Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus secured unanimous support from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today for his North Fork Watershed Protection Act. The endorsement of all Democrats and Republicans on the committee provides a major boost to the bill, which Baucus has highlighted among his top priorities to get signed into law before his final term ends in 2015.
Baucus 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. Baucus testified in support of the bill before the Committee earlier this year .
"The North Fork of the Flathead River is one of the most special places on earth and we are so lucky to have it in Montana. That's why I've spent nearly 40 years working to protect the North Fork and the Montana jobs that depend on it," Baucus said. "This bill is the final piece of the puzzle and now that we've secured the full support of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we have more momentum behind us than ever to get it done."
Baucus' North Fork Watershed Protection Act will permanently protect the American side of the North Fork watershed from new oil and gas development and mining.
Baucus' North Fork Watershed Protection Act does not impede timber production, hunting or fishing and continues to have the broad support of Montana businesses and conservation groups.
Baucus' North Fork Watershed Protection Act is endorsed by local chambers of commerce and individual businesses, along with multiple energy companies.
The North Fork Bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Jon Tester, and Congressman Steve Daines has introduced a companion in the House.
"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. I'm glad our bill is building momentum and look forward to helping pass it into law."
"As a fifth generation Montanan and sportsman, I know how special our state's natural resources are. That's why I'm proud to be a part of the bipartisan fight to protect the North Fork Watershed," Daines stated. "I'm pleased that the Senate is moving forward the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, a locally-driven effort to protect this valuable resource for future generations. This legislation is a great example of how we can all work together to put Montana first."
Baucus's 40-year legacy fighting to protect the North Fork:
For nearly 40 years, Baucus has been a steady and strong voice to protect the North Fork of the Flathead River, beginning with his successful 1975 proposal to designate the Flathead as a Wild and Scenic River.
To date, Baucus, with the help of Senator Jon Tester, has successfully negotiated the return of more than 200,000 acres held by energy companies near Montana's North Fork of the Flathead River.
Together the Senators have secured the return of the primary interest in more than 80 percent of the total leased acreage. Baucus and Tester have vowed to continue these efforts in addition to fighting for passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act.
After a 40-year career in public office, beginning in the Montana State House of Representative in 1973, Baucus announced earlier this year he is not seeking re-election in 2014. He will serve out his term focused on accomplishing several legislative priorities for Montana, including passing the North Fork legislation.