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Onus on BC to protect Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site

Mining and energy projects in the B.C. section of the Flathead River would threaten fish and wildlife moving through Waterton-Glacier Park, a world heritage site, says a UNESCO report released today at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia, Brazil.

The report supports the current ban on mining and oil and gas development in the Flathead River Valley.

“B.C.’s Flathead is an exceptional wildlife nursery, and it has the highest density of inland grizzly bears in North America,” said Chloe O’Loughlin, executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness BC, in a press release today.

The publication of the report means state parties are now backing what NGOs in B.C. have proposed: the creation of a national park that will encompass, according to the release, "… one-third of the Flathead River Valley, as an expansion of the Waterton-Glacier world heritage site..."

The proposal also calls for a "wildlife management area in the rest of the valley and adjoining habitat, to ensure wildlife connectivity between Waterton-Glacier and Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks."

The Waterton-Glacier Peace Park has "more than 1,200 species of vascular plants, 70 species of mammals, including all North America’s native carnivores, 270 species of birds and 25 species of fish," according to the World Heritage Committee report.

The report goes on to say that, "many of the animals … particularly the carnivores, have home ranges that extend well beyond the security of protected land and waters in the park."

It concludes that the "transboundary Flathead plays a crucial role in maintaining north-south ecological connectivity in the Rocky Mountains."

The UNESCO mission that drew up the report was sent to B.C. last September after Sierra Club BC, Wildsight, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and eight other conservation groups petitioned the World Heritage Committee to examine the effects of coal, gold-mining, as well as coal-bed methane projects in the Flathead River region.

Josh Massey is currently completing his practicum at The Tyee.

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