Flathead safe from mining for good

Collaborators celebrate $10 million funding for protection of the East Kootenay's Flathead Valley.

Representatives of the Government of Canada

More than $10 million has been raised to help protect the Flathead Valley.

Through a collaboration with conservation groups, the Government of Canada and private donors, the multi-million dollar funding will go to the British Columbia government to implement the Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, which was passed last year.

The legislation permanently prohibits coal mining, as well as exploration and development of oil, gas and mineral resources on nearly 400,000 acres in the Flathead, southeast of Fernie.

“This particular money was given to the province to allow us to compensate the mining companies whose tenures we took back when we took mining and oil and gas out of the Flathead,” explained Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett.

The Government of Canada contributed $5.4 million, while global private equity firm Warburg Pincus put in $2.5 million. The rest came from private donors.

The announcement was celebrated with a function at St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino on Thursday, September 13, attended by Environment Canada Minister Peter Kent and the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer.

On Friday, Minister Kent joined MLA Bennett, Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese, Nature Conservancy of Canada president John Lounds and The Nature Conservancy (an unaffiliated global conservation group) president Mark Tercek, as well as Charles R. Kaye, co-president of Warburg Pincus.

Along with representatives of the conservancy organizations, the group filled six helicopters for a flight to the top of Mount Hefty in the Flathead Range, to see just what was being protected.

In 2010, then-Premier Gordon Campbell and Governor Schweitzer signed a memorandum of understanding to prohibit mining and the development of oil, gas and coal resources throughout the B.C. Flathead. It is adjacent to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which is also a designated World Heritage Site and a UN Biosphere Reserve.

But local conservation group Wildsight said much work still needs to be done to permanently protect the Flathead.

“The ban on energy and mining development is a great first step, but the job is far from complete,” said Wildsight’s executive director John Bergenske.

“We continue to work to see part of the Flathead, the southeastern one-third, brought into the missing piece of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and put in a Wildlife Management Area, which would continue to allow the existing uses but would make sure the extremely high wildlife values of the Flathead always take precedence,” he went on.

Wildsight’s ultimate dream would be to see some of the Flathead made a national park, said Bergenske.

“We feel that with a national park completing the Waterton-Glacier complex in that one portion of the Flathead, that basically makes sure that any of the activities that take place are maintaining the wildlife values.”

However, MLA Bennett said that a national park is not the answer.

“The irony is, if a national park was created, what we would have seen today is hundreds and hundreds of tourists crawling around the Flathead. We saw nobody,” Bennett said Friday. “That would not improve the eco system; it would hurt it.”

According to Bennett, all those present for this week’s celebrations made it clear that protection of the Flathead was already being achieved.

“I was really relieved and pleased to hear Peter Kent, the Governor of Montana and the Nature Conservancy all express their support for this management model we have in place that does not require a federal park over the Flathead Valley,” said Bennett.

“A lot of it has been logged and clear cut and the point is: we still have this incredibly diverse and healthy ecosystem. So the management model we have had in place has been working extremely well and there really is no reason to change it.”

Just Posted

Crews successfully battle overnight house fire in Tie Lake

No injuries, home damage minimal thanks to quick response by crews

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

UPDATED: Pratt to be acclaimed as Cranbrook mayor

Mayor will serve another term after running unopposed in the upcoming municipal election

Eight cattle dead in tunnel crash

RCMP thanks agencies after cattle truck crash; investigates vehicle and thrift store thefts

Parlez-vous français? Fernie students do!

Francophone and schools offering French immersion popular among Elk Valley families

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Youth give back to community

On August 30, Eliora and William Vandersteen, Matthew White, Isla Vandersteen, Alexis… Continue reading

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

Most Read