River Politics

Navigating the politics of river conservation can be tricky. Here's what's going on now.

Brook Trout in Montana's Rock Creek     Photo: Photo by Ryan Heffernan/Aurora

International River Conservation.
One of the problems with rivers is that they don't respect borders. The Flathead starts in the Canadian Rockies and flows into Montana, forming the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Due to rich coal and oil deposits near its Canadian headwaters, the river has been the cause of an international tug of war for two decades. On one side: British Columbia's government, oil giant BP, and the Cline mining company, all of which advocated digging near the Flathead's source. On the other: the Flathead Coalition, a citizens' conservation group. Fortunately, the enviros recently scored a TKO. In January, the United Nations World Heritage Committee reported that—surprise!—mining in the Canadian Flathead threatened Glacier. Soon after, on the eve of the Vancouver Olympics, British Columbia banned oil and gas mining in the Flathead Valley, sending BP and Cline packing.

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