WEST GLACIER – Jeff Mow has taken the reins of one of America’s most iconic national parks. The 25-year veteran of the National Park Service officially became Glacier National Park’s 22nd Superintendent on Aug. 28.
Mow, 54, was selected as Glacier’s new chief in June. Before coming to Montana, he was superintendent at Kenai Fjords National Park, a 600,000-acre preserve along the Gulf of Alaska. Since arriving in late August, Mow said he has been meeting with staff and the park’s partners.
“It’s an honor and humbling to be selected as the superintendent of Glacier National Park,” he told Glacier National Park Conservancy members during a small Sept. 4 gathering at the West Glacier train station and conservancy gift shop.
The search for a new superintendent began in December 2012, when Chas Cartwright retired after four years in Glacier’s front office. Kym Hall has served as acting chief during the search process and with Mow’s arrival will assume her old position as deputy superintendent.
As superintendent of Glacier, Mow will oversee the management of 1 million acres of parkland, a staff of roughly 155 and an annual operating budget of more than $12.5 million.
Mow is a native of Los Angeles and graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota, where he majored in environmental education. He later attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, focusing on geology. He first joined the park service in 1988 as a seasonal park ranger at Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve in Alaska. Later that year, he made his first trip to Glacier when he was sent to Montana for two weeks to help fight a wildfire near Polebridge.
A few years later, he got his first fulltime job at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Skagway. Later, he moved to the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, where he served as district ranger, chief of operations and subsistence manger.
In 2002, he became superintendent of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado. Two years later, he returned to Alaska to become superintendent of Kenai Fjords, a position he held until this year.
In 2012, he served as acting superintendent of Denali National Park for four months, making Glacier his fourth assignment heading up a national park.
Although managing a national park is nothing new to Mow, he said there are some stark differences between overseeing a rural park in Alaska and one of the nation’s most popular preserves that sees nearly 2 million visitors annually.
“We consider 400,000 or 500,000 people to be huge visitation numbers, well that pales in comparison to Glacier,” he said.
Mow told the Beacon he is eager to address some of the challenges Glacier and the National Park system are facing. He said budget constants and climate change are two of the biggest issues facing Glacier, adding that both could affect how the park is run and managed. Other large projects the park will be taking on is the concessioner transition from Glacier Park, Inc. to Xanterra and the Park Service’s upcoming centennial.
“How, as a government agency, do we do less with less,” he said, referring to possible budget cuts. “(The park) is a huge economic engine and I recognize the importance Glacier has to the state of Montana.”
He said one way to maintain services and quality at the park is by forging partnerships with public and private groups, including the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Mark Preiss was recently named the new chief executive officer of the conservancy and said having new leadership at both entities will offer some interesting opportunities.
“It’s a confluence of opportunity,” he said. “I think we have an opportunity to make a national model for how to form partnerships between private groups and the park service.”
Although Mow has only been on the job a few days, he said he has had the opportunity to explore the park. Just last week, he floated the North Fork of the Flathead River. Mow said he, his wife and 15-year-old son plan on doing more hiking and exploring in the coming weeks and months.
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