Momentum in the Flathead Valley
In March of 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives made a historic decision and passed the North Fork Watershed Protection Act (NFWPA). It will now go to the Senate for final approval.
The bill protects 430,000 acres (174,014 ha) along the north and middle forks of the Flathead River from energy development while allowing traditional uses such as logging, hunting, livestock grazing and gravel mining. The bill safeguards Glacier National Park’s water and much of the water source for Montana’s Flathead Lake.
Water: A Bipartisan Issue
This legislation represents decades of work, starting with Senator Max Baucus’ successful proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River in 1975, and has the support of U.S. hunters and anglers, residents, Chambers of Commerce, the region’s largest employers, and even the giants of America’s energy sector.
“The approval of this bill has been historic,” says Y2Y’s Program Director, Wendy Francis. Before going to the House it passed unanimously through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. “It is the first time in 30 years the Montana delegation supported lands protection legislation in a bipartisan way,” she adds.
Flathead River Campaign Map
Water: A Trans-boundary Issue and Benefit
The NFWPA plays a pivotal role in a much larger initiative to safeguard the Flathead River Basin on both sides of the border – the Flathead Wild campaign.
“The Flathead River flows from B.C. to form the western boundary of Glacier National Park,” says Y2Y’s Senior Conservation Program Manager, Sarah Cox. “What happens on one side of the border affects the other side.”
Thanks in part to the efforts of Y2Y and its partners, in 2010 Montana and B.C. agreed to protect the trans-boundary Flathead from energy development. B.C. lawmakers enacted legislation in 2011; the NFWPA will make it official on the U.S. side.
Recent successes by the Flathead Wild team to protect key lands on the B.C. side of the Flathead further complement the conservation benefits of these pieces of legislation.
And there is more yet to do. Y2Y, CPAWS BC, Sierra Club BC and Wildsight continue to work together to permanently protect B.C.’s Flathead River Valley with a national park in the southeastern one-third of the valley and a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the valley and adjoining habitat.