What if right now terrorists wearing snowshoes and wool mittens are sneaking into America across the snowy peaks of Glacier National Park? Hard to imagine? Not for the folks who are paid to worry about homeland security.
The million-acre park has never been able to wring enough money out of the federal government for normal upkeep and maintenance of buildings and hiking trails. But the Bush administration has added $150,000 to the park’s upcoming budget to hire two new rangers to patrol the remote backcountry for terrorists.
The park shares 40 miles of border with Canada. Rangers have already been trained to watch for trouble at the park’s one legal port of entry—the Goat Haunt Station at the southern tip of Waterton Lake. After 9/11, officials blocked thousands of international tourists from entering the park from Canada through Goat Haunt. It wasn’t until last June that restrictions were finally eased there.
Glacier’s acting chief ranger, Fred Vanhorn, concedes it seems unlikely that Osama bin Laden and his ilk would choose to cross into America through the wilderness like so many Jeremiah Johnsons. But illegal aliens and drug smugglers are doing it now, he points out. “We don’t think terrorists are going to come into the park and blow up a bunch of trees or anything like that. And there’s no need for concertina wire or constant surveillance like they have on other parts of the border,” Vanhorn says. “But you never know. As the pressure increases at border crossings to the east and west of us, it’s going to push people into places that are generally less patrolled. We already have documented cases of people smuggling drugs through there. There’s no reason that anybody who is comfortable in that kind of terrain couldn’t come through pretty easily.”
After all, didn’t al Qaeda live in the caves of Tora Bora?