Locals Support North Fork Bill at Capitol

By Beacon Staff

Whitefish City Councilor John Anderson traveled to Washington, D.C., last week and implored House lawmakers to support legislation that would protect the North Fork Flathead River from mining and energy development.

The legislation, H.R. 2259, was introduced in June by U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and would block development in the North Fork Flathead River drainage on the western boundary of Glacier National Park. The bill is nearly identical, both in name and content, to its companion bill in the Senate, the North Fork Watershed Protect Act, which Democratic U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester introduced in February.

Anderson said it’s critical to preserve areas like the North Fork, and said Whitefish obtains its drinking water from mountain streams that run through the watershed.

“The bill makes sense. It enjoys especially broad, local support,” Anderson said. “A varied cross section of industries, business groups, local governments, hunting and fishing organizations, conservation groups, and the state of Montana have publicized their support.

Additionally, the entire Montana Congressional delegation unanimously supports this bill.”

The bill has received support from energy companies like ConocoPhillips and Chevron, and from timber companies like F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. and Plum Creek.

It unanimously passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June and received its first hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 3, the second day of the government shutdown and the same day that a woman driving a black Infiniti tried to ram through a White House barricade.

“Agreement in our government seems far gone these days. However, today we see the silver lining,” Daines said at the hearing. “Today we’re having a hearing on my bill H.R. 2259, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, an initiative I’ve joined my Democrat Montana colleagues, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, to support. My support for this bill marks the first time in almost 30 years the Montana delegation has supported public lands legislation in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion. And we are hoping to get this bill over the finish line.”

The public lands bill seeks to furnish permanent protections on more than 400,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service parcels, placing them off limits to hard-rock mining, mountaintop-removal coal mining, and oil and gas development.

Proponents of the legislation say it reciprocates a 2010 transboundary agreement between Canada and the U.S. to ban new energy development on the Canadian Flathead, and would fulfill U.S. obligations to protect both sides of the Flathead River drainage from energy and mineral development.

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