Rehberg to Discuss Future of Glacier-Waterton in Paris

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – U.S. officials plan to meet with representatives of Canada this month in Paris, to discuss shielding Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park from energy exploration proposed in British Columbia, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Tuesday.

Rehberg said the Interior Department told him arrangements to meet when the World Heritage Convention gathers in Paris, on Oct. 24-25, will be worked out this week.

Face-to-face talks stand to heighten understanding of the need to protect the “environmental sanctity” of the Waterton-Glacier area and the rest of the Flathead River Basin, Rehberg said in a statement. The basin, which includes some of Montana’s outstanding natural areas, spans the U.S.-Canada border.

Canada’s Cline Mining Co. has proposed developing a coal mine in southeastern British Columbia, but has not yet requested government permits.

The mine would be north of Montana’s Glacier National Park, which abuts Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, where the province meets British Columbia. The parks comprise Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

That designation is for natural or cultural sites considered of extraordinary importance the world over.

“Proposed energy development north of Glacier has the potential to be a big problem,” Rehberg said. “Before any proposal moves forward, we need to know how this development will affect the Waterton-Glacier area and what steps British Columbia is willing to take to reduce the impacts of their energy development.”

British Columbia officials have said energy development in the province will not proceed without adequate environmental safeguards.

In Montana, the prospect of new energy development in the southeastern area of the province has raised concern about potential effects on water in the transboundary Flathead River system.

Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana recently urged that top U.S. officials work to help add Waterton-Glacier to a list of World Heritage Sites in danger. The designation is appropriate because of risks from possible energy work in British Columbia, said the senators, both Democrats. Of some 850 World Heritage Sites around the globe, about 30 are classified as endangered.

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