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It’s Time to Expand Waterton Lakes National Park

By Beacon Staff

During this last summer in Montana thousands of locals and visitors from around the world streamed into Glacier National Park every day. Er … make that Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

It’s an important distinction that illustrates just how special this place is.

Glacier National Park is the U.S. side of the Peace Park. Waterton Lakes National Park is Canadian. But in 1932 the local Rotary Clubs of Kalispell and Cardston, Alberta, thought it would be a good idea to give the world its first International Peace Park. And after a lot of good-hearted work they succeeded. Dozens of peace parks across five continents now exist. The world clearly likes the peace park concept.

As we all know, “Nothing succeeds like success!” Yet the case must again be made that Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is not yet complete.

Just look at a map.

Glacier Park stands out as the big piece, and Waterton as its smaller sister park. However, the really glaring hole is on the British Columbia side of the Continental Divide. Glacier straddles the Continental Divide, while Waterton stops there. Upstream from Glacier Park, protections are lacking for the North Fork of the Flathead River.

For 100 years, forward-thinking individuals have advocated expanding Waterton Lakes National Park on both sides of the Continental Divide in British Columbia, matching up with the western border of Glacier.

Waterton Lakes National Park’s first superintendent, Kootenay Brown, wrote:

“It seems to be advisable to greatly enlarge this park. Many people desire it … It might be well to have a preserve and breeding ground in conjunction with the United States Glacier Park. I am sure this step would be much appreciated by all sportsmen and nature lovers.”

Clearly something needs to be done. The proposed addition would double the size of Waterton and effectively complete the peace park. As the world’s population nears 7 billion, it’s more and more critical to protect those truly special places on Earth, like the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

“But isn’t this a Canadian issue?” you ask. Yes, the addition of the B.C. Flathead to Waterton is, by definition, a sovereign Canadian decision. That’s why it’s so important for Canadians – especially Canadians with homes and interests in the U.S. Flathead Valley – to get involved.

Expanding Waterton is also an international issue, and we in Montana support the aspirations of the 70 percent of local Canadians who wish to see the park completed.

You can get involved right now by signing up with the Friends of the Flathead campaign that is leading the effort to complete the world’s first peace park. Go to www.flathead.ca.

And if you think you really are “Somebody Who Knows Somebody,” don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call us. It’s time to speak up. Thank you!

Edwin Fields owns Fields Construction Services, Inc. in Whitefish, and serves as president of Headwaters Montana, a local conservation group that has prioritized protecting the North Fork and Flathead Lake from Canadian coal mining proposals in the Flathead watershed.

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