Flathead River Valley
The Flathead River Valley, tucked into B.C.’s southeast corner, is a hotspot for biodiversity and a Noah’s Ark for many species that have lost habitat elsewhere. The Flathead is home to a remarkable 16 carnivore species, ranging from the tiny marten to the mysterious wolverine. Six species of hoofed animals roam this spectacular Rocky Mountain wilderness, including bighorn sheep, moose and the hardy mountain goat. The Flathead has the greatest density of grizzly bears in the interior of North America, and some of the world’s purest water. B.C.’s Flathead has long been recognized as the missing piece of the adjacent Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Learn more about what makes the Flathead a special place.
— B.C. mountaineer Pat Morrow (the first person in the world to summit the highest peaks on all seven continents.)
Until recently, the Flathead was threatened by a land use plan that promoted mining and energy development above all other values. One proposal under consideration by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office was for a mountain-top removal coal mine that would have dumped 300 million tonnes of slag and pollutants into Foisey Creek, a headwaters stream of the free-flowing Flathead River. The Flathead was also slated for additional coal mines, coalbed methane drilling and gold and phosphate mining. As a result, B.C.'s Outdoor Recreation Council named the Flathead B.C.'s most endangered river in March 2009.
In November 2011, following an intense campaign by Sierra Club BC and other conservation groups, the B.C. government legislated a ban on mining and energy development in the Flathead. The legislated ban is a very welcome first step, but it does not permanently protect this globally-significant wildlife area. Notably, the Outdoor Recreation Council’s 2010 and 2011 endangered river lists placed the Flathead “On Watch”, pointing to the absence of permanent protection.
Today, the Flathead remains threatened by plans for industrial logging, new road access, and trophy hunting of grizzlies and other animals that are given sanctuary only steps away in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Waterton-Glacier is part of the same "Crown of the Continent" ecosystem that includes B.C.’s Flathead River Valley. The United Nations considered this intact ecosystem to be of such outstanding value to humanity that it has designated Waterton-Glacier a World Heritage and two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The Flathead is in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa First Nation. Learn more about Flathead issues.
A recent study has confirmed that coal mining in the neighbouring Elk River Valley is poisoning wildlife habitat with toxic levels of selenium. Read more about the costs of toxic pollutants.
It’s time for B.C. to follow the lead of Alberta and Montana, and protect B.C.’s Flathead permanently with a National Park in the southeastern one-third of the valley—which would become part of the World Heritage Site and a separate UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We also need a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the valley and adjoining habitat, to preserve a vital link in North America’s longest remaining wildlife corridor.
You can help by supporting our Flathead River Valley campaign and becoming a Friend of the Flathead. There are now more than 15,000 Friends of the Flathead, including former federal environment Minister David Anderson, world-renowned mountaineer Pat Morrow and the mayors of Victoria and Vancouver. Creating a Flathead National Park and Wildlife Management Area is more urgent than ever before, as the range of many plant and animal species shifts due to global warming. Learn more about solutions for the Flathead.