Glacier getting back to normal as shutdown ends

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A skier makes his way across a snowy frozen stream in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park should get back to normal this week after more than a month-long government shutdown.

One of the top priorities for the Park is to begin the seasonal staff hiring and to get to work on the Sperry Chalet contract, which has been in limbo since the shutdown.

Phase II of the Sperry Chalet reconstruction is set to begin this summer, Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley noted.

A public meeting on the chalet and a meeting with potential contractors was scheduled for January, but that all stopped when the shutdown happened.

Alley said the Park is working on rescheduling the Sperry meeting.

The backcountry chalet partially rebuilt last summer after burning in the 2017 Sprague wildfire. Phase II will finish the work.

The Park will also start up its interpretative winter tours this week, with school kids taking weekday educational tours in the Park. Thousands of students visit Glacier each winter, with funding help from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

But with the Dec. 22 government shutdown, those outings stopped entirely. Thousands of school children typically visit Glacier on snowshoe field trips in the winter.

In addition, free snowshoe tours for the general public start up on Saturday at the Apgar visitor center. Snowshoe tours start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekend day. The tours are free, but a park pass is required. Folks should bring their own snowshoes, or they can rent them for $2 a pair in the Park.

President Trump late Friday said he would end the partial federal government shutdown until at least Feb. 15, which will reopen government services while Congress tries to hammer out a deal on southern border security. House Democrats and Trump have been fighting over building a wall along the Mexican border. Trump wants one — Democrats mostly don’t.

Park rangers worked during the shutdown without pay. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is plowed to Lake McDonald Lodge in the winter. All other Park roads are gated and closed for the winter to vehicles, but they are open to hiking and skiing, but not bicycles.

The Park remind visitors that walking dogs on trails and closed roads is illegal — people walking dogs illegally was a problem during the shutdown.

Alley noted that dogs can disturb wildlife that are already stressed by winter conditions in Glacier. Currently there’s about 18 to 24 inches of snow on the level in the Apgar area.

Meanwhile, politicians will try to hammer out a border deal in the next few weeks, or the government could shut down again Feb. 15.

“This short-term deal ends the shutdown and provides Montana’s dedicated federal employees with the paychecks they need,” said Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte. “The deal also gives Democrats and Republicans an opportunity to come to the table, negotiate in good faith, and find a long-term solution to fund the government and secure our borders. Based on what I saw when I toured the southern border this week and talked with ranchers and border patrol agents about the challenges they face, we can’t afford to have open borders, and we must make critical investments in substantial, strong physical barriers to secure them.”

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, will help lead a small bipartisan group of lawmakers tasked with crafting border security legislation, his office said. The bipartisan group will include Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois, as well as Republican Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Roy Blunt of Missouri.

“For the first time in 35 days, 800,000 federal workers and their families can breathe a sigh of relief. But the deal struck today is only a short-term fix to this irresponsible government shutdown. Now we’ve got to work together to craft a long-term bipartisan solution that actually protects our communities and doesn’t undermine American workers,” Tester said in a statement on Friday.

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