Final Avalanche Hazard Reduction Environmental Impact Statement Released
Contact: Norma Sosa, 406 888-7895
Contact: Mary Riddle, 406 888-7898
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Officials at Glacier National Park announce the availability of the Avalanche Hazard Reduction by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) in Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest, Montana Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
An abbreviated FEIS has been prepared because no substantial changes were made to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The FEIS contains the executive summary, a summary of the public comments that were received and the park’s responses to substantive public comments that were raised during the review period of the DEIS. The park received 13,400 comments on the DEIS. Public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of the preferred alternative.
The Flathead National Forest and Montana Department of Transportation are cooperating agencies. In 2005, the EIS process began in response to a request from BNSF to conduct a long term avalanche hazard reduction program in the park. BNSF’s proposal was submitted after a 2004 storm that resulted in several avalanches.
The National Park Service (NPS) preferred alternative continues to be the same one identified in the DEIS; no explosive use would be permitted in the park for an avalanche hazard reduction program. Permits would be issued to BNSF for installation of a weather station and non explosive avalanche detection devices in the park to support and improve their avalanche forecasting program. The preferred alternative recommends that BNSF construct less than one mile of snowsheds in this area. Explosive use would be permitted in the event of an emergency. The Preferred Alternative (Alternative B) is one of four alternatives. Alternative D represents BNSF’s original proposal for a permanent avalanche hazard reduction program using military artillery in the park. After the DEIS was released, BNSF withdrew Alternative D as their proposal and to date has not submitted a new proposal. Alternative D remains in the FEIS as a reasonable alternative under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright stated, "We are grateful for the overwhelming public response that we received in support of the preferred alternative. Glacier National Park is the world’s first international peace park, a biosphere reserve and a world heritage site. This area of the park contains federally listed threatened and endangered species, is within the park’s recommended wilderness, provides winter recreation for park visitors and is important winter range for elk, deer and other ungulate species. The preferred alternative would best protect park values and resources. Snow sheds offer the best protection for BNSF’s employees, equipment and freight."
Thirty days from release of the FEIS, a Record of Decision will be issued. Contact the Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attention: Avalanche FEIS, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936 with any questions or concerns. There are a limited number of copies available at the above address or by calling 406-888-7898. The FEIS is also available on the internet at the following link http://parkplanning.nps.gov/parkHome.cfm?parkId=61.