The area is known for its natural environment and biological diversity. It includes the Burgess Shale site, a World Heritage Site in its own right from 1980 to 1984, when it was included in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks WHS designation.
In 1983 Canada nominated Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks for inclusion on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. UNESCO accepted this nomination in 1984 on the basis of a recommendation by IUCN. The original nomination and IUCN's recommendation drew attention to the area's "exceptional natural beauty", "habitats of rare and endangered species" and its natural landforms such as mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, canyons, limestone caves, and the unique Burgess Shale fossils. That year the UNESCO World Heritage Committee "requested the Canadian authorities to consider adding the adjacent Provincial Parks of Mount Robson, Hamber, Mount Assiniboine and Kananaskis" to the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks site. At a 1990 meeting, "the Committee welcomed the Canadian proposal to include, in the Rocky Mountains Parks site, Mount Robson, Hamber and Assiniboine Provincial Parks, following its request at its Eighth Session in 1984." Kananaskis (renamed Peter Lougheed Provincial Park) has not been included within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site.