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Senators exploring ways to deal with overcrowding at Glacier, other National Parks

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 16:07:30-04

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — With another season of what's expected to be record-setting visitation at Glacier National Park, a U.S. Senate subcommittee is starting to look at new ideas for managing crowds at parks here in Montana, and across the country.

By most estimates, Glacier is likely heading for a new record, after the pandemic drastically cut park visits last year. And Glacier's new pilot ticketing system on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is being watched closely.

Wednesday morning, the National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources delved into the crowding question.

Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Gartland told the panel the Glacier system is working well, although it's been hard on business helping confused tourists.

Ranking Republican Senator Steve Daines noted how visits to Glacier, and Yellowstone have more than doubled in 30-years. He wonders if promoting smaller park units would help disperse crowds.

"And I think one of the ways we might be able to better address increased visitation is looking for ways to encourage folks to spend a day at some of these lesser visited parks," Daines said in his prepared remarks.

"This would not only relieve congestion and wear and tear at our larger parks, but it will also importantly boost the local economies by these smaller parks."

Senators said they don't have specific legislation in mind now, but wanted to hear ideas.