Daily Inter Lake: Bill would protect North Fork

Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester have introduced legislation aimed at protecting the North Fork from mining, a response to similar protections recently enacted by the province of British Columbia.

The joint effort is aimed at preventing new mining and oil and gas development in the North Fork on both sides of the border.

The U.S. bill would put a moratorium on future mineral leases on federal lands.

“This legislation is such good news,” Baucus in a press release Thursday. “I’ve been working to protect the Flathead for more than 30 years and this is a sign we are closer than ever to the finish line.”

Because 90 percent of the land in the drainage is federal, Baucus noted, protecting it will require congressional action.

“A lot of folks — in Montana and across the continent — know the Flathead Valley for its clean water, mountains and wildlife,” Tester said. “Canada stepped up to be a good neighbor. Now we’re going to do our part to safeguard this area so our kids and grandkids can fish, hunt and camp in it like we do.”

The two Democrats noted that more than 2 million visitors spend more than $150 million in the Flathead Valley every year, and the North Fork and clean water are a big part of the region’s tourism and recreation economy.

Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner wrote a letter to Baucus praising the legislation as being good for business.

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