Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Preserving The Parks

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was recently recognized as a Biosphere Reserve and, in 1995, designated again as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site. This lofty title means several things. The world's first international peace parks hold unparalleled resources, they are in nearly pristine environmental condition and they need protection to stay that way.

Alpine Protection

Mix high altitude, harsh weather and heavy visitor traffic, and you've got a recipe for the destruction of a fragile area. For example, much of the soil that produces the parks' wildflowers is only a few inches thick. In places such as Logan Pass, where thousands of hikers come daily, indiscriminate wandering would trample and destroy the thin net of vegetation that gives the Hanging Gardens their fame.

To protect fragile soil and plants, park trail crews built a boardwalk that spans part of the 1.5 mile trail from the visitor center to Hidden Lake Overlook, one of the most popular sights in the park. Temporary restrictions are implemented each summer to limit off-trail travel that can seriously damage fragile alpine flowers as they emerge. 

Don't be a meadow stomper! Tread lightly whether walking or skiing on nature trails or backcountry trails. Do not walk in areas closed to foot traffic.

Fire Management

Fire is an essential natural process that revitalizes forests. It creates new meadows for grazing wildlife, removes choked undergrowth from wooded areas and fertilizes certain soil types. As a result of fire management, fuels have been reduced in developed areas.

To protect campgrounds, hotel areas and other developed areas in the park, the National Park Service and Parks Canada have created predictive modeling and other balancing systems to gauge a fire's potential to burn out of control and determine when and how suppression actions should occur. Human-caused fires are suppressed, with the exception of carefully managed prescribed fires set by park specialists to burn specific areas. 

Once a forest fire is controlled, park workers may spend more time eliminating the scars of suppression—fire lines—than they did fighting the actual blaze. This is a relatively recent change in fire management practices. (A 1967 fire line on Huckleberry Mountain in Glacier, which was cut with bulldozers before this policy was in effect, can still be seen today.)

Historic 2003 Fire Season

A record dry and hot summer set the stage for historic wildland fires on Glacier's west side during 2003. Although portions of 136,000 acres were affected by the fires, more than 85 percent of the park's 1 million acres, including virtually all the park's east side, remained untouched. Many fires burned in remote places that are seldom viewed by visitors, but even those areas will soon be carpeted with wildflowers, forbs, and shrubs before trees begin to regenerate and start another forest. This mixture of young and old trees and other vegetation creates a healthy ecosystem for both plants and wildlife. Educational programs and materials are available; inquire at park visitor centers for more information.

Plant Management

Glacier's native plant restoration crews have been hard at work restoring vegetation to disturbed parklands. Crews revegetate approximately 5—8 acres each year, including front and backcountry campgrounds, roadsides and other areas of high visitor use. Visitors can take a tour of the park's native plant nursery. Scores of high school students help with projects each year and volunteers are always welcome.

Wildlife Preservation

Park rangers and wardens have the constant duty of asking you and other visitors not to feed wildlife. Safety warnings, animal life histories and explanations of park regulations are part of the rangers' guided walks and evening programs that help educate visitors.

Park rangers and wardens also try to educate the animals themselves. Requiring visitors to keep their food in animalproof containers teaches wildlife that free meals will not be available at campgrounds. Bear management personnel use horns, cracker shells and other annoyances to haze bears away from human developments and roadside areas.

Recycle Your Trash

Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI) has a special deposit on all aluminum cans, which is redeemable at any store in the park. Recycling receptacles are available in both parks for some materials, and there are plenty of trash bins for other refuse. GPI, the National Park Service, and Parks Canada conduct in-house recycling programs for wastepaper and other recyclables. 

A Plan for Glacier's Future

To help guide the future of the park's management, in 1999, Glacier National Park finalized its comprehensive General Management Plan and accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/EIS), which will guide park management for the next 15—20 years. These documents provide a framework for protecting resources and managing visitor use. The final GMP/EIS is available at planning.htm.

Glacier National Park Associates

Comprised of volunteers, this nonprofit organization educates visitors about the park's resources, raises funds for projects and assists park management with volunteer services on various trail clearing and other rehabilitation projects. For more information, please see "Who's Who at the Parks" on pages 30—31.

Glacier National Park License Plate

For Montana residents, the Glacier National Park vanity plate, featuring a beautiful photograph of Lake McDonald is available. Each plate costs $35 ($20 to renew), with $20 going directly to The Glacier National Park Fund to support projects in Glacier National Park in preservation, education, research, or special celebrations. For more information, please call The Glacier National Park Fund at (406) 888-7910 or visit the website at