Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell signed an agreement on Thursday in Vancouver B.C. to ban mineral and energy extraction in the cross-border Flathead River Basin.
“I’m not taking credit for this,” Schweitzer said after the ceremony. “There are people who’ve spent their lifetime working on this goal. I’ve run one lap. And now I’m handing the baton along to the congressional delegation. They have a tall order to convince their colleagues this is the right thing and the right time to do it.”
The two-page agreement commits the province and state to “prohibit the exploration for and development of mining, oil and gas, and coal in the British Columbia Flathead and the Montana North Fork Flathead River Basin, such action to be completed by July 2010.”
It covers nearly 5.7 million acres of river basin running along the western border of Glacier National Park and north nearly to Fernie, B.C.
It also covers more than two decades of negotiations over the fate of a mineral-rich and environmentally sensitive region. The negotiations include retiring existing oil and gas exploration leases in Montana and investments in gold and coal operations in British Columbia. The agreement calls for both sides to reimburse existing mining and coal interests.