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Climate Riders Fund Key 2023 Projects for Glacier National Park Conservancy!

Climate Ride’s Glacier Ride is near and dear to our hearts — not only because it boasts some seriously amazing road biking routes with some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see, but also because it’s in the Climate Ride office’s backyard! With such a special event, Climate Ride has built a special partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy (GNPC), and funds raised through our Glacier Rides are granted exclusively to the conservancy and their crucial projects in Glacier National Park. (See the Glacier Ride event here).

The GNPC is the official fundraising and outreach partner of Glacier National Park, and is one of the greatest champions for the park’s ecosystem, which includes everything from climate impacts, wildlife and other native species, humans and their activity in the park, built infrastructure, and all the intersections between it all. The GNPC’s mission follows these guiding principles:

  • Preservation: The Conservancy funds projects and programs that preserve Glacier’s
    heritage for future generations.
  • Education: The Conservancy funds education initiatives to engage current and future park
    stewards of all ages.
  • Research: The Conservancy supports world-class research and science exploring the park’s
    wildlife and alpine landscapes.

Over the years, Climate Ride has granted over $500,000 to GNPC, thanks to our participants and their astounding fundraising efforts! In 2022 alone, our riders and hikers raised $169,000 for the GNPC, helping to fund critical projects throughout Glacier National Park. Some previous successes include making the Apgar Visitor Center net zero by installing solar panels, running a Spring Hiker-Biker Shuttle on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun road to reduce congestion from cars, and surveying wildlife populations in the park such as lynx, golden eagles, and the
reintroduction of bison to the park.

Our 2022 Glacier Riders were given the opportunity to offer input on which projects they cared most about funding, and below is a list of those crucial projects funded through GNPC’s 2022 grant from Climate Ride!

1) Saving all the Pieces: Translocation and replication of imperiled westslope cutthroat and bull trout in Glacier National Park

Westslope cutthroat or bull trout used to rule the waters here in Glacier but are now in trouble. The introduction of invasive non-native fish, the subsequent reduction of the overall population of bull and Westslope cutthroat trout, combined with the negative feedback loop of the impacts of climate change means something has to happen to keep these native fish in the waters to which they belong.

Glacier’s fisheries biologist Chris Downs is one of the premier experts in this area and he and his team have seen positive results in past efforts here in Glacier at Quartz Lake and Logging Lake – experience that informs this project to translocate bull and cutthroat trout into Gunsight Lake.

This project will remove invasive non-native fish from the lake and re-populate it with bull and westslope cutthroat trout from the east side of Glacier. The park is working closely with Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife to determine if this project might foster a longer-term collaborative relationship. Gunsight Lake was chosen because its elevation and cold water provide a favorable environment for the successful translocation of these native fish.

2) Strengthening Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Glacier National Park

This innovative and immersive program is designed to introduce a diversity of individuals from backgrounds historically underrepresented in the National Parks to career opportunities with the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS Academy maximizes career opportunities with NPS through training and hands-on experiences. During recent years Glacier has increased efforts to diversify its workforce with the goal to better represent the American people. This program pushes that notion further, bringing in diverse youth to teach them about the inner workings of the National Park Service.

“[…]I’m excited to learn how to become a great steward of Glacier National Park! ACE (American Conservation Experience) NPS Academy has given me such a great space to find out where I fit best, and I know this summer will have many opportunities for that,” said Interpretation and Education Member, Madeline Morris.

Funding for this program is influential, proving to future generations that Glacier National Park is a place of belonging for staff and visitors alike — no matter one’s background.

3) Continue Iinnii Baseline Natural and Cultural Resource Studies

This project is focused on natural and cultural changes associated with the return of iinnii to the east side of Glacier and the Blackfeet Reservation. This project will provide information about the existing health status of wildlife in this area which will inform future iinnii reintroduction and other wildlife management actions. Funding will support the fieldwork and data analysis of this important study.

4) Rare Plant, Whitebark Pine, and Grassland Health Monitoring and Restoration

This project will monitor alpine and wetland rare plants, alpine vegetation communities, whitebark pine, and grassland species found within the park. These studies will inform future conservation efforts by revealing any trends in the populations of rare, alpine, wetland, and grassland plants within the park.

5) Wilderness Lead Position – Overseeing Wilderness Condition Monitoring

One million acres. More precisely, Glacier National Park is 1,012,837 acres in size with 927,550 of those acres – 90% of the entire park – managed as wilderness.

This game-changing project is a direct result of the development of a set of “working groups” co-chaired by leaders from the Conservancy and Glacier National Park. In this case, the Wilderness Working Group, co-chaired by Chief Ranger Paul Austin and Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell, identified early on the need to re-invest in wilderness management as a way to create a path to a long term goal of ensuring the protection of Glacier’s wilderness for future generations.

A decade ago, due to budget cuts, the Wilderness Unit at Glacier was dissolved. The leadership and management responsibilities of the unit were absorbed by already fully employed District Rangers. This group has done a remarkable job given the circumstances, but too often there has been little time or resources to invest in wilderness training and park wide coordination and planning.

Fresh from the success of park directed and Conservancy supported work to complete a park wide Wilderness Character Mapping project, the Wilderness Working Group asked itself what next step would be the most important step toward returning to active and impactful wilderness management and coordination. Without hesitation, park leaders said it was time to re-establish the Wilderness Unit by investing in a Wilderness Lead position. Not only would doing so make clear the park’s and the Conservancy’s commitment to maintaining Glacier’s wilderness a top priority, but the investment in wilderness specific leadership will make an immediate difference in the important work currently underway in this area.

Perhaps the most meaningful reason for the Conservancy’s enthusiastic support of this grant is that following this year (2023) the park has committed to making this position a permanent part of their operation and base budget. That means by making this one-year commitment, we’ll make possible a significant shift in park priorities that helps recognize and support their real commitment to Glacier’s wilderness and the importance of protecting it for future generations.

We’re honored to have such an outsized, positive impact in Glacier National Park through the GNPC’s essential work, and we look forward to sharing the list of projects we’ll be funding with our Glacier Riders’ fundraising from the 2023 ride!