Today the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia announced new protections for the Canadian portion of the Flathead Valley during the Throne Speech, an annual address which identifies the Province's priorities for the coming year.
The announcement by British Columbia Lieutenant Governor Steven Point stated as follows:
"A new partnership with Montana will sustain the environmental values in the Flathead River Basin in a manner consistent with current forestry, recreation, guide outfitting and trapping uses. It will identify permissible land uses and establish new collaborative approaches to transâ€‘boundary issues. Mining, oil and gas development and coalbed gas extraction will not be permitted in British Columbia's Flathead Valley."
US-based conservation organizations praised the decision:
"Today's announcement marks an important step forward to protect the last undeveloped low-elevation valley in southern Canada, where grizzly bears, lynx and wolverines still roam beside pure waters that nurture rare native trout," said Tim Preso, staff attorney for the public-interest law firm Earthjustice. "We are pleased that British Columbia now recognizes what the UN World Heritage Committee recently reaffirmed: the wild Flathead Valley is a treasure more precious than coal or gold."
"People in the Flathead Valley place a very high value on Glacier Park and clean water," said Dave Hadden of local conservation group Headwaters Montana. "The BC government announcement represents an important opportunity for Montanans to work with BC to protect the entire North Fork Flathead watershed, including unfinished conservation on the US side of the border."
"As the world's first international peace park, Waterton-Glacier is more than just a national park," said Will Hammerquist, Glacier Program Manager for the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association. "It is an icon of international cooperation, peace between nations, and the special relationship between Canada and the United States. Today's announcement honors this vision, and is an opportunity to begin a new era of transboundary cooperation in the Flathead Valley and surrounding Crown of the Continent ecosystem."
Conservation groups, led by Earthjustice and its Canadian counterpart Ecojustice, petitioned the United Nations in 2008 to investigate mining activities proposed in the Flathead Valley that could devastate a national park and a World Heritage site spanning the U.S.-Canadian border.
The proposed mining and drilling projects in the headwaters of the Flathead River, located in the southeast corner of British Columbia, threaten the ecological health of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site straddling the Alberta-Montana border.
Last month, a UN committee delivered a report to the governments of Canada and the United States in response to the petition, recommending a ban on mining in the Flathead Valley and the development of a conservation and wildlife management plan for the Waterton-Glacier park.
Tim Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
Will Hammerquist, National Parks Conservation Association, (406) 885-9455
Dave Hadden, Headwaters Montana, (406) 837-0783
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.