onservation groups have welcomed new legislation to ban mining and energy development in B.C.’s Flathead River Valley, but say the Flathead remains far from protected.
“This legislation does not protect the Flathead from logging in a proposed National Park, trophy hunting, new road access and quarrying,” said Casey Brennan, Southern Rockies Program Manager for Wildsight. “Preventing mining and oil and gas development is a great first step, but real conservation is permanent protection as a National Park and Wildlife Management Area.”
The Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, introduced Tuesday, is intended to preserve the environmental values in the Flathead watershed.
The introduction of legislation meets the commitment made in the 2010 memorandum of understanding signed with the state of Montana on Environmental Protection, Climate Action and Energy.
“The government of British Columbia is committed to working in co-operation with our neighbours in maintaining the highest standards of environmental conservation and sustainable resource management,” said Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“The Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act will ensure the healthy eco-system that exists today in the Flathead River Basin will continue to be maintained in a manner consistent with current recreation, forestry, guide outfitting and trapping uses.”
The act, when passed and brought into force, will secure decisions made in 2010 to establish coal and mineral reserves, prohibit Crown land dispositions for mining purposes, prohibit issuance of Mines Act permits, prohibit issuance of Oil and Gas Activities Act permits for oil and gas exploration and development and prohibit disposition of Crown reserves under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.
“This long-promised legislation inks what was previously in pencil – the important ban on mining and energy development in the Flathead,” said Sierra Club spokesperson Sarah Cox. “No other conservation efforts appear to be included in this act.”
Sierra Club BC, CPAWS and Wildsight are calling for B.C. to follow the lead of Alberta and Montana and agree to a national park in the southeastern one-third of the Flathead, to fill in the missing piece of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The groups are also calling for a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the Flathead Valley and adjoining habitat, in keeping with recommendations made last year by a World Heritage Committee mission to the Flathead.