Schweitzer Signs Flathead Drilling Ban in B.C.

By Beacon Staff

Leaders from Montana and British Columbia have signed an agreement that bans mining and drilling in a valley along the U.S.-Canadian border north of Glacier National Park.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Premier Gordon Campbell finalized the deal Thursday morning in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In a phone interview with the Beacon, Schweitzer said the agreement marks a recognition that the Flathead is “a pretty special place.”

“For 400 generations, the First People recognized that it is the lifeblood of Mother Earth,” Schweitzer said. “We have a shared responsibility; we have a shared opportunity and we have a shared destiny.”

The deal, announced last week, halts ongoing exploration work and prohibits future development of coal, oil and gas in the sprawling Flathead Valley, just upstream from Glacier National Park.

Efforts to stop mining in the region date to the 1980s, when a U.S.-Canada joint commission rejected an open pit coal mine in the valley because of potential environmental damage.

Schweitzer described his role in brokering the deal as a “baton” passed to him when he took office five years ago from previous Montanans who have worked to protect the Flathead watershed.

“All I did was run as hard as I could for one lap,” he said, adding that the baton now goes to Montana’s Congressional delegation to pass legislation buying out or retiring dormant oil and gas leases south of the border so the protection extends to both sides.

“Hopefully, they will be able to finish the job,” Schweitzer said.

For more on the agreement, check out our lead story this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.