There is nothing that gives more to the sense of place of wilderness, than the presence of a grizzly bear. Imagine the Rocky Mountain landscape without the great bear. It is, as if the landscape has lost part of its soul. Most of the western states have suffered this fate. Grizzlies have lost over 90% of their former range. Now their most important enclave in the lower 48 is at stake. It is the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the adjacent Flathead River Valley, that conservationists have been trying to protect for years.
World Heritage Site in Danger
But I am sure the core of the Canadian People are not agreeing with such environmental policies. They probably feel betrayed and ashamed like large portions of the American Public under the Bush administration. They need help from an international public. This is where everyone of us can make a huge difference.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has voted today to send representatives to Canada to investigate threats to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The committee reacted to a petition written by Earthjustice, representing 11 conservation organizations including NPCA, Wildsight, Sierra Club Canada and others. The groups see the park under a severe threat posed by energy and mining proposals in southeastern British Columbia.
Accounts of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
I have spent several summers and falls in this wonderful place. It is a linkage hotspot for wildlife connecting the US with Canada. The famous Flathead Valley allowed wolves to repopulate parts of Montana after they had been shot and trapped out. Grizzly bears cross back and forth across the border in the Flathead River Valley. Scientists described the Flathead valley as the most important refuge for carnivores in the continental North America.
For the concept of a continuous wildlife corridor from Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) – the area and its surroundings, often referred to as the “crown of the continent”, are of utter importance! Yet development is encroaching from every corner. Just outside of the roads lead into every valley for coal-bed methane extraction. Elk valley coal operates multiple enormous coal mines just outside of the park that have huge environmental impacts.
Yet the park is a true Rocky Mountain Gem. It is probably one of my most favorite places along the Rockys. The amount of wildlife that comes together in such a small concentrated area lets your heart rejoice and the vistas take your breath away. I remember the wonderful alpine gardens that fill the vallies with and explosion of colors, the long days in the high alpine observing the rocky mountain grizzly bears and the winter fall day when tracking wolverines with one of my favorite writers and friend Doug Chadwick.
The core of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is missing an important peace of land to fill a void: It is the Flathead River Valley. It needs full protection. Please sign the petition to make your voice heard! Check also the SaveWatertonGlacier site
To learn more about wildlife corridors and the Y2Y initiative read the essays in my book: Yellowstone to Yukon – Freedom to Roam and check out the website of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2YCI).
Also watch for the upcoming RAVE of the ILCP ( International League of Conservation Photographers ) that will call further attention to the protection of this wonderful Park.
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