Glacier 

Filling the gaps

With Glacier National Park facing a $682,000 budget reduction for 2013, one of the park's nonprofit partners has stepped up efforts this year to execute a slate of projects that could help fill in the gaps created by sequestration.

The Glacier National Park Conservancy has already raised roughly $300,000 to fund several new undertakings including replacing the Hidden Lake outhouse and monitoring sensitive golden eagle and black swift populations. In late June, the organization announced its latest major donation: $50,000 from the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Foundation. Jane Ratzlaff, executive director of outreach for the park, says this year's projects are "very different than what we've seen in the past."

"We would never have done outhouses in the past," Ratzlaff says. "We did, for the first year ever, help plow the road. So there's definitely projects that are not as historically just visitor oriented."

Sequestration hit the nation's park system hard this year. Officials at Glacier feared that cuts to the budget would hamper efforts to plow snow and cause the park to open two weeks late. Public Affairs Officer Denise Germann says the GNPC's greatest contribution to sequester-related setbacks this year was a commitment of up to $10,000 to fund overtime for plowing crews on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

"As a routine matter, they don't help us with base-budget issues or base-budget funding," Germann says. "But in this particular case, it's a one-time incident."

Not all of the GNPC's projects this year are looking to fill immediate funding needs, however. Ratzlaff says the park had an eye to cost-saving in the long term when it submitted a list of priority projects for the nonprofit's consideration this year. As a result, GNPC will be funding an upgrade to the printer used to produce interpretive signs throughout the park. Ratzlaff adds that, this year in particular, finding donors hasn't been a problem.

"Donors are stepping up very nicely this year, because they do realize the park has to tighten their belt and yet they want to see those trails open, they want to see the interp programs happening," Ratzlaff says. "Our visitors still want those services, so they understand that they may just have to play a bigger role."

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