Montana's U.S. senators say that ConocoPhillips, one of the world's largest energy companies, is giving up rights to explore for oil and gas on nearly 170,000 acres outside Glacier National Park.
Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester delivered that news Wednesday while appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to push legislation that would block new energy development in the North Fork watershed adjacent to Glacier.
“This is an exciting development for Glacier National Park and the North Fork of the Flathead. ConocoPhillips has showed great leadership by recognizing that some places are too special for energy extraction," said Will Hammerquist, the National Parks and Conservation Association's Glacier field program director. "I hope that Senator Baucus and Tester’s bill will soon permanently protect this area’s scenic rivers and wildlife from future energy development as well.
“While there is still work to be done to protect Glacier National Park and the North Fork, which will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary, this is a great step forward in preserving the legacy of the world’s first International Peace Park," Mr. Hammerquist added. "We thank Senators Tester and Baucus for their tireless efforts to protect this remarkable treasure for our children and grandchildren.”
According to NPCA, ConocoPhillips is voluntarily relinquishing its interests in 108 oil and gas leases spanning roughly 169,000 acres in the Flathead watershed.
The news is just the latest concerning energy development around Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.
In recent years there have been concerns among environmental and conservation organizations that energy development in the Canadian Flathead, the area that embraces the headwaters of the Flathead River and which lies due north of Glacier and due west of Waterton Lakes, could adversely impact the parks and the Flathead River.
Earlier this year, though, British Columbia officials announced they would block mining in the Canadian Flathead, and shortly thereafter Montana's senators said they would introduce legislation to do the same on the U.S. side of the border.