KALISPELL, Mt — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Heritage Center will conduct a review early this fall of the potential threats, such as proposed coal mining and oil and gas development, to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Montana and Alberta, Canada.
In June, the 21-nation World Heritage Committee, part of the United Nation's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO), called for the review as it considers whether the park should be placed on its list of World Heritage Sites that are in danger. The scientific review will take place September 20 to 26.
“Senators Baucus and Tester and I have serious concerns about the potential impact of energy development on the park's water, wildlife and other resources,” Salazar said. “With the support of Canada, I am pleased that just three months after the World Heritage Committee called for this review, scientists will be on the ground to give us an objective assessment of the possible threats to the park.”
“The North Fork is a gem for Montana. I've been working for decades to keep it protected, and I wanted to bring Secretary Salazar out here so he could see it with his own eyes. When you see how magnificent this place is it is a no brainer that we need to protect it. Secretary Salazar is a westerner and a friend, and I am so glad that he is going to be such a strong ally in our fight. This review is a good step and will give the world a chance to see the value of this resource and the threats it will face until we have long-term protections in place. I will never rest until this place is protected for our kids and grandkids,” said Senator Baucus.
“Glacier National Park is one of the world's most important places,” said Tester, a member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “Taking inventory of any challenges we face in the future will help us protect Montana's clean water and make sure that Glacier will always inspire visitors from around the world.”
Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana on the United States side and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta on the Canadian side, were designated by law as the world's first International Peace Park in 1932. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is traversed by the Lewis Range and contains outstanding glacial lakes and alpine scenery and is significant as a habitat exceptionally rich in plant and mammal life.
The park protects an important biological crossroads at the point where the Rocky Mountains reach their narrowest width. It also serves as a celebration of the longest undefended contiguous border between two nations and a reminder that our natural resources have no boundaries.
The United States is concerned that proposed mining and energy developments in the mostly pristine Canadian Flathead region could potentially threaten the Flathead River in Montana which forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park.
The 21-nation World Heritage Committee oversees the list of World Heritage Sites that are of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Sites that are deemed to be in jeopardy are placed on the endangered list. Both the United States and Canada would have to agree to the designation before it could be made.
The Committee requested the mission take place as soon as possible so that the results can be considered by the Committee in its next session in the summer of 2010. The United States and Canada have committed to complete a State of Conservation Report by February 1, 2010.