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Contact: Lauren Alley, 406-888-5838
West Glacier, MT – Glacier National Park Natural Resources Program Manager Mark Biel has earned the 2017 National Park Service Director’s Award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resource Stewardship. Biel won the regional award last November and competed with finalists from six other regions for the national award.
Biel was recognized for his leadership on several fronts, including his work to initiate a wildlife shepherding program, dark sky conservation, and mountain goat research.
Biel launched the wildlife shepherding program in 2016. The program uses a trained border collie, Gracie, to move bighorn sheep and mountain goats out of areas of high visitor use, such as the Logan Pass parking lot. It also gives Biel the chance to talk about the importance of wildlife safety with visitors, schools, and community groups.
Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “Glacier’s wildlife shepherding program has exceeded all expectations. Mark and Gracie have become front-line ambassadors for Glacier and the National Park Service in keeping visitors and the animals of the park safe." The project is funded through private donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Biel also coordinated recent mountain goat research at Logan Pass and was instrumental in Glacier’s recent designation as the world’s first transboundary International Dark Sky Park, along with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Both projects are also partially funded by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
In response to the recognition, Biel said, “This award is truly an honor. So many parks are doing extraordinary work, and to be selected for the national award is amazing. I’m grateful to park leadership and the Glacier National Park Conservancy for their support. This is truly a team effort!”
Biel’s career includes 24 years with the National Park Service. He came to Glacier National Park in 2010. Prior to his time at Glacier, he worked at Devils Tower National Monument, Padre Island National Seashore, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, where he started as a volunteer in the park’s Bear Management Office. He holds a master’s degree in Animal Science/Nutrition from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s in Agriculture and Natural Resources from Michigan State University. Biel lives in Columbia Falls, MT with his wife, daughter, and bark ranger Gracie.
Awardees will be recognized at an event in Washington DC on September 19.
Media note: Additional information can be found about Gracie on her website or instagram page.