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Essential Friends + Gateways: Merging Two Great Groups To Benefit Glacier National Park

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Working to preserve the beauty of Glacier National Park is the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Photo of Swiftcurrent Lake by Rebecca Latson.

Though the names have changed, as has the logo, the merger of the Glacier National Park Fund and the Glacier Natural History Association creates an organization not only with a shared goal, but with more resources under one roof to reach that goal.

Combined, the two non-profit organizations bring revenues from bookstore sales and charitable donations and grants into Glacier National Park for programs as diverse as developing ADA-accessible trails, underwriting wildlife research, and working with local schools to grow native vegetation for use in park restoration projects.

The groups’ alliance brings into the new Glacier National Park Conservancy one organization with a largely educational and interpretive mission that dates to 1946, and another that has worked since 1999 to foster charitable giving to benefit the park’s landscape—human, and natural. But the merger, which was official this past January 1, doesn’t alter the organizations’ mission.

“The big thing for us is to really focus on creating longterm vision and consistency with programs,” points out Jake Bramante, the Conservancy’s outreach coordinator.

“When the park is requesting grants from us each year, they’re not sure if they’ll get continued funding next year and that affects what they do. With some programs, such as a research program, that may be OK, but with education programs and trail maintenance, the program suffers when it changes every year.”

To preclude that from happening, the Conservancy creates an endowment with a specific target in mind. Going into the merger, the Glacier Fund already had established endowments to help park staff maintain trails, fund the native plant nursery, and to keep Glacier’s famous “Red Jammers” on the road showing off the spectacular landscape to visitors. Building on those is one of the tasks the Conservancy now is working on.

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St. Mary Falls. Rebecca Latson photo.

“We are really thinking long-term with ways to give such as endowments. You can set up an endowment to adopt trails or give annually to the citizen science program so that high school kids can learn about the scientific method by practicing it in the park as well as becoming better stewards for the future,” said Mr. Bramante. “You can set up an endowment for education or citizen science, which is the primary vehicle for the high school students, but it also allows us to get continuing data on species such as mountain goats and pikas which helps us understand the role of climate change.”

Under the newly created Conservancy, the Glacier Association brings its long-tested business model to the Glacier Fund’s mission in part through sales of educational and interpretive materials at visitor centers and ranger stations throughout the park, as well as from its headquarters bookstore at the Belton Depot in West Glacier. The Glacier Association also will continue to manage sales outlets elsewhere in Montana at the National Bison Range, the Flathead National Forest, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and the Big Hole National Battlefield.

You can contribute to those efforts, and plan for your next visit to Glacier, without leaving home by ordering history books, videos, and field guides from the Conservancy’s website

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Glacier offers a lifetime of hiking opportunities. Rebecca Latson photo.

Interested in backpacking? There’s a Backcountry User’s Package that includes topographic maps of the park, nature guides, and information on traveling safely through bear country. Curious what the song of a varied thrush sounds like? Consider the Birdsong Ide that plays back digital bird songs at the push of a button. In the end, you’ll increase your knowledge of Glacier, and contribute to its needs. 

Coming Wednesday: The Grand Canyon Association helps interpret the grandest of canyons.


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