Recognizing the Crown of the Continent

By Beacon Staff

Stretched across a state and two provinces, the Crown of the Continent is one of the last wild places in America and now it is being highlighted in a report by the U.S. Department of Interior promoting the outdoors.

The report, to be released this week, features two prominent projects in each state that reconnect the public with nature. Here in Montana, that includes both the Crown of the Continent – the region encompassing Glacier and Waterton Lakes national parks and surrounding areas all the way south to Missoula – and the Fort Missoula Regional Park.

The report is part of President Barack Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative, which is aimed at getting people reconnected with the environment. The initiative is also designed to stimulate the economy by promoting travel, tourism and working forests, according to Will Shafroth, counselor to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Shafroth said the department worked closely with each state to pick two projects and decide how federal, state and local governments could work together to promote and preserve them.

“The Crown is exactly the type of partnership that we need to be more supportive of – a partnership between private landowners and federal agencies,” Shafroth said.

The Crown of the Continent geotourism project has been spearheaded by National Geographic and the Center for Sustainable Destinations. At the center of the project is a map and guide produced by the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council that showcases some of the environmental and cultural highlights of the region. According to project coordinator Dylan Boyle, there are very few places like the Crown on earth and that’s a primary reason why it made the report.

“It’s an honor that people outside the area see (the Crown) as special as we do and that helps us with our mission,” he said. “It helps us show that tourism is an economic engine, but it also shows that conservation can support that.”

According to the Department of the Interior, the report will bring attention to these projects and Boyle said he hopes it brings recognition to the groups, from economists to conservationists, who have worked to establish the Crown of the Continent.

Salazar, in a press release last week, said the project highlights the efforts of government at all levels to help preserve America’s wild places.

“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Montana and communities across America and working with them on locally based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said.

Shafroth said ultimately the project is about preserving the past, both environmentally and culturally.

“(The Crown of the Continent) is a place that is a lot like it was 100 years ago,” Shafroth said.

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