Senators Push for Glacier Designation to Stop Mining

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester on Wednesday urged top U.S. officials to help add Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park to the “List of World Heritage in Danger,” as part of their efforts to prevent mining and drilling proposals north of the Montana border.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the park a World Heritage site — a property having “outstanding universal value” — in 1995.

World Heritage sites can be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger if they face a “serious and specific” risk, the Democratic senators said in a release.

According to the World Heritage Web site, the list is designed to “inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.”

Adding a site to the list of properties at risk allows the World Heritage Committee to allocate money to the site from the World Heritage Fund.

Of the approximately 850 World Heritage sites around the globe, only about 30 are on the list of properties at risk.

Baucus and Tester said Waterton-Glacier faces “multiple and immediate threats” due to Cline Mining Co.’s proposal to remove coal north of the park, and the potential for British Petroleum to extract coal-bed methane in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Flathead River, which borders the park and runs into Montana’s Flathead Lake.

British Columbia officials have said the projects are not imminent, and if they do advance, the environment will be protected.

In letters sent Wednesday, Baucus and Tester asked U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to nominate Waterton-Glacier to the list, saying the proposed mining and drilling would “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 also say the coal mining and coal-bed methane projects could have devastating consequences for Montana’s fish and wildlife, and for the Flathead’s recreation industry, and would have no economic benefits for Montana.

To have Glacier Park added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, Rice and Kempthorne must petition the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. The committee would then evaluate the nature of the threat to determine if the site warrants inclusion on the list.

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