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Conservancy tops $23.5 million in giving back to Glacier National Park

| May 29, 2024 5:45 AM


The Glacier National Park Conservancy has dedicated about $3.5 million toward supporting a host of projects, research and educational programs in Glacier National Park this season. The giving puts the nonprofit over $20 million in giving to the park since its inception in 2013, when the Glacier National Park Fund merged with the Glacier Natural History Association to form the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy reached the $20 million mark in 2023, pushed to nearly $23.5 million at the start of 2024 and hopes to raise about $4 million this year, making it $27.5 million by the end of the year.

Notable projects include a concerted effort by park staff to restore wilderness areas of Glacier. Most of the park is recommended wilderness, but has not been designated as such under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Still, the park manages most of its backcountry, save for a handful of acres, as such.

Over the past few years years Glacier has mapped its wilderness and identified places where it’s been compromised, such as old metal posts at Sperry Glacier and the removal of large cairns near the glacier that served no purpose.

The Conservancy is also funding research on wolverines, harlequin ducks, bighorn sheep and pikas, to name a few. The pika research is particularly compelling, noted Conservancy Director Doug Mitchell, as the small, but endearing creatures are a bellwether for climate change. The research will focus on genetic sampling as well as preferred habitat use.

Pikas look like a large mouse with big ears and a short tail. They live in talus slopes and need deep snow to insulate their homes in the winter. They’re known for their distinctive “eep!”” call.

The Conservancy receives its primary revenue streams through its operations of stores inside and outside of the park as well as direct donations from donors.

Mitchell noted that over the years the Conservancy has built a partnership between the park and donors and projects come about through the innovation of park leadership.

It also bridges a sometimes significant gap between what the federal government provides for funding, and programs the Park Service envisions.

For example, the Conservancy has long helped fund student field trips to Glacier, the park’s Dark Skies program and the Native American speaks program.

“What I think is special is the collaboration between leadership (of the park and the Conservancy),” Mitchell noted.

“It takes a robust partnership and trust between us,” he added.

That trust really came into being a few years ago when the Sperry Chalet was destroyed in the 2017 Sprague Creek Fire. The Conservancy, through requests by park leadership, was able to fund emergency stabilization to the stone structure so it wouldn’t topple over that approaching winter. Then, once reconstruction of the iconic building began, the Conservancy provided financial support that allowed the crew to stay on site as they were fed and housed through the reconstruction.

That project drew about 1,100 new donors to the Conservancy, Mitchell noted.

“More than half have stayed with us,” Mitchell said.

Over the years the Conservancy has broadened its outreach to include a book club, a robust web site with fun to read blog and zoom presentations by park staff and other experts called “Glacier Conservations.”

The next one coming up features a talk by scientist Brooke Bannerman on her efforts to monitor water quality in lake McDonald.

The talk is coming up June 12 at 6:30 p.m.

To register go to: https://glacier. org/glacier-conversations/ To learn more about the conservancy visit its website at: https://glacier.org/