Tag Archives: North Fork Watershed Protection Act

Montana wilderness bill a product of last-minute horse-trading

This is part one of a two-part series by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian on the roll-up of Montana land-use legislation inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act last week . . .

Years of legislative wrangling squeezed down to hours of last-minute negotiating to get a bundle of Montana land bills into the National Defense Authorization Act last week.

“We were not sure what was going to be in the package until 11 p.m. Tuesday night,” Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said Friday. “There’s a lot of pieces in that package. It was late in the game before we could see what was going on.”

For Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, the legislative work started in October. But the final horse-trading took place just days before all three members of the congressional delegation stood together to announce their achievement on Wednesday.

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House passes defense bill that includes Rocky Mountain Front, North Fork provisions

The defense bill passed the U.S. House this afternoon, including the provisions for the various Montana conservation and lands legislation packages. Next week, the bill is debated in the Senate, a much higher hurdle . . .

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a defense spending bill containing a broad public lands package for Montana, including new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front, a ban on mining near Glacier National Park and changes supporting oil exploration and grazing on federal land.

The Republican-controlled House voted 300-119 for the $585 billion defense policy bill, which funds U.S. troops, military operations, ships, planes and war equipment. Montana’s only House member, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, voted for it.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where a vote is expected next week.

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‘Historic’ Montana lands conservation bill roll-up merged into defense bill

Montana’s congressional delegation is taking another swing at getting several long-delayed lands use bills passed. This time around, they’ve rolled up the whole collection, including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, and merged it with the pending defense spending bill, a “must pass” piece of legislation.

Here’s the lead-in from the Hungry Horse News, along with links to additional local coverage . . .

Montana’s Congressional delegation announced Dec. 3 they have come together on an agreement for a major land-use bill that rolls several pieces of key conservation legislation into a defense spending bill that could pass Congress in the coming days.

In a conference call Wednesday morning, Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and Rep. Steve Daines said the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, the Northern Cheyenne Lands Act and several other lands-use bills would be merged into the legislation.

“Today is an historic day for Montana,” Tester announced.

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Further reading:

‘Historic’ Montana Lands Package to Advance – Flathead Beacon

Front, North Fork, other Montana lands bills set to advance – Missoulian

Poised for Protection – Montana Wilderness Association

Will lame duck Congress pass any Montana lands bills?

Will any of the languishing Montana lands bills get passed by year’s end? . . .

In the lame-duck weeks of December 2010, Sen. Jon Tester tried to get his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act attached to any must-pass legislation likely to make it out of Congress before the end of the year.

The effort failed.

But this December has a much larger slate of Montana-related lands bills looking for a vote, and a Democratic Senate caucus about to lose its majority status in January. That’s got a lot of congressional watchers wondering what last-minute legislation might wind up under President Barack Obama’s Christmas tree.

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Missoulian pushes for post-election action on North Fork Watershed Protection Act

In a post-election editorial, the Missoulian advocates action on the North Fork Watershed Protection Act . . .

…The act is aimed at placing permanent protections on the side of the Flathead watershed that falls within the United States. The Canadians have already granted such protections on their side of the border, honoring a longstanding agreement between our two countries. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the U.S. has not held up its end of the bargain by prohibiting new oil, gas and mining activity in the North Fork.

The legislation has widespread, bipartisan support. But in today’s politically divided Congress, even the most worthy bills can be held up by partisan gridlock.

Hopefully, all three of Montana’s congressional delegates make it their first order of business to work together to get the North Fork Watershed Protection Act approved by Congress at last…

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Dave Hadden: North Fork bill caught up in Montana politics

Well, this is a bit of a coup. If the following piece just posted to the Hungry Horse News looks familiar, that’s because you read it first in the recent NFPA Summer Newsletter.

Anyways, here is Dave Hadden’s take on the damage election year political posturing is doing to even the most broadly supported legislation . . .

Didn’t we all think that the international effort to protect the North Fork Flathead River from coal mining was all but done in 2013?

British Columbia had passed legislation in 2011 banning mining and energy development north of the border. And or the first time in some 20 years, Montana’s congressional delegation all supported a piece of conservation legislation — the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. The stars had finally aligned after 38 years of local, a-political effort to protect the North Fork.

Regretfully, it was not to be.

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North Fork Watershed Protection Act gets mired in election-year politics

It seems the North Fork Watershed Protection Act is bogged down in election-year digestive by-product. Tristan Scott over at the Flathead Beacon just posted an excellent discussion of the situation . . .

When the state’s congressional leaders introduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act last year, the measure to ban new energy development on 430,000 acres of wild and scenic river corridor near Glacier National Park stood out for its singular brand of bipartisan support.

The Montana-made bill gained near universal esteem, even at the height of partisanship, and was hailed by conservationists, oil tycoons and politicians alike as a commonsense piece of legislation – 80 percent of energy leases in the area have been voluntarily released, and it dovetails with an effort by British Columbia’s parliament to place similar protections north of the border, on the headwaters of the Flathead River.

Representing the first public lands bill in recent memory to garner the full support of Montana’s entire congressional delegation, it also provided a convenient platform for the state’s electorate to display the kind of esprit de corps that Washington lacks, a welcome departure from the gridlock that has stalled Congress, and a rare display of bipartisan teamwork greeted by much local fanfare…

But just as the North Fork bill appeared poised to transcend the morass, it fell victim to the same political arrest that has come to typify Congress – a fanatical brand of doctrinarian politics from which the measure and its backers attempted to distance themselves…

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John Muhlfield: Pass the North Fork Watershed Protection Act

John Muhlfield, mayor of Whitefish, weighs in on the political foot-dragging delaying passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act . . .

Ever since the Great Northern Railway laid tracks through Whitefish in 1904, tourism has been the backbone of our local economy, creating good paying jobs and sustaining thousands of families over the years to put their kids through college, start small businesses, buy a home and retire in one of the most beautiful small towns in America.

Hard-working Americans from all over the country come to Whitefish year round. They spend their hard-earned money locally to buy hotel rooms, fill up gas tanks, eat out and support our local businesses – all because they are called to our amazing wild and scenic areas, access to public lands and clean water, and special places such as Glacier National Park and the fresh powder of Whitefish Mountain Resort. In 2013 alone, Whitefish welcomed over 558,000 out-of-state visitors; 65,000 traveled to Whitefish on Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Resort tax and bed tax revenues in Whitefish increased 10 percent and 16 percent respectively that same year.

In early April, three senators from Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania blocked bipartisan legislation supported by Montana Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and Rep. Steve Daines – Montana’s full congressional delegation – to permanently protect the North Fork Flathead River from future energy development. The bill even has backing from major energy companies, like ConocoPhillips and local businesses, including F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company. But it has stalled for no apparent reason. In a recent poll in the Missoulian, 73 percent said they support permanent protection of the North Fork Flathead River.

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Frank Vitale: Political shenanigans continue with North Fork bills

Frank Vitale is understandably annoyed with the political posturing holding up the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. This op-ed appeared May 14 on the Hungry Horse News website and has been submitted to a number of other regional newspapers . . .

My affiliation with the North Fork spans 35 years. As a North Fork landowner, I’ve worked, hunted, fished and cleared many miles of trails. For me, keeping the North Fork pristine is personal.

That’s why I’m so disappointed by the recent decision by Republicans in Congress to block a bipartisan bill to protect the North Fork.

Montanans have read conflicting information about how we reached this impasse (see Mac Minard’s April 19 op-ed in the Daily Inter Lake). I want to set the record straight.

Congressman Steve Daines recently told U.S. News that his strategy to win the Senate race this year is to pick off and neutralize constituents like advocates for the North Fork. His recent actions show why he can’t be trusted.

Sens. John Walsh and Jon Tester are pushing a bill, originally introduced in 2010, to withdraw the U.S. watershed from future development, following through on a deal between Montana and British Columbia to permanently protect the North Fork.

Montanans were hopeful when Congressman Daines introduced a companion bill last year, marking the first time in 30 years that the whole delegation supported a public lands bill. Our hopes rose further when on March 4 the House of Representatives passed the bill.

Unfortunately the North Fork has now run into the Tea Party gauntlet in the Senate. What is clear is that the game was rigged.

On April 3, three Republican Senators from other states — Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas — blocked our senators’ attempt to pass this made-in-Montana bill in the Senate. The Senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, recently donated $10,000 to Congressman Daines’ campaign.

As Congressman Daines knows, the vote in the Senate (by “unanimous consent”) was the Senate’s equivalent of how the House passed the bill. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, “Most noncontroversial measures are approved by ‘suspension of the rules’ in the House, and by unanimous consent in the Senate.”

In fact, all eight Senate public lands bills that have passed the chamber this Congress passed by unanimous consent. Those bills set aside 85,000 acres of new wilderness and 73 miles of Wild and Scenic River designation in eight different states.

So why is the North Fork bill so different for Senate Republicans?

The answer reminds me of another Senate race 26 years ago, when President Reagan pocket-vetoed the last Montana wilderness bill to pass Congress in order to jam then-Senator John Melcher in his race against Conrad Burns.

For example, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is insisting on the opportunity to offer controversial amendments to the North Fork that would have brought down the entire proposal. This is a familiar ploy. The same Republican demand last fall (supported by Congressman Daines) caused the shutdown of the federal government for 16 days, costing Montana upwards of $45 million in lost business from Glacier and Yellowstone national parks alone.

I am confident that our senators will find a way to protect the North Fork. But how can Montanans trust Steve Daines when he won’t even stand up to his own allies in the Senate who help finance his campaign?

B.C. Parliament settles with Cline Mining for lost Flathead coal rights

Looks like Cline Mining has gone from major watershed threat to final bankruptcy . . .

The Parliament of British Columbia has agreed to a nearly $10 million settlement with a mining company that lost its right to develop coal deposits in the transboundary Flathead River near Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park.

The bankrupt Cline Mining Corp. announced Monday it had reached the out-of-court settlement after claiming it was losing a $500 million potential operation. The B.C. government had revoked mining rights as part of the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act in 2010. That legislation solidified an agreement worked out with former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana to protect the Flathead River.

A similar U.S. measure, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, has passed the House of Representatives but has been blocked in the Senate. It would place the Montana side of the river, known as the North Fork of the Flathead, off limits to energy development. The international agreement allows logging, gravel mining and other recreation activities.

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