Tag Archives: BC

Flathead tops list of BC’s most endangered rivers

The Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia (ORBC) started publishing a list of the most endangered rivers in the province in 2006. This year, the Flathead River is in the #1 spot, as it was in 2007, mostly because of the proposed Cline Coal Mine. An excerpt from today’s press release . . .

The Flathead River, which flows through southeastern BC into Montana, tops British Columbia’s most endangered rivers list for 2009 due to concerns about a controversial proposed open pit coal mine. The Flathead, which was number two on last year’s list, is widely considered one of North America’s wildest and most beautiful waterways. “The Flathead supports important trans-boundary fish populations while also sustaining the highest density of inland grizzly bears anywhere in North America”, said Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair for the Outdoor Recreation Council and an Order of Canada recipient.

Yet, while the US section is protected, the BC stretch faces a number of threats, the most prominent being the proposed Cline open pit coal mine. Given the size and location of the mine in the river’s headwaters, water quality would be impacted and recreational, wildlife and wilderness values would be greatly compromised.

For the full text of the press release and the associated backgrounder document, see the ORBC’s Endangered Rivers page.

UPDATE: Not strictly related to the Canadian Flathead — at least, not yet — but the ORBC is also concerned with the impact of “green” power projects on a number of B.C.’s rivers. The Vancouver Sun has coverage of this issue.

Bennett fires back with haughty e-mail

Here’s a curiousity. Just a year ago, Bill Bennett, British Columbia’s mining minister, was forced to resign due to some wildly intemperate remarks regarding opposition to resource development in the Canadian Flathead. Bennett, now Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister, is at it again. This time, he was responding to a Fernie area tourism operator accusing Bennett of being more interested in coalbed methane development than tourism.

From the Thursday, February 5, 2009 online edition of 24 Hours Vancouver . . .

Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Bill Bennett has described a tourism operator in his riding as having “bigoted” and “ignorant” opinions – accusing Steve Kuijt of writing a “vicious and mean-spirited” e-mail, which “may well be libelous.”

Read the entire article . . .

Groups renew call to expand Waterton into B. C. river valley

From the Saturday, January 31, 2009 online edition of the Calgary Herald . . .

Conservation groups are renewing calls for Waterton Lakes National Park to be expanded into the Flathead River Valley, despite British Columbia’s decision to close the door to coal bed methane development in the ecologically key area in southeastern B.C.

The Sierra Club, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Wildsight and others say the relatively untouched valley is still imperilled.

“Until we have permanent protection for the Flathead River Valley in the form of a national park, it is still threatened by future coal bed methane proposals,” said Sarah Cox, a spokeswoman for Sierra Club B. C. “And it’s under threat from a proposal for strip mining coal and other minerals.”

Read the entire article . . .

Stalemate, some success, retirement

From the Sunday, January 11, 2009 online edition of the Missoulian . . .

The coal was here, hidden by a thin skin of wilderness, long before Rich Moy arrived; and it was still here, against all odds, when he left.

That, he considers, is at least some sort of success, although much more work will be required to keep it there, buried beneath what’s wild.

“In many ways, it’s been a stalemate for 30 years,” Moy said. “We haven’t lost much ground, but we haven’t gained any, either. The Canadian Flathead and the wilderness north of Glacier National Park have been and will be a flashpoint of international controversy.”

When Moy arrived on this backcountry battlefield, nearly three decades ago, the then-new controversy centered on a proposed Canadian coal mine to be built just a few miles north of Glacier Park.

When he finally retired last month, on the last day of 2008, the now-old controversy centered on yet another coal mine proposed in the headwaters, and a second coal mine in the river bottom, and a gold mine, and a phosphate mine, and an ongoing search for coalbed methane.

“In all these decades,” he said, “the British Columbia government has never wavered in its desire to industrialize the Flathead.”

Read the entire article . . .

More on BP’s Mist Mountain coalbed methane project

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post regarding the Mist Mountain coalbed methane project, here are links to some additional information . . .

Our friends in Fernie, BC are not very happy about BP Canada’s plans. See the Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane site for details.

Wildsight posted a press release last Friday that does a good job of summarizing the problems local residents have with coalbed methane development. It also links to some additional material.

BP’s Mist Mountain Coalbed Gas Project site is another source of information. In particular, the maps page is a bit of an eye-opener.

What’s the Flathead connection? Earlier this year, BP withdrew their efforts to explore the Canadian Flathead for coalbed methane development, but left the door open to return at a later date. (See this post, for example.) Mist Mountain is in the Elk River watershed, not far from the Flathead headwaters and already the site of an open pit mine and a proposed wind farm. Events there are a good predictor of what might happen if that sort of activity spills over into the Flathead Valley.

Canadian Flathead left out of natural-gas deal

From the Saturday, December 6, 2008 online edition of the Daily Inter Lake . . .

BP Canada on Friday received natural-gas rights for a potential energy project in a segment of British Columbia watched closely by environmental activists in both the province and in Montana.

British Columbia granted the rights to BP for its proposed Mist Mountain coal-bed methane project in the province’s southeast, after the Flathead River Basin was removed from the project area. In the debate about possible environmental effects from Mist Mountain coal-bed methane work, the border-spanning Flathead had been particularly prominent, with activists in Montana raising the specter of harm traveling downstream.

Even with the Flathead removed, the prospect of the coal-bed methane project in combination with other current and proposed industrial activity in southeastern British Columbia is alarming, said Will Hammerquist of the National Parks Conservation Association in Whitefish near Glacier National Park, which extends to the British Columbia border.

Read the entire article . . .

Area residents looking at protection of the Flathead Valley in Southeast BC

From the Tuesday, November 25, 2008 online edition of the Keremeos Review . . .

Seven out of ten Kootenay residents want to protect the Flathead River Valley as a national park, according to new polling results released today by Wildsight and Sierra Club BC. The poll, conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, found that 73 per cent of residents in East Kootenay, Nelson-Creston and Columbia River-Revelstoke favour protecting the Flathead River Valley in southeastern B.C.

The Flathead River Valley is compared to Africa’s Serengeti for its richness of plant species and was recently called “a nursery” for wildlife by Canadian Geographic magazine. The valley is under threat from proposals for coal strip mining, coalbed methane drilling and unbridled mineral extraction.

Read the entire article . . .

Public Officials Deserve Thanks for Protecting Flathead Water

The Friday, March 7, 2008 online edition of the Flathead Beacon published the following commentary by Will Hammerquist, Glacier program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association . . .

Growing up within a bike ride of the Flathead River, I had no idea that my favorite river originated in British Columbia. I just knew that the Flathead River is special and its clean, cold waters were undeniable.

As I grew older, I learned that the three forks of the Flathead come together in Bad Rock Canyon to form the Flathead and that the North Fork is the wildest and most remote of the three.

As an adult, I came to understand that while the Montana portion of the North Fork is one of the most pristine and protected rivers in America, the Canadian headwaters are zoned for mountaintop-removal coalmines, coalbed methane extraction and all other types of metal mining and drilling.

Here in the Flathead, generations of Montanans have long raised concerns over the impacts of these activities on our water, fish and wildlife. Experts warn pollution that from such activities would flow into Glacier National Park within hours and to Flathead Lake within days.

Last month, Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Gov. Brian Schweitzer held a town-hall meeting to discuss the future of the Canadian headwaters of Flathead River and Flathead Lake. In the past five years, three mountaintop-removal coalmines and two coalbed methane projects have been proposed for the Canadian Flathead.

A packed room of 300 people cheered when Baucus announced that energy giant British Petroleum had abandoned their proposal to develop coalbed methane in the Canadian portion of the Flathead. American democracy and diplomacy was at work. Our elected officials summed up what we all know: Water is Montana’s most precious resource and Glacier’s wildlife, native trout and pristine waters are the fabric of our community, economy and way of life.

Our elected officials – at every level – deserve credit for delivering Montana’s bipartisan voice in the Canadian halls of power and the corporate boardrooms of British Petroleum. Montana concerns are validated as our Canadian neighbors in Fernie, Cranbrook and Elko join with us to protect water quality and wildlife.

While last month’s announcement represents a significant step in our efforts to protect this international treasure – it does not spell victory. Cline Mining Corporation is still promoting a risky and speculative proposal to literally remove a mountain directly above a key North Fork tributary to mine coal for the next 20 years. Another plan is in the works to mine coal under the North Fork riverbed itself.

The acknowledgment of Canadian officials that this area – the heart of the Crown of the Continent – is too special and internationally significant for industrial fossil fuel extraction is a positive development. We all use fossil fuels, but part of responsible energy development is recognizing that some places are just too special to put at risk. The Crown of the Continent is one of those priceless areas.

Now is the time for the provincial and federal governments of Canada to advance a plan for the permanent protection of the Flathead that respects the existing, world-class values of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and surrounding landscape for current and future generations.

The National Parks Conservation Association will continue to work with local communities, Montana leaders, and our Canadian neighbors to advocate for a long-term solution.

BP still mulling coal-bed extraction

From the Thursday, February 28, 2008 online edition of the Missoulian . . .

Canadian politicians and industry remain keenly interested in coal-bed methane reserves north of Glacier National Park, despite an announcement last week that such plans were off the table.

“We are still very interested in the potential of the Canadian Flathead,” said Jessica Whiteside, spokesperson for BP Canada. Her company already has begun collecting environmental data there, in anticipation of energy development, “and we do plan to continue those environmental studies.”

The reason BP Canada continues investing in the Flathead, even after British Columbia’s government pulled that drainage out of a broader project, is because the company “will ask for coal-bed methane rights in the Flathead” sometime in the future.

Read the entire article . . .

BP Backs Down, but Threat Remains

From the Wednesday, February 27, 2008 online edition of the Flathead Beacon . . .

The announcement by British Petroleum last week that it was dropping plans to drill for coal-bed methane in the Canadian Flathead was cause for celebration for just about everyone in Montana downstream of the proposed project. But BP’s pullback only underscores the ongoing proposals to mine and drill in the area that remain.

Read the entire article . . .