House passes North Fork Protection Act

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The North Fork Watershed Protection Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., passed the House Tuesday evening and Montana’s Democratic senators are urging their colleagues to do the same.

The legislation essentially protects national forest lands from oil, gas and mineral extraction, but allows continued forest management, in the North Fork Flathead drainage. It is similar and reciprocal to action taken by the British Columbia provincial government in the Canadian North Fork.

“The North Fork Watershed Protection Act represents common-sense resource management — the kind of common sense that Montanans understand and Washington needs more of,” Daines said in a press release. “We all support protecting this area for future generations — making this bill the first lands legislation supported by the entire Montana delegation in nearly 30 years. Passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act is a major step towards a common sense goal that Montanans have worked toward together for decades. It’s time we get this done.”

Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., said the vote from the GOP-controlled House was significant and similar action is needed from the Democratic majority in the Senate.

“Today’s vote on the North Fork Watershed Protection Act brings us a step closer to preserving it for current and future generations,” Walsh said in a press release. “However, until the Senate provides its approval, we will fall short of the decades-long effort to secure the North Fork. This is the type of common-sense, bipartisan action Congress should be focused on and I urge all of my colleagues to vote in support of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act.”

Michael Jamison, Glacier program manager for the National Parks Association, praised Daines.

“By ushering this important and long-awaited legislation safely through the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve Daines has made a powerful and bipartisan statement: He has proved that serving as responsible stewards to places such as Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake absolutely transcends party politics,” Jamison said. “This legislation defends our source of revenue and recreation – the place where we hunt and hike and fish, where we harvest timber and graze livestock.”

The association touts the legislation as having the support of hunters and anglers, cities, counties, Chambers of Commerce, the region’s largest employers, and even the giants of America’s energy sector.

“It was created by locals and represents decades of work by neighbors on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian line,” Jamison said. “It protects not just our landscape and our lifestyle, but also our livelihood.”

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at jmann@dailyinterlake.com.

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