The Glacier National Park Conservancy will look to triple its annual giving to Glacier National Park in the next three years, and they’ve hired a new CEO to get the job done.
Mark Preiss took the GNPC helm late last month. He was the manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve in Washington state for seven years prior to his arrival here.
Preiss wore two hats at Ebey’s Landing — manager of a unit of the National Park Service and grassroots community advocate. Ebey’s Landing is a unique to the National Park Service — more than 90 percent of it is privately owned, and two state parks, a county park and the town of Coupeville are located inside its 17,400-acre boundary.
While there, Preiss helped create a philanthropic friends group to raise the funds to help preserve Ebey’s Landing’s historic character through conservation easements.
The easements and other funding sources made it economically feasible for landowners to continue to farm in a region that’s less than two hours from Seattle.
“There’s an opportunity to apply some of those strategies and tools to Glacier,” he said.
With a total budget of $2.3 million, GNPC will support about $490,000 in Glacier Park projects this year. The organization’s goal is to double its budget to about $5 million and support Glacier Park and other National Park Service units in Montana to the tune of $1.5 million over the next three to four years.
GNPC was created by the merger of Glacier National Park Fund and the Glacier Association. The Glacier Association runs all the bookstores in the Park as well as bookstores at Grant-Kohrs Ranch and Little Bighorn Battlefield. GNPC’s idea is to provide greater support to those units as well, Preiss noted.
Some fundraising efforts are already going well, Preiss said. Smith’s Food and Drug in Columbia Falls, for example, recently had a “round up” fundraiser to pay for school field trips to Glacier Park. Donors rounded up their grocery tabs, and the change went toward GNPC’s program, followed by a match from Smith’s. GNPC needs to explore more relationships like that, Preiss noted.
GNPC and the Park Service will also develop a three-five year strategic plan. Projects currently are funded on an annual basis and sometimes at the spur of the moment.
Earlier this year, for example, GNPC donated $10,000 to help Glacier Park with overtime costs associated with plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Preiss said GNPC will play a role in emergency funding situations like that, but “donors and the community want to see a clear vision and clear collaboration.”
GNPC will also look to forge a relationship with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the new concessionaire for Glacier Park’s main lodges and red bus fleet.
Preiss lives in Whitefish with his wife Kathryn and two children, 5 and 8. Prior to his post at Ebey’s Landing, he was the director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council for four years.