America’s Most Endangered Rivers® Report: 2009 Edition

#5 North Fork of the Flathead River, Montana

Threat: Proposed mines
Partners: National Parks Conservation Association, the Flathead Coalition

The Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Flathead River is a magical place of exceptional wilderness value that has seen only limited development. In the United States, the North Fork is one of the best-protected watersheds in the country. But the river remains unprotected where it originates in British Columbia, and recurring mining and industrial coalfield development proposals threaten the entire river downstream. The U.S. Departments of State and Interior must keep President Obama’s campaign commitment to oppose mining in the headwaters of the North Fork and put strong pressure on the Provincial Cabinet to extend permanent protections for the river and stop harmful mining proposals that would spoil this international treasure. Learn More

UPDATE (October 2009): American Rivers and its partners praise the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service for their work to move this issue forward at international level as well as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, Senator Jon Tester, and Senator Max Baucus for meeting on the river in August to discuss protecting it from the potential impacts of mining upstream. Additionally, the World Heritage Committee passed a resolution calling for a monitoring mission to come to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and determine the level of risk and threat poised by the British Columbia land-use plan to outstanding universal human values of the World Heritage site. The International League of Conservation Photographers conducted a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition of the Flathead Valley to document the outstanding values on the river.  

However, despite the interest of the world, Max Resources, a Canadian mineral exploration company, has begun gold exploration in the valley. British Columbia still needs to act to replace the current land-use plan for the BC Flathead Valley, which prioritizes mining over all other land-uses, with a plan that bans mining and protects the outstanding universal values of the Flathead Valley.