Press Release Dec 4, 2014

NPCA Joins Community & Business Partners to Applaud Progress of Bipartisan Legislation that Protects Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake & North Fork Flathead River Valley

NPCA thanks Montana's Congressional leaders for their bipartisan work toward passage of North Fork Watershed Protection Act.

Whitefish, MT – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and conservationists joined timber and business interests – alongside our Canadian neighbors– to thank Montana’s Congressional leaders for their bipartisan work toward passage of the popular North Fork Watershed Protection Act. This bill, which protects the North Fork Flathead River Valley (headwaters to Glacier Park and Flathead Lake), is a powerful bipartisan statement indicating that Montana’s leadership supports locally-driven efforts that are born right here at home.

“This legislation is tremendously important,” said Michael Jamison , NPCA’s Glacier Program Manager. “By ensuring that the North Fork valley is not industrialized, this bill safeguards both our wild inheritance and our region’s economy. It guarantees a future for traditional timber harvest, and it defends our outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing. It protects private property rights, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a single dime. It also has the support of hunters and anglers, of cities and counties, Chambers of Commerce, the region’s largest employers, even the giants of America’s energy sector such as Conoco Phillips and Chevron. This is exactly the sort of balance and vision we need from our leadership.”

The bill has roots that reach back nearly 40 years, when the first Canadian coal mining proposals sought to tear down peaks in Glacier National Park’s headwaters. In 2010, Montana reached an historic accord with British Columbia’s leadership, pledging to together protect the wild and scenic region. The following year, Canadian lawmakers upheld their portion of the agreement by safeguarding lands north of the border. Former Montana Senator Max Baucus introduced similar legislation for the U.S. Congress, but was named ambassador to China before it was implemented. His bill, since adopted by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont), Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont), and Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont) would limit future leasing on federal North Fork lands, and is now under consideration for final approval before year’s end.

“The time is now for U.S. lawmakers to uphold our end of an international bargain, ensuring that places such as Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake are not contaminated by upstream industrialization,” said Jamison.

This bill marks the first time in three decades that the state’s entire bi-partisan delegation has found common support for major conservation legislation.

“This proves the old adage: it’s surprising what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” So said Bob Brown , former Montana Sec. of State and former president of the Montana Senate. Brown, a Republican, has worked across the political aisle for decades to protect the North Fork Flathead River from upstream industrialization, including Canadian mine projects.

John Bergensk e, who works on this issue for British Columbia-based Wildsight, noted that his Canadian colleagues are “very happy to see the U.S. government taking steps toward honoring transboundary commitments between Montana and British Columbia that protect Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. In 2011, Canadian legislation eliminated the threats of mining and oil and gas development in the British Columbian Flathead. Since then, Canadians have been awaiting reciprocity from south of the border. This U.S. legislation is incredibly important to protecting a world-class landscape, and it demonstrates our friendship and ability to cooperate as transboundary neighbors.”

“This is the kind of reciprocal action that’s been needed on the US side of the border for years,” said Chas Cartwright , former superintendent of Glacier National Park and current chair of the Flathead Basin Commission. “Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and the overall Crown of the Continent will directly and significantly benefit from this legislation.”

Dave Hadden , of Headwaters Montana, works with Bergenske from south of the border. “Passage of this bill,” Hadden said, “will represent a real success for the Flathead Valley. It not only protects Glacier National Park, but also the municipal water supply for the city of Whitefish as well as commercial operations at destinations such as Whitefish Mountain Resort. Nearly 40 years in the making, this effort shows that people here can work across party lines and agree on issues important to everyone.”

Joe Unterreiner, President of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, called the prospect of passing the protective legislation this year “great news for Glacier National Park, Montana, and Kalispell’s regional tourism economy.  We commend Sens. Tester and Walsh and Congressman Daines for crafting a bipartisan solution to protecting the Glacier Park-adjacent North Fork area for the benefit of millions of visitors, businesses, and jobs for our state.”

The region’s timber interests were likewise optimistic about the bipartisan nature of the legislation. Paul McKenzie, Lands and Resource Manager for F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, said he is “glad to see Sens.Tester and Walsh and Sen.-Elect Daines working together toward solutions for public lands issues that make sense for Montana. We encourage all of our elected officials to continue to seek innovative solutions through bipartisan cooperation that provides legislative certainty for both the management and protection of our public lands natural resources.”

“Stoltze is happy to see progress made on the North Fork Watershed Protection Act,” McKenzie said, “and we look forward to similar progress being made on the issue of active management of our public lands for multiple use benefits.”

Montana’s congressional delegation echoed McKenzie’s support for the North Fork bill, as well as his hope for continued bipartisan cooperation.

“There are few places on earth like the North Fork when it comes to hunting, fishing, hiking and camping,” Sen. Tester said. “Outdoor recreation supports businesses and creates jobs, but Montanans understand that protecting these areas is about more than just dollars and cents. It’s about setting aside places where we can pass on our Montana values to our kids and our grandkids.  I’m glad we were able to push this bill forward in a bipartisan way and look forward to getting it across the finish line.”

“The North Fork Watershed Protection Act is a made-in-Montana solution that will ensure the preservation of America’s most pristine river and provide long-term stability to the local economy,” Sen. Walsh said. “I am proud that Montana’s congressional delegation has been able to work together to achieve this lasting legacy for future generations.”

“The North Fork Watershed Protection Act represents a common sense, locally-driven effort that Montanans have worked toward together for decades,the ” said Rep. Daines , who successfully ushered the measure through the U.S. House earlier this year. “I’m proud to be a part of the collaborative effort to get this bipartisan bill fully across the finish line.”

For more than 80 years, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has occupied a uniquely Montanan place at the confluence of conservation, culture and commerce. It reflects the best of who we are, and it represents how we make our living – year after year, visitation to Glacier National Park pumps more than $180 million annually into local communities, making the Park a primary economic driver as well as the world’s best backyard. This intersection of landscape, lifestyle and livelihood is the common-ground place where Montanans from all walks of life meet to work together.

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.