released for the first time today, illustrate the dramatic change that has taken place in the North Fork watershed because of Baucus and Tester’s work. The bright red shows the location of leases that existed in March when the senators began their efforts to retire leases, drastically reduced on the second map. The yellow areas denote leases where at least one of several owners has relinquished its interest.
“We are so lucky to be Montanans, living under open skies where camping, hiking, hunting and fishing aren’t just things we do, but part of who we are. Our outdoor heritage is in our blood, and we have a responsibility to leave Big Sky Country in even better shape than we found it for future generations,” Baucus said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done to protect the North Fork for our kids and grandkids this year. It’s amazing what we can accomplish by following good, old-fashioned Montana values and bringing folks together to get things done. Still, our work is far from over. We are committed to continuing our work to protect the North Fork next year to ensure future generations can carry on the outdoor way of life we hold so dear in Montana.”
“We’ve made significant progress this year in keeping the Flathead watershed the way it was meant to be, for future generations of folks who will enjoy Montana’s great outdoors, at no cost to taxpayers,” said Tester, incoming chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “With Governor Schweitzer’s success in securing an agreement with British Columbia and with our commitment in the Senate to seeing this effort through to the end, we’ve got a lot to look forward to in the months ahead.”
For the past 30 years, Baucus has been a steady and strong voice to protect the North Fork of the Flathead River, beginning with his successful 1975 proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River.
In February, Governor Brian Schweitzer reached an historic agreement with British Columbia to ban mining and drilling on the Canadian side of the border.
In March, Baucus and Tester introduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, which would prevent new oil and gas development and mining on the American side of the North Fork watershed. The bill does not affect timber production, hunting, or fishing. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill on August 5, but the Senate adjourned today without taking up the measure. Baucus and Tester will reintroduce the bill when the Senate returns for the next Congress.
- March 4: Baucus and Tester introduce S. 3075, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2010.
- April 28: ConocoPhillips voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 108 federal oil and gas leases covering approximately 169,000 acres in the region.
- June 2: Chevron voluntarily relinquishes its interest in four leases covering approximately 11,121 acres.
- June 28: At Baucus and Tester's request, President Obama discusses cooperative efforts to protect the North Fork with Canadian Prime Minister Harper.
- July 14: Anadarko voluntarily relinquishes its interest in eight leases, jointly owned with ConocoPhillips, covering 24,111.57 acres.
- July 14: Allen and Kirmse, Ltd. voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 50 leases, jointly owned with ConocoPhillips covering 50,889 acres.
- August 5: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passes S. 3075, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2010.
- Sept. 9: XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, voluntarily relinquishes its interest in 11 leases covering 21,000 acres.
- Nov. 19: BP voluntarily relinquishes its interest in three leases, covering 1852.91 acres, including land at the entrance of Glacier National Park