Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Phil Condon


coal mining, conservation, gold mining, nature writing, North Fork Flathead River, river


University of Montana


The North Fork of the Flathead River runs for eighty-five miles, starting in southeastern British Columbia and ending in Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. The river flows through a rugged valley that plays a vital role in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. In the United States, the North Fork is Glacier National Park’s western boundary. It is a National Wild and Scenic River and a critical migratory route for an amazing array of wild animals. There is no electricity on either side of the border except for the southernmost fifteen miles in the U.S., and the only access from anywhere is via rough dirt roads. In Canada, there are no permanent human inhabitants, only a handful of outfitter cabins. In the U.S., prescient and determined land owners have worked for decades to preserve the character of the valley on the sliver of private land that hugs the river. Development is there but limited. Despite these protections, the river and its valley are vulnerable. Just north of the International Border, the British Columbian land management plan ranks mining as the best use. Though the valley is only thirty miles away from Waterton Lakes National Park, it is almost directly north of Glacier. There are minerals there, to be sure. Coal mining has been proposed in various forms since the 1980s and as recently as 2005. And the rocks beneath include gold and methane gas too. In 2006, I began a journey into the North Fork that continues today – travelling to Canada as a volunteer, researching and studying as a master’s degree candidate, and finally passing through as an explorer in search of a deeper connection. Throughout, I have wanted to build the case for conserving this place and finally making the Crown of the Continent officially whole and functioning. This thesis puts those experiences into words and stories. I am by no means an expert on the North Fork, and these words include many of my own thoughts and philosophies, unrelated to the river itself. Take from them what you will. It is my hope that they inspire you to learn more and help keep the entire North Fork forever wild.



© Copyright 2009 Gregory Merrill Deschaine Peters