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Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Officials at Glacier National Park are seeking comments to help in the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) for the development of a Wildlife Viewing Plan for the Many Glacier developed area.
Located in the northeast portion of the park, the Many Glacier Area offers a variety of experiences for visitors including majestic landscapes, lakes and waterfalls, popular trails and countless recreational opportunities, significant historic buildings to outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. This area draws visitors from around the world. It is a landscape where three valleys and several vegetation zones converge, forming a crossroad for many different wildlife species. These valleys provide natural travel corridors for wildlife including bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, mountain goats, wolves, wolverine, and many other species. Its highly productive habitats of riparian woodlands, sedge meadows and wetlands support many different species.
The Many Glacier road bisects the travel corridors for these species in addition to providing visitor access to the area and outstanding opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Heavy visitor traffic, large bear jams and other safety concerns, combined with new knowledge and understanding about how wildlife travel through and within this region has resulted in the need for the National Park Service (NPS) to look for ways to protect wildlife while continuing to provide visitors with safe viewing opportunities in this corridor.
Human presence and activity that is too close to wildlife can disrupt feeding, caring for young and the animal’s movement through an area. In particular with regard to bears, Glacier’s Superintendent Chas Cartwright stated, "An identified goal of Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Plan is to minimize the number of incidents involving bear/human confrontations. This involves making a concerted effort to reduce or eliminate interactions between bears and humans. Visitor education is critical, but it is also crucial that the NPS remain proactive in doing all we can to manage the park for both resources and visitors." He added, "Keeping visitors and wildlife apart is vital to maintaining "wild wildlife" populations that are NOT overly familiar with humans."
At this time, a number of ideas are being considered. These include new exhibits on wildlife viewing, enlarging some pullouts and/or adding new ones in safer locations to view wildlife, reducing the size or removing pullouts altogether in known wildlife crossing areas or those pullouts that place visitors in close proximity to wildlife, lowering speed limits along the entire road or portions of it, constructing viewing platforms at pullouts and at the Swiftcurrent parking lot, and also providing ranger naturalists and spotting scopes at pullouts along the road.
Scoping is an early and open process which occurs at the beginning of the planning process to provide the public an opportunity to give input, ideas and express concerns prior to the development of the plan and its associated EA. Scoping comments are used to identify issues and alternatives that should be addressed in the EA. Once the Plan/EA has been written, the public will be provided the opportunity to review and provide comments.
Comments can be provided directly through the National Park Service’s planning website. Go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/glac and select this project. Written comments can also be mailed to: Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attention: Wildlife Viewing Plan P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936. All comments are due no later than Monday, November 30, 2009.
- NPS -