It's been months since Glacier National Park officials concluded after lengthy environmental studies that snowsheds, not 105mm howitzer shells, should be used to protect freight trains from avalanches sliding off the park's southern flanks.
And yet Interior Department officials have yet to sign off on that decision.
Why? That's a good question that not even the National Park Service can answer.
“We've made requests to Washington, asking why the decision is being delayed,” Mary Riddle, Glacier's environmental and protection specialist, told Montana's Missoulian newspaper. “So far, we've not had any response to our inquiries.”
Back in 2005 officials for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway told park officials they wanted to resort to lobbing 105 mm shells into the park rather than maintain snowsheds, structures it has been using along the tracks that run along Glacier's southern boundary since 1920 or so in the name of avalanche control, because it would be cheaper.
With freight trains running daily past the park, hauling upwards of 33,000 container cars a day to and from the Northwest, this is a pretty key route to keep open for commerce. Just the same, the landscape being targeted for bombing by the railroad is inside a national park and is home to grizzly bears -- which theoretically could be shaken from their winter's slumber by the shelling -- mountain goats, wolverines and other wildlife.
While park officials believe snowsheds protecting less than a mile of tracks could solve the problem of avalanches blocking the tracks, railroad officials have said that option, with a price tag of around $5.5 million, is too expensive. Never mind that the railroad had revenues of $15 billion and a net profit of almost $2 billion in 2006 and that the bullish times have continued ever since.
For the rest of the story, read the Missoulian article.