WEST GLACIER - Glacier National Park Superintendent Dave Roemer started his new position last July taking over for longtime superintendent Jeff Mow.
Roemer — who previously served as superintendent at Redwood National Park in California — has a history with the Treasure State having attended grad school at the University of Montana.
It’s going to be another busy summer at Glacier National Park in northwest Montana, with more than 3 million people expected to visit.
“It is part of our mission to welcome people to the park and to protect these park resources for future generations, so there’s a little bit of a balancing act there,” Roemer tells MTN News.
“Being popular, having a lot of people wanting to come to Glacier, I understand why, is one of our challenges this year, it’s a big one," he added.
Roemer said five of the busiest seasons ever recorded at the park have all come since 2017.
To help manage the crowds, a vehicle reservation pilot program was implemented in 2021.
“People tell us they don’t want to come to a Disneyland-type experience, they want a national park experience,” said Roemer.
Along with Going-to-the-Sun Road and the North Fork, vehicle reservations will also be required this summer on the east side of the park at Many Glacier and Two Medicine.
Roemer said Many Glacier was shut down 57 times last summer due to congestion.
“We want to be able to protect the experience in those valleys, Two Medicine like the North Fork are meant to be more quieter, more tranquil, rural, slower, not jammed with people," Roemer noted.
Roemer said he understands concerns from Northwest Montana residents saying the vehicle reservation system has “locked them out of the park” and says the pilot program is still a work in progress.
“I think there will be changes to the system and we want to get away from piloting each year to involving the public in decision-making for a more permanent solution to it,” said Roemer.
He said last year’s fire season in the park was relatively mild, despite the Quartz Fire burning close to 2,000 acres. Roemer also noted that some wildfire is vital and healthy for the park’s landscape.
“It was very well behaved, it was good for the park to have that fire, so I would love to keep them like that, but we know this is a landscape that welcomes fire, that needs fire, it’s going to happen, so we just want to staff up with our partner agencies and be ready to respond to it.”
Roemer said a goal of his is to further relations with the Blackfeet and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes through co-stewardships — including reintroducing bison into Glacier National Park.
“The near certainty in the future of bringing wild bison back into the landscape, it’s one of the projects that excites me the most, I can’t wait for it, and Glacier National Park stands ready to support the Blackfeet Nation in having wild bison back on the landscape,” said Roemer.
Roemer said that the partnership has already started as park officials begin undertaking bison impact studies in East Glacier.
“Asses the current condition of the grasslands and non-native plants, getting a baseline so that when bison are back on the landscape where they belong, we will be able to monitor and measure that change too,” added Roemer.
Roemer said he’s excited to lead Glacier into the future.
“We want to welcome people to the crown of the continent, we also want the resources, the scenic wonder, the wildlife, the wilderness, all of that to be protected and still be there for generations to come.”