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Montanans for Healthy Rivers newsletter

December 2014 Vol.1 No.4
                                                                                                                                                       Photo © Will Hammerquist
Free-Flowing & Clean
Earlier this month, U.S. Congressman Daines joined Senators Tester and Walsh in unified, full-delegation, bi-partisan support for a suite of Montana public lands bills included in a larger national natural resources omnibus package. For the first time in decades, a log jam on public lands policy has been broken in Montana. 

Victory for the Crown of the Continent
Some have heralded this accomplishment a milestone in Montana’s conservation history. Causes for celebration include: roughly 67,000 acres of new wilderness, a 208,000 acre conservation management area along the Rocky Mountain Front, as well as nearly 400,000 acres of mineral withdrawal in the iconic North Fork Flathead watershed. Though opponents have argued that last minute, closed door political compromises connected to the larger omnibus lands package overshadow the environmental benefits, one thing is for certain: in Montana, the North Fork of the Flathead River comes out as a clear winner.
History of the North Fork Flathead
The North Fork of the Flathead River runs approximately 90 miles from its headwaters in British Columbia south to its confluence with the South Fork of the Flathead in Montana. On the American side, the river forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park and in 1976 was included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System as one of only four Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana. But for years, despite being protected as a Wild and Scenic River, the Canadian segment of the river lacked protection, as did the broader watershed in Montana. Proposed mining and oil and gas development projects have threatened the river’s water quality. As late as 1982 the Department of Interior issued several oil and gas leases on national forest lands within the North Fork watershed. These leases were later overturned in court for failing to comply with environmental laws.
Trans-Boundary Conservation
In 2010, British Columbia and Montana signed a Memorandum of Understanding to preclude mineral extraction in the Flathead. The only problem was that most of the North Fork’s watershed in Montana is federal land – outside the mineral jurisdiction of the state. Fortunately, that same year former Senator Baucus and Senator Tester stepped forward to introduce the North Fork Watershed Protection Act -  a congressional bill to withdraw all future mining, geothermal, and oil and gas development across the entire watershed on federal lands in Montana.

Fast forward four years later to December 2014. Now backed by Montana’s full delegation, both houses of Congress have voted to support the withdrawal of future mining and oil and gas development in the North Fork watershed. Thank you Congressman Daines, Senator Tester and Senator Walsh. This is quite a victory for Montana’s healthy rivers!
Feature Business
The Polebridge Mercantile has been serving the North Fork of the Flathead community in remote Northwest Montana for over 100 years. Much as it has from the beginning, the “Merc” serves as a general store, bakery, base camp, and vacation getaway. It is one of the anchors of the North Fork experience and an essential stop for anyone visiting the west side of Glacier National Park. 

With a designated Wild and Scenic River running through the Merc’s backyard, and several creeks eligible for future Wild and Scenic River designation almost within eye-shot from the front porch, owner Will Hammerquist understands the value of protecting Montana’s iconic rivers and streams. The Polebridge Mercantile is a proud supporter of Montanans for Healthy Rivers.
Dreaming About River Life...
Just because winter is upon us doesn't mean it's time to unplug from your community of river aficionados. Follow us on Facebook to read daily updates from those who are passionate about conserving our rivers and way of life!
Limestone grottos and caves are common along Trail Creek, which flows east out of the Whitefish Range.

Feature Stream
With reason to raise a glass and toast to the passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, this month’s Feature Stream is Trail Creek – a tributary of the North Fork Flathead River. Eleven miles of Trail Creek are eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Trail Creek’s remarkable values are many. Historic Native American routes follow Trail Creek from the North Fork Valley to the Tobacco Valley over the Whitefish range, with pictographs along the stream corridor. Limestone caves and grottos are common, with a geologic substrate that creates full down-welling into a subterranean cavern for miles of river. Trail Creek is also critical habitat for bull trout and a stronghold for native cutthroat trout.

MHR in Montana Media
Momentum behind Montanans for Healthy Rivers continues to grow. In the past month, two state newspapers have drawn attention to Montanans’ connection to rivers and reasons to protect these waterways through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. With quotes from business owners, a legendary biologist, and conservationists, the Billings Gazette article and Bozeman Chronicle guest column are each worth a read.
Happy Holidays!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, ice water dips, or just time at home with family and friends, Montanans for Healthy Rivers wishes you all a Happy Holidays!

We thank you for your support and look forward to celebrating and protecting Montana’s rivers together in the new year!
“We are never far from the lilt and swirl of living water. Whether to fish or swim or paddle, or only to stand and gaze, to glance as we cross a bridge, all of us are drawn to rivers, all of us happily submit to their spell. We need their familiar mystery. We need their fluent lives interflowing with our own.” 

— John Daniel
Copyright © 2014 Montanans for Healthy Rivers, All rights reserved.

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