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Should Glacier NP Be Considered Endangered?


    Glacier National Park's glaciers are on the retreat. Under current conditions, some scientists predict the park will be glacier-less by 2030. And some people think that Glacier's status as a World Heritage Site should be officially termed "endangered" due to the glacial retreat.Glacavalanche_creek_copy    
    Erica Thorson, an Oregon law professor who is pushing for the listing, told The Associated Press in Montana that the effects of global warming “are well-documented and clearly visible in Glacier National Park, and yet the United States refuses to fulfill its obligations under the World Heritage Convention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  
    Here's the rest of the story.



I hesitated for a moment to comment on this, as while there is no doubt that global warming is occurring - a significant portion of this country continues to not acknowledge this, nor the substantial evidence of that warming which has accumulated since 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Glacier National Park has never, in the history of the United States, contained a particularly large or special collection of glaciers. Even within the terms of the contiguous 48 States, the most-outstanding collection of glaciers has always been in North Cascades National Park, not in Glacier National Park. But as North Cascades wasn't established until the 1960's, doesn't have "glacier" in the name, and has never had an iconic on-site Lodge; it simply doesn't get the same press as Glacier National Park. Thus, it is worth noting that in UNESCO's recommendation for listing Waterton-Glacier National Parks as World Heritage Sites, the glaciers aren't even mentioned! Instead, UNESCO lists the following features: outstanding Precambrian rocks and fossils; the biological transition zones between mountain and prairie, as well as between the northern and southern Rocky Mts.; a location sitting astride watersheds into the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans; preserving nationally endangered species, particularly 98% of the world's Westslope Cutthroat Trout; outstanding aesthetic natural beauty; and the cultural and historical significance of being the first cross-border National Park. The closest "glaciers" come to being mentioned in that list is simply the extent to which the glaciers contribute to the overall natural beauty of the Park. You can read the full report here: Of course, that's only sensible, Glacier National Park's glaciers are simply unremarkably on a world level; or even a national level - particularly if you include Alaska. So, while the melting of the glaciers in Glacier National Park is a great way of getting (some admittedly much-needed) "media buzz" on the global warming issue, the truth of the matter is that the melting of the glaciers in Glacier National Park is probably inevitable at this point, but is ultimately not of the most dire consequences for the planet or human civilization.

Yes, it's certainly not a dire-consequences thing. But it's still a hot-button issue that could well grab public attention and lead to the refocusing of efforts to push the Bush administration into gear on the overall climate change policy (non-policy, perhaps, is a better way of putting it). Conservation groups should be hammering away with pictures in hand; a road show, media treks, the whole shebang.

Are Glacier's glaciers remarkable? Probably not when compared to the areas cited by John. But I think most folks associate glaciers with the far, far north, remote and wild lands, not the Lower 48, and so Glacier NP conjures all these incredible images of somewhat mystical places (mystical in terms of pure, untouched wilderness with their full complement of wildlife). I made my first trip to Glacier last summer and was left in awe...not by glaciers, but rather by the incredible ruggedness of the landscape. I later remarked to a friend that Glacier will indeed remain a special place even if its glaciers vanish because of that ruggedness, the inherent wildness. That said, Alan has a good point about using Glacier as something of a "poster child" to drive home to the masses the consequences of global warming. Sadly, I'm not sure conservation groups have the financial wherewithal to mount a highly visible PR campaign. They do well with e-newsletters, but when was the last time you either saw or heard a TV or radio commercial by The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy or the Wildlife Fund? And of course, while the NPS has the responsibility to preserve these landscapes, it's not about to lobby against climate change/global warming.

Global warming would get more exposure if the city folks could afford to go to the parks. These Friends of Franchise's " non profits " are doing well to support there own administration with high wages and unlimited access to our parks. It is my Goal to set up one of these "non profit" franchises and bring millions of people out of San Diego to show them that there are other beautiful places in the world. I will call it or Just so you know who I am. I quit driving a car for eight years (1979-1986)while I lived in Jackson Hole (I thought we would have been out of oil by now) I Telemark ski, have ridden on a snow machine once and own a sailboat in San Diego.

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