Water in the Flathead is so pure that scientists use it as a benchmark for measuring water quality in rivers around the world. Image: Jaime Rojo @iLCP
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"I BELIEVE in connected landscapes; so connected that my children can walk from one point to another."
Chris Bunting, Y2Y Supporter since 2007

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Crown of the Continent

Overview

The majestic and wild Crown of the Continent ecosystem (COC) is one of only two remaining areas within the Yellowstone to Yukon region where grizzly bears and other wide-ranging species can move back and forth between Canada and the U.S. (the other is the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor). The protected areas complex, centering on the trans-boundary Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, is critical for maintaining high-quality, secure habitat for grizzlies. The existence of these protected areas is the main reason the COC has more grizzly bears than any other place in the lower 48 States.

COC PA Map No Hill

Value to Yellowstone to Yukon Vision

Thanks to protected lands such as Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park, as well as the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wildernesses, the COC is considered one of the most ecologically intact regions in the southern portion of the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Maintaining the integrity of this core habitat is important to safeguarding the refuge this area provides wildlife.

Threats

Waterton Front. Image: Stephen Legault
Waterton Front. Image: Stephen Legault
Outside of these protected zones, however, grizzlies and other wildlife are under threat from increasing urbanization, poorly managed recreation activities, wildlife-vehicle collisions, extractive industries such as coal mining, and high human-caused wildlife mortality. Additionally, key pieces are missing, including some of the most productive and diverse carnivore, fish and plant habitats on the continent (e.g. Flathead Valley in British Columbia, Castle Valley in Alberta). If critical connections are not maintained and restored, the COC is vulnerable to becoming an island, isolated from other core areas in the Yellowstone to Yukon system.

Y2Y Goals and Gains

Goal: Y2Y is working collaboratively with its partners to secure high-quality wildlife habitat that will enable wide-ranging species to move from those areas to neighboring priority areas, including the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains, Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor, the High Divide, and the Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot.

Gains:  On November 16, 2016, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the cancellation of oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine in Montana. This was a momentous and essential step towards permanent protection of these sacred Blackfeet lands that are also important headwaters and connectivity habitat for grizzlies and other wildlife.

Y2Y and its partners have made significant gains to reduce threats in the Flathead Valley. In 2011, oil and gas development was officially banned by the B.C. government on 400,000 acres (161,874 ha) of land. The U.S. Congress passed similar legislation in 2014 and impressively withdrew 430,000 acres (174,014 ha) in the Flathead from oil and gas leasing. Also, in a precedent-setting action, Teck Resources Limited purchased some 17,660 acres (7,150 ha) of land in B.C.’s Flathead and Elk River Valleys and set them aside for conservation. (See more progress)

What We Are Working On Now

Flathead Wild: As one of the last unprotected unsettled valleys in southern Canada, Y2Y and its partners aim to protect a portion of the area as a national park and designate the remainder as a Wildlife Management Area to connect it to Banff National Park.

Mapping the Wolverine Way: Y2Y is supporting research that is investigating the distribution of Alberta’s southern wolverine populations outside protected areas, with hopes that this new understanding will help us ensure they remain connected with their American counterparts.

Making Highway 3 Wildlife-Friendly: Y2Y is working to make this east-west highway, which runs parallel to the Canada-U.S. border, safer for wildlife and people by engaging partners to promote wildlife over- and underpasses with key decision-makers.

Private Land: Y2Y is working with land trusts and willing landowners to acquire undeveloped private lands that have been identified as vital to wildlife movement. 

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Related Information:

Protected Areas and Public Land

Transportation

Policy

Crown of the Continent Private Land

Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative

Central Canadian Rocky Mountains

Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor

Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot

Our Progress