In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier National Park (Montana, United States) to form the world's first International Peace Park. Situated on the border between the two countries and offering outstanding scenery, the park is exceptionally rich in plant and mammal species as well as prairie, forest, and alpine and glacial features.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has a distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface and tri-ocean hydrographical divide. It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna. 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.
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, which drain 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.
The International Peace Park forms the centrepiece of the much larger transboundary “Crown of the Continent” ecosystem. The inscribed property alone is of sufficient size to maintain many of the scenic values and geomorphologic processes for which it was inscribed. Over 95% of the property is managed for wilderness values, but the property must be managed within the Crown of the Continent ecosystem context to ensure the genetic viability and long-term survival of many species, including top carnivores such as grizzly bear, cougar, gray wolf and wolverine, which may roam great distances outside the park boundaries.
The Flathead River system, which forms the western and southern boundaries of Glacier National Park and is home to important populations of fish species, originates outside the International Peace Park. Much of the property is bordered by other protected areas, adding important elements of connectivity for wildlife movement. While some barriers to connectivity within the larger ecosystem remain, there have been efforts by both countries to manage the Crown of the Continent to address these issues. These efforts will need to continue to ensure the long-term protection of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.