Baucus, Tester fight for permanent protection of the North Fork and tourism jobs

Senators Hail Successful Negotiation Efforts to Protect North Fork While Reintroducing Bill

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester reintroduced legislation today to prevent new oil and gas development and mining on the American side of the North Fork watershed (map). The North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2011 does not impede timber production, hunting or fishing and has the support of a broad coalition of Montana businesses, local officials and conservation groups. 

“As Montanans, we have a connection to the land that unites us, but also requires us to act as stewards of our outdoor heritage. We’re pushing to build on the success we’ve had getting companies to retire oil and gas development leases in the North Fork at no cost to taxpayers,” said Baucus.  “Places like the North Fork attract tourists, businesses and jobs to our state. This bill sends a signal far and wide that we’re going to fight to protect all the things that make Montana such a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

“There are few places on earth like the North Fork when it comes to hunting, fishing, hiking and camping—but Montanans understand that protecting these areas is about more than just our outdoor heritage,” said Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.  “It’s about setting aside a place where we can pass on our Montana values to our kids and our grandkids.  This legislation is another step toward making sure future generations will be able to continue enjoying all of the outdoor opportunities Montana has to offer.”

“Glacier National Park and the North Fork River Valley play a very important part in our economic vitality.  Flathead Lake also serves as a critical economic engine for the region. The Chamber wishes to ensure that Glacier Park, the North Fork River, and Flathead Lake remain as economically productive as they are today.  We thank Sens. Baucus and Tester for their work to bring forward this important bill,” said Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner.

Whitefish Mayor Mike Jenson hails the Senators’ fight to reintroduce this legislation.“The City of Whitefish greatly appreciates Senator Baucus’ and Senator Tester’s efforts to re-introduce the North Fork Watershed Protection Act.   This protection has been a long time coming and we greatly appreciate our Senators’ efforts and perseverance,” Jenson said. “This bill also provides some very important protections for the City of Whitefish’s watershed and continues our efforts and those of private landowners in our watershed to safeguard this vital resource.”

"I'm impressed with the diligence Senators Tester and Baucus put forth at protecting the North Fork watershed. It's such a pristine area with so many recreational ties for all of us and deserves our attention and protection for generations to come. The economic impact this has for the tourism industry in Montana is significant; people marvel at what we sometimes take for granted," said Cris Coughlin of Glacier Guides.

"This is great news for Montana and for one of America’s greatest national parks. Senator Baucus and Senator Tester just about got this critical protection piece to the finish line last year and we hope for quick passage this year,” said Tony Jewett, Vice President for Regional Operations for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We commend them for their persistence, leadership and commitment to protecting this special place. It’s both a part of our cultural heritage and an essential piece of the economic health of Glacier’s gateway communities.”

"This legislations helps balance the protection of the North Fork Flathead River, Glacier Park and Flathead Lake between Canada and Montana.  We commend senators Baucus and Tester for their commitment and diligence,” said Dave Hadden, Director of Headwaters Montana.

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.  To date, Baucus and Tester have successfully negotiated the return of more than 200,000 acres held by energy companies near Montana's North Fork of the Flathead River.  The Senators have secured the return of the primary interest in more than 80 percent of the total leased acreage.  Baucus and Tester vowed to continue these efforts in addition to fighting for passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act introduced today.