1.         Waterton Glacier International Peace Park (Canada,United States of America) (N 354rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1995

Criteria  (vii)(ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/354/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/354/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

September 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) mining and energy developments;

b) fragmentation of natural areas due to human constructions and activities;

c) invasion of non-native species;

d) climatic changes.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/354/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

From 20 to 27 September 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM/, and the final report incorporated some factual corrections proposed by both States Parties.

On 9 April 2010 Canada submitted by email a joint report on the state of conservation of the property. A hardcopy reached the World Heritage Centre from the United States of America on 12 April together with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Province of British Columbia (Canada) and the State of Montana (United States of America) concerning Environmental Protection, Climate Action and Energy. The report of the States Parties addresses the issues raised in Decision 33 COM 7B.22, and also reports, inter alia, on developments that have taken place since the reactive monitoring mission. The key issues considered in the Committee decision relate to transboundary cooperation, mining threats, wildlife connectivity, climate change impacts, and a number of other issues. The report below presents the relevant mission conclusions, the subsequent report from the State Party, and the observations of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN.

a) Transboundary cooperation

The mission noted the importance of managing the property holistically and recommended a review and strengthening of institutional arrangements related to management of the property, and initiatives for co-operative planning, management and research between Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks, possibly supported by a shared project funding resource, to make more effective use of resources. The mission also recommended further co-operation be fostered between the Parks and land and resource managers and key stakeholders in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, and be supervised by the Crown Managers’ Partnership. In particular this should encourage greater synergies with the Biosphere Reserves, First Nations and indigenous tribal groups, and environmental NGOs on issues of mutual interest. It noted that the entire Flathead basin, in Canada and the United States of America is important for protecting, maintaining and buffering the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property, and recommended a single conservation and wildlife management plan be developed for the transboundary Flathead.

The States Parties report notes that on 9 February 2010 the Government of British Columbia (Canada) announced a new partnership with the State of Montana (United States of America) to “sustain the environmental values of the Flathead River Basin in a manner consistent with current forestry, recreation, guide outfitting and trapping uses”, which will “establish new collaborative approaches to transboundary issues”. The area covered by this agreement includes the World Heritage property. On 18 February 2010 the Premier of British Columbia and the Governor of Montana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Cooperation on Environmental Protection, Climate Action and Energy. Representatives of the Ktunaxa Nation Council and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes spoke in support and signed the MOU as witnesses. A range of areas of work are identified for joint action. The States Parties report that the MOU resolves three decades of discussion and puts in place a new framework for cooperation and partnership, and a process of implementation is proceeding. The State Party of the United States of America notes additionally the importance of specific mechanisms for implementation such as trans-boundary assessments of forestry operations and cooperation on wildlife connectivity issues. The States Parties also report on transboundary assessments of ecological health and landscape change by the Crown Managers Partnership, including development of a landscape indicator for key species.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the historic signing of the MOU which is an extremely positive response to the needs for transboundary cooperation on the management, endorsed at the highest political level. The key need is now the follow up of the MOU with an effective programme of implementation and leadership, involving all parties to the MOU.

b) Mining threats in the Flathead watershed

The mission to the property reviewed mining threats to the property and considered that mining in the transboundary Flathead watershed would not be compatible with the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Accordingly, the Southern Rocky Mountains Management Plan (SRMMP) should be revised to provide for permanent prohibition of mining and energy development in the Canadian Flathead. The mission made additional recommendations on specific mining threats in areas around the property.

The States Parties report that the MOU noted above includes specific provisions to remove mining, oil and gas development and coal development as permissible land uses in the Flathead River Basin. Three immediate actions have been taken by the Province of British Columbia (BC). These include a no disposition notation that identifies that petroleum and natural gas rights will not be posted for tenure in the Flathead, a mineral and coal reserve to prevent acquisition of new mineral titles and coal tenures, and a Cabinet Order to prohibit the issuing of Mines Act permits in the BC portion of the Flathead River Basin. The Province is also amending the SRMMP to bring this into alignment with the commitment above. There are 103 leases for oil and gas in the US portion of the Flathead which are non active due to a court ordered moratorium on all oil and gap production. Two Montana Senators have introduced legislation to the United States Congress to prohibit future oil and gas leases and mineral development within the United States portion of the basin, and announced their intention to seek withdrawal of existing leases. The States Parties note that the MOU is a significant response to the main concerns raised in the mission report, and the Committee’s decision, in relation to the Flathead River Basin.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the signing of the MOU and the positive move by the Province of BC in rapidly taking actions, and the initiation of legislation in the United States of America to be highly commendable. This represents an immediate and effective response that fully addresses the most pressing issues of concern regarding mining threats to the property.

c) Connectivity in the wider ecosystem

The mission recommended that steps should also be taken to minimise the barrier to wildlife connectivity due to mining, transportation and communication lines and associated developments in the Crowsnest Pass of British Columbia and to plan and implement relevant mitigation measures. The mission recommended a long-term moratorium be placed on any further mining developments in south eastern British Columbia in a corridor providing vital habitat connectivity and to the Rocky Mountains World Heritage property in Alberta. Other measures should include minimising future infrastructure development and removal of unnecessary structures, maintenance of core natural areas and rehabilitation of degraded areas, and development of a pro-active plan for enhancing connectivity in the area.

The States Parties report recognizes the need to preserve wildlife connectivity in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem. The concerns noted in the report include those reviewed by the mission as well as other issues such as United States Route 2 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to the south of the property in the United States of America. Residential development is reported to be increasing in focal areas within the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, and United States communities in the main Flathead Valley are experiencing growth. Loss of habitat, loss of connectivity and wildlife conflict from property development and construction are stated to be of major concern to site managers, particularly to the south and southwest of the property. The Mist Mountain Coalbed Gas Project is at the appraisal and design phase, and whilst noted to be outside the Flathead watershed is considered to have the potential to disrupt continuity. Oil and gas leases have also been announced in the reservation east of the property but are stated to be not near the property, but there are adjacent and older leases. In January 2010, five oil companies agreed to relinquish 29,000ha along the Rocky Mountain Front, just south of the property adding to previously relinquished areas. 41,000 acres remain under licence whilst a total of 111,000 acres has been retired in this area. A number of assessments of connectivity issues are being undertaken.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that habitat connectivity remains a challenge, both from the potential impacts of mining and other development as noted by the mission, but also a number of other sources of concern that are considered significant by the States Parties. Connectivity issues are of concern in both Canada and in the United States of America, as noted above. It will be essential that both States Parties and the state/provincial and local authorities are increasingly vigilant about the possible impacts of infrastructure, industrial and residential development. Both effective research and monitoring, and continued effective land use planning and environmental impact assessments are long term requirements. All developments that have potential to impact on wildlife connectivity should ensure that they do not have impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. This need will be facilitated by the commitment made in the MOU that the States Parties will collaborate on environmental assessment of any project of cross-border significance that has potential to degrade land or water resources.

d) Climate Change impacts

The mission recommended that specific programmes of management and associated monitoring and research should be developed to combat climate change impacts for the property, and that further promotion of trans-border co-operation in monitoring and research should be undertaken.

The States Parties report notes that cooperation on the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change is a specific commitment of the MOU. The property benefits from the Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems research programme in Glacier National Park that links to many international initiatives. The report notes specific commitments to a number of partnerships related to climate change issues, and to enhancing regional capacity.  Waterton Lakes National Park includes climate change in its monitoring programme on ecological integrity and revised management plan, while Glacier National Park is part of a new United States Federal initiative attempting to address climate change over a large area of the northern Rocky Mountains, and are also involved in research and climate change scenario planning, including a number of initiatives whose results will be made available to international audiences.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN commend the progress being made in addressing climate change issues, and note that the property includes examples of innovative practice that would be of benefit to other States Parties, and therefore encourage the United States of America and Canada to investigate opportunities to more actively develop international partnerships to transfer learning on climate change adaptation to other settings.

e) Other issues

A number of other issues are raised in the States Parties reports, or were considered by the mission. Mountain pine beetle is a native pest that is causing significant mortality of pine forests in Glacier National Park, covering an area approaching 10,000 ha. Although the States Parties and the mission note current forestry practices are considered compatible with the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, there are possible threats to wildlife connectivity and fish habitat from possible measures to counteract this infestation. The States Parties report on the systems to regulate such initiatives and that the MOU also provides for transboundary assessment of any proposals that could affect land and water resources. Visitation has fallen to levels of the early 1990s in Glacier National Park, whilst there are plans to increase visitation to late-1990s levels in Waterton Lakes. The States Parties also note positive projects in relation to dust abatement, ecological restoration, and further enhancing visitor experience of the property.

The mission also recommended that increased efforts should be made to harmonise the management of the Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park area with the property and to incorporate it into the property, as was recommended at the time of its inscription on the World Heritage List. Canada has noted that mining, commercial logging and hydroelectric development are prohibited in Akamina-Kishinena, and that adding it to the World Heritage property would not change the protection it affords to that part of the Flathead watershed in British Columbia. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the State Party to consider further the possible inclusion of this protected area as an extension of the property.

In summary, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider there has been a very positive progress by the States Parties in responding to the Decision of the World Heritage Committee, and welcome the new and very significant initiatives on transboundary cooperation, and the strong new commitments to removing mining threats from the Flathead River Basin. These developments also accord well with key recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission to the property. An effective and ongoing programme of implementation of this agreement is required and promises significant benefits to the overall management of the property, the Flathead River Basin, within the wider setting of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem. A range of management challenges remain, as noted above, and the States Parties will need to consider jointly threats to wildlife connectivity in relation to development plans in both Canada and the United States of America, to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is considered in development strategies and plans. The property also offers opportunities for learning about climate change adaptation that are of wider relevance to World Heritage properties in other regions. Further reporting on these matters should be a priority in relation to the consideration of this property in the forthcoming Periodic Reporting exercise for the Europe and North America Region.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.20

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.22, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Acknowledges the results and recommendations of the September 2009 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property;

4. Congratulates the States Parties, and in particular the Province of British Columbia (Canada) and the State of Montana (United States of America) and first nations representatives, on signing the new Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Flathead River Basin, including the property, which promises significant progress in the transboundary management of the property, in the context of its wider setting, and encourages the States Parties to ensure its effective, ongoing implementation through the development of specific joint programmes and projects;

5. Welcomes the commitments made by the Province of British Columbia to remove mining threats from the Flathead River Basin, and the initiatives in the United States of America regarding extinction of mining licenses, which address significant concerns regarding potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

6. Takes note of the ongoing threats to the property from possible impacts on wildlife connectivity arising from issues outside the property, including residential, industrial and infrastructure development, and forestry practices, in both Canada and the United States of America, and requests the States Parties to jointly ensure that connectivity is considered as a key factor in planning and environmental assessment of such developments, in order to ensure the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

7. Encourages the States Parties to share their experiences in the development of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies with other World Heritage properties;

8. Also requests the States Parties to keep the World Heritage Centre informed regarding significant developments with respect to the above issues, considering the requirements of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to give particular attention to these issues in their contribution to the periodic reporting process.