Conservation Groups Meet, Encourage Canadian Ambassador to Help Protect Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park from Mining Proposals

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 16, 2008
Contact:   Will Hammerquist, NPCA, cell: 406.885.9455
Jeff Fox, The Wilderness Society, phone: 406.586.1600 x101


Conservation Groups Meet, Encourage Canadian Ambassador to Help Protect Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park from Mining Proposals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The presidents of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and The Wilderness Society met late yesterday with the Honorable Michael H. Wilson, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., regarding the future of the Flathead Valley in British Columbia, Canada, which faces ongoing development threats, including a mountain-top removal coal mine. The Flathead Valley constitutes the headwaters of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which spans the international border between Canada and Montana, and is part of the both the Canadian and U.S. national park systems.

"We would like to express our gratitude to Ambassador Wilson for taking the time to meet with us and hear our concerns on this issue of national importance," said The Wilderness Society President William Meadows. "Our organizations have a long history of open communication with the Canadian Embassy on transboundary environmental issues."

The transboundary Crown of the Continent region, including the Flathead Valley, is one of the most intact, diverse and connected ecosystems in the temperate zones of the world. This rugged landscape is a globally significant biological hotspot, protecting elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, bull trout, and a host of other wildlife and plant species, as well as reflecting the region’s rich human history. Characterized by remoteness and farsighted conservation practices, the core of the Crown of the Continent consists of transboundary land encompassing Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and Bob Marshall, Great Bear, and Lincoln Scapegoat Wilderness areas.

Regrettably, multiple proposals for mountain-top removal coal mines and coalbed methane extraction in the Flathead Valley have been forwarded in recent years. These include Cline Mining’s Lodgepole Mine, which the U.S. State Department has opposed due to "significant adverse impacts to Glacier National Park." The Lodgepole Mine would produce 16 million tons of waste rock annually over the mine’s 20-year period of operation, and result in the permanent diversion of a key tributary of the Flathead River. The Canadian Federal Environmental Assessment Office announced in December 2007 that the Lodgepole Mine would be subject to a federal Comprehensive Study under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Additional concerns have been raised over BP of Canada’s (formerly British Petroleum) proposed Mist Mountain coalbed methane extraction in the region. Conceptual plans include a 500 sq. kms project footprint in the Flathead and adjacent Elk Valley. In February 2008, the government of British Columbia announced that the Flathead Valley would not be included in Mist Mountain land tenure process at this time due to the "environmental sensitivity of the Flathead Valley." The Province did however reserve the right for future coalbed methane exploration in the Flathead.

"It is our hope that Canada will choose to create a better peace park and implement a land-use plan that protects the world-class ecological values of the Flathead Valley," said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. "Now is the time for Canada and the U.S. to show true leadership and together, craft a long-term solution for the Flathead Valley that protects the legacy of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park for our children and grandchildren."

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