354 Waterton Glacier International Peace Park – 1995

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In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier National Park (Montana, United States) to form the world’s first International Peace Park. Situated on the border between the two countries and offering outstanding scenery, the park is exceptionally rich in plant and mammal species as well as prairie, forest, and alpine and glacial features.

Brief synthesis

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has a distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface and tri-ocean hydrographical divide.  It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna.

Criterion (vii):

Both national parks were originally designated by their respective nations because of their superlative mountain scenery, their high topographic relief, glacial landforms and abundant diversity of wildlife and wildflowers.

Criterion (ix):

The property occupies a pivotal position in the Western Cordillera of North America, resulting in the evolution of plant communities and ecological complexes that occur nowhere else in the world.  Maritime weather systems unimpeded by mountain ranges to the north and south allow plants and animals characteristic of the Pacific Northwest to extend to and across the continental divide in the park.  To the east, prairie communities nestle against the mountains with no intervening foothills, producing an interface of prairie, montane and alpine communities. The International Peace Park includes the headwaters of three major watersheds, which drain through significantly different biomes to different oceans. The biogeographical significance of this tri-ocean divide is increased by the many vegetated connections between the headwaters.  The net effect is to create a unique assemblage and high diversity of flora and fauna concentrated in a small area.



At 457,614 ha, the International Peace Park forms the centrepiece of the much larger transboundary “Crown of the Continent” ecosystem.   The inscribed property alone is of sufficient size to maintain many of the scenic values and geomorphologic processes for which it was inscribed.  Over 95% of the property is managed for wilderness values,  but the property must be managed within the Crown of the Continent ecosystem context to ensure the genetic viability and long-term survival of many species, including top carnivores such as grizzly bear, cougar, gray wolf and wolverine, which may roam great distances outside the park boundaries. Likewise, the Flathead River system, which forms the western and southern boundaries of Glacier National Park and is home to important populations of fish species, originates outside the International Peace Park. Much of the property is bordered by other protected areas, adding important elements of connectivity for wildlife movement.  While some barriers to connectivity within the larger ecosystem remain, there have been efforts by both countries to manage the Crown of the Continent to address these issues. These efforts will need to continue to ensure the long-term protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. 


Protection and management requirements

The two national parks are each managed and protected under their respective national legislative frameworks.  Glacier National Park is managed under the authority of the Organic Act of August 25, 1916 which established the United States National Park Service. Glacier National Park also has enabling legislation which provides broad congressional direction regarding the primary purposes of the park.   Waterton Lakes National Park is managed under the authority of the Canada National Parks Act and its associated regulations, which govern the protection and management of the natural and cultural resources of the park. Day-to-day management is directed by the Park Superintendent of each park according to the relevant legislative and regulatory mandates of the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada. The U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada respectively maintain government to government relations with the Blackfeet Tribe as well as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Kootenai, Pend d’Oreille, and Salish Tribes) in the United States and the Blackfoot Confederacy (the Kainai, the Siksika, and the northern Piikani Nations)  and the Ktunaxa Nation in Canada. 

Management goals and objectives for the property have been developed through management plans for both parks, specifically: the Glacier National Park General Management Plan (1999) and the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada Management Plan 2010.  Although the management of each component of the property is directed by its own management plan, there are a number of guiding principles related to natural and cultural resource management, visitor use and interpretation, science and research and relations with Aboriginal peoples that are common to both parks, reflecting strong cooperation among the property managers.  The management plans and their associated goals and objectives are periodically reviewed and updated with aboriginal, public, stakeholder and partner input, direction and advice. 

A number of pressures arising from issues outside the Peace Park include residential, industrial and infrastructure development, and forestry practices in both countries. Park management plans for the property have identified a number of resource protection measures to address these pressures, such as environmental assessment processes, zoning, ecological integrity and visitor experience monitoring, as well as education programs.

In 2011, further to the Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Protection, Climate Action and Energy signed by the Government of the Province of British Columbia and the Government of the State of Montana in 2010, British Columbia passed legislation to remove mining, oil and gas exploration and development as permissible land uses in the Flathead watershed in Canada thereby providing added environmental protection to the International Peace Park. The Crown Managers Partnership (a group of federal, state, provincial, tribal and first nations land managers) promotes transboundary collaborative strategies that focus on the long-term ecological health of the larger transboundary Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.  In addition, the American Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative provides additional opportunities for cooperation across jurisdictional and national boundaries.

Special attention will be given over the long term to monitoring and taking appropriate actions related to a number of factors in and near the property.  Specifically, attention will focus on the effects of infrastructure development, the potential for water and air pollution, livestock grazing, impacts of biological resource use, impacts of climate change, and invasive or hyper-abundant species.  Attention will also be given to current or potential logging and physical resource extraction activities near the property.

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