You are here

Burlington Northern's Bombing Plans For Glacier, Part Two


    Some more details are surfacing regarding the apparent determination by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to bomb Glacier National Park's southern flanks in the name of avalanche control.
    As I noted earlier this week, the railroad says it wants to resort to lobbing 105 mm shells into the park rather than maintain snow sheds, structures it has been using along the tracks that run along Glacier's southern boundary since 1920 or so in the name of avalanche control, because it would be cheaper.
    Well, as Montana's Missoulian newspaper points out in a story about this issue, Burlington Northern had revenues of $13 BILLION last year, when it realized a 73 PERCENT increase in operating income.
    Now, another interesting tidbit of this story is that the National Park Service, already hemorrhaging more than $800 million annually in its operating funds, would actually help pay for the railroad's bombing if legislation moving through Congress gains approval.


    Yep, that's right. The Park Service would be dinged, as would the U.S. Forest Service, under legislation introduced by members of Alaska's congressional delegation, to the tune of $75 million.
    Now, should it come as any surprise that, according to the Missoulian, an avalanche expert who works for the Alaska Railroad Corporation actually helped write this legislation? Park Service officials testified in opposition, but, well, they don't line the pockets of senators and congressmen as do railroads.
    Now, one question that I haven't seen addressed anywhere is who, in case this awful legislation gains final approval, will be responsible for hiking into Glacier's backcountry to recover any undetonated ordnance?
    Think Burlington Northern executives would volunteer for the task?


I e-mailed Mary Riddle, a ranger at Glacier asking if A) the park is preparing an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement and B) Who will retrieve the unexploded bombs - excuse me, ordnances. Her answer is as follows: We are preparing an EIS on Burlington Northern's request. It should be back from the printer by the end of the month. It will be available online. Regarding information on the bill, S225 passed the Senate in 2005, but did not pass the House. HR 2039 in the House Version and called the Federal Land Recreation Visitor Protection Act, Avalanche Control on Public Lands. It however, at this point may be attached to another bill. But hope this helps. As I understand it, the bill would make a pot of money available that could be applied for by other agencies and private companies. As for who goes after unexploded ordnance's I assumer that would be worked out for each park, forest or wherever. Regarding this situation, I believe the EIS when it is released will answer your questions. The bill of course would apply to much more than Glacier National Park. And yes, we are not in the position to pay for this type of acitivty. And we have concerns about impacts to park resources. As a high school kid in Tennessee, I probably can't do much except write letters about this (or the destruction of Harper's Ferry), but I can try. Let's hope that for once the NPS doesn't give into private interests...

Subsidized public lands grazing. Subsidized killing of native wildlife on behalf of public lands ranchers. Subsidized road building on national forests to benefit private industry. Subsidized logging of those same forests. And now a railroad gets a hand-up too? Subsidizing Amtrak (in fact, rebuilding the nation's passenger railroad network on the scale of a Marshall Plan) is entirely appropriate. But this?

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide