Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Date of Inscription: 1995
It was the Rotary Clubs of Alberta and Montana that proposed, in 1931, uniting Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first such park in the world. It was intended not just to promote peace and goodwill between nations, but also to underscore the international nature of wilderness and the co-operation required in its protection.
Justification of outstanding universal value
The Waterton Glacier International Peace Park was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee under the following criteria:
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 draining 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.
And certainly within the two parks, 526-square-kilometre Waterton Lakes and 4,051-square-kilometre Glacier, nature has provided much that is worthy of protection: high mountains and deep canyons, forest belts and prairie grasslands, deep glacial-trough lakes and rivers that feed three oceans. Indeed, few areas can claim as much diversity within such a concentrated area. Not least, the abrupt rise of the Rockies from the prairie flatlands has made the twin parks the place “where the mountains meet the prairie.”
Matching the range of ecoregions is a corresponding diversity of wildlife - mountain goats, bighorn sheep, coyotes, grizzly bears, scores of birds, and a celebrated “international” herd of elk that migrates annually between summer mountain habitat in Glacier and winter prairie ranges in Waterton.
An Indigenous presence in the region goes back 12,000 years. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is part of the traditional territory and a place of significance for the Blackfoot (Niitsitapi). The land, water, air, animals, and plants are all interconnected with significant meaning, and are woven together into the fabric of contemporary Blackfoot life.