The Old Man and the River

ENVIRONMENT

Powerful Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) is working with his state’s other Congressmen on a bipartisan bill to protect the North Fork Flathead River. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to explore the North Fork and better understand watershed ecology.

The bill supported by Sen. Max Baucus and other Montana congressmen would prevent new oil and gas development and mining on the American side of the North Fork, above. The North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2011 does not impede timber production, hunting, or fishing.  Photograph courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The bill supported by Sen. Max Baucus and other Montana congressmen would prevent new oil and gas development and mining on the American side of the North Fork, above. The North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2011 does not impede timber production, hunting, or fishing.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Discussion Ideas

  • Read through our activity “Mapping Watersheds,” then have students look at the North Fork Flathead River on our MapMaker Interactive. Adapt step three of the activity for the North Fork.
    • Using the free-form line tool from the “Drawing Tools” kit on the MapMaker Interactive, have students trace the path of the North Fork from its source in the Clark Range of British Columbia to its mouth, where it joins the Middle Fork Flathead River in Montana.
    • Using a different colored line, have students trace all the tributaries of the North Fork.
    • Finally, have students “connect the dots” from the sources of all the tributaries to roughly outline the North Fork’s watershed.
  • North Fork Watershed Protection Act would prevent new oil and gas development and mining on the American side of the North Fork. Why do students think Sen. Baucus and other legislators had to work with Canadian officials? Read our activity “In Your Watershed” to better understand watershed ecology.
    • The North Fork originates in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada.
    • Both nonpoint- and point-source pollution from industries on the Canadian side of the North Fork would impact water quality on the American side.
      • Nonpoint source pollution includes runoff from Montanan and British Columbian farms.
      • Point source pollution includes Canadian coal mines and American oil and gas exploration activities. According to the NG News article, in 2010, British Columbian authorities announced a moratorium on mining and hydrocarbon development on the Canadian side of the North Fork.

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