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Secretary Jewell visits the Flathead

Department of the Interior

Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh recently hosted Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on a tour of Montana, stopping at Glacier Park to talk about protection of the trans-boundary North Fork Flathead River.

Jewell said grassroots efforts hold a lot of sway with policy makers as chances for them to hear people’s voices on issues they find important.

She said securing protection of the North Fork of the Flathead is a great example of people from all over the spectrum coming together for a common goal.

“It’s not just because you care about the critters and the landscapes, it’s also because it really defines this part of the country, and it’s the reason why so many people want to come and vacation in Montana, and it’s a reason why we have wonderful places to stay, and to eat, and to take us into the backcountry and the outdoors, because it drives a lot of the local economy here,” Jewell said.

The headwaters to the North Fork of the Flathead River are up in Canada and had been slated for mountaintop removal mining in the 1970’s.

Protecting the trans-boundary drainage became a key policy goal of former Senator Max Baucus.

The standard has been taken up by Senators Tester and Walsh, and by Representative Steve Daines in the House.

The North Fork Protection Act is the American part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2010 between Montana and British Columbia where the provincial government retired mining leases in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Flathead River.

Those gathered to meet with Secretary Jewell took the opportunity to applaud the conservation efforts, but also to highlight other issues of concern.

Among those concerns is the oil tanker traffic on the rail line running along the edge of Glacier Park and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Jewell said regulating the train traffic does not fall under her jurisdiction; however, she can get information to her colleague, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Fox.

“I’m not familiar with what we do on a federal level versus a state level in terms of inner-state transport, that’s within state transport of substances, that’s not part of the Department of the Interior, but because it is so important to the landscapes and the watersheds that we are responsible for, I’ll make sure that he and his team are aware of it,” Jewell said.

Jewell said a recent economic impact report released by the Park Service helps her make the case for funding as it shows for every dollar invested in the National Parks, $10-dollars gets returned into the economy.

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