Web site of Scott McMillion - Journalist, author of Mark of the Grizzly, senior editor of Montana Quarterly

“Continental Divide”

By Scott McMillion
Nature Conservancy Magazine
Summer, 2011

Can two countries come together to save a pristine valley?


Yet isolated though it is by geography, bad roads and weather, the North Fork has been at the center of some of the continent’s thorniest struggles over development.

For a century, people have tried to pull fossil fuels from the ground beneath the valley—on both sides of the border—without much success. A well drilled in the early 20th century in what is now Glacier National Park didn’t produce. During a spike in energy prices in the 1970s and 1980s, oil companies punched deep holes on the Canadian side of the border, seeking oil and gas. In Montana, oil and natural-gas developers purchased rights to drill along parts of the river. In the end, however, the prospective cost of building a permanent mining infrastructure up the wild, 80-mile valley kept the drilling rigs at bay.

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