At the forefront of the fight to keep development out of the North Fork of the Flathead River are two allies whom one might not expect: a senator from each side of the aisle.
For decades, U.S. Senator Max Baucus, R-Montana, has fought against mining’s invasion to the ecologically sensitive area, National Geographic reports. Baucus has advocated for passage of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, which would keep public lands from being leased for oil and gas drilling, mining and other industrial uses. His efforts to preserve the valuable watershed date back to 1974, when a mining company based in Toronto tried to build an open-pit coal-mining and power plant near Cabin Creek, six miles from Glacier National Park.
"As soon as I heard about this mine proposal, I booked a trip to Toronto," Baucus told National Geographic. "I knew the North Fork and that part of Glacier Park. I'd hiked and camped out and stayed in cabins there. When I first floated the river, drifting past the peaks and the wildlife, looking down into that crystal-clear water, it only confirmed my instincts. I didn't go to Toronto to negotiate. I said no. Just no. Period."
Since then Baucus, who serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has enlisted the help of Republican Senator Jon Tester to help keep the region pristine. It sometimes involves political maneuvering, since the Flathead River begins up in British Columbia. Baucus is set to retire next year.