Congressman Steve Daines today formally introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect the North Fork watershed, recognizing its importance to Montana's outdoors heritage and the Flathead Valley's economy.
"As a fifth generation Montanan and sportsman, I know how special the Treasure State is," Daines stated."Efforts to protect the North Fork Watershed, like the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, are a good example of how we can work together to put Montana first. That's why I'm introducing legislation to protect this valuable resource, while also ensuring that current recreational uses, livestock management, and forest management in this region are maintained. I'm glad to be a part of this important, bi-partisan effort and leading the charge in the House to achieve the goals that the Flathead community supports."
H.R. 2259, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2013, seeks to protect the North Fork Watershed of the Flathead River by restricting new mineral development from occurring within an area along North Fork.
Daines' North Fork Watershed Protection Act is comparable to legislation previously introduced by Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and is the product of a locally-driven effort by conservationists, the outdoor recreation industry, the timber industry, the oil and gas industry, and others in the business community of the Flathead Valley.
Recognizing that the area along the North Fork is a region where many go to recreate in multiple ways, where there are holders of valid grazing rights, and that is suitable timber for harvesting, Daines included language in H.R. 2259 that makes clear that these presently permissible uses of the land are protected under the bill.
Daines' support of efforts to protect the North Fork have been noted by local stakeholders as an important step forward in showing much needed bipartisanship leadership in Montana.
"Rep. Daines' support of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act not only protects our outdoor heritage, it also serves as proof that Montana's most majestic landscapes provide a common touchstone for us all. America's Congress can learn from Montana's leadership -- here in the Big Sky country we know how to work together across borders to get important jobs done," said Michael Jamison, Glacier Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "The legislation enjoys broad and bipartisan support across the state, costs taxpayers nothing, protects the engines driving our region's economy, and honors all private property. It transcends both partisan lines and international borders, and with the support of Montana's entire Congressional delegation we are confident it will be Glacier National Park's next great success story."
"Introduction of H.R. 2259 shows Congressman Daines is committed to pursuing solutions supported by a diverse coalition of local leaders of the Flathead Valley and also ensures forest management activities in the Valley are not inhibited by his bill," added Keith Olson, Executive Director of the Montana Logging Association."His support for H.R.2259 lends a helpful boost to protecting the North Fork of the Flathead Valley. I applaud his commitment to forest stewardship and his advocacy for responsible resource management."
"We are very happy Congressman Daines introduced H.R. 2259 which protects other historic uses of the Flathead Valley for generations to come," stated Kerry White, executive board member of Citizens for Balanced Use."The watershed of the North Fork of the Flathead River is a special place many Montanans and others enjoy fishing, hiking, and other recreational uses. These uses of the land are important economic drivers for the local community."
Baucus and Tester also applauded Daines' efforts to move this legislation through the House:
"Protecting the North Fork is about protecting Montana tourism and recreation jobs that grow our economy -- so this commonsense bill is something everyone can agree on," said Baucus, who has spent nearly 40 years working to protect the North Fork -- beginning with his successful 1975 proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River. "There's no place on earth quite like the North Fork, and I look forward to working with Congressman Daines and Senator Tester to make sure our kids and grandkids can enjoy it for generations to come."
"There are few places on earth like the North Fork when it comes to hunting, fishing, hiking and camping," Tester said."Outdoor recreation supports businesses and creates jobs, but Montanans understand that protecting these areas is about more than just dollars and cents. It's about setting aside places where we can pass on our Montana values to our kids and our grandkids, and I'll keep fighting to protect areas like the North Fork that make Montana a special place to live and work."