In passing: Iversen, former superintendent of Glacier, banned snowmobiles in the Park

by Chris Peterson
Editor | April 13, 2020 1:10 PM

Former Glacier National Park superintendent Phillip R. Iversen died April 7 at his home in Kalispell with his family by his side.

He was 96.

Iversen was superintendent of Glacier from February 1974 to September 1980.

During his tenure he made the decision to ban the use of snowmobiles in Glacier, citing impacts to wildlife, particularly along Lake McDonald.

“It was a good decision for the park and after 30-plus years it may have been the most important decision I ever made on behalf of a national park,” Iversen noted in his 2016 book, “The Centennial of a Great Idea” an autobiography that he wrote examining his career with the National Park Service.

Iversen was also known for pulling the plug on the filming of “Heaven’s Gate” inside the park boundaries. The film transformed the east shore of Two Medicine Lake into the fictitious town of Sweetwater. He found it caused far to much damage to the park and pulled director Michael Cimino’s filming permit. In addition, livestock were killed during filming in Many Glacier.

Cimino at the time claimed that cost the movie millions. The film was one of the greatest flops in Hollywood history.

“My patience with Mr. Cimino had reached the limit and it came to a conclusion when he slaughtered a cow in the park, an attraction for grizzly bears and the contract time limit was exceeded by a couple of weeks. I canceled the contract and instructed Mr. Cimino and company to be out of the park within one week.

“I caught a lot of guff for awhile, mostly from the Kalispell business community because the production was pumping a lot of money into the town and a lot of people were working as extras and laborers. However, to his credit, Mr. Cimino did an excellent job of cleaning up the site, but he did take a few parting shots at me,” Iversen wrote.

Iversen also reversed the decision by previous superintendent William Briggle, who had banned bicycles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road because of safety concerns when the road was open to vehicles.

Iversen, instead, decided on a compromise solution that allows bikes on the road during off-peak times — a policy that remains in effect today.

He also oversaw the reconstruction of the U.S. Highway 2 bridge at the Goat Lick, whose design allows mountain goats to pass under the highway, rather than try to cross it, to get at mineral cliffs on the Middle Fork of the Flathead.

That design saves the lives of countless mountain goats each year.

Iversen’s career in total spanned 30 years with the Park Service. He worked at Grand Canyon National Park twice; was the first park ranger assigned to the newly established C&O Canal National Historic Park in Maryland; and also worked in Petrified Forest National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches, Canyonlands National Park and Natural Bridges National Monuments, Dinosaur National Monument and was assistant regional director of the Midwest Region in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as state director of the National Parks in Utah.

He was a World War II Navy veteran in the Pacific theater. After he retired from the Park Service, he was chairman of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia Falls for a time and served two terms on the School District 6 board.