Uncertain future for the North Fork of the Flathead River, one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2009October 20th, 2009
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202.347.7550 x3100
William Hammerquist, National Parks Conservation Association & the Flathead Coalition, 406.885.9455
Washington— Six months after American Rivers named the North Fork of the Flathead River one of America’s Most Endangered RiversTM for 2009, the Flathead has had some recent successes, though the fight for its protection is not yet over.
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.”
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.
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. http://www.ilcp.com/?cid=193.
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.
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.
To learn more about the 2009 Most Endangered Rivers Report, please visit www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures. 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.
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit www.americanrivers.org/MERSuccesses