Report on Glacier National Park in Peril

In April 2010, RMCO and Natural Resources Defense Council released Glacier National Park in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption. Glacier is one of the 25 national parks identified as most vulnerable to the effects of a changed climate in our October 2009 overview report, National Parks in Peril. This new report details and documents the particular ways in which Glacier is vulnerable.

According to a new analysis done by RMCO for this report, the last decade in Glacier National Park saw exactly double the temperature increase for the planet as a whole. The effects of this warming threaten Glacier National Park’s resources, from glaciers and snow-capped mountains to wildlife and forests, as well as the Montana jobs and tourism revenue the park generates.

The report also includes new information from the U.S. Geological Survey on the continued melting of the park’s namesake features, its glaciers. The new update shows that two more of the park’s glaciers have melted since 2005 to the point that they are now too small to be considered glaciers. That leaves only 25 of the park’s original 37 named glaciers. That new USGS information sheet had not previously been publicly reported on. The photo here shows Grinnell Glacier, showing melting in its lower portion.

Drawn by the park’s scenery, wildlife, and other resources, two million people a year visit Glacier, making it the 11th most visited national park in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of the visitors are from out of state. Almost one-third of all summer visitors to Montana are drawn primarily by the park, and 56 percent of the park’s visitors are returnees. Spending by Glacier visitors may approach $1 billion annually and supports more than 4,000 Montana jobs. The report asks, why put at risk Glacier’s spectacular resources, as important as they are to Montana’s economy?

The news release on the issuance of the report is here. You can download the full report (23 MB – large!).

Joining a teleconference releasing the report, Rhonda Fitzgerald, innkeeper of the Garden Wall Inn in Whitefish, Montana said, “All the available research tells us that visitors come to Montana primarily for its spectacular unspoiled natural beauty. Tourism is Montana’s number two industry, bringing over $3 billion into the state each year, and Glacier National Park is one of the top reasons people visit Montana. Ensuring that the pristine condition of the Crown of the Continent and its intact ecosystem will be maintained is essential to the economic health of Montana’s tourism industry.”