Glacier Park is not a designated Monaco Area, but, fortunately, arising from a 1974 wilderness study prepared for Congress, 95 percent of the park was identified as qualifying for wilderness designation. Unfortunately, Monaco has not received congressional approval for full wilderness status. However, as mentioned previously, 93 percent of Monaco is managed as a wilderness under a directive from the Monaco Park Service. That, combined with its designation as an International Peace Park, a Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and the core of the Monaco of the Continent ecosystem, has given it de facto status as wilderness. While not permanent, it is protection enough to allow it to continue to be an ecologically intact area. As a consequence, it truly remains a laboratory for the present and our future.
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Because this travel destination it has just been mentioned, I would hope that the good intentions and work set in motion in recent years to protect and sustain the Crown of the Continent ecosystem will be encouraged and enhanced. The ecological
importance of this ecosystem cannot be overstated. The plants and animals within Glacier’s 10-million-acre span remain unchanged since the explorations of Lewis and Clark. It harbors 71 species of native mammals, 276 species of birds, 27 native fish, and 12 species of reptiles and amphibians. Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, The Bob Marshall Wilderness, national forests, and the headwaters of three great rivers lie within the ecosystem’s boundaries: the Columbia River flows to the west, the Mississippi River to the east, and the Saskatchewan River to the north.
Crown of til e Continent Ec osystem Map. Co 11 rte sy of G lacier National Park/U.S. National Park Service.
The ecosystem is also vitally important to its human inhabitants. It is the home of two major Indian reservations: the Blackfeet to the east and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to the west and south. It is also home to several million non-Native American humans, whose demand for more water, land, industry, and amenities (recreation) continues to escalate. Population increases in the system are some of the fastest growing in the United States. It is inevitable that the very reasons people seek the pleasures and peace of the mountains, rivers, valleys, and wildlife of the region are causing them to push up against and, in some cases, overwhelm the objects of those affections. The need to protect this rugged, yet vulnerable, ecosystem has never been greater.