Glacier National Park’s Chief of Science and Resources Jack Potter retires

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Date: May 2, 2011
Contact: Ellen Blickhan , 406-888-5838

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – After 41 years of service in Glacier National Park, Chief of Science and Resources Management, Jack Potter retired on May 2nd. A potluck gathering will be held to celebrate his retirement in the West Glacier Community Building on Friday, May 13th, at 4:30 p.m.

In the summer of 1969, 19 year old Jack Potter took the train from western Pennsylvania to Glacier National Park to work as a bus boy at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn Coffee Shop. The following summer he was hired on the park trail crew and over the next seven summers, he worked seasonally while studying political science at Colgate University and later forestry at University of Montana, becoming a trail crew leader in 1973. Following one summer away from the park, Potter started a permanent, subject-to-furlough position in 1978 as Hudson Bay District Trails Foreman. He was subsequently promoted to backcountry supervisor in 1984. In 1992, Potter took the position of Assistant Chief Ranger, supervising field resources. In 2003, he became assistant chief of the newly formed Science and Resources Management Division, and has served as the division chief since 2005.
Potter has received numerous awards including the Superior Service Award in 2007 from the Department of Interior and the National Park Service Intermountain Region Director's Award in 2003 for Excellence in Natural Resource Management. Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright stated, "Jack Potter knows more about Glacier National Park than any person alive. He is the conscience of the park, and possesses an uncanny sense of what's appropriate and what's not. His passion for the job, and life in general, is infectious. Although I've never believed that any employee is irreplaceable, Jack Potter comes the closest of any person I've known. He will be sorely missed!"

Potter has made significant contributions to Glacier’s 735 mile trail system, including development of the backcountry Maintenance Plan which directs overall maintenance goals and standards for trail and packing operations, and was intimately involved in the development of the General Management, North Fork, and Commercial Services plans. He established the park’s Wilderness Management Plan, served on the National Wilderness Task Force, and regularly lectures on resource management issues for the University of Montana and other groups. Potter has played a leadership role in many initiatives stemming from the National Park Service Natural Resource Challenge, such as the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring program, and the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center. He played a key role ensuring protection the Flathead watershed from mining and resource extraction in the Upper North Fork Flathead River Basin.

When asked about positive changes he has witnessed in his career, Potter replied, “We have made some progress on recovery of species such as the grizzly bear, bald eagle and the gray wolf. However, the potential settlement of various mining activities in the Canadian Flathead is far beyond anything that I have seen in my career. While it is not done yet, it is a huge accomplishment.”

Over the past four decades, Potter has logged over 25,000 hiking, riding, and skiing miles in the park. He has become known as the go-to-guy for almost anything you want to know about Glacier National Park, from identifying a peak in a photograph (and where the photo was shot from) to understanding the implications of complex water rights issues. A frequent phrase has been, “You should talk to Jack Potter about that.”

Potter will stay close to Glacier National Park after retirement residing in the Flathead Valley with his family. He intends to continue to enjoy hiking and rafting, traveling, and completing a long list of projects. For further information about his retirement potluck, please contact Karen Giesy at or 406-888-7921.

Articles and news on Jack Potter through his career can be found at: (park science article) (award announcement) (2004 interlake feature) (highlight in Flathead Watershed manual)

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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