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National Park in lower Flathead would help address World Heritage Committee concerns

Brasilia, Brazil — Work still needs to be done to protect wildlife in the Flathead and surrounding areas, and to ensure that Rocky Mountain wildlife connectivity is not compromised by forestry practices and other development, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee said today in a “state of conservation” report.

The state of conservation report recommends “development of a pro-active plan for enhancing connectivity” in the Flathead River Valley and adjoining areas. It also raises concerns about proposed mine expansions in southeastern British Columbia, adjacent to the Flathead, “in a corridor providing vital habitat connectivity to the Rocky Mountains World Heritage property in Alberta” [the Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks].

“Establishing a Wildlife Management Area in the B.C. Flathead and along the spine of B.C.’s southern Rocky Mountains would go a long way towards addressing the committee’s concerns,” said Wildsight spokesperson Ryland Nelson, who is attending the committee meeting in Brazil.

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society are calling for a national park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead, to complete the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site, and a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the valley and adjoining habitat that would preserve a wildlife corridor between two World Heritage sites (Waterton-Glacier and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.)

At its annual meeting, the committee requested that Canada and the U.S. pay particular attention to the results and recommendations of a World Heritage Centre mission report, released on Monday. The mission was dispatched to the Flathead and adjoining Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site last September, following a petition by Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and eight other conservation groups.

In summarizing the UNESCO mission report, the World Heritage Committee noted “that the entire Flathead basin, in Canada and the United States of America, is important for protecting, maintaining and buffering” the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site. It also reiterated the UNESCO mission recommendation that a “single conservation and wildlife management plan be developed for the transboundary Flathead.”

“The World Heritage Committee has said that more needs to be done, and we have the solution, “ said Sarah Cox of Sierra Club BC. “A national park in the southeastern one-third of the flathead is needed to protect Rocky Mountain wildlife.“

The committee took note “of the ongoing threats” to Waterton-Glacier from outside activities, including in B.C.s Flathead River Valley, and requested that Canada and the U.S. “jointly ensure that connectivity is considered as a key factor” in planning and environmental assessment of any development, including forestry.

Notably, at the June G-20 meeting in Toronto, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed how relevant authorities, including Environment Canada and the U.S. Department of the Interior, could help ensure the sustained protection of the Flathead River Basin.

The World Heritage Committee welcomed the February 2010 ban on Flathead mining and energy development, and also encouraged Canada and the U.S. to share their experiences in the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies with other World Heritage properties.

“Permanently protecting B.C.’s Flathead will give this Noah’s Ark for wildlife a fighting chance to adapt to climate change,” said CPAWS-BC Executive Director Chloe O’Loughlin. “A Flathead national park and Wildlife Management Area will be a priority if B.C. is truly serious about addressing climate change.”
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Contact:

Ryland Nelson, Wildsight: (250) 531-0445 cell (if unreachable call Casey Brennan – 250.423.0402)

Chloe O’Loughlin, CPAWS: (604) 685-7445 × 23

Sarah Cox, Sierra Club BC: (250) 812-1862 cell

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