Washington— Montana’s Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Flathead River may soon lose its unique wild character thanks to a mountaintop removal mine and a coal bed methane project just over the border in Canada It’s no wonder the river landed in the number five spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2009 edition.
“Harmful mining north of the border would destroy the clean water, world-class recreation, and wildlife of the Wild and Scenic North Fork Flathead,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “We simply can’t afford losing one of the last truly wild places in the lower 48.”
Cline Mining Corporation’s Lodgepole Mine would remove a mountaintop twenty-two miles upstream of the U.S. border to obtain 40 million tons of coal. The massive Mist Mountain coal bed methane (CBM) project owned by B.P. Canada Energy Company would transform 50,000 acres of the Flathead headwaters into an industrial gas field. American Rivers and its partners called on the British Columbia Cabinet and the U.S. State Department to work together to halt these harmful projects and provide more protections for the river.
The mining and coal bed methane projects threaten the river’s clean water, fish and wildlife, and overall health. Wild lands would be transformed into a maze of well pads, service roads, flaring and pumping stations, and power line corridors. Areas traditionally used for hiking, camping, fishing, and boating would be degraded or eliminated and the now pristine water quality would be spoiled. These impacts would cascade downstream into the U.S. stretch of the North Fork and Glacier National Park.
“Countries may recognize borders, but rivers don’t, and pollution doesn’t stop at the border. Strip mining and coalbed methane development in Canada will harm Glacier National Park, the Flathead River, and Flathead Lake,” said William Hammerquist with the National Parks Conservation Association and the Flathead Coalition.
“Now is the time to be reaching for 21st century energy solutions, not relying on 19th century approaches that destroy our natural treasures and make us more vulnerable to global warming,” said Wodder.
The U.S. stretch of the North Fork has been protected as a Wild and Scenic River since 1976. Despite the high level of protection afforded to the U.S. portion of the Flathead River, its Canadian headwaters remain unprotected.
The North Fork’s pristine water and wild landscape drives the local economy. Over two million visitors come to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park each year, bringing over one hundred million dollars with them. A healthy Flathead River provides drinking water, sustains local agriculture, and supports important recreational industries such as rafting and native trout fishing.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
Rebecca Wodder is available for interview, both pre and post embargo. Please contact Caitlin Jennings at 202-347-7550 x3100 for booking.
Reporters wishing to direct readers to the report online may use the following link: http://www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.