Glacier National Park to Implement Air Tour Management to Ensure Protection of Park Resources

by Amy Myers

In an effort to protect the area’s resources, Glacier National Park has announced that the National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have completed an air tour management plan for the park. This means that there may be changes to the availability of the ever-popular air tours for the sake of the “natural and cultural resources, preservation of wilderness character, and visitor experience.”

Home to a number of breathtaking natural features, some of the most spectacular and famous glacier-banded mountains and turquoise waters. From the sky, you get a much deeper appreciation of the colors and beauty of the park. However, with these tours also comes a significant impact on the environment and its wild residents.

According to Pete Webster, the park’s deputy superintendent, “The purpose of the air tour plan is to ensure that park resource values in Glacier National Park, including natural sounds, wilderness character, visitor experiences, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources, are protected.”

The national park reported that air tours have taken place at Glacier for many years, but there haven’t ever been any specific regulations. Now, though, there will only be 144 air tours per year that follow a defined route and altitudes.

“The plans meet the requirements from the National Parks Air Tour Management Act to mitigate or prevent significant adverse impacts from commercial air tours on the park and NPS’s obligation to protect the park’s natural and cultural resources, wildlife, and the visitor enjoyment,” the official release stated.

Glacier National Park Stresses Importance of Including American Indian Tribes in Aerial Plans

In order to consider all aspects of the impact of air tours in Glacier National Park, the NPS and FAA also made sure to include voices and input from Native American Tribes that understand the significance of both the cultural and natural aspects of the land.

“An important part of the process is the inclusion of American Indian Tribes,” the release read. “The agencies consulted with Tribes that have tribal lands adjacent to Glacier National Park, and that attach historic and cultural significance to resources within the park which include Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation, Crow Tribe of Montana, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana, and Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation of Montana.”

In addition to the new limitations, there may be a time in the future when Glacier National Park discontinues air tours altogether.

Previously, in an announcement of the plan’s creation, Webster stated that “It achieves the direction, set forth in Glacier’s General Management Plan, to eventually phase out air tour activity over Glacier National Park.”

Glacier isn’t alone in its efforts to limit its air activity. Twenty-four other national parks are developing air tour management plans in cooperation with the FAA.