Protecting the Flathead
Wilder Than My Regular Hiking Spots
By Y2Y Flathead Associate Krystal Northey
As Y2Y`s summer Flathead Associate, this was my introductory trip to the Flathead Valley. My goal was to connect to the area; experience one of southern Canada`s wildest, most intact landscapes firsthand, and understand why it needs to be protected, so that I could share my stories to Albertans this summer and gain their support for its protection.
My logical mind understood what a wild, intact landscape meant but when I saw it firsthand I truly realized how special this place really is.
The forest was lusher, denser and somehow wilder than my regular hiking spots. We didn’t follow a set trail as one might in Banff National Park. One simply didn’t exist--this is wild country.
Lichen of every color covered steep cliff-faces; the water was so clear that you could see every fish within its waters. From hoof prints and bear dung to the multiple rub trees I saw, the landscape was packed with signs of life. It is no wonder this place is often referred to as the “Serengeti,” of Southern Canada.
From the top of Mount Haig, I and the Flathead Wild Campaign team I was with, gazed at the mountains of Waterton National Park. Farther south we spotted the towering peaks of Glacier National Park.
From this point, the highest in the proposed Flathead National Park, it all made sense. The region is ONE natural system, separated only by the real, yet imagined, territorial boundaries drawn by man. It’s the missing piece of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park—a place that needs to be protected.
Inspiration Gone Wild
The trip worked. Inspired, overwhelmed, and beaming with awe for this wild place, I set off to share my love for the Flathead with southern Albertans and seek their support to protect it.
No matter where I go, from Waterton to Calgary’s MEC, Albertans rave about their experiences in the natural world. When asked if they are familiar with the Flathead Valley a pondering stare comes across their face, “Never heard of the place,” they say.
As I explain why we would like to get the job of protecting the Flathead done, the same question comes to light: “Why do you want the area to be a national park if wildlife in the Flathead is already thriving?”
“Simply put,” I respond, “a national park helps us guarantee that wildlife in the Flathead can succeed not only in the present, but also in the future.”
The status of a national park protects the area from the threats posed by logging, resource extraction and other activities that hinder the success of wild areas. More importantly, as a National Park Wilderness Reserve, the area would remain untouched save for trail maintenance and tent sites.
Before the next question can even be posed, I make my pitch. “You too can help protect this special place.” Any person over the age of 18 can sign a postcard in support of completing the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park system (or anyone younger can encourage their parents to take action too). Y2Y will even mail the card to the appropriate political representative.
The Support is Stacking Up
These efforts seem to be working as the postcards are stacking up. Farmers, mothers, fathers, hikers, business people – even Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi – are taking action. At this rate, I will have thousands of them by the end of the summer – evidence of enthusiastic support for protecting the Flathead.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll consider stopping by my booth too. Click here to see if I’m at a location near you. Together we can fill in the missing piece of one of our continent’s most stunning, and important, park systems.
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