Scientist Says Border Mine Could Harm Wildlife

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA (AP) – A Canadian scientists says a coal mine north of Glacier National Park would make it more difficult for large animals to migrate through the region.

Researcher John Weaver presented his findings at a meeting last week in Kalispell.

The mine aims to dig coal from the Flathead’s headwaters in southeastern British Columbia. Canada’s federal government has announced it would conduct its own “comprehensive review” of the Cline Mining Corp. proposal.

Montana groups worry about the impact on the Flathead River system.

Weaver, a renowned wildlife biologist who has been studying the Canadian Flathead, said that potential water pollution isn’t the only problem posed by the mine. He told the Flathead Basin Commission that land animals could be effected.

Weaver’s studies showed that in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley, west of the Flathead, bear densities are far lower in areas with mines than in areas without.

“What really has become clear is the need to protect the Flathead for large and mid-sized carnivores,” said Rich Moy, chief of the state’s Water Management Bureau and chair of the Flathead Basin Commission. “Many of these species need secure habitat areas for survival and conductivity zones for moving from place to place across the border.”

The Flathead Basin Commission is a multi-agency group established by the state of Montana 25 years ago to monitor and protect the Flathead’s water quality. Since its inception the group has worried about possible upstream energy development.

Moy said Weaver presented “a strong scientific basis for why regional protections are needed. This area is certainly one ecological unit, with an invisible line between the state and the province.”

Elk cross that line freely with the seasons, as do bears, bobcats and wolverines, Weaver said.

The Montana side is secured by perhaps the most stringent land-use protections in America. The Canadian side is the proposed site of a coal mine and coal-bed methane field.