The Canadian portion of the Flathead River and the US North Fork comprise the  international watershed known as the Transboundary Flathead, which forms aphysical link between the US and Canada -- Montana and British Columbia. The Transboundary Flathead is one of North America's wildest rivers; home to native fisheries of pure westslope cutthroat and bull trout, as well as the complete suite of large and mid-size carnivores, including the grizzly bear, wolverine and Canada lynx. The B.C. portion of the Transboundary Flathead flows through the last wide, low elevation valley in southern Canada, with no permanent human settlement. The Montana portion of the watershed is federally protected under the Wild and Scenic River Act and is part of the Waterton-Glacier  International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a designated Biosphere Reserve.            
For over three decades, the Flathead Basin Commission fought Canadian proposals to undertake mining operations in the headwaters of the Transboundary Flathead. Massive coal deposits, hard rock minerals and coalbed natural gas lie beneath the B.C. portion of the Flathead, and initiatives for coal strip mining and CBM gas development sparked controversy as to the appropriate land use regime for this ecologically unique landscape.            
A Monumental Step Toward Collaborative Management of the Transboundary Flathead            
On February 18, 2010, the Premier of British Columbia and the Governor of Montana signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation on Environmental Protection, Climate Action and Energy (MOU). The MOU acts on the obligation the two governments assumed under their Environmental Cooperation Arrangement of 2003. Representatives of Ktunaxa Nation Council and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes signed the MOU as witnesses. The MOU sets outs a framework for environmental cooperation in the transboundary area including a mutual commitment to sustaining environmental values in the transboundary Flathead River Basin. Under the MOU, British Columbia and Montana committed themselves to work together to:            
  • Remove mining, oil and gas development and coal development as permissible land uses in the Flathead River Basin
  • Cooperate on fish and wildlife management
  • Collaborate on environmental assessment of any project of cross border significance that has potential to degrade land or water resources
  • Collaborate in responding to emergencies
  • Facilitate mitigation of and adaptation to climate change

The Flathead Basin Commission, Protecting water quality since 1983


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Caryn Miske Executive Director
Flathead Basin Commission
655 Timberwolf Parkway
Kalispell Montana 59901
406-240-3453 e-mail: cmiske@mt.gov


Montana Photography provided by Michael Hewston
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