UNESCO Report Recommends Increased Flathead Protection

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World Heritage Committee mission report calls for new measures to protect Flathead wildlife, plants and water

Brasilia, Brazil — A report commissioned by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is calling for a “conservation and wildlife management plan” for the transboundary Flathead and a new management plan for the Flathead River Valley that “gives priority to natural ecological values and wildlife conservation.”

“This report re-affirms what we already knew, that the Flathead’s remarkable diversity of wildlife needs increased protection,” said Casey Brennan, Southern Rockies Program Manager for Wildsight.

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and eight other conservation groups petitioned the World Heritage Committee to draw attention to threats posed to the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site by proposed energy and mining development in the adjacent Flathead.

“We’re delighted with these recommendations,” said Sierra Club BC spokesperson Sarah Cox. “Now it’s time for B.C. to agree to a national park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead, so that our share of this magnificent ecosystem has the same level of protection already granted by Alberta and Montana.”

The 50-page report, released today at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia, recommends:

  • a new B.C. Southern Rocky Mountains Management Plan “that gives priority to natural ecological values and wildlife conservation.”
  • Taking steps to minimize barriers to wildlife connectivity, including a long-term moratorium on further mining developments in south eastern B.C., including in the Elk Valley, “in the corridor of natural terrain that creates vital habitat connectivity and allows the unimpeded movement of carnivores and ungulates” between Waterton-Glacier and Canada’s Rocky Mountains national parks.
  • A single conservation and wildlife management plan for the transboundary Flathead.
  • Inscription of Waterton-Glacier on the list of World Heritage in Danger if development of the proposed Lodgepole coal strip mine had proceeded (the B.C. government banned Flathead mining and energy development in February 2010 after receiving a draft copy of the mission report).

The report recognizes that B.C.’s Flathead “plays a crucial role in maintaining north-south connectivity in the Rockies” It also notes that the “huge area of intact nature” in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, which includes B.C.’s Flathead, offers “the best available environment to allow resilience and adaptation for plants and animals faced with climate-induced challenges to their survival.”

“The Waterton-Glacier World Heritage property forms the core protected area in this regional ecosystem, and its natural integrity is inextricably linked with the neighbouring transboundary Flathead watershed,” says the report.

“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 CPAWS-BC. “This special place deserves permanent protection.”

Conservation groups are calling for a National Park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead River Valley, as an expansion of the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site, and 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. 

Contact:

Chloe O’Loughlin, CPAWS -BC: (604) 685-7445 × 23

Sarah Cox, Sierra Club BC: (250) 812-1762 cell

Casey Brennan, Wildsight: (250) 423-0402 cell

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WATERTON MISSION REPORT FINAL.pdf2.08 MB