WHITEFISH – Conservationists are urging government leaders to add a 100,000-acre piece of Canadian wilderness to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Leading ecologists meeting in Whitefish earlier this week said extending the park’s boundaries will connect wildlife corridors and help preserve one of the most intact ecosystems in North America.
“The idea is to fill in that missing piece of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and create a wildlife corridor that would extend from Whitefish to Banff,” Michael Proctor, the lead researcher for the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project said.
The Peace Park is the combination of the Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, with the international border slicing through the upper part of the park.
But on the Canadian side of the border, a pizza-shaped slice is missing. Ecologists say adding that piece would help bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats, bull trout and other native fish.
“The transboundary Flathead supports the most diverse, intact community of carnivores in North America,” said John Weaver, a senior conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It is truly a rich and diverse assemblage.”
On the U.S. side, the Flathead River forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park. On the Canadian side, the British Columbia Parliament in November approved legislation protecting the river basin from mining and energy development.
“Twenty years ago, if you told anyone that there would be no open pit coal mining in the transboundary North Fork, you would have been laughed out of the room,” said Harvey Locke, founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “It is time to complete the Peace Park. This area must stay intact.”
His group wants to create a continuous wildlife corridor from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon in Northern Canada. Linking core reserves in the region with permanent wildlife corridors and protecting against resource development are keys to preserving the area, the group said.
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