Montana Senator Max Baucus says the news that the Kootenai River is considered one of "America's Most Endangered Rivers" underscores the value of lessons learned through his 40 year effort to protect the North Fork of the Flathead River. Baucus spearheaded efforts to fund a study by the University of Montana which has detected contaminants from Canadian mining operations in Elk River flowing into the Kootenai River in Montana.
"What we now know is happening to the Kootenai is exactly why I have fought so hard to keep the Flathead River pristine. The Kootenai River is part of our outdoor heritage in Montana and it's our duty to make sure our kids and grandkids can enjoy prized trout fisheries like the Kootenai," said Baucus. "Drainage from Elk Valley mines in Canada pose serious risks to the water quality in the Kootenai Basin and I'm doing all I can to encourage the Canadians to be good neighbors and work with us on a solution to the downstream impacts on Montana."
In September 2012, Baucus wrote a letter to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining concerns that "drainage from the Elk Valley mines present serious risks to the Kootenai Basin water quality and valued trout fisheries." In response, the State Department raised concerns with the Canadian government and has committed to continuing to pressure British Columbia on the matter.
For nearly 40 years, Baucus has been a steady and longstanding advocate of protecting the North Fork of the Flathead River, beginning with his successful 1975 proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River. He helped foster the International Joint Commission's work between Canada and the U.S. to address threats to the North Fork Watershed. Baucus has indicated he is interested in continuing the successful model of cooperation in addressing current downstream impacts from Canadian mining operations facing the Kootenai River as it flows into the U.S. into Montana.