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Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Natural Area, National Park or Protected Area

Astride the U.S.-Canada border and along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, your spirits will soar among the sculpted mountains and crystal clear waters of the world's first international peace park and International Dark Sky Association designation to cross an international border. Nature recognizes no boundaries in the heart of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, where a wild collision of landscapes provides a stronghold for North America's most diverse array of wildlife. More than two million visitors each year discover a new height of adventure at these sister parks in Montana and Alberta, known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Wildlife have freedom to roam across borders in Waterton-Glacier and the Crown of the Continent ecosystem – Kim Keating/USFWS

Local Rotary Clubs on each side of the 49th parallel inspired the U.S. Congress and Canada’s Parliament to establish the world’s first International Peace Park in 1932. Rotarians, park managers, and school children reaffirm the peace with annual hands across the border pledge. The conjoined park is now a United Nations World Heritage Site.

The peace park was established for two primary reasons, which endure today as the guiding principles for peace park managers at Glacier and Waterton. First, the designation facilitates stronger shared management of park resources, recognizing that the parks' rivers, lakes, wildlife, and aboriginal heritage are not contained within administrative and international borders. Second, the peace park celebrates and constantly reaffirms the commitment of two sovereign nations to maintain friendly relations.

In 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) formally endorsed the petition of the United States and Canada to establish Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as one of the world's few cross-border World Heritage Sites. Over the past eight decades, Waterton-Glacier has served as the model for other peace parks or "transboundary protected areas," on five continents across the globe.

The spirit of the peace park date back to the very beginning of both Waterton and Glacier parks established respectively in 1895 and 1910. Waterton's first superintendent, John "Kootenai" Brown, and early Glacier ranger Henry 'Death on the Trail' Reynolds were friends who cooperated closely in the area of Waterton Lake, which is split in half by the 49th Parallel.

The spirit turned into the letter of law in 1932, a year after several Rotary clubs from Alberta and Montana met at the Prince of Wales Hotel for the first "annual goodwill meeting" convened to discuss the desire to foster "a worldwide International Peace Movement". This was an ideal vigorously pursued by International Rotary following the massive bloodletting of World War One. The idea of establishing an International Peace Park in the Waterton/Glacier area was unanimously endorsed.

As prominent business and community leaders, Rotarians quickly recruited legislative champions in both national capitols. The American bill passed on April 25, 1932, and the Canadian bill was approved on June 16, 1932. The designation and celebration of the International Peace Park took place during two ceremonies. The first was held at Glacier Park Hotel, East Glacier, Mt., on June 18, 1932. The second, after some organizational problems and delays, was held at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Park, on July 4, 1936.

The International Peace Park Association (IPPA) (sponsored by the Rotary Clubs) continues its activities by promoting international goodwill through annual assemblies, by erecting symbolic artifacts, and by promoting the idea of international peace parks elsewhere. Currently, the IPPA is urging both Canada and the United States to consider allowing regrowth of the previously cut border swath dividing the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Allowing the 20 foot (6 m) border swath to grow in would be a visual reminder that nature does not recognize artificial boundaries.

The united parks represent the need for cooperation and stewardship in a world of shared resources. Cooperation within the Peace Park is reflected in wildlife and vegetation management and search and rescue programs. The parks also share interpretive efforts including joint hikes, programs and exhibits.

Rotary's Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Association has produced an excellent brochure about the Peace Park, which can be downloaded by clicking here. Additional information on Peace Park can be found by ordering a free National Geographic Crown of the Continent MapGuide here.

In recent years, the two parks have helped organize and lead an inter-agency forum of local, state, provincial, tribal and federal resource management agencies throughout the Crown of the Continent region. The Crown of the Continent Managers Partnership seeks to:

*build awareness of common interests and issues in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem*

*improve relationships and opportunities for collaboration across mandates and borders*

*identify collaborative work already underway and opportunities for further cooperation*

In 2003, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced plans to expand the Canadian park to bring British Columbia into the Peace Park community. The proposed expansion would align the Canadian park's western boundary with Glacier's along the North Fork of the Flathead River. At this point, the BC provincial government has not supported the expansion of the peace park.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Listing