Briefly noted: ‘The Civilian Conservation Corps in Glacier National Park, Montana’ by David R. Butler

“Another major experiment which affected Glacier was also to affect many other national parks. The program was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and was called the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1933, almost immediately after this program’s enactment, young men from all over the United States were organized into work crews in camps in national parks and forests. Responding to the Depression economy and vast unemployment, Roosevelt intended this labor to enhance the conservation of natural resources while providing a livelihood for indigent young men. Nationwide, over a thousand camps organized by the Army employed some three hundred thousand young men, and in Glacier, some sixteen hundred enrollees arrived and eight camps were established in 1933.” – C. W. Buchholtz in Man in Glacier, 1976, Glacier Natural History Association

Those of us who became addicted to Glacier National Park over half a century ago, learned more about the park by reading books and monographs published by the former Glacier Natural History Association, for which I was a volunteer, that drew on the expertise of those whom I consider the first generation of modern-day park historians including Jack Holterman, Clyde Lockwood, Curt Buchholtz,  Michael J. Ober, and others. For today’s generation, I should add David R. Butler (Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park) to that evolving list for providing another readable chapter to the park’s knowledge with the current volume released by Arcadia Publishing in February.

From the Publisher

“The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the most successful of all New Deal programs, was heavily involved in creating and improving the infrastructure of Glacier National Park. Between 1933 and 1942, a total of thirteen CCC camps were located on both sides of the Continental Divide that bisects the park roughly from north to south. CCC-I.D. (Indian Division) camps also existed along the eastern edge of the park on the Blackfeet Reservation. CCC “boys” were employed in fighting forest fires and clearing areas of burned trees, clearing brush and debris, sawing logs, creating trails, building fire lookout towers, constructing Park Service buildings, assisting with bridge construction, and building phone lines to connect east and west sides of the park. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited in August 1934 and gave one of his famous radio “fireside chats” from the park, in which he praised the efforts of the CCC in helping improve the country’s national parks. Chapters examine CCC camp life, the nature of the work carried out by the CCC boys, structures built in the park by the CCC, and FDR’s visit.”

In his April 6 review for the Hungry Horse News, Chris Peterson wrote, “You can’t drive into the west entrance of Glacier National Park without seeing the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They not only replanted the entire surrounding forest, they built the entrance station itself.”

And yet, most of today’s visitors come and go without knowing of the tremendous influence of the CCC on all aspects of the park, second only to the work done by the Great Northern Railway’s hotel company. I’m very pleased to see this new book by Butler (who’s been in the park almost as long as I have) who sees it with a professional vision and love of history.

The book will have an impact on you because the more you know about Glacier National Park, the more you love it and understand the constant hard work it has taken–and will continue to take–to preserve it.


Malcolm R. Campbell writes fiction set in the park. Unfortunately, his only nonfiction contribution is out of print.

Briefly Noted: ‘Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park’

Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park (Images of America), by David R. Butler, Arcadia Publishing (June 9, 2014), 128pp, photographs.

I’m happy to see the release of David R. Butler’s new book about Glacier National Park’s fire lookouts. Several years ago, in Heavens Peak Fire Lookout Assessment Open For Comments, I mentioned the developing plans to refurbish the historic fire lookout on Heaven’s Peak. David told me that most of that work was completed in 2012 and that his book includes before and after pictures. This is good news.

firelookoutsFrom the Publisher: The first fire lookouts in the Glacier National Park region were simply high points atop mountain peaks with unimpeded views of the surrounding terrain. Widespread fires in the 1910s and 1920s led to the construction of more permanent lookouts, first as wooden pole structures and subsequently as a variety of one- and two-story cabin designs. Cooperating lookouts in Glacier Park, the Flathead National Forest, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation provided coverage of forests throughout Glacier National Park. Beginning in the 1950s, many of the lookouts were decommissioned and eventually destroyed. This volume tells the story of the rise and fall of the extensive fire lookout network that protected Glacier National Park during times of high fire danger, including lookouts still operating today.

From the Book: “Fire lookouts are described by many writers as magical places, and are well-known as inspirational sites for writers and poets such as Jack Kerouac, Normal Maclean, and Gary Snyder, as well as environmental writers and naturalists such as Edward Abbey and Doug Peacock. They also serve as nostalgic, historical reminders of a simpler time before the Internet, wireless communication, and the widespread use of advanced technology for spotting and monitoring fire boundaries.”

A small percentage of hikers and climbers see the nine remaining lookouts (a few of which are still in use) in Glacier, sticking to the more well-known trails, saddle trips and launch trips. For those who have never seen the lookouts, the photographs in this book open new worlds. For those who know, or who would like to more, Butler brings us another chapter in Glacier’s colorful history.

Update: Arcadia is offering the book at 20% off through Father’s Day 2014. Here’s the link.

You may also like:  Researcher documents history of Glacier’s fire lookouts in the Great Falls Tribune.


BearsWhereTheyFoughtCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of three contemporary fantasy novels (“The Seeker,” “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande” set in Glacier National Park as well as his non-fiction “Bears; Where They Fought,” a historical look at Glacier’s Swiftcurrent Valley.