Interior Secretary Salazar Endorses World Heritage Committee Visit to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

The headwaters of the Flathead River in Canada.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who last week called for Everglades National Park to again be listed as a World Heritage Site In Danger, is endorsing the committee's decision to examine mining threats to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Just last week the World Heritage Committee decided to send a field team to the two parks to look at how a proposed coal mine north of Glacier and west of Waterton Lakes would impact the two parks, which in 1932 joined together to form the world's first international peace park.

Along with deciding to send an inspection team to the parks, the World Heritage Committee directed Canada and the United States to prepare a report by February 1, 2010, that examines all Flathead River Valley energy and mining proposals and their cumulative impacts on the two parks.

On Tuesday the Interior secretary called the decision to send a field team to the parks "an important step to protect Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Montana and Alberta, Canada.

“As we approach the 77th anniversary of this spectacular international park, we hope that we can join with Canada and all our international partners to help protect its unique landscape, beautiful rivers, and abundant wildlife,” said Secretary Salazar. “The decision by the World Heritage Committee to request a state of conservation report on the park from the two countries and to urge no mining or energy development in the area until the joint mission is completed and its report reviewed by the committee is a major step forward in our efforts to protect one of North America’s great natural treasures.”

U.S. Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana, also applauded the World Heritage Committee's actions, saying they "bring us another step closer to establishing the safeguards we need to protect Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park from mining and energy development proposals."

The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is traversed by the Lewis Range and contains outstanding glacial lakes and alpine scenery and is significant as a habitat exceptionally rich in plant and mammal life. The two parks protect an important biological crossroads at the point where the Rocky Mountains reach their narrowest width. They also serves as a celebration of the longest undefended contiguous border between two nations and a reminder that our natural resources have no boundaries.

The 21-nation World Heritage Committee, which on Tuesday wrapped up its meetings in Spain, oversees the list of World Heritage Sites that are of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Sites that are deemed to be in jeopardy are placed on the danger list.

The committee requested the mission take place as soon as possible so that the results can be considered by the Committee in its next session in the summer of 2010. The United States and Canada will complete a State of Conservation Report by February 1, 2010.