Flathead mining, drilling ban official

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  • Oct. 8, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett shows former environment minister Barry Penner around the Flathead watershed

The B.C. government has presented legislation to outlaw mining and oil and gas development in the Flathead watershed in southeastern B.C., formalizing an agreement reached with Montana in 2010.

Parallel legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to prohibit mining and gas drilling in the Montana portion of the Flathead basin, after 80 per cent of oil and gas leases issued in the 1980s have been bought out by the U.S. government.

The Flathead watershed is a UNESCO world heritage site that spans the international border, and is next to the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. Governments on both sides have been lobbied for years to extend park boundaries to include the Flathead.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said he supports the protection agreement, because it allows historic uses including recreation, forestry, trapping and guided hunting, which would not be allowed in a park.

The area has a long history of logging and hunting, Bennett told the legislature this week. It supports grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain sheep, and elk that show a preference for the edges of forest cutblocks, he said.

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