Earlier this month, one of Glacier Park’s longest standing partners reached an incredible milestone. With generous donations this summer, the BNSF Railway Foundation passed the $1 million mark in total contributions, in just the past 12 years, to the Glacier National Park Conservancy. From the very start, the very fabric of what it means to be a lifetime partner has been woven with the visionary commitment to this place by the Hill family, the Great Northern Railroad, and the BNSF Railway Foundation.
In his must-read book Hit Refresh, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says any successful organization needs to develop partnerships before you need them, paying particular attention to new and surprising ones. I agree.
Examples of the power of partnership are all around us. Take the recent innovative and impactful Great Fish Community Challenge. We were honored to again be selected to participate this year and, through the generosity of donors like you, this transformative community program will again create positive, sustainable change across the Flathead. For the Glacier Conservancy, this partnership means being able to fund the park’s request to expand the popular spring biker-hiker shuttle system in 2019 to help more of our friends, neighbors, and visitors enjoy the park.
And we continue to be enriched by our park partners the Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates and the Glacier Institute, with whom we collaborate year after year to help implement critical educational, research, and preservation projects.
In addition to these enduring relationships, we launched some new partnerships this year, too. We worked with the Hockaday Museum of Art to curate what I coined “Hockaday Hikes” to visit artists painting in Glacier. These hikes were a great chance to get outside, be in community with each other, meet artists and learn about their craft. Over the winter, we co-hosted a three-night showing with the C.M. Russell Museum of the PBS documentary about Charlie Russell. Who knew then a fire would occur on Lake McDonald and remind us of the fragility of our historic places. Thankfully both the main cabin at the historic Wheeler property and the Russell’s iconic Bull Head Lodge survived this year. That said, the tragedy of the other losses sustained from the fire leaves us keenly aware that making sure these and other treasures survive for the enjoyment of future generations is going to require continued partnerships.
The Sperry Chalet project has become a real-life classroom for how creative partnering raises the tide to float all boats. Consider the example of Whistling Andy Distillery in Bigfork. An email from one of our board members last year encouraged me to talk with the distillery about an idea they had to make a special spirit with proceeds supporting the Sperry Action Fund. A few regulatory hoops later, the “Spirit of Sperry,” a huckleberry infused vodka was launched on July 1st. Since then, Whistling Andy Distillery has donated more than $21,000 from the proceeds of this new and surprising partnership.
Every day I am humbled by the generosity and power of our partners in our collective work to protect and preserve Glacier Park. So many partners, in fact, that it is literally impossible even to name them in the 600 words allocated for guest opinions like this one. Together we’re building a positive, nurturing community that says to one another, “Yes, I will.” In so doing, it doesn’t matter whether that “yes” is contributing one dollar or one million dollars, or volunteering an hour or a week. It’s the “yes” that matters. That’s the power of partners. Together, we not only dream of a better tomorrow, but we actually do something to make it so. Thank you for all you do!
— Doug Mitchell is executive director of Glacier National Park Conservancy.