Sustaining water quality is new group’s goal – Great Falls Tribune, March 6, 2013

March 7, 2013

Categories: Agriculture, Clean Water, Events, Member news, Northern Plains Resource Council, Oil and gas

By Karl Puckett

Organizers say the mission of a new conservation group that’s formed in central Montana is sustaining the region’s quality of water and land and promoting locally grown agricultural products.

An informational kickoff meeting for the Central Montana Resource Council in Lewistown on March 1 attracted 70 residents. The group now has 40 members.

CMRC is a spinoff of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which organizes residents to protect water quality, family farms and ranches, said Laurie Lohrer, who served on the organizing committee.

Protecting the Madison aquifer was a driving factor in the formation of the group.

“We’re looking at the big picture of, ‘What are the possible threats to our aquifer that are popping up on the horizon?’” Lohrer said.

The Madison provides drinking water for Lewistown and also supplies water farmers and ranchers need for irrigation and livestock, she noted.

Members are concerned about oil exploration occurring in recharge areas of the Madison, water withdrawal for exploration and development and waste disposal, Lohrer said.

The Heath shale formation under central Montana is known to contain oil deposits, and a number of landowners in the area have leased their land to oil companies for exploration, she said.

“Sort of look to the east and say, ‘What if?’” said Lohrer, referring to oil development in the Bakken formation in eastern Montana.

One idea group members have is gathering baseline water quality data from wells.

Steve Charter, a Bull Mountain rancher, discussed water issues, and Bruce Smith, a Montana State University Extension agent, discussed the creation of a local foods program in Glendive.

Another goal of the group is better marketing of locally grown products specifically beef, wheat, barley and vegetables.

Central Montana is known for its cattle ranches and wheat production, Lohrer said.

“We want to have everybody part of this discussion because their livelihood depends on having a clean water source for one thing,” she said.


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