Dec. 12, 2014
Corey Fisher (406) 546-2979
Chris Schustrom 406-260-1198
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sportsmen cheer protections for Montana’s North Fork of the Flathead River
Bill withdraws 362,000 acres from mining, oil and gas drilling
MISSOULA–A bill that protects the North Fork of the Flathead River in Montana from hard-rock mining and new oil and gas drilling and fracking passed the Senate today and is on its way to the White House for President Obamas signature.
The North Fork Watershed Protection Act withdraws 362,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest from oil and gas leasing and development, and prohibits new mining and geothermal development in the Flathead River drainage adjacent to Glacier National Park. The bill–part of a large public lands package tied to the defense spending reauthorization legislation–passed the House last week.
Were thrilled to see this make it through Congress, and credit should go to our Montana delegation for seeing it pass, said Chris Schustrom of the Flathead Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited. The value of protecting such a key watershed resonates far beyond the obvious benefit of land protection. Its a symbol for what we hold dear in this state and we want to thank Rep. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester for pushing this through to completion.
The region is home to native bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, and healthy populations of mule deer, elk and moose. Fishing and hunting are vital to the areas economy, Schustrom said, making the protections all the more important.
The legislation would also satisfy a 2010 agreement between Montana and British Columbia whereby both governments agreed to protect their portions of the North Fork watershed from mineral development. British Columbia has already taken steps to ensure conservation of the areas within its boundaries.
The issue of protecting this watershed isnt purely local. It transcends borders and were glad that were living up to our portion of the agreement, added Schustrom. With the threat of oil and gas development off the table, we can focus our attention on conserving species such as bull trout and westslope cutthroat.
In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a plan to recover bull trout by managing threats to the species. Bull trout were listed as threatened about 15 years ago across the Northwest.
Were still a long ways from ideal conditions, Schustrom said. Theres no doubt today is a great day for the North Fork of the Flathead. Now its time to get down to business of improvement. Its time to look at remaining habitat improvement needs, and effectively controlling non-native species such as lake trout to really see this important fishery thrive.
Trout Unlimited is the nations oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter and visit us online at www.tu.org.