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Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park: A World Heritage Site in Danger?


Are Glacier National Park's mountain goats threatened by proposals in British Columbia to develop energy reserves north of the park? Kurt Repanshek photo.

Montana's two U.S. senators are seeking to have the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park declared a World Heritage Site in Danger because of proposed energy development near the headwaters of the Flathead River. This is just the latest flare-up over how British Columbia officials are managing energy development near the two national parks.

Back in January I posted about concerns among Montana's politicians over an open-pit coal mine proposed to be built just north of Glacier. Then as now the fear was that such a project not only could pollute the Flathead River, which has its headwaters in the location of the proposal coal mine, but that energy development in this area would threaten a vital wildlife corridor.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Senators Max Baucus and John Tester say Waterton-Glacier should be declared a World Heritage Site in Danger because of proposals for the coal mine and for coalbed methane production.

The listing is necessary because the projects "will contaminate one of the park's most pristine rivers, destroy the habitat of endangered species, and compromise the natural character that makes the Peace Park a world treasure," the senators state in their letter.

"Given these threats, we must ask you to assist us in petitioning the World Heritage Committee to add Waterton Glacier International Peace Park to the List of World Heritage in Danger so that we can bring international pressure to bear and stop the mining and drilling proposals in their tracks."

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell recently wrote to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer rejecting a proposal for a meeting to discuss the cross-border issue and chastising the state over its own environmental record.

You can find the rest of the story here.

This is not the first time an effort was launched to have the Peace Park declared in danger. Back in February 2006 there was an effort to have Glacier listed as being in danger because global warming was melting the park's glaciers faster than might be expected. That petition failed.

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