After school, 11 students piled into Matt Holloway’s English classroom at Whitefish High School. School was out, but these students—all jabbering at once—passed around Xerox copies of magazine stories about the impacts of mining in the upper Flathead Valley. “I’ve got to cram this all in my head,” one moaned.
As Holloway tossed two boxes of pizza on a desk, the students got down to the day’s business. The “enviro-heads,” as they joked about themselves, are members of the Whitefish High School Environmental Club. Today’s job was making a video petition about energy extraction in the upper Flathead Valley to be sent to Gordon Campbell, the premier of British Columbia.
After introductions, they discussed the issue with Will Hammerquist of the National Parks Conservation Association. They talked about geography, fish, grizzly bears, mining, politics, industrial development, and the pristine greater Glacier ecosystem. “We have to get the attention of people that live on this island,” said Hammerquist, pointing to B.C.’s Vancouver Island on a map. “We need them to pay attention to this tiny little corner of the province,” he added, pointing to southeast B.C.’s upper Flathead Valley.
All the discussion was preparatory for the real reason for the club’s get together—the video petition. “Anyone want to go first?” asked Hammerquist. But that’s when the room calmed to a quiet. “I’m so nervous,” one girl whispered to another.
One by one, the students sat in front of the video camera to address Premier Campbell. Each spoke for a few minutes. Some recalled facts they’d talked about; others spoke of their personal love for the Flathead. Some, in nervousness, forgot what they were going to say.
“The pristine beauty of the Flathead watershed should be saved,” said senior Erik Anderson, co-founder of the club.
“We can’t allow a corporate busybody to put in a mine that will ravage this area,” said sophomore Josh Schott.
“It’s not just another river,” said senior Clare Miller. “It flows into our home.”
Even though two days later British Petroleum announced it was dropping its plans for the upper Flathead, other coal bed plans remain. The club’s message will go to B.C.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.