Over the last few months, the world has undergone changes that none of us could have imagined as we rang in the new year. The economic, social and psychological impacts of COVID-19 have left no one untouched. We are truly in this together.
While we have all been affected, the brunt of the impact has not been equitably borne. Across Montana and across the country, there is deep gratitude for the front-line workers who are risking their lives to keep us all safe, healthy and fed.
But there are many others facing enormous challenges who we may not think about, including those who live and work adjacent to Glacier National Park.
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) strongly supports the hard decisions made by Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow and others across the country, to close parks to protect employees, visitors and adjacent communities. Near Glacier, we also recognize that the people of communities including West Glacier, Browning, East Glacier Park and the Flathead Valley are feeling the enormous impact of that hard but necessary decision.
These gateway communities support the Glacier National Park visitors who in turn contributed $344 million into the regional economy in 2018 alone. Gateway communities are at the heart of every national park visit and as such, are at the epicenter of the toll this pandemic has taken on Montana’s tourism and recreation economy.
Individuals in these towns have faced plenty of challenges and threats before and have risen with grace and tenacity, sometimes putting what was best for their community and Glacier above their own financial interests. For more than 20 years, NPCA’s Northern Rockies offices have worked alongside community members, standing together in powerful partnerships, speaking, working, advocating and lobbying for Glacier and the public lands that we all cherish.
NPCA has a more than 100-year track record of mobilizing people’s love of parks to successfully champion causes that make these places better for generations to come. Now is the opportunity to thank these communities, these business owners and dedicated staff, for their commitment and leadership – and to give back and give big.
If you can give right now, please do so. Here are several options you can take to support your favorite gateway community.
1. Donate to a local community relief fund. Many community foundations have an emergency relief fund set up to help communities during times like these.
2. Buy a gift card from your favorite places. Many restaurants, bars and breweries are only offering take-out/delivery or have closed, while many shops and stores have closed completely. Buy a gift card online for your next visit and that money will help keep them afloat.
3. Plan your next trip and gear up for it. Make reservations, book a guide, find new spots, and get all the gear you need from local stores.
4. If you love a place, leave a review. We understand that financially supporting gateway communities right now might not be possible, so spread some love online instead and write a review for a favorite place.
Sarah Lundstrum is the Glacier Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
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