Alex Buie taking a dip in Lake McDonald in -- pure and glacier-fed. Will Glacier National Park be there in all its glory for him and his children to enjoy?
Of all the places we visited in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, I think I fell most in love with Glacier National Park. I wasn't the first. George Bird Grinnell, an early conservationist who was instrumental in establishing the national park, wrote in 1901: "Far away in Western Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner -- the crown of the continent."
John Muir, the early preservationist who founded the Sierra Club, put it another way: "Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal."
He also wrote: "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, overcivilized people are beginning to find that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."
And yet, there are grave threats to this and other sacred places, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of glaciers in the park in the last 100 years. A ranger told my son that if he visits in 30 years with his son, all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone, and only barren rock will be left. With reduced glacial melting, the probability of more wild fires increase, destroying more forest land and contributing to air pollution in the region.
Other threats include:
- haphazard development of nearby landscapes
- inadequate funding for basic park operations
- hardrock mining
- resource extraction
- highway expansion