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It All Makes Sense From Up Here

  Mount Haig, B.C.  July 1, 2013.  I’m sitting atop Mount Haig in the Canadian Rockies, just 30 miles (48km) from the Montana border and Glacier National Park.  In front of me, the broken limestone and shale shards descend in sweeping arcs until they merge with ridge lines that go on forever.  Behind me, very close behind me, my seat drops away vertically 2,000 feet to a jewel-like turquoise lake.  I could be on top of Siyeh Peak in Glacier, but I’m not.  I’m sitting on the highest peak in the proposed new Flathead National Park.

From up here you can see how the land fits together.  How a grizzly bear and her cubs might tumble out of their winter den and find security in the high, carved cirque basin to my right from the instincts of male bears or the disturbance of human activities.  How the green blush of a new year’s flowering moves up the valleys and canyon walls.  How the returning winged-ones find willows and cottonwoods along the Flathead River and tributary creeks or in the tall spruce and pine to regenerate the song-filled air.
From below, or from the confines of an office or the busy-ness of town, the view isn’t so clear.  While the Rocky Mountains do go on almost forever, they are being broken, severed, and isolated into islands by Man’s highways, railroads, mountaintop removal coal mines, logging, towns, and other incessant and increasing activity.
This bit of the Rockies, however, this patch I’m sitting in, atop Haig Peak, can be protected as a Canadian national park.  It’s still intact.  Still full of thriving, abundant and diverse wild life.  Fortuitously, it’s on Parks Canada’s list of ten priority new parks or expansions...the result of years of citizen effort.
People have advocated the protection of this 100,000 acres of habitat and spiritual wellspring for over 100 years. Today the campaign is carried by Flathead Wild!  Called Waterton’s  “Missing Piece”, I only have to glance at the map flapping in my wind-drenched lap to understand how Haig Peak fits into the whole.

Waterton is too small to be an effective biological reserve.  At a 130,00 acres (5,2576 hectares) it covers just the Alberta side of the Continental Divide, and is not large enough to retain the biological richness of the southern Canadian Rockies.  The proposed Flathead National Park in British Columbia would almost double the protected area, incorporate the richer, more diverse habitat and species on the west side of the Divide, and protect Glacier National Park’s boundary along the international border.  The new park would serve as a “National Park Wilderness Reserve” and provide the only wildlife sanctuary in southeast British Columbia. 

North of where I sit, I want to see the mountains of Banff National Park.  But I can’t.  I can only see the mountains and valleys that lie between me and that iconic park.  It may seem a long way away but I suspect you know that it’s not.  Golden eagles, all sorts of birds of prey, and our smaller feathered friends migrate up and down the Backbone of the Continent between Mexico and Alaska (!) twice a year.  Wolves, bears, and wolverines traverse such distances in their peripatetic wanderings.   It may be “out of sight”, but it’s not out of our mind and consciousness nor that of our animate kin.
A new national park will only help protect part of Nature’s wealth.  That’s why the Flathead Wild!  calls for legislating a Wildlife Management Area for the public lands between the new park and Banff.  The Wildlife Management Area would allow all sorts of human activities, including logging, but it would ensure that the habitat remain healthy and connected north-to-south, and onward through as-yet-unborn generations.

From my mountaintop perch it all makes sense.  Mount Haig is not only the highest peak, it’s also the northern-most point in the proposed park.  South of me I see Commerce, Sage, and Kishinena creeks, and all the jagged, jumbled peaks in between.  For me, its a landscape to explore, protect, and treasure.

I hope you’ll join me in the exploration and the effort.   ~ Dave Hadden, Director, Headwaters Montana