The Glacier Fund: Supporting The Crown Of The Continent

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Avalanche Lake is a short hike from Lake McDonald Lodge. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Editor's note: Glacier National Park lies across a sprawling landscape in northern Montana. And within that landscape are many needs, needs that the National Park Service can't always afford to manage itself. That's where the Glacier Fund comes in. In this installment of the Traveler's Essential Friends project, we introduce you to the Fund and its mission in the park.

Wherever you go in Glacier National Park, the heart of the region known as the Crown of the Continent, you’re likely to see the great work of the Glacier National Park Fund. Just some of the projects this non-profit friends group has supported since 1999 include studies of avalanche corridors above the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, helping kids “reconnect” with nature and feel comfortable in the outdoors, and trail maintenance.

In these days of scant federal dollars, the Fund’s vital mission is to support park staff in ways that will ensure Glacier and its resources are preserved for today and will last beyond tomorrow. No surprise, then, that the group has worked on trail rehabilitation projects, nurtured citizen scientists on beneficial research projects, created notebooks to help park visitors keep track of the wildlife they spot, and provided bear-proof storage boxes to protect campers and bears alike.

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That may sound relatively straight-forward and appear to be a fundamentally local effort, but the Glacier Fund is a conduit for literally millions of dollars of donations that flow in from across a country grateful for this group’s support of such an iconic park.

Ever ride a Red Jammer down the Sun Road? The Fund helped contribute the money needed to restore a fleet of 33 Jammers, and created an endowment to help keep the fleet on the road in the years to come.

Another endowment, one with a $1 million goal, is being built by the Fund to support maintenance of the more than 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier. Research underwritten by the organization is delving into the wildlife corridors that tie Glacier National Park to the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the south and the Canadian Rockies to the north—studies that are key to species survival in this increasingly developed world.

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With help from the Glacier Fund, the fleet of Red Jammers stays on the road at Glacier National Park. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Though the National Park Service is tasked with ensuring your enjoyment in the national parks, it’s increasingly unable to cover all the bases. In the park’s Many Glacier area, for example, the Glacier Fund is responsible for an accessible trail to the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. It has also worked to preserve such historic structures as the Sperry and Granite chalets—stone- and-timber waystations in the high country.

Looking ahead, the Fund endeavors to create a $1 million endowment for projects that nurture park stewards— already it has brought more than 30,000 kids into Glacier to experience Discover Glacier programs. It also provides annual funding for trail work and to build an endowment fund for native plant restoration.

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Mountain goats near Logan Pass. Kurt Repanshek photo.

But that’s just part of the Fund’s roadmap. With the park’s rich wildlife resources, the organization is committed to increasing wildlife research and, where necessary, restoring habitat. The Fund plans to raise more than $200,000 for bull trout research and restoration, to fund ongoing research into wolverines and lynx, and to pay for research into how Glacier’s grizzlies react to humans. You can be a part of these efforts.

Coming Sunday: Insider tips from the Glacier Fund on how to enjoy Glacier National Park.

Coming next Wednesday: The Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

Comments

I would say glaciers are even more beautiful than waterfalls. And the way they slowly flow is fascinating. Great initiative to teach more about them!

I'm looking forward to the "Insider Tips" to see if I completely missed anything or brilliantly figured it out on my own.

Steve, do your fellow readers and the Traveler a favor—when you peruse the Fund's Insider Tips this Sunday, consider yourself invited to weigh-in with your own ideas. The locals may have an inside track, but leave it to the serious explorer like you to come up with their own "brilliantly" devised destinations!

Isn't "Crown of the Continent" a pretty presumptious title?

As for "how to enjoy Glacier," I encourage not going. Just returned from an event on the Blackfoot Res. The park itself was crowded with too many cars. Apparently July set a visitiation record. There was also the 45 minute delay and five-mile backup of cars. Then no parking at Logan Pass. It took half an hour to get through the West Glacier entrance gate, and the rangers just started waving people in for free. The park should really do a better job with the transportation system. This sacred land is not ours to do with what we will. We must preserve it. Cars are causing global warming, which has melted Glacier's glaciers. Cars are keeping people from experiending the sacred in the park. It's almost like going to Disneyland, but at least at Disneyland, you're prepared for Goofy and Donald Duck. I went on a boat tour of St. Mary Lake where the driver was so sarcastic that it ruined the sacred nature of the lake. Showed up to a telescope program where the volunteer ranger couldn't control the large crowd, which consisted of several intoxicated young people who couldn't see the sacred in the sky.

So Glacier has lost the Sacred. Don't go.

Shame on the Chief, there are many many trails to hike in the Park. Much more then just going to the sun road. I have worked and visited the park for some 46 years. Perhaps the Chief should park the car and do some hiking into the back country.