Crown of the Continent Dispatches, Issue 1

Page 1

The University of Montana

Sawtooth Mountain on the Rocky Mountain Front

Issue 1 - July 2011

The Crown of the Continent!


ising in northwest Montana, southern Alberta and British Columbia, a swath of elevated geography is cast on a colossal scale - immense, vast and

dramatic. Here nature mustered many of her greatest powers to create a glorious 13 million-acre masterpiece. Mountain building not only thrust rocks skyward, but also pushed them eastward over the sedimentary strata underlying the prairie grass. Below - George Bird on the Grinnell Glacier circa 1920 GNP Achives

Dispatches is a publication of The University of Montana’s Crown of the Continent Initiative and is an adjunct to the University of Montana’s Crown of the Continent E Magazine. It is issued periodically throughout the calendar year. For information contact



Polebridge on the North Fork of the Flathead - Susie Greatz

Eventually, massive forces of ice created valley and alpine glaciers, which when set in motion shaped an uncommon landscape that stands with the best mountain majesty on earth. Magnificence indeed! Glacier carved peaks – some of their north faces still embedded with remnant glaciers, vast forests rising to the upper reaches of the high-altitude world, wandering river valleys, steep canyons, gushing creeks and waterfalls, flowered meadows, and a wild population that represents nearly all the major and minor critters of the Rockies form what many researchers consider to be the largest intact and most pristine ecosystem in North America. Details of how life came to this storied landscape that would one day come to be known as the Crown of the Continent reach back into antiquity, 2 CROWN OF THE CONTINENT

much of its record lost in the mists of surmise. On its sunrise face the space provided habitat for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, served as a landmark for ancients from Asia as they followed the Great North Trail, and saw the passing of enormous bison herds. The Crown witnessed the intense interaction between great indigenous nations, and allowed access for the first Europeans to explore, map, and trap in its forests, valleys and streams. In modern times it has provided lessons in collaboration for conservation and with an altering world climate, opened up its considerable outdoor laboratory to study many aspects of these changes. Physical dimensions of the region have greatly expanded from the original concept. When the words “Crown of the Continent” were first used in 1901, they referred for the most part to Glacier National

Park. Now one must look in all compass directions from the park to realize the scope of this ecological unit. Following the crest of the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide is its defining landmark. A precise strand of peaks, it gives order to every drop of moisture that reaches it. All waters descending on the west slopes find their way to the Pacific Ocean. Snowmelt or rain falling on the east side of the Divide works its way to the Atlantic. Journeying north to south, the top tier of the Crown of the Continent commences north of Sparwood, British Columbia and Crowsnest Pass on

St. Ignatious - Rick and Susie Greatz

the Continental Divide in the headwater terrain of the Elk River and 11,319-foot Mt. Joffre. The pass allows Canada’s Hwy 3 to cross the Rockies and the Continental Divide between Fernie, BC in the west and Pincher Creek, Alberta in the east.



Looking Across the “Bob” from above Prairie Reef - Rick and Susie Graetz

Descending southward from Crowsnest, the Continental Divide follows the apex of Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park before busting out into Montana’s Glacier National Park and then on through the Bob Marshall Wilderness country to Rogers Pass and the Crown’s southern tip. For the uninitiated, “The Bob” consists of the contiguous Great Bear, Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas as well as de-facto wildlands that surround the federally designated wilderness. Gathered together these wildlands occupy about 2.5 million acres. Delineation of the exterior boundaries of the Crown begins with the eastern perimeter where the rolling, wavelike prairie lands of Alberta and Montana surge toward a collision with the reefs, walls and peaks of the Canadian and American Rocky Mountain

Sunrise over Flathead Lake - Rick and Susie Graetz

Front. It’s an abrupt change; no space is wasted with gradually ascending foothills. The southern frontier begins at Bowman’s Corner - the Hwy 287-200 crossing – and follows Montana Hwy 200 over Rogers Pass, the Continental Divide and west through the Blackfoot River Valley. At the junction where the Blackfoot meets the Clearwater River flowing south out of the Swan Valley, the border makes a sharp right hand turn and begins moving north with the Clearwater and then westward along the southern edge of the fast-rising Mission Mountains and the Jocko Divide to the Flathead Reservation lands.

Freezout Lake - Rick and Susie Graetz


From here, the western limit takes in the Mission Valley, Flathead Lake and extends north to the west slopes of the Whitefish Range and the Tobacco Valley. North of Eureka, Montana, Canada takes over again and ushers the western rim through

the Kootenay (Kootenai in Montana) River Valley north to the area of the Columbia Lake and Canal Flats in British Columbia. In the entire, approximate 250-mile Great Divide stretch between Crowsnest and Rogers passes, only one year-round road – Marias Pass, route of US Hwy 2 - traverses the Crown. In Glacier National Park, the Going-To-The-Sun Road climbs over the Divide through Logan Pass in the summer, but heavy snowfall, enormous drifts and avalanches seal this route for up to nine months of the year. This then is the framework of today’s Crown of the Continent, but a look back in time is needed to understand how it all came about. By the late 18th century control of the hunting lands of what would one day become Montana east of the mountains had been rotating through various tribes. But it was the acquisition first of horses and then of guns

that allowed the Blackfeet Confederacy to come to rule the prairie the bison freely roamed, especially in the area within the shadow of today’s Rocky Mountain Front and the Crown’s east side.

Eventually though, with the white invasion of their claimed territory, the Blackfeet were pushed into the neighborhood they occupy today - the Blackfeet Reservation - hard up against the eastern flanks of Glacier Nation Park. Restricted to a smaller prairie landscape, the natives ventured into the high country on the western segment of the reservation to hunt, fish and estabNorth American Indian Days on the Blackfeet lish vision quest sites. In awe Reservation - Rick and Susie Graetz of what they saw, the Blackfeet referred to the compilation of jagged, soaring edifices as the “Backbone of the World.” They were most likely referring to the soaring terrain of today’s Glacier and Waterton Lakes national parks. In about 1877 a white man who would make an impact on them entered their world. DISPATCHES


were bolstered and prompted by previous discussions to preserve this collection of alpine majesty. As far back as 1883, John Van Orsdale, an army officer on duty in the Browning area on the Blackfeet Reservation, wrote a letter to The River Press Leaving the reservation, they initially camped in Fort Benton at that time, the most prominent somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Triple Dinewspaper in Montana Terrivide Mountain and then tory. He suggested a national trekked to the now St. Mary “Publicity now being given to park should be considered for Lake, which Grinnell called that portion of Montana will rethe region. “Walled in Lakes.” From there, the duo traveled into sult in drawing attention to the “Publicity now being given to the Swiftcurrent region and scenery which surpasses anythat portion of Montana will climbed to a large glacier thing in Montana or adjacent result in drawing attention to just below Mount Gould and territories. A great benefit would the scenery which surpasses the Continental Divide; it result to Montana if this section anything in Montana or now bears Grinnell’s name. could be set aside as a national adjacent territories. A great And the two men named benefit would result to Monmany of the features identipark.” tana if this section could be fied on maps of Glacier. John Van Orsdale 1883 set aside as a national park.” John Van Orsdale 1883 Grinnell was so enchanted with the entire landscape In 1901 Grinnell heightened the campaign to enthat he returned again and again over the next 41 lighten the American public as to the great natural years. features the area possessed; he christened the land “The Crown of the Continent.” During the early 1900s, Grinnell and other notable folks began seriously lobbying for protection of Far away in northwestern Montana, hidden from the area through national park status. Their efforts to Fort Benton where in September 1885 he met the author. From there, the two journeyed by wagon to the Blackfeet villages.

Bison on the Rocky Mountain Front - Rick and Susie Graetz

Searching for adventure, James Willard Schultz, an educated easterner and accomplished author, migrated to Montana’s high plains and came to live with the Blackfeet Indians. He took a wife from the Piegan band of the Blackfeet and despite being a non-native, Schultz melded in so well that the Piegan name Apikuni, meaning “Far-off White Robe”, was bestowed upon him. Time spent as an outfitter and guide, hunting and exploring the mountainous terrain that rose abruptly west of the Indians’ encampments, inspired him to write of his adventures and the beauty he witnessed, making him perhaps the first person to chronicle the magnificence of these western lands. Schultz, in early 1885, sent an article titled “To the Chief Mountain” to Forest and Stream Magazine, the forerunner to the current Field and Stream. The editor at the time was George Bird Grinnell, a Yale graduate educated in zoology, anthropology and history who, when he died in 1938, was referred to by

Waterton Lakes -


the New York Times as the “father of the modern conservation movement.” He had spent many years studying the natural history of the nation’s western regions and understood well the Native Americans and animals of the Northern Great Plains.

This editor and naturalist was no stranger to the Northern Rockies, having first visited Yellowstone National Park in 1875. And he was instrumental in saving this, the nation and world’s first national park from poachers and those who would diminish its size. With the future president Teddy Roosevelt and others, he formed, in 1877, the Boone and Crockett Club, the nation’s first effective conservation lobbying organization devoted to the protection of America’s wilderRick and Susie Graetz ness and wildlife. The Yellowstone country was their first major effort.

Glacier National Park, Chief Mountain - Rick and Susie Graetz

Impressed with what Schultz penned, Grinnell contracted with him to guide him in the region. He boarded a train from New York to Helena, then rode the mail stagecoach DISPATCHES


view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner – the Crown of the Continent. George Bird Grinnell 1901 Finally, in 1907, legislation was introduced. Residents of Kalispell vehemently opposed the action fearing loss of logging and hunting lands, and felt there wasn’t anything of value in the area that folks would want to see. It took three attempts before a bill passed, and in May of 1910, President Howard Taft signed a decree creating Glacier National Park. In 1895, land contiguous to Glacier just across the Canadian border had been reserved for Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Now with Glacier National Park’s creation, an even greater collection of tall mountains sculptured by ice, water and wind, we’re in public ownership. Lofty recognition was given to the area in 1932 when the two parks were joined together as an International Peace Park. Over the years as scientists have come to recognize that whole areas are connected through an ecosystem, essentially a biological community exhibiting on-going interaction between wildlife, terrain and climate, the region as described in this essay, 13 million acres in all, has had George Bird Grinnell’s original name for approximately one million acres, “The Crown of the Continent”, aptly bestowed on it. The grandeur of the pinnacles reaching towards the sky that awed the first visitors is now part of a world-renowned landscape with both nations protecting 83% of its habitat by statue. Through its Crown of the Continent Initiative, established in Autumn 2007, The University of Montana has become the umbrella and point program for substantial work and study now being carried on in the Crown. Future issues of this Crown of the Continent Dispatches as well as the Crown Initiatives’ other E-publications will explore in detail the many distinct regions of this transboundary treasure. By Rick and Susie Graetz

Mt. Gould in Glacier National Park - Rick and Susie Graetz




THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA CROWN OF THE CONTINENT INITIATIVE The Crown of the Continent Initiative is a UM based program that stresses education, gathering of research and sharing the information not only with students but also with the public, namely those folks who make the existence of this public institution possible. We stress cooperative conservation in our teachings. That involves the protection of traditional uses of the land and a coming together of people from all political persuasions and interests to come up with sustainable solutions. If you are interested in supporting our efforts we have a University Foundation account. We ask that people not contribute to an endowment but rather make the funds available for use when needed. If you are interested please contact Rick Graetz at rick.graetz@umontana,edu or call 406 439 9277 to discuss our needs and how the money is spent. Crown of the Continent Mission Statement In support of the overall mission of The University of Montana, the mission of the UM Crown of the Continent Initiative is to explore, publicize, stimulate, and otherwise participate in educational, research and scholarly, and public outreach activities focused on the Crown ecosystem in its entire diversity. Multidisciplinary and collaborative, across campus and beyond, this Initiative seeks to provide high-quality and accessible information about the Crown; encourage and support new and ongoing research, scholarship, and creative work about the Crown; and to expand the educational opportunities focusing on the Crown for the general public and students at all levels. The UM Crown Initiative carries out this mission in the following ways Components of UM’s Crown Initiative are education, publishing, and cataloging research. Through UM’s Geography Department, Crown of 10 CROWN OF THE CONTINENT

the Continent classes are taught on campus and public lectures are presented throughout Montana. A Crown of the Continent E-magazine is published three times a year, Crown of the Continent Dispatches are released periodically, a newspaper series on the Crown begins Autumn 2011 and a Crown of the Continent book is underway.

Urban Wildland Interface Conflicts – Several areas of the Crown exhibit examples of this issue and present opportunities to create workable solutions. Indigenous Cultures - No place in North America experienced so much interaction between the Indian nations. The Crown allows us a chance to

understand the history behind the culture of the many native peoples who populate several areas of this ecosystem. Research - Studies that are at once interesting and of value to academia as well as the public are made known through the publishing efforts of the UM Crown Initiative.

Research is presented in the E-publications, used in course lectures, and shared with the many affiliates of the University’s Crown Initiative. Extensive collaborations and formal projects with its many partners and affiliates; Public symposia and public presentations. The Crown of the Continent website is constantly updated Why the Crown of the Continent is taught at The University of Montana The Crown offers us an opportunity to research, explore and learn about virtually all aspects of a dynamic mountain ecosystem. Lessons realized here can be exported to other parts of the nation and the world. Collaboration for Conservation - No place in America has experienced as much cooperation and grass roots work for conservation as the Crown. We document the work being done in various landscapes from the beginning and describe how so much accomplishment is possible when all participants are heard. Sustainable Development – Creating conservation projects that preserve traditional uses of Crown landscapes has shown we can devise economic activities that are in harmony with the ecosystem. We study the results of current successes and initiate discussions on new possibilities. Climate Change - The Crown, especially in Glacier National Park, is perhaps the most expansive outdoor laboratory in the nation to study the many facets of an alteration in our long-term climate. Through the knowledge of what is occurring, we can determine ways in which to live with it, adapt to it, benefit from it, and pass on the results and ideas to folks working in other landscapes.

Blackfeet teepees on the shore of Two Medicine Lake ca. 1914 (at that time the teepees were over 100 years old) - GNP Archives

CROWN OF THE CONTINENT INITIATIVE E – PUBLICATIONS Here are the links to all of our E publications distributed as of June 2011 Spring 2011 E Magazine spring2011 Winter 2011 E Magazine Autumn 2010 E Magazine Summer 2010 E Notes – enotes2.

Winter 2009-2010 E Magazine winter2009 Autumn 2009 E Notes Spring 2009 E Magazine spring2009 CROWN WEBSITE CROWN STORE SITE DISPATCHES


You’ve never seen Glacier Park like this! Join area experts on an exciting 4-day excursion through Glacier National Park, and study the Crown of the Continent. During this field experience, you will be guided to remote locations not usually explored by the average Park visitor. Glacier National Park is one of the finest places on the planet to study wildlife habitat, Native American history, the many aspects of a changing world climate, and fascinating physical geography. Join University of Montana professor Rick Graetz and scientists from the Glacier Institute on this once in a lifetime journey of discovery.

September 23-26, 2011

Discovery in the Crown of the Continent: A Glacier National Park Experience Space is limited for this all-inclusive field experience.

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Academic credit is available for an additional cost. 12 CROWN OF THE CONTINENTTo

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