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Canada's 'Crown Jewel' Wilderness Saved From Development

<Update: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced that he will introduce legislation that provides the same protections on federal lands in Montana that British Columbia has agreed to.> Canada's portion of the Flathead Valley—a dazzling part of wilderness known as the "Crown of the Continent"—has been saved from the kind of mineral development that is destroying many parts of the United States.

British Columbia, in partnership with the state of Montana, has agreed to ban mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction in the valley, which is adjacent to a World Heritage site spanning the U.S.-Canadian border.

This is a big win for Earthjustice and its Canadian counterpart, EcoJustice, which had petitioned the United Nations in 2008 to investigate proposed mining activities. What's been saved, says Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, is "a treasure more precious than coal or gold."

The Flathead Valley in southern Canada is home to grizzly bears, lynx and wolverines, and rare native trout. The valley and its river continue into Glacier National Park and parts of the Flathead National Forest, which provide some protections on the U.S. side. A great concern was the impact of mining in the river's Canadian headwaters, where the spoils of proposed mountaintop removal mining would have been dumped. That threat now is over.