Flathead Far From Protected Despite Legislation

  • Published on Oct 04 2011 |
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True conservation would be a National Park and Wildlife Management Area

Legislation to ban mining and energy development in B.C.’s Flathead River Valley is a welcome first step but the Flathead remains far from protected, conservation groups said today

“This legislation does not protect the Flathead from logging in a proposed National Park, trophy hunting, new road access and quarrying,” said Casey Brennan, Southern Rockies Program Manager for Wildsight. “Preventing mining and oil and gas development is a great first step, but real conservation is permanent protection as a national park and wildlife management area."

The B.C. government introduced legislation today—called the “Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act”—that it promised in February 2010 when it announced a ban on mining and energy development in the Flathead. The ban followed a petition to the World Heritage Committee from 11 conservation groups, including Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“This long-promised legislation inks what was previously in pencil – the important ban on mining and energy development in the Flathead,” said Sierra Club spokesperson Sarah Cox. “No other conservation efforts appear to be included in this act.”

“We’re puzzled that the B.C. government states in its press release that the Flathead is a World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve,” said CPAWS BC spokesperson Chloe O’Loughlin. “If the Flathead receives the same high level of protection as the adjoining Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park it would certainly merit this designation, but right now B.C.’s Flathead is almost completely unprotected, while Waterton and Glacier are both national parks.”

Sierra Club BC, CPAWS and Wildsight are calling for B.C. to follow the lead of Alberta and Montana and agree to a national park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead, to fill in the missing piece of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The groups are also calling for a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the Flathead Valley and adjoining habitat, in keeping with recommendations made last year by a World Heritage Committee mission to the Flathead.