Tag Archives: World Heritage Site

Full text: Letter urging passage of enhanced protections for Waterton-Glacier Park

(Note: This is the full text of a public letter signed by six former superintendents of Waterton and Glacier Parks encouraging the U.S. and Canadian governments to complete passage of legislation intended to enhance protections for the parks, including the U.S. North Flathead Protection Act currently stuck in a year-end Senate logjam.)

One hundred years ago the United States followed Canadaʼs leadership in protecting the core of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, establishing Glacier National Park in Montana as a southern sister to Albertaʼs Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is located where the Rocky Mountains tie our two countries into one landscape. As one of North Americaʼs most spectacular mountain parks, it is a source not only of inspiration and recreation, but also abundant clean water for communities from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

The combined parks encompass a protected topography of 1.1 million acres (450,000 hectares) that has gifted generations with an inheritance beyond measure. Today, more than 2 million people from around the world travel to Waterton-Glacier annually to experience the alpine majesty of the worldʼs first international peace park.

Throughout this past century, Canada and the United States have taken significant steps to protect and preserve this international treasure, including bilateral support for designating the Peace Park a World Heritage site in 1995. Early in this centennial birthday year, both countries furthered a decades-old international effort to safeguard Waterton-Glacierʼs pristine headwaters, by protecting British Columbiaʼs remote Flathead River Valley and Montanaʼs North Fork Flathead River drainage from proposed coal strip-mining, coalbed methane extraction, and gold mines.

The steps taken to date — which include retiring more than 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) of oil and gas leases in the Montana North Fork, and a mining ban in the B.C. portion of the watershed — are historic and worthy of recognition. However, there remains unfinished work to ensure the legacy of Waterton-Glacier.

Nearly six months ago, on the margins of the G-20 Summit in Toronto, the offices of the Prime Minister and President issued a joint statement pledging federal action toward the sustained protection of Waterton-Glacierʼs transboundary headwaters. This commitment will build upon an agreement between the province of British Columbia and state of Montana — signed during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics — to enhance environmental protection and cooperation throughout the Crown of the Continent region. Today, however, the federal-to-federal agreement that will complete this state/provincial effort has yet to be accomplished.

In Canada, a long-standing proposal to complete the Peace Park by expanding Waterton Lakes National Park into one-third of British Columbiaʼs Flathead Valley remains under government review, despite strong public support at the local, regional and national levels. And earlier this year, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee urged Canada to “develop a pro-active plan for enhancing wildlife connectivity” between Waterton-Glacier and Banff National Park, a step that remains incomplete.

Work also remains unfinished in Washington, D.C. Despite passing the U.S. Senate Natural Resources Committee nearly eight months ago, the bipartisan North Fork Protection Act has yet to be acted upon by the full Senate.

This vital legislation would prohibit new mining and fossil fuel leasing on Waterton-Glacierʼs western periphery, in high mountain country that includes the drinking water supply for the gateway community of Whitefish, Montana. The bill also protects lands throughout the Middle Fork of the Flathead River corridor, a Congressionally designated Wild and Scenic River that forms Glacier Parkʼs southwestern boundary. The measure enjoys tremendous local support, and represents a long-term and tangible gift for Glacier on its 100th birthday.

Today, however, this legislation remains stalled in the U.S. Congress. And without immediate action, this valuable and worthy endowment to future park visitors will be forced to begin the political process anew in 2011.

If we have learned one thing during these past 100 years, it is that international cooperation is a requisite to protecting a peace park that transcends boundaries. We urge leaders in both countries to ensure Waterton-Glacierʼs continued legacy through the prompt consideration and passage of these measures.

Word Count: 621

Contact Mick Holm: 406-756-9055 or mpholm@centurytel.net

Waterton Lakes Signatories
Merv Syroteuk, Creston, BC (1992-1996)
Peter Lamb, Lethbridge, AB (1999-2004)

Glacier National Park Signatories
Mick Holm, Columbia Falls, MT (2002-2008)
Dave A. Mihalic, Missoula, MT (1994-1999)
Gil Lusk, Green Valley, AZ (1986-1994)
Bob Haraden, Bozeman, MT (1980-1986)
Phil Iverson, Lakeside, MT (1974-80)
Bill J. Briggle, South Beach, OR (1969-1974)

What the trout tell us

Dan Testa has an excellent piece in the Flathead Beacon discussing trout studies in the North Fork — on both sides of the border — and the general importance of this sort of baseline study in connection with the upcoming UNESCO scientific mission to study threats to Waterton-Glacier Park.

Here’s a sampler . . .

The research of these scientists is likely to be heavily relied upon by members of a United Nations fact-finding mission arriving in the region some time in the next year to determine whether Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park should be designated a “World Heritage Site in Danger.” The unanimous June vote in Seville, Spain, by a 21-country panel of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) could mean widespread attention will once again be drawn to the issue of threats from mining and drilling operations in southeastern British Columbia along the headwaters of the North Fork, which serves as the western boundary of Glacier National Park.

Read the entire article . . .

Mines prompt international call for help from Glacier, Waterton national parks

From today’s online edition of the Missoulian . . .

The state of conservation at two Northern Rockies national parks near a place eyed for possible coal mining will be reviewed by a UNESCO committee meeting in Spain this week.

Groups that say Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, consisting of a U.S. park and a Canadian park, is at risk hope the meeting in Seville, Spain, will bring their concern some global attention. They’ve petitioned UNESCO to declare the peace park endangered. But a lawmaker in the Canadian province of Alberta rejects any suggestion that coal mining or other industry threatens environmental quality in a slice of North America known for stunning alpine scenery and extraordinary wildlife habitat.

Read the entire article . . .

Also note that there’s still a chance to have your voice heard. The National Parks Conservation Association has an online form for sending letters to officials in the US and Canada, as well as the UN World Heritage Committee.

UN to hear petition that Waterton-Glacier Park in danger

Last Tuesday’s Globe and Mail carried an article on the move to place Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the UN list of endangered World Heritage Sites due to the proposed Cline Coal Mine in the Canadian Flathead and other possible resource extraction activities in that area. (Thanks to Will Hammerquist of the National Parks Conservation Association for catching this one.)

A stunningly beautiful park that spans the Canada-U.S. border in southwestern Alberta may soon be added to an infamous United Nations list of the world’s most threatened special areas.

In a session in Seville, Spain, next month, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will consider a petition by 11 conservation groups asking that Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park be designated a World Heritage Site in Danger.

“If that happens, it would be a really big black eye for both Canada and the United States,” Ryland Nelson, a spokesman for one of the petitioning groups, Wildsight, said yesterday.

Read the entire article . . .

North Fork plight in U.N. spotlight

From this week’s online edition of the Hungry Horse News . . .

Sen. Max Baucus last week said he would push to have the North Fork of the Flathead designated as a World Heritage Site in Danger, a dubious distinction as Glacier National Park turns 100 next year.

The North Fork will see the international limelight in June, when Will Hammerquist, the Glacier representative of the National Park Conservation Association and Ryland Nelson, of the Canadian environmental organization Wildsight, will testify in front of a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage panel.

Read the entire article . . .

NPCA information on North Fork and Glacier Park

With all the coverage the Trans-boundary Flathead has gotten over the past few weeks, it seemed appropriate to point out that the U.S.-based National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) also has a dog in that fight. They maintain a web page discussing the threats to Glacier Park and the adjoining Flathead River Valley arising from potential resource development in the Canadian Flathead, as well as links to a great deal of supporting material and related documentation. The NPCA is also advocating for the U.N. to designate Waterton-Glacier Park as an endangered World Heritage Site, a move that would focus additional international attention on  the situation.