North Fork Flathead River Valley
10:07 am
Fri July 11, 2014

What "Completing" A Canadian Park Would Mean For Glacier And The North Fork Flathead River

The North Fork of the Flathead River, with it's headwaters in the Canadian Flathead River Valley, borders the western edge of Glacier National Park.
The North Fork of the Flathead River, with it's headwaters in the Canadian Flathead River Valley, borders the western edge of Glacier National Park.
Credit Katrin Frye

Waterton-Glacier International Peace park connects over the US-Canada border between Montana and Alberta. However, the two parks don’t match up in their cross-border boundary.

Glacier Park stretches west to encompass the North Fork Flathead River Valley, but the Canadian Flathead is not part of the Park. The Canadian Flathead is Provincial land, akin to state or forest service land in the US, and offering the potential for logging or mineral development. Conservationists have been angling to “Complete the Park” by expanding Waterton into the North Fork Valley.

This idea of completing the Park is not new. Executive Director of Headwaters Montana Dave Hadden said it’s an effort about as old as the Park itself.

“It’s a hundred years old, and George Kootenay Brown suggested this way back when Waterton and Glacier were first created,” Hadden said.

The Complete the Park proposal would pretty much double the size of Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, by bringing the boundary west into British Columbia to the west shore of the North Fork Flathead River. Hadden said that means an addition of about 110,000-acres to Waterton Lakes.

“This is a Canadian proposal, it’s a Canadian decision, but Americans, Montanans have an interest in this because it does affect Glacier National Park, it will benefit Glacier National Park, it will benefit the wildlife of Glacier National park, it will protect our water that flows across the boundary. So there’s some real, tangible benefits to Americans which is why we are engaged,” Hadden said.

For it to become a park the Canadian government would need to buy it from the British Columbia Provincial government and incorporate it into the national parks system.

The British Columbia government passed legislation prohibiting mineral development in the coal and mineral rich Canadian Flathead in 2011. However, Hadden said despite this protection it’s still in the state’s interest to see the Park north of the border expand because of protections to wildlife as well as water quality that comes with a national park designation.

The North Fork Preservation Association hosts Canadian Conservationist Harvey Locke for a presentation about "Completing the Park" on July 26th at 5 PM at Sondreson Hall up the North Fork Road.