24 - 1927, onal Park d Univerrod.
By Tristan Scott, the Missoulain’s reporter for the Flathead Valley in December 1910 and reprinted with permission. Photos by Kurt Wilson of the Missoulian.
Chas Cartwright is kicking and gliding along a snow-covered trail in the crisp, crystalline winter wilderness of Glacier National Park, subduing friction with fluent diagonal ski strides and describing with rhapsodic conviction “the art of public land management.” “Public land management is my calling, and there is no place I would rather be than Glacier,” says the 60-year-old Cartwright, relishing the simple pleasure of an early morning ski before a day fraught with meetings, phone calls and administrative hand-wringing over a suite of complex management issues. The park’s 21st superintendent is fit and compact, conditioned as he is to hiking 20-plus arduous miles in a day, and when he pauses on occasion to rest it’s not due to fatigue but rather a measured and deliberate interest in his surroundings, a deep appreciation of natural beauty impervious to the job’s executive hazards. Cartwright’s resume spans nearly 40 years of federal service, the last 24 years with the National Park Service, and includes five prior superintendent-ships. Since his appointment as custodian of Glacier in 2008, he has overseen nearly 450 permanent and seasonal employees who attend to more than 1 million acres of wilderness, wildlife habitat and recreational facilities. He is responsible for an annual budget of more than $12 million, and this year ushered a record-setting 2.2 million visitors through Glacier’s gates. He is nowhere near retirement and plans to manage Glacier Park “long enough to have a lasting impact.” Still, Cartwright minces no words when declaring Glacier as his last custodial charge. “This is my final assignment,” he says. It sounds almost suspect coming from a man who has been tasked with managing so many national treasures, all possessing geographic features as remarkable and deserving of protection as Glacier Park’s. But Cartwright doesn’t harbor any last-hoorah fantasies, and he remains keenly aware that his place among these abiding mountains and streams, while well worn, is fleeting and finite. As he nears the end of a decades-long career in public service, Cartwright’s chief concern is not to carve out a personal legacy in the park’s 100-year history, but to serve as a temporary guardian - to make a lasting contribution so the continent’s crown jewel that can endure another 100 years and serve as a shining example to future generations of land managers. “I’ve never been a big personal legacy type,” Cartwright says. “That’s not my focus. I’m more concerned with what I hand off to the next generation of park managers and staff, and with what the visitors inherit.” Given the challenges that have cropped up during the past century of human stewardship at Glacier Park - climate change, wilderness management, increasing visitation, shifting land policies, fickle mountain ecosystems and the ongoing reconstruction of the famed Going-to-theSun Road - it is a mission fraught with difficulty. But, as Cartwright says, “superintendents have a responsibility to the park, and to the people.” The role of park superintendent is ultimately one of protection, preservation and access, and each of Glacier’s 21 overseers has helmed the position with an eye toward that lofty goal, albeit at the mercy of history dictating their priorities.