September 29, 2013 7:18 pm

Conservationists fight for ‘The Missing Piece’

Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park Alberta with Middle Waterton Lake in the background

File photo (CP Photo/Lynn Ball)

It’s being called the missing piece- a part of the Flathead valley landscape sitting in the southeast corner of British Columbia.

A gap that conservationists say fits into an important ecological map.

“There’s no wildlife sanctuary’s in southern B.C., so we have this funny, abrupt hole in this exceptional wildlife sanctuary that is Waterton-Glacier,” said conservationist Harvey Locke. “So by adding that missing piece to the peace park we create that sanctuary affect.”

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Locke says this piece of B.C wilderness belongs in the international peace park a core biological area protected by Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, and Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Wildlife experts say more importantly, it serves as a critical corridor for animals moving along the Rocky Mountains.

“The Flathead area is one of the last places close to here, close to Waterton, close to Alberta, that is so important, especially for Grizzly bears, because a study years ago showed that it’s one of the highest producers of Grizzly bears anywhere in Canada,” said bear conservationist Charlie Russell.

The expansion efforts have been ongoing for decades, the only resistance coming from opposing parties in B.C.

“As I understand, the sort of concerns that have prevented it from moving ahead is that they’re managing that area for certain industrial activity already, and they don’t want to protect it,” said Locke. “They just banned oil and gas and mining from the valley two years ago by law, which is tremendous, but what they haven’t done yet is protect it.”

But completing the first international peace park is not only a priority from an environmental perspective. For some, it means protecting their home, keeping the land in its untamed condition for future generations.

“My family has been involved for over 100 years in this area and so it’s been very powerful influence on me,” said Russell.

And it seems young, budding environmentalist’s are eager to save its wild qualities.

“We had a whole generation of folks who have been working on the conservation movement for years and years, and who were responsible for a lot of the national parks we see today,” said Flathead Campaign Associate Krystal Northey. “We’re looking to see, to get some young people out here to find the next national park, and the next wild spaces that we can be protecting.”

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