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Special Status of Waterton Park

Waterton Lakes National Park is a very special place. Indeed, it has been recognized as such both by the people who visit it and by the world at large. Some of these special designations are detailed below:

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

    "The Geology recognizes no boundaries, and as the lake lay...no man-made boundary could cleave the waters apart."
    - Henry "Death on the Trail" Reynolds, American Ranger

    "It seems advisable to greatly enlarge this park... it might be well to have a preserve and breeding grounds in conjunction with the United States Glacier Park."
    - John "Kootenai" Brown

Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park (in the US) share the designation of an International Peace Park. There is a fascinating history between the shared border of these two parks (see Chronology).

On May 2, 1932 and June 16, 1932 the American and Canadian Governments approved legislation for the creation of the world's first International Peace Park. The International Peace Park is a symbol of peace and goodwill between the United States and Canada. It also represents the need for cooperation and stewardship in a world of shared resources. This is not only reflected between countries, but also between provinces, with the Akamina-Kishinena class A provincial park in British Columbia, located on Waterton Park's Western Border and Glacier's northern border.

Today, both parks strive to strengthen their International Peace Park status through shared management, not only between themselves, but also with their other neighbours.

Waterton Biosphere Reserve

The Waterton Lakes National Park Biosphere Reserve:

  • was declared a reserve in 1979 (three years after Glacier National Park, USA)
  • is the first national park in Canada to take part in the program and Canada's second biosphere reserve (of seven)
  • core area is Waterton Lakes National Park
  • zone of cooperation includes surrounding ranch lands
  • goal is to bring together all interest groups to cooperatively address resource management concerns affecting park and non-park lands because these lands are interconnected within a larger ecosystem

The biosphere reserves program, called "Man and Biosphere" (MAB), was started by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in 1970. The programs goal is to achieve a better understanding of the relationship between humans and the natural environment by integrating knowledge and experience from both natural and social sciences.

As of 1999, there were more than 356 reserves in 90 countries worldwide. UNESCO has declared 193 regions, each representative of the main natural regions of the world. Of these, 12 are in Canada. Waterton Biosphere Reserve represents Rocky Mountains and bunchgrass prairie landscapes.

Biosphere reserves ideally consist of two components:

  1. A core protected area which is relatively undisturbed. This provides a "benchmark" or ecological standard for comparison purposes with altered landscapes.
  2. A zone of cooperation adjacent to the core where a variety of resource uses take place.

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve brings people together to identify problems and their solutions based on the premise that the future health of the environment must be addressed through its sustainable and wise use.

World Heritage Site

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) designates cultural and natural heritage sites that have outstanding global value. As of 1995, there are about 469 World Heritage Sites, 350 Cultural Sites, 102 Natural Sites, and 17 Mixed Sites.

The World Heritage designation gives a cultural or natural heritage site global recognition for its uniqueness. UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site on December 6th, 1995. The park was designated because it was an "outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes" - specifically because of its distinctive climate and landforms, the abrupt meeting of mountain and prairie, and its tri-oceanic divide (waters flowing toward three oceans). In addition to its exceptional natural beauty, it was also designated a World Heritage Site because of the cultural importance of its designation as an International Peace Park. The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park mirrors the freedom and friendship shared by Canada and the United States.

Natural Heritage Sites will be added to the World Heritage List if they fall under the following criteria:

  • The site must represent a major stage of the earth's evolutionary history, e.g. "the age of reptiles." Waterton/Glacier has significant features representing the Precambrian including ancient rock (1200 to 1500 million years old) with associated fossilized blue-green algae. Paleontologists (those who study ancient life) come from around the world to study geology here!

  • The site must have outstanding examples of significant geological processes and biological evolution. Waterton/Glacier's intersection of prairie, woodland and alpine communities - influenced by a unique climate - has resulted in the development of diverse plant and animal communities.

  • The site must contain unique, rare or superlative natural phenomena, formations or features, or areas of exceptional natural beauty. Waterton Lakes National Park abounds with examples.

  • The site must contain habitats where populations of rare or endangered species of plants and animals still survive. Both parks protect many examples of rare or endangered species of plants and animals.

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References:

Waterton Lakes National Park Resource Guide, Parks Canada

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