Montana Senators Want New Mines Banned in Area West of Glacier

By Beacon Staff

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus introduced legislation Thursday that would prohibit new mines in the North Fork Flathead River Valley west of Glacier National Park.

Baucus, who teamed with fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Tester on the legislation, says he has been working for more than 30 years to protect the Flathead, and “this is a sign we are closer than ever to the finish line.”

The bill comes after similar protections were implemented north of the border.

For more than three decades, Montana and British Columbia have clashed over Canadian mining plans north of Glacier. The province has pushed for coal, gold and coalbed methane development as downstream interests have worried about contamination flowing south into Montana.

British Columbia ended the dispute last month by making mining off limits in the area.

The bill introduced Thursday would prevent new mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction on the Montana side of the border, and puts a moratorium on future development leases.

“Canada stepped up to be a good neighbor,” Tester said. “Now we’re going to do our part to safeguard this area so our kids and grandkids can fish, hunt, hike and camp in it like we do.”

Tourism statistics show that more than two million visitors spend more than $150 million annually in the Flathead — figures some business leaders in the area have used when lobbying for the legislation.

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