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North Fork residents applaud preservation efforts

Published On: Jun 20 2013 05:53:07 PM MDT

Joyce O'Hara relies on the sun for electricity, drives on a long dirt road, and loves every minute of it.

"You kind of look at it like it was a gift," as O'Hara described her living situation.

Confused yet? O'Hara runs the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge and "roughs it" in the remote town located 35 miles north of Columbia Falls. She said things in town haven't changed much in the 30 plus years she's lived there.

"We started voicing our opinions about how we wanted to road to stay dusty," she explained. "We did petitions about anti-coal mines, we did petitions about anti-paving of the road. Those of us that found this area want to keep the area the way it is."

Folks in the North Fork tell NBC Montana they love living off the grid and appreciate the strides being made in Washington, DC to preserve the beauty that they fell in love with when they moved here. Senator Max Baucus recently gained unanimous support from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a bill, the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, that will protect the area from drilling and mining.

"It probably means a lot to our children and grandchildren more than us but its just something that has to be preserved," said Larry Rader, who was visiting from Ohio.

"It's God's country and it needs to stay that way," Barbara Rader continued. "You don't want to interrupt the beauty."

A shirt that O'Hara wore was emblazoned "Life is Good," a reminder that living in Polebridge is simple yet rewarding. She hopes this little slice of Montana history will remain untouched for families that look to settle there down the road.

"I'm very happy that there are politically minded people that are willing to put time and effort into protecting this area," said O'Hara. "If you make this area like any other area it wont stay like that so more power to whoever has the energy and the intelligence and the drive to do it for us."

Baucus has highlighted the protection act as a top priority to be signed into law before he retires.