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UNESCO to study mining threat to BC’s Waterton-Glacier park

The Canadian Press reports that, “UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has voted to send representatives to Canada to investigate threats to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park posed by energy and mining proposals in southeastern British Columbia.”

“The 21-member committee, meeting in Seville, Spain, unanimously adopted a resolution Friday expressing concern about potential coal and coal-bed methane extraction the headwaters of the Flathead and asking the governments of the United States and Canada to work together to prepare a report on the development threats by Feb. 1, 2010. …The committee’s decision was in response to a petition written by Earthjustice on behalf of 11 environmental groups in the U.S. and Canada, asking that the peace park be declared a World Heritage site in Danger.”

“The UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization declared Waterton-Glacier a World Heritage site in 1995, a designation bestowed on 878 places worldwide that recognizes extraordinary cultural or natural resources. An endangered designation can heighten sensitivity about a locale and raise its profile.”

On a related noted, after meeting with Dr. Michel Sauve in Fort McMurray last October, the Council of Canadians began to work on having the McClelland Fen declared a UN world heritage site.

The Alberta Wilderness Association says “The McClelland Lake watershed lies just east of the Athabasca River in northeastern Alberta about 90 km north of Fort McMurray in an area known as the Fort Hills…Important both for its diverse biophysical features and its ecological functions, it is one of Canada’s least-known natural heritage treasures.”

The AWA highlights that, “An estimated one billion barrels of oil (0.3 percent of Alberta’s recoverable bitumen) lie beneath McClelland Lake fen. Approved tar sands mining will directly affect forty-five percent of the fen and 49 percent of the entire Wetland Complex, probably guaranteeing the destruction of the other half of the fen and putting the entire watershed at risk.”

The Pembina Institute has written, “The McClelland Complex is home to a rare type of wetland — a patterned fen, which has a unique surface pattern formed by alternating peat ridges (strings) and linear depressions or pools (flarks)….Wetlands such as the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex are also significant because they act as natural filters, purifying surface water, recharging groundwater, and providing an important source of freshwater. The increasing loss of wetland habitat elsewhere in Alberta makes protecting the integrity of the McClelland site crucial.”

The Canadian Press report is at http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jjOYx9tWCp3gdKiTt_jNmrrJdx0g.