Republican Congressman Steve Daines has introduced HR 2259, a North Fork Watershed Protection Act, and he deserves much credit for doing so.
Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester had earlier introduced virtually identical legislation (Senate Bill 255). It passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 18 of this year.
The legislation withdraws federal minerals from future leasing only on Forest Service land in the North Fork (and a slice of federal land in the Middle Fork along the river) not currently under valid existing leases. More than 200,000 acres of leases have been voluntarily relinquished that represents 80 percent of the leased land.
When this legislation is enacted it will complete a gentleman’s agreement between British Columbia and Montana to not allow leasing of minerals in the Flathead of B. C. and the North Fork of the Flathead because of concerns about wildlife and clean water. The Canadians were considerably faster to do their part of the agreement.
Steve Daines is a Republican. He has not let partisan politics get in the way of working with Democrats toward a worthwhile goal. His efforts will ensure quicker action on the legislation and I wish to thank him.
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