B.C. Government Ignores World Heritage Committee Recommendations for Flathead and Elk Valleys


B.C. Government Ignores World Heritage Committee Recommendations for Flathead and Elk Valleys

Valleys Open for Coal Development, Wildlife Connectivity Ignored

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      February 28, 2013

Victoria, B.C. --The B.C. and federal governments have failed to act on World Heritage Committee recommendations aimed at protecting a globally-significant wildlife corridor that includes the Flathead River Valley, conservation groups said today. 

“The World Heritage Committee was very clear about the need to secure this important connection for wildlife,” said Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske. “Yet new mines are planned for the Elk Valley without a full cumulative effects analysis--at the same time as the Auditor General warns that B.C. is failing to protect biodiversity.”

In a report card released today, the third anniversary of the Flathead energy and mining ban announced in February 2010, conservation groups assess progress on five detailed recommendations made by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The recommendations speak to the need for: a single conservation and wildlife management plan; prioritizing natural ecological values and wildlife conservation; a long-term moratorium on mining in southeastern B.C to ensure wildlife connectivity; improved coordination between the governments of B.C. and Montana, and; expanding Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park into part of the Flathead.

The report card concludes that the B.C. government has failed to comply with most of these key recommendations. It also points to a federally-owned coal block in the Flathead that is exempt from the B.C. ban on mining. 

“There is simply no excuse for foot-dragging,” said Sarah Cox, Acting Executive Director of Sierra Club BC. “In spite of strong conservation recommendations from UNESCO, the B.C. and federal governments continue to focus on industrial development for this remarkable wildlife area.  Significant areas of the Flathead River Valley are slated for logging and it is not safe from mining.”

B.C. banned energy and mining development in the Flathead in response to the World Heritage Committee suggestions for protecting the wildlife corridor that connects two World Heritage Sites--Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks. However, B.C. continues to allow open-pit mining proposals for the Elk River Valley, contrary to the report’s recommendation of a moratorium.

“There is no balance between industrial development and conservation,” said Peter Wood, Terrestrial Campaign Manager for CPAWS-BC. “The Flathead has some of the purest water in the world and is home to rare and at-risk species, including the wolverine, grizzly bear, tailed frog and Rocky Mountain big-horned sheep.”

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, CPAWS-BC and other conservation groups are urging the B.C. government to agree to a National Park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead, to fill in the missing piece of the adjacent Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (a World Heritage Site and two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.) The groups are also calling for a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the Flathead and adjoining habitat, including part of the Elk River Valley.

A full copy of the report is available here.

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Contact:
Sarah Cox, Sierra Club BC: (250) 812-1762
John Bergenske, Wildsight: (250) 489-9605
Peter Wood, CPAWS BC: (604) 761-3075