U.S.-Canadian ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ Protects North Fork of the Flathead

Protection of this fabled international stream has emerged over the last few years without any formal designations-

There have been many threats over the years the North Fork and its vast drainage, most seeming to emerge up in British Columbia, the headwaters. B.C. conservation groups have hoped for enlarged provincial parks, and Americans have had to fight off subdivisions, paving, and some energy (mostly coal) development.

Several years ago things looked very dark on the B.C. side with plans for giant coal pit mines and coalbed methane wells by the thousands, but in just the last two years light has shined through the political forest and both sides are reascending development plans. In my opinion, B.C. has done the most, but that is where it needed to be done. Of course, not all was done out of altruism. Some suspect it was to fight off plans for Canadian additions to Waterton National Park, or provincial parks adjacent to America’s Glacier National Park.  Montana U.S. Senators Tester and Baucus have worked to get energy companies to give back 200,000 acres of leases in the North Fork draining south of the border.
“U.S.-Canadian ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ To Protect Montana River: A federal proposal would set aside the North Fork watershed from mining interests — and several energy companies are behind it.” By Kate Schwab. There remain “diehard land” exploiters in Montana, as the article in New West above describes. Wonder if Republican senate hope Denny Rehberg decides developing the North Fork would help him in his race?  It’s doubtful, but let’s watch.

Thinking how I took an extended trip to Flathead B.C. in 2008 for one last look to a doomed place, now I realize it was merely one hell of a fine trip!


  1. Mike Avatar

    The North Fork of the Flathead is incredible. I fly fish this majestic river every year. I love the country around Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake. A very unique atmosphere in the lower 48.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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