Glacier's Guiding Principles

Conditions have changed significantly in Glacier over the years, and new challenges face the park. Glacier's most recent Master Plan was approved in 1977. For the first time in over two decades, the public has had an opportunity to review and comment on a new comprehensive management strategy for Glacier National Park. The General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (1999) is intended to guide management of Glacier NP for the next 20 years or more. The management strategy includes the purpose, significance and guiding principles for management of the park. This guidance is consistent with legislation that established Glacier NP, National Park Service policies, and other laws and directives that form the basis for NPS decision making. Purpose statements clarify the reasons that Glacier National Park was established. Significance statements explain Glacier's importance relative to its natural and cultural heritage. These statements describe the park's distinctive qualities and place them in their regional, national and international contexts.


  • Preserve and protect natural and cultural resources unimpaired for future generations (1910 legislation establishing Glacier National Park; 1916 Organic Act).
  • Provide opportunities to experience, understand, appreciate, and enjoy Glacier National Park consistent with the preservation of resources "in a state of nature" (1910 legislation establishing Glacier National Park; 1916 Organic Act).
  • Celebrate the ongoing peace, friendship, and goodwill among nations, recognizing the need for cooperation in a world of shared resources (1932 international peace park legislation).


Glacier's scenery dramatically illustrates an exceptionally long geologic history and the many physical processes associated with mountain building and glaciation.

  • Glacier has the finest assemblage of ice age alpine glacial features in the contiguous 48 states, and it has relatively accessible, small-scale active glaciers.
  • Glacier provides an opportunity to see evidence of one of the largest and most visible overthrust faults in North America, exposing well-preserved Precambrian sedimentary rock formations.
  • Glacier is at an apex of the continent and one of the few places in the world that has a triple divide. Water flows to the Atlantic, Pacific and Hudson Bay.

Glacier offers relatively accessible spectacular scenery and increasingly rare primitive wilderness experiences.

  • The Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the most scenic roads in North America, is a National Historic Landmark.
  • Glacier's backcountry offers a challenging, primitive wilderness experience.

Glacier is at the core of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, one of the most ecologically intact areas remaining in the temperate regions of the world.

  • Due to wide variations in elevation, climate, and soil, five distinct vegetation zones overlap in Glacier and have produced strikingly diverse habitats that sustain plant and animal populations, including threatened and endangered, rare, and sensitive species.
  • Glacier is one of the few places in the contiguous 48 states that continue to support natural populations of all indigenous carnivores and most of their prey species.
  • Glacier provides an outstanding opportunity for ecological management and research in one of the largest areas where natural processes predominate. As a result, the park has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has been designated as a World Heritage Site.

Glacier's cultural resources chronicle the human activities (prehistoric people, American Indians, early explorers, railroad development, and modern use) that show that people have long placed high value on the area.

  • American Indians had a strong spiritual connection with the area long before its designation as a national park. From prehistoric times to the present, American Indians have identified places in the area as important to their heritage.
  • The park's roads, chalets, and hotels symbolize early 20th century Western park experiences. These historic structures are still in use today.
  • The majestic landscape has a spiritual value for all human beings – a place to nurture, replenish and restore themselves.

Waterton-Glacier is the world's first international peace park.

  • People of the world can be inspired by the cooperative management of natural and cultural resources that is shared by Canada and the United States.
  • Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park offer an opportunity for both countries to cooperate peacefully to resolve controversial natural resource issues that transcend international boundaries.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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