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.
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.
Climate Change impacts
State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, p. 31