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).


The geologic features of Glacier National Park combine natural beauty, examples of mountain building, and the effects of glaciation, revealing many chapters in the history of the Earth.

  • The geology of Glacier National Park provides a snapshot of the tremendous forces of geologic uplift, mountain building, and overthrust events that provided the unique foundation for Glacier's natural beauty. The Rocky Mountain range narrows in northern Montana to provide wildlife, human, and vegetative convergence un-like most places on earth.
  • The ice age glaciers that carved classic geologic features in the area give insight into the beauty, power, and timelessness of the tremendous forces that continue to shape the earth.
  • Glacier has one of the finest assemblages of ice-age alpine glacial features in the contiguous 48 states, and it has relatively accessible, small-scale active glaciers.
  • Glacier is at an apex of the continent and one of the few places in the world that has a triple divide.

Glacier National Park offers a variety of wilderness experiences that provide the challenges and rewards of encountering nature on its own terms while conveying the necessity of stewardship for the land.

  • Glacier's wilderness offers opportunities for physical and mental challenge, risk and reward, renewal, self-reliance, solitude, inspiration, artistic expression, pride springing from a shared heritage, and the prospect of hope for the future.
  • The wilderness concept, codified into law, originated in the United States with the conviction that some wild land resources are most valuable to Americans if left in their natural state.
  • As a foundation for healthy and diverse ecosystems, officially designated wilderness and other remaining wild lands like Glacier National Park provide critical habitat for rare and endangered species and play a significant role in the overall health of natural systems worldwide.
  • Much of Glacier National Park is recommended for designation as wilderness, and therefore is managed differently than other federal lands in order to retain its primeval character and preserve it as a special place for humans to examine their relationship to the natural world.
  • The wilderness of Glacier National Park offers opportunities for personal renewal. Glacier's wilderness contains primitive areas relatively undisturbed by human activities where scientific research may reveal information about natural processes and living systems that may have wide-ranging applications as global indicators of ecological change.
  • The Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the most scenic roads in North America, is a National Historic Landmark, and provides easy access to views of and entry points to experience wilderness.
  • Cultural resources, including archeological sites found in Glacier National Park wilderness, can provide a more complete picture of human history and culture when treated with sensitivity and respect.
  • Wilderness visitors must accept certain inherent risks associated with weather, terrain, water, wildlife, and other natural elements; visitor safety cannot be guaranteed, but can be enhanced with proper trip planning, appropriate skill, and responsible behavior.

Glacier National Park's designation as part of the world's first International Peace Park celebrates on-going peace, cooperation, and goodwill between two nations, and symbolizes the ideal of peace among all nations.

  • The peace park commemorates lasting peace between Canada and the United States.
  • The Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage designations highlight the importance of this area to the world. 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.
  • The Peace Park concept, born at Waterton-Glacier IPP in 1932, has evolved and contributed to the international community in a variety of ways and served many positive conservation causes. International tensions of contemporary times reveal the importance of cooperation and collaboration as reflected through the window of the International Peace Park.
  • Differences between cultures and countries can be reconciled and replaced with trust and friendship. 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.

Glacier's cultural resources chronicle the evolving history of human activities, interactions, and experiences in the American west that reveal changes in societal attitudes about land and its uses.

  • The park's roads, chalets, and hotels not only symbolize early 20th century western park experiences, they represent western park development. Many of 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.
  • The Great Northern Railway opened western Montana to many people who otherwise could not have reached its remoteness. This hastened the development of Glacier National Park, and blazed a trail for a variety of human uses of the landscape.
  • Land-use values have evolved since Native Americans first came to northwest Montana, creating wide-ranging pressures between interests, and resulting in conflicts and compromise in a microcosm of the American west. In Glacier National Park concession structures created to encourage visitation to the park have contributed to the historic landscape through classic western national park architecture. Migration and settlement patterns of original people and Montana-bound settlers resulted in a landscape patchwork of cultures through the years that contributes to contemporary opportunities and challenges to Montana culture.
  • Fire, a natural part of all forest communities, poses a particular challenge to park managers, whose goal is to maintain natural systems while protecting humans, cultural and historic resources and park infrastructure. Going-to-the-Sun Road, both a National Historic Landmark and a National Civil Engineering Landmark,
    represents an early breakthrough in the approach to park management that encouraged visitor use of a spectacular national park; it also poses one of the most complex structural preservation and maintenance challenges in the National Park System.

The enduring connection between the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai peoples and the landscape and resources of the area known as Glacier National Park is reflected through their history, traditions, language, and contemporary values.

  • The area called Glacier National Park represents a place of special significance to the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Salish, and other native peoples; it is a spiritual touchstone that helps continue the traditions and values that have been in place for generations.
  • Changes in land use patterns triggered by the westward expansion of the United States forced Indian peoples in the area to react and adapt to outside pressures to maintain their lifestyles and traditions.
  • Contemporary Native American communities identify the landscape of Glacier National Park as traditionally meaningful to their identity as a group and the survival of their lifeways.
  • Native Americans had a strong spiritual connection with the area long before its designation as a national park. From prehistoric times to the present, Indian people have identified places in the area as important to their heritage. The majestic landscape has a spiritual value for all human beings - a place to nurture, replenish, and restore themselves.

The establishment of Glacier National Park, along with its geographic location, has enabled its ecological processes and biological diversity to survive relatively intact in a rapidly changing and encroaching world.

  • Due to wide variations in elevation, climate, and soil, four 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. 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 a Biosphere Reserve, and Waterton- Glacier International Peace Park has been designated as a World Heritage site.

Last updated: August 13, 2019

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PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936



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