Author: Dagmara Mach
The year was 1910, America still boundless and wild, when in an incredible act of foresight the more than one million acres of Glacier National Park were set aside for the interest and preservation of all life, for all time. In 1932 the governments of Canada and the United States joined Waterton and Glacier National Parks to form the world’s first International Peace Park. A living manifestation of hope, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park embodies one of the most ecologically diverse parts of the Rocky Mountain West. Full of rare and sensitive creatures like the pygmy owl, the lynx, and the grizzly bear, the park stands for a vision of the world in which people set aside their differences to work collectively for the benefit and enjoyment of all. However, as the earth’s temperature continues to rise, many plant and animal species are facing rapid adaptation, migration, and even extinction.
Glaciers, the ancient blocks of ice that the park is most famous, are not only responsible for shaping the hanging valleys, sculpted peaks, and blue lakes that inspire awe in park visitors, but are also an integral part of the ecosystem. They are especially important during dry periods, when they provide water to adjoining streams. Unfortunately, while the park was home to 150 glaciers in 1850, today there are only 25, and scientists predict that with current warming rates these remaining glaciers will cease to exist by 2020. The mountain snow pack is also declining and snow is often replaced with rain, causing earlier spring runoff and less water availability during dry months, meaning greater flood potential and rising water temperatures in aquatic ecosystems. High altitude alpine meadows, which provide habitats to innumerable rare species, including pika and mountain goats, are experiencing worrying changes as well. These changes are leading to less water availability and a longer growing season that allows treeline to climb in elevation. In addition, when the terrain is mostly vertical, it can be much harder for species to move as fast as climate shifts.
The vast forests and region’s abundance of diverse habitats help buffer the impacts of rapid climate change. However, it is up to us to make a collective effort aimed at preserving these wonderlands on which so many species depend. The easiest thing you can do right now, is to begin voting for change by making conscious purchase decisions. Learn more about what it means to buy green products and how you can reduce the impact of your consumption.