British Columbia, Montana Officials Sign Agreement to Protect Glacier, Waterton Lakes National Parks
Officials from British Columbia and Montana have finalized an agreement to collaborate on protecting the environment of the Flathead River Basin from energy development. The agreement not only is designed to safeguard Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in British Columbia from environmental contamination, but goes further, promising that the two will work on climate change issues as well as renewable energy solutions.
The agreement, signed Thursday, was praised by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and park advocacy groups.
“This agreement is an historic milestone for the protection of the Flathead Valley and the extraordinary natural wonders that it contains,” said the Interior secretary. “We would not have come this far if it were not for the leadership of people like (U.S.) Senator (Max) Baucus, who has worked tirelessly for so many years to protect the Flathead River for future generations. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Baucus, Governor (Brian) Schweitzer, (U.S.) Senator (Jon) Tester, and others in Montana and Canada to build a long-term strategy to protect these incredible resources on both sides of the border.”
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Will Hammersmith called the agreement "historic" in that it "promises to protect the Transboundary Flathead River Valley from all types of mining and oil and gas extraction--FOREVER."
"This is great news for Glacier National Park because the wild, unsettled Canadian Flathead valley is just upstream from Glacier and provides critical habitat for Glacier's wildlife--including grizzly bears, wolverines, elk, and mountain goats," added Mr. Hammersmith, NPCA's program manager in its Glacier Field Office.
Word that British Columbia would put the Canadian Flathead, a wild region north of Glacier and due west of Waterton Lakes, off-limits for mining came just before the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games opened. In a speech to the British Columbia Parliment Lt. Gov. Steven L. Point said, "A new partnership with Montana will sustain the environmental values in the Flathead River Basin in a manner consistent with current forestry, recreation, guide outfitting and trapping uses."
For years environmental and conservation groups on both sides of the border have been fighting projects to mine coal, coal-bed methane, and gold in the scenic valley that some wildlife biologists have proclaimed the wildest valley in North America. That pressure convinced the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Committee to dispatch a team of experts to the area last September to determine what impact mining might have on the two national parks. In January a draft report from the field team said mining would harm both parks.
Tucked into British Columbia's southeastern corner, the Canadian Flathead Valley is a 40-mile swath of sawtooth-tipped mountains and alluvial plains that cradle the headwaters of the Flathead River. That ruggedness, with its resident grizzly bears, wolves, elk, lynx, mountain goat, wolverine and pristine fisheries of bull trout and Westslope cutthroat trout, has prompted one biologist to tag the area as "the single most important basin for carnivores in the Rocky Mountains."
Together Glacier and Waterton Lakes also protect an important biological crossroads at the point where the Rocky Mountains reach their narrowest width. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park also serves as a celebration of the longest undefended contiguous border between two nations and a reminder that many natural resources have no boundaries.
Under the agreement, I. British Columbia and Montana commit to work together to:
A. Remove mining, oil and gas, and coal development as permissible land uses in the Flathead River Basin.
British Columbia and Montana, the latter working with the United States as necessary, will implement measures necessary to prohibit the exploration for and development of mining, oil and gas, and coal in the British Columbia Flathead and the Montana North Fork Flathead River Basin, such action to be completed by July 2010, and subject to agreement on the equitable disposition of the financial implications of this action for the Province of British Columbia respecting existing mining and coal tenure holders.
B. Cooperate on fish and wildlife management.
In collaboration with Ktunaxa Nation and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, develop baseline resource information, identify potential opportunities to collaborate on fish and wildlife management,
and, where possible, coordinate provincial and state management activities in the transboundary region. Areas for consideration include: noxious weed management; management of alien invasive species; and management efforts related to specific fish and wildlife.
C. Collaborate on environmental assessment of any project of cross border significance that has potential to degrade land or water resources.
On a reciprocal basis, provide for on-going involvement of interested federal, provincial, state, and First Nations or American Indian Tribes and their designated scientists, in environmental assessments
triggered under provincial or state law or regulation with respect to any development in the British Columbia and Montana transboundary area which holds potential to cause degradation of water quality or land resources, as follows:
i. British Columbia will invite one or more representatives from state, federal and tribal governmental agencies, as appropriate, to participate in Working Groups established for its environmental assessments. Appropriate agencies may include the Montana Departments of Environmental Quality, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Natural Resources and Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
ii. Montana will invite one or more representatives from provincial, federal and Ktunaxa Nation governmental agencies to participate in its environmental assessments. Appropriate agencies may include the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests and Range, Integrated Land Management Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (or such successor Ministries bearing such responsibilities), and Ktunaxa Nation Land and Resources Council.
D. Share information proactively.
Share information proactively, subject to all relevant laws and regulations, exchange authorizations, permits, approvals, licenses, tenures and draft planning documents on proposed projects that have
potential cross‑border, wildlife or water quality impacts; and develop early notification procedures to identify problems or sources of concern to residents, First Nations, Tribes, or governmental entities in transboundary areas.
E. Collaborate in responding to emergencies.
Establish procedures to cooperatively respond to emergencies that have the potential for environmental harm, especially in transboundary areas.
II. British Columbia and Montana commit to work together to:
A. Facilitate adaptation to climate change.
Build regional capacity to understand and address the challenges posed by climate change to Western North American jurisdictions by enhancing and coordinating climate monitoring networks, regional centers of applied climate science and regional emergency planning within our jurisdictions.
B. Promote a wood building culture for climate action.
Recognizing that a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at both increasing forest stocks and producing an annual sustained yield of timber for wood construction will generate the largest sustained carbon mitigation and economic benefits, enable enhanced building technologies in structural wood designs for residential and industrial construction and wood products in interior and exterior finishing by seeking and supporting appropriate amendments to building codes and encouraging the use of wood in public leasing and public building projects.
C. Measure progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Participate in The Climate Registry, a collaboration between states, provinces and Tribes aimed at developing and managing a common greenhouse gas emissions reporting system with high integrity that will provide an accurate, complete, consistent, transparent and verified set of greenhouse gas emissions data from reporting entities, supported by a robust accounting and verification infrastructure.
D. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
British Columbia and Montana are signatories to the regional goal set by the Western Climate Initiative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, as well as to ambitious individual provincial and state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 of 33 percent below 2007 levels by British Columbia and to 1990 levels by 2020 for Montana.
Renewable and Low Carbon Energy
III. British Columbia and Montana commit to work together to:
A. Pursue cooperative clean and renewable transboundary energy policies.
Support and seek adoption of cooperative transboundary approaches to creating more renewable and low carbon energy development in western and continental North America including hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and tidal/wave energy.
B. Harmonize definitions of low impact renewable resources.
Seek and support common definitions of renewable and low carbon resources in state, provincial and federal legislation and regulations that facilitate trading of renewable energy from hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and tidal/wave energy between all jurisdictions within western and continental North America.
C. Support the Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) Project.
Collaborate to ensure the cost‑effective and environmentally sensitive development and transmission of renewable and low carbon energy through participation in the Western Governors’ Association Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) Project.
D. Encourage a “Conservation First” Utility Framework.
Encourage electricity and natural gas utilities to undertake comprehensive conservation potential studies and set goals for implementing demand-side management (DSM) programs. Utilities will be encouraged to prioritize DSM measures to address energy demand growth. British Columbia and Montana will share information on DSM program performance and will cooperate on the development of
harmonized approaches for measurement and evaluation.
E. Leverage energy efficiency through building codes.
Share information on energy performance standards in building codes, with a view to developing collaborative strategies to improve energy efficiency requirements.
F. Enable clean transportation solutions.
Support policies, and share information on standards and best practices to promote biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen, and electricity as transportation fuels, and promote consistent roadside signage for
alternative fuel stations.
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