New Report Finds Glacier Bay in Good Shape, Additional Funding Needed

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jim Stratton, NPCA, 907.277.6722 x203
Lindsay Bartsh, NPCA, 415.989.9921 x22

National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)

New Report Finds Glacier Bay in Good Shape, Additional Funding Needed

Park’s ecosystem is healthy; cultural programs should be enhanced

JUNEAU - The nation's leading voice for the national parks, the
nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), today
released an assessment that reveals Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve's natural features are in very good condition, while cultural sites rank only fair.

According to NPCA's Center for State of the Parks report, cultural
resources ranked in "fair" condition, scoring an overall 66 out of 100.
The report gives high marks to the park's strong ethnography program
and its solid relationship with the Huna Tlingit, enabling it to
incorporate native Tlingit voices and perspectives into park programs
and projects. National Park Service staff at Glacier Bay work closely
with local schools to take Huna and Yakutat Tlingit schoolchildren on
annual field trips into the park to participate in traditional song,
dance, and storytelling with tribal elders.

The NPCA report recommends that additional federal funding be
allocated to enable the Park Service to continue and enhance these
educational outreach efforts, such as building a traditional Tlingit
longhouse near park headquarters to provide space for cultural events
and educational exhibits. Funding is also needed to hire staff to
record, transcribe, and translate Tlingit oral traditions, at a risk of
being lost as Tlingit elders pass away.

"The cultural history at Glacier Bay is incredibly rich, but the
Park Service doesn't have enough resources to tell the full story,"
said NPCA Alaska Senior Regional Director Jim Stratton. "The park has a
good relationship with the Huna Tlingit that would benefit from
additional funding to capture fading oral traditions and support other
cultural programs."

Glacier Bay's
natural resources rated on the high side of "good" condition, scoring
an overall 89 out of 100 points. Threats from development are at a
minimum, and while the park has not yet felt extensive impacts from
invasive species or pollution, future risks from these stressors and
climate change are increasing.

The report cites a lack of data about fish harvested (both
commercial and recreational) within the boundaries of the park.
Harvests could significantly affect the long-term population health of
various marine species, particularly halibut. Although this fishing is
permitted, additional studies are needed to determine if marine species
are being seriously affected by harvest within park waters. A
congressional mandate for a cooperative fishery management plan between
the State of Alaska and the U.S. Department of the Interior has not
been implemented because funding has not been received.

Cruise ships and other boats travel the waters of Glacier Bay
National Park, and a recent (2003) vessel management plan completed by
the Park Service has helped to minimize any threats these vessels pose
to the park ecosystem by limiting the number and type of vessels,
implementing course and speed restrictions in some areas to protect
whales, and limiting the distances ships can approach sensitive
wildlife habitats.

However, the Park Service does not have similar management capacity
necessary to patrol outer coastal regions of the national park, leading
to concerns about the possibility of poaching and unreported wildlife
mortality.

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"If you've ever been on Glacier Bay's outer coast, you know what a
tremendous wilderness it is," Stratton continued. "But the Park Service
doesn't have enough rangers on the ground to make sure it stays that
way."

Park Service staff is also concerned that off-road vehicle (ORV)
trails have expanded significantly since 1979, and a 2007 environmental
assessment indicates that this expansion has compacted soils, trampled
vegetation, increased erosion, and degraded water quality. The Park
Service estimates that 61.1 miles of trails existed in the early 1980s,
and there are now 83.5 miles of trails (a 37 percent increase). The
Park Service has completed an ORV trails management plan and is
addressing this problem.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in
2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. To
download the full report, visit: http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/glacier_bay/. For hi-res images, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30346074@N04/.

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