October 1, 2016
The Waterton Parkland Area of Concern is approximately 472 square kilometres in size and is found in the extreme south-western corner of the province of Alberta.
What makes this area spectacular is that it is the junction of two unique topographical features. The mountains of the continental divide rise abruptly out of undulating grasslands, almost completely without the classic foothills typical in most intervening areas between mountain and prairie. As a result of this crossroads, prairie and mountain species coexist in a relatively small area.
Waterton Parkland is one portion of a larger, international ecosystem termed the “Crown of the Continent” for its position at the narrowest point of the Rocky Mountains.
The Waterton Parkland Area of Concern encompasses Waterton Lakes National Park and surrounding grassland. Waterton Lakes National Park, paired with the adjacent Glacier National Park in the state of Montana, comprises the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is designated a Biosphere Reserve as a part of the United Nation’s Man and Biosphere Program as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Under so many different designations and forms of land ownership, this area is under threat of fragmentation. There is constant pressure for landowners to subdivide their land for holiday housing. In addition, Waterton Parkland’s appeal to hikers, campers and tourists has resulted in associated infrastructure and significant wear-and-tear on the land that needs to be held in check.
The Waterton Lakes National Park is managed using the following documents:
The Municipal District of Pincher Creek is managed using the Municipal Development Plan (Draft, June 1997). This plan aims to conserve agricultural land for agricultural purposes, thus protecting the buffer zone surrounding the national park from development.
Heavy human usage is a concern in the Waterton Parkland. About 400,000 people visit the national park annually and the townsite itself is home to 100 people. This number swells to 300 during the summer. More people mean more traffic, more garbage and more infrastructure.
The health of the regional ecosystem is affected by development of areas surrounding Waterton Parkland. Ranchland abutting the national park has traditionally created a buffer zone of diffuse human use, extending animal habitat and sheltering the Park from high impact human activities. However, a growing market for residential and recreational property is threatening to minimize this buffer area and reduce the protection that it provides. Similarly, drilling in the Castle-Crown area to the north of Waterton further this buffer area, fragmenting and degrading the natural quality of the entire region.
Coexistence with wildlife is another concern in the Waterton Parkland. In the national park, ungulates inhabiting the townsite and traffic jams due to visitors stopping to look at wildlife are relatively common.
Local residents oppose a Parks Canada decision to built a visitor centre into the townsite in Waterton National Park, replacing a 56-year old facility. The new visitor centre will be located near the Townsite Campground and a busy playground. Completion is anticipated for 2019. Visitation in the Park is noted to have increased 50% since 2000.
Cardston councilors voted against the development application of September 2014 in Boundary Creek. AWA and the landowner group were pleased with the decision, a win for the environment and local people.
Cardston County Council approved rezoning land adjecent to the Police Outpost Provincial Park and Outpost Wetlands Natural Area from ‘Agriculture’ to ‘Rural Recreation’. This enables developers to apply for a development permit to build anything under ‘permitted uses’ or ‘discretionary uses’ guidelines of the Rural Recreation land use description. Boundary Creek Landowners Group forms with the goal of preserving and protecting agricultural land of Boundary Creek through wise succession planning, land conservation, and active opposition to large, commercial development proposals. They file an appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench decision. AWA supports the group.
An AESRD “hair snare” study in BMA 6 (south of Highway #3) that uses DNA samples taken from grizzly hair rubs to conduct a population estimate wraps up its second season of data collection. Results from the first season, 2011, indicated the same number of bears on public lands as had been previously estimated to live in all of BMA 6. Results from the second season, 2012, are expected to include private lands, and be finished analysis in June.
Drywood Yarrow Conservation Partnership host a field day to showcase some of the measures recently introduced to minimize carnivore conflicts, particularly with an increasing local grizzly bear population. Measures include removal of livestock carcasses and electric fencing.
AWA writes a letter of concern to Cardston County, concerning a proposal by LDS church to establish a large youth camp in the Boundary Creek area. The proposals are denied.
Draft Management Plan released for Waterton National Park. AWA and other conservation organizations express considerable apprehension at the proposed change in direction for the management of the parks. Whereas the legislated first priority for park management is ecological integrity, this draft plans place far more emphasis than ever before on maximizing the “visitor experience.”
Results for 2007 grizzly DNA population study are released, estimating 51 grizzlies south of Highway 3. Grizzly biologist Gord Stenhouse is quoted in the Calgary Herald: “With about 65 per cent of the province’s grizzly bear habitat surveyed over four years, […] there have been 230 grizzlies counted.”
The Chief Mountain Study (CMS), an assessment of the potential cumulative effects of land use in the Waterton Parkland and surrounding regions, reveals key findings which include :
Alberta government announces three year suspension of the spring grizzly bear hunt. Decision is in no small part due to outpouring of opposition from Alberta public, and considerable media coverage. AWA congratulates Minister David Coutts on this decision, but stresses that habitat loss is the number one issues affecting Alberta’s grizzlies, and no recovery will be possible until this is addressed. In a subsequent Calgary Herald on-line poll, 85% of readers agree with the hunt suspension.
The MD of Pincher Creek throws out proposals by the owners of Waterton Springs campground to change local byelaws to allow for long-term leases for recreational vehicles. This follows considerable local opposition to the plans at a September 14 public hearing. AWA argued that if such a proposal were approved, it would pose an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the adjacent Waterton National Park.
David Coutts, Minister for Sustainable Resource Development, ignores the recommendation of recovery team to suspend the spring grizzly bear hunt, and announces that 73 licences will be issued this spring. A ministerial news release refers to a “conservative approach” to the hunt, and officials cite “anecdotal evidence” that the grizzly population is healthy enough to support a hunt. There is strong opposition to the hunt from environmental groups, Alberta public, scientists and opposition politicians. 10 bears are killed in the spring hunt.
Dozens of East Kootenay communities back a proposed feasibility study investigating the suggested expansion of Waterton Lakes National Park. Mining and logging industry supporters, as well as the government of British Columbia who would need to compensate these interests, fear such park expansion.
An area within the Waterton Lakes National Park is designated as a wilderness area. Activities that may impair the wilderness character of the area are limited and most motorized access is banned.
CPAWS promotes a plan to double the size of Waterton Lakes National Park by extending the protected area into British Columbia’s Flathead Valley.
CPAWS and SAEG (Southern Alberta Environmental Group) submitted a request through the Sierra Legal Defence Fund to federal Envrionment Minister David Anderson requesting that the proposed residential development at the entrance to Waterton Lakes National Park be subject to an environmental assessment.
Letter noting incidences of livestock trespass in Waterton Lakes National Park is published in Wild Land’s Advocate (WLA, Vol. 9, No. 6, Dec. 2001)
Waterton Lakes National Park Management Plan released.
The Ecosystem Conservation Plan for Waterton Lakes National Park released. This plan is later merged with the Waterton Lakes National Park Management Plan.
The Akamina-Kishinena Class ‘A’ Provincial Park is established in British Columbia. This 10,921 ha Wilderness Park lies immediately adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park and effectively adds to the core area of protected land in the region.
AWA writes a letter to The Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage) opposing the reopening of a road leading to picnic sites on the Blakiston Fan. The road is closed to keep natural processes at work and does not prevent visitors from accessing the area by foot. AWA requests a formal CEAA review if plans exist to rebuild the road.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designates the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site.
The Waterton Homestead Campground is granted a development permit to lease approximately 200 cottage lots, 15 townhouse units, 30 park model lots, 100 RV pads and associated infrastructure adjacent to the national park. Conservationists fear that the increased human footprint in the area will further fragment, and have a negative environmental impact, on the region.
AWA writes a letter to the Municipal District Council of Pincher Creek expressing opposition to a proposal to change the “Waterton Vicinity Protection Zone” for the purpose of permitting a magnetite mine to be developed.
AWA submits a response to the Waterton Management Plan Review. In the submission, AWA encourages planners to reroute human traffic through less environmentally sensitive areas, create a First Nations educational exhibit, reclaim disturbed park areas, restrict power boats, place a moratorium on future facilities development, further regulate front and back country camping, and restrict mountain bikes to paved roads.
The Crown of the Continent Society is created. This society brings together 30 agencies and stakeholders groups in the Pincher Creek area. Unfortunately, the society is shut down in 1992 due to conflicting society visions.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association is formed, a grass-roots, volunteer-driven group working closely with local people to integrate conservation values with sustainable livelihoods in the reserve area.
Waterton Biosphere Reserve is designated by UNESCO (United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization) as part of the Man and the Biosphere Program. Waterton is Canada’s second biosphere reserve and the first with a national park at its core. The biosphere reserve program is entirely voluntary – the reserves themselves are voluntary cooperative areas. Biosphere reserves are organized into three zones– a legally protected core area, an adjacent buffer zone with activities that are compatible with conservation objectives, and a transition zone or “area of cooperation” where sustainable land use is practised. Beyond the core, the extent of WBR is not well defined. While the National Park is the core of WBR, the buffer and transition zones are not clearly delineated. The goals of Biosphere Reserves are conserving biological diversity, promoting sustainable use and logistic support.
Waterton Lakes joins with Montana’s Glacier National Park to form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a world first.
October 1, 2016