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

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   September 10, 2008
Contact:   Jim Stratton, NPCA, 907.277.6722 x203
Lindsay Bartsh, NPCA, 415.989.9921 x22


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

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

Juneau, Alaska- 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.

"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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