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.
The announcement comes after conservation groups, led by Earthjustice and its Canadian counterpart Ecojustice, petitioned the United Nations in 2008 on behalf of several conservation groups to investigate the mining activities. As a result, the UN World Heritage Committee recommended a moratorium on mining in the valley, and the development of a conservation and wildlife management plan for the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
U.S.-based conservation organizations praised the decision. What's been saved, said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, is "a treasure more precious than coal or gold."
The Flathead Valley in southern Canada is home to rare and endangered species like grizzly bears, lynx and wolverines, and 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.
Earthjustice prepared the petitions on behalf of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society -- British Columbia Chapter, the Dogwood Initiative, the Flathead Coalition, Forest Ethics, Headwaters Montana, the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club BC, the Wilderness Society, Wildsight, and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.