Building Dialogue in the Crown of the Continent

Sixth annual conference to take place in Missoula from Sept. 16-18

By Justin Franz

There are more than 100 governments and agencies that control the 18 million acre region known as the Crown of the Continent. But despite the borders and boundaries that divide cities, counties and countries, Mary Sexton says it is important to think of the region as one unified place.

That will be the topic of the sixth annual Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent at the University of Montana in Missoula starting Sept. 16. The three-day conference gathers interested parties and players from across the region to discuss issues facing the area.

“We have a shared history in this region and we’re all hooked together,” Sexton said.

The roots of the event go back to 2006, when UM graduate students affiliated with the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy compiled an inventory of initiatives and groups interested in promoting the region. In 2010, they held their first roundtable, which always includes representatives from Montana, British Columbia and Alberta. The event has since been held in Waterton Lake National Park, Fernie, British Columbia, East Glacier Park, and Polson.

Among this year’s keynote speakers are Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow, UM President Royce Engstrom, Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips and Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person. Among the topics being discussed are trans-boundary coalitions, conservation and the state of higher education in the region. There will also be discussions about businesses that have decided to stay or relocate to the region because of the lifestyle it provides.

“This is not just about conservation or the environment,” Sexton said. “There is something for everyone here.”

One of the big focuses of this year’s roundtable is how to get youth involved with protecting and promoting the region.

“We can’t have only white hairs at these conferences, we need some young people to get involved,” Sexton said.

The roundtable event usually attracts about 150 people annually, but this year they are hoping to have 200 people attend. The roundtable event costs $170 if you register before Sept. 10 and $200 after that. Students can go for just $60. For more information about the event, a full schedule of events and where to pre-register, visit www.crownroundtable.org.

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