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$10 Million Ties the Knot

  $10 Million Goal Reached to Protect  Canadian Flathead Land Trusts Meet Terms of Mining Ban; Further Protections Needed

A private ceremony in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in mid-September celebrated the successful fundraising of $10 million to satisfy the terms of the 2010 MOU signed between Gov. Brian Schweitzer and former B.C. Premier, Gordon Campbell.
 
The sum was determined by B.C. to be the amount needed to implement  Bill 2, the "Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act" passed by the B.C. Legislature last November.  The legislation banned mining and energy development in the headwaters of the watershed.
 
The money will be used to guide management and conservation of the Flathead and to pay off the invested costs that mining and energy companies had incurred in exploration of the area.  Bill 2 effectively shut down these activities.
 
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and The Nature Conservancy Montana (TNC) stepped up to the challenge of raising these critical funds. 
 
The Government of Canada contributed $5.4 million to NCC through a federal conservation program.  TNC raised the balance from private donors, including Headwaters Montana and other local groups and individuals.  
 
The final $2.5 million was donated by Warburg Pincus—the largest, single private contribution.  Warburg Pincus is a leading global private equity firm, apparently heavily invested in energy, according to Creamer Media's Mining Weekly.
 
Canadian newspapers and media reported widely on this success.  Few U.S. papers picked up the story.  See links below to read coverage of the event:
Cline $500 Million Damage Suit Still Pending
 
On May 28, 2012, Cline Mining filed a notice of its intention to sue  the B.C. government for expropriating its legal right to explore and develop its three coal properties in the Canadian Flathead, alleging $500 million in losses over the life of it mining activity. 
 
This suit remains unresolved at this time.  Proponents of mining law reform point to this suit as a prime example of the need for the B.C. legislature to address the province's archaic mining laws.
 
Now for the Next Steps
 
The land trusts' payoff of $10 million has been praised by Headwaters Montana and its partner organizations in the Flathead Wild project.  The successful completion of this part of the B.C. - Montana MOU essentially completes the first step and  biggest threat to the Transboundary Flathead watershed - that of mining and energy development.
 
While a mining and energy ban does prevent destructive activity, it does not represent active conservation measures.  The watershed still needs legislated conservation designations that actually protect the land for expressed conservation goals.
 
For example,the B.C. government continues to allow logging in many parts of the B.C. Flathead, including the proposed Waterton Park expansion area.  B.C.'s logging practices are decades behind U.S. standards.
 
B.C. has no wildlife sanctuaries anywhere in the southeast part of the province.  Part of the Flathead needs to be set aside as a wildlife sanctuary.
 
In addition, the B.C. government has loosened restrictions on motorized access throughout the Flathead watershed.
 
Remaining Goals for the Flathead
 
Headwaters Montana remains committed to helping our B.C. friends establish:
  • A new national park in the B.C. Flathead (doubling the size of Waterton Lakes National Park), and
  • A Wildlife Management Area that is contiguous with the Whitefish Range in Montana.
Headwaters Montana is working to complement these conservation goals by: 
  • Securing passage of S. 233, the "North Fork Watershed Protection Act" that withdraws federal mineral, oil and gas rights from the U.S. North Fork Flathead; and
  • Developing a community-derived plan for the Whitefish Range that protect the US portion of the international wildlife corridor between Whitefish and Banff National Park.