09/14/2012 06:23 EDT | Updated 11/14/2012 05:12 EST

Environmentalists' buyout of Flathead Valley mining complete

Environmentalists in the East Kootenay are celebrating after finally raising enough money to keep miners and oil companies out of the Flathead Valley, south of Fernie, B.C.

The B.C. Liberals government gave into environmental pressure and banned all resource development in the pristine wilderness valley a few years ago. The legislation originated from a memorandum of understanding signed in 2010 by former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer.

But environmentalists were told by the province they'd have to help raise the money to buy out mining claims in order to complete the deal.

Now they've done it, according to John Lounds, the CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which raised over $10 million to protect the Flathead, along with their U.S. counterpart, The Nature Conservancy.

Half of the money came from the federal government, while a further $2.5 million came from international private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

"We like to call what you can do 'results that you can walk on,' so what we are all about is getting conservation work completed. Now this deal is also completed, as far as environmentalists are concerned."

'Serengeti of the North'

One mining company has refused to buy into the Flathead arrangement. Cline Mining is suing the province for cancelling its mining claims, and are seeking much more than $10 million in compensation.

Conservation groups call the Flathead River Valley the "Serengeti of the North" because it supports an abundance of life, including bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, elk and the highest density of grizzly bears in the interior of North America.

The Flathead River system flows undammed from British Columbia into Montana and contains some of the purest water in North America, according to The Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The entire river basin is part a trans-boundary ecosystem that spans southwest Alberta, southeast British Columbia and northern Montana. It forms the western boundary of Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park, and has been named both a Wild and Scenic River and World Heritage Site.