HELENA, MT -- The government of British Columbia, has approved legislation that protects the pristine North Fork of the Flathead River from the threats of mining and oil and gas development. The Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act prohibits mining and energy extraction activities on nearly 400,000 acres of land within the Canadian portion of the river basin.
The legislation fulfills an historic agreement announced in 2010 between Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and former British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell to prohibit mining activities within the transboundary river basin. Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy and Nature Conservancy of Canada, two non-profit conservation organizations, are committed to raising $9.4 million dollars to assist with the costs of ending mining, oil and gas, and coal exploration in the area.
Kat Imhoff, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Montana, says the effort is one of good neighbors and smart visionaries,
“This reaches beyond borders and even beyond the people and wildlife that depend on the river today. We ‘re making sure that our grandchildren and their children won’t just have a place to fish or float, but that they’ll still have a world with wild places for grizzlies to roam and the water remains pure.”
The Flathead River system is part of the 10-million-acre Crown of the Continent, and the major river feeding Flathead Lake in Montana. It forms the western boundary of Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park, and has been named both a Wild and Scenic River and World Heritage Site. The Flathead anchors a multi-million dollar recreation economy in Montana and is cherished by visitors from around the world. The river basin has the highest density of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states and provides vital habitat for elk, wolverine, fisher and Canada lynx. Bull trout, a federally listed threatened species, thrive here in the clean, cold and pristine streams.
“A healthy and free-flowing Flathead river is good for people and wildlife on both sides of the border. This bi-national effort gives hope to communities whose economies rely on the river and to iconic wildlife that represent the spirit of the West,” said Dr. Richard Jeo, a biologist and director for The Nature Conservancy’s Canada Program.
On the U.S. side, 80 percent of the mineral and energy development leases already have been retired, and legislation has been introduced by U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester that will retire the remaining leases.
The Nature Conservancy’s Canada Program and Nature Conservancy Canada are unaffiliated. The two non-profit organizations share many conservation priorities and they have built a long- standing relationship in places such as the Flathead River Basin.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.