Biel awarded for work in Glacier Park

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Biologist Mark Biel with Gracie the “bark ranger” at Logan Pass last year.

Glacier National Park Natural Resources Program Manager Mark Biel has earned the 2017 National Park Service Director’s Award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resource Stewardship. Biel won the regional award last November and competed with finalists from six other regions for the national award.

Biel was recognized for his leadership on several fronts, including his work to initiate a wildlife shepherding program, dark sky conservation, and mountain goat research.

Biel launched the wildlife shepherding program in 2016. The program uses a trained border collie, Gracie, (also known as the “Bark Ranger”) to move bighorn sheep and mountain goats out of areas of high visitor use, such as the Logan Pass parking lot. It also gives Biel the chance to talk about the importance of wildlife safety with visitors, schools, and community groups.

Biel also coordinated recent mountain goat research at Logan Pass and was instrumental in Glacier’s recent designation as the world’s first transboundary International Dark Sky Park, along with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Both projects are also partially funded by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

More recently, he’s been coordinating a parkwide mountain goat study, designed to see how the iconic creatures are reacting to climate change in the Park.

The projects have had substantial support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the non-profit fundraising arm of the Park.

“This award is truly an honor. So many parks are doing extraordinary work, and to be selected for the national award is amazing. I’m grateful to park leadership and the Glacier National Park Conservancy for their support. This is truly a team effort,” Biel said.

Biel grew up outside of Buffalo, New York and then moved to Michigan when he was 15. He said he’s always had passion for animals.

“I always loved anything to do with wildlife and exotic animals,” he said.

Biel’s career includes 24 years with the National Park Service. He came to Glacier National Park in 2010. Prior to his time at Glacier, he worked at Devils Tower National Monument, Padre Island National Seashore, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, where he started as a volunteer in the park’s Bear Management Office.

He holds a master’s degree in animal science/nutrition from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s in agriculture and natural resources from Michigan State University. Biel lives in Columbia Falls with his wife, daughter, and bark ranger Gracie.

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