Flathead Still Under Threat from Clear-Cut Logging and Quarrying, Say Conservation Groups

Impending clear-cut logging, mining, expanded road access and trophy hunting all threaten B.C.’s Flathead River Valley and will impact the adjoining Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site, conservation groups said today.

“The B.C. government continues to allow the extraction of 20,000 tonnes of Flathead rock a year, without environmental oversight, from a quarry just outside the World Heritage Site,” said Casey Brennan, Southern Rockies Program Manager for Wildsight. “The Flathead River Valley remains under threat and is far from protected.”

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and eight other groups successfully petitioned the World Heritage Committee last year to draw attention to energy and mining threats in the Flathead, leading to the February 2010 ban on mining and energy development. A long-awaited World Heritage Committee mission report on the Flathead will be made public during the committee’s meeting in Brasilia, which starts tomorrow.

NOTE:  Ryland Nelson of Wildsight will be attending this years UNESCO World Heritage Committee session in Brasilia, Brazil. Check www.savewatertonglacier.com for live updates.

“We hope the World Heritage mission will agree that a comprehensive transboundary wildlife management plan is urgently needed for the Flathead and adjoining habitat,” said CPAWS-BC Executive Director Chloe O’Loughlin. “B.C.’s Flathead is an exceptional wildlife nursery, and it has the highest density of inland grizzly bears in North America.”

In a June 2010 letter to the World Heritage Committee, the groups said they “remained concerned” by the lack of a binding Flathead agreement at the federal level, since either B.C. or Montana can at any time revoke commitments made in the February 2010 Memorandum of Understanding. The groups say they are also concerned by “insufficient monitoring and reporting by the state parties” of continuing threats to the World Heritage Site, as requested last year by the World Heritage Committee.

In addition to the on-going mining threat, the Flathead remains under threat from large clear-cut logging operations with extensive road building that are planned in the Flathead starting this summer, and motorized road access in the Flathead that was recently increased next to the World Heritage Site. On-going concerns also remain about the long-term viability of regional grizzly bear populations.

At the regional scale, two new coal strip mines in the adjoining Elk Valley and new coal exploration in the proposed Wildlife Management Area also pose a serious threat to wildlife connectivity.

“We’re alarmed that it’s business as usual in the Flathead, with the exception of some mining and energy development,” said Sierra Club BC spokesperson Sarah Cox. “It’s time for B.C. to agree to a National Park in the south eastern one-third of the Flathead.”

Sierra Club BC, Wildsight and CPAWS-BC are calling for the completion of the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site with a National Park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead River Valley. The groups also urge establishment of a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the Flathead and adjoining habitat, to preserve a vital wildlife corridor stretching from the Waterton-Glacier World Heritage Site to Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks.

Casey Brennan, Wildsight: (250) 423-0402
Sarah Cox, Sierra Club BC: (250) 812-1762
Chloe O’Loughlin, CPAWS-BC: (604) 685-7445 x 23

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