This week, across the U.S. we celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. In Northwest Montana, we are fortunate to have Glacier National Park, the jewel of the Crown of the Continent – a place of such natural beauty and spirit that words simply cannot do it justice. It is what John Muir described in 1901 as “the best care-killing scenery on the continent.”
It is far older than any of us but in many ways, it continues to evolve. We think of Glacier not just for what it has been but for what it is becoming. It is a place that connects our past with the future, inspires generations of families and teaches like no other classroom.
This Centennial, we aren’t just thinking about the huge accomplishment of maintaining the park’s natural beauty – we are thinking about preserving this wonder for generations to come. Our Superintendent, Jeff Mow, describes this as being in the “forever business.”
The Glacier Conservancy embraces our park partnership with passion, increasing sources of philanthropy and maintaining a program that will assure the next century of the park experience. It is not a small task, especially in an era of dramatically increased visitation and environmental change.
Now, more than ever, is the time for all of us who have understood the transformative power of our national parks to give back. At Glacier, we talk a lot about the margin of excellence; our ability to resolve the funding capacity between what is available through federal resources and the actual requirement to assure the visitor experience. This gap in the margin is not getting any easier.
Although Glacier predates the founding of the NPS, available funding has declined by every metric for the last decade. That is why the idea of a public-private partnership is so critical.
Some of our work is obvious, including bear boxes, signage and helping maintain over 700 miles of trails. Other work is visionary, setting the stage for the next generation and preserving the park for our children’s children.
Our success does not rely just on how we leverage our assets, but also on how we leverage ideas. That means the power of partnership delivered through extraordinary programs – for us, it means understanding the unique opportunities that are rooted in Glacier.
Through Conservancy grants, scientists have unique opportunities to study climate change in America’s best outdoor classroom.
This fall, the Hands Across Borders Conference will bring together public lands leadership from across the globe for the very first Trans-boundary Peace Park Practitioner’s Workshop, where they will share best practices for trans-border access, management and connectivity.
In the past year, over 8,000 K-12 students had their first opportunity to be in the park.
We are determining how best to assure an authentic Glacier experience in the digital age.
All of us know the enormity of the risk this park faces. But ask yourselves, as Hillel suggested, if not us, who, if not now, when?
That is what the Conservancy does; to make certain that this special place is available for everyone to enjoy, to experience and to learn, from generation to generation. I encourage you connect with us in person and consider giving back to the parks that may have given so much to you.
Glacier National Park Conservancy is the official philanthropic partner for Glacier National Park. With your support, we provide funding for vital projects and programs that preserve and protect the Park. You can learn more here www.glacier.org. Give Back to Glacier Week starts August 19 and runs through August 28, coinciding with the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service.