As Congress considers lands bill, veteran park leadership makes conservation appeal
Whitefish, MT – An international coalition of retired superintendents from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in the United States has voiced their concern for the future of those parks and the need for immediate actions by both countries to complete park protection measures begun earlier this year.
“Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a treasure that we all share as North Americans,” said former Glacier Superintendent Mick Holm. “In joining our voice with our Canadian counterparts, we’re hoping public officials in both countries will view our communication as a call to action on behalf of this globally significant World Heritage site.”
The letter, signed by nearly all of the parks’ former superintendents, comes in the closing days of Glacier’s centennial year, as Congress considers a bi-partisan public-lands omnibus bill (America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010) that includes several key park-protection measures. The package legislation encompasses more than 110 individual bills, aimed at protecting the country’s land, water and wildlife resources. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would like to see passage before Congress adjourns early in the New Year.
In their letter, the former superintendents endorse a long-standing proposal for Canada to expand Waterton Lakes National Park westward, into one-third of the British Columbian Flathead. They also call for Canada to establish a wildlife management area connecting Waterton-Glacier to other Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, including Banff.
The former superintendents noted the historic nature of recent steps taken by both countries to prohibit coal strip-mines, hard-rock mining, and oil and gas leases on public lands upstream from Waterton-Glacier, including action to protect 400,000 acres in Canada and the voluntary relinquishment of 200,000 acres of oil and gas leases by energy companies in the United States. They note, however, that legislation to finalize the mining and drilling ban has yet to become law in the United States, and urge prompt action on that front.
They also call for expanded environmental cooperation across the border, and a formal international agreement between both countries to protect Waterton-Glacier and the surrounding Crown of the Continent ecosystem in Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta.
“To have nearly every retired superintendent from Waterton and Glacier calling for these measures is beyond significant,” said Tim Stevens, Northern Rockies regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association. “These individuals spent their entire careers managing protected areas. They understand better than anyone what steps are needed to ensure the ecological integrity and clean headwaters of Waterton-Glacier.”
In 2009, proposed mining activities in the Canadian Flathead Valley gained the attention of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which voted unanimously to send an international team of scientists to investigate whether the negative impacts of proposed coal strip mines warranted listing Waterton-Glacier as a “World Heritage site in Danger.” The UNESCO report concluded that the proposed strip-mine would result in environmental harm to the World Heritage site.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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