Jan Metzmaker, executive director of The Glacier Fund, didn’t think selling vehicle license plates that depict Glacier National Park would cross her up with anti-environmental forces. But that was before KGEZ-AM radio owner John Stokes of Kalispell took on her fundraising program.
Stokes, the acidic host of “The Edge” morning talk show in northwestern Montana, maintains that if a group that helps fund wildlife studies, restoration projects and school field trips can sell Montana plates for a profit, so should the Ku Klux Klan and the Militia of Montana. “If it’s good for one, it should be good for all,” he declares.
Stokes is also critical of state Sen. Bob DePratu (R–Whitefish) for successfully sponsoring a bill in the 2001 Legislature that allows nonprofit groups to use vanity license sales as a fundraising tool.
The Glacier Fund, created as a state-chartered group in 1999 by former Glacier Superintendent Dave Mihalic and former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot, was the first private entity in Montana to start selling the plates. About 2,000 have already been purchased this year. Each sale puts $20 in the Fund’s coffers. (To obtain a license application, visit www.glacierplate.org or call 888-7910).
Metzmaker emphasizes that under its charter, her organization cannot take positions or lobby. She also notes that the Fund is not connected with the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group that pushes for more park funding and protections. Stokes admits that he confused the two groups.
“We’re not political,” Metzmaker says. “We don’t tell the park what to do.”
Nonetheless, Stokes says he thinks nonprofit groups shouldn’t benefit from government mandates such as vehicle licensing, especially if they use the money to hire “Greens” and pay for studies that could later feed advocacy efforts. Stokes is also steamed that The Glacier Fund works with public school students.
“My position is keep them all out,” Stokes says. “Don’t politicize the school system.”
Metzmaker says her governing board recently approved sponsorship of a Flathead High School field trip to study last summer’s Moose Fire, as well as a grant for a Glacier Park art exhibit at Kalispell’s Hockaday Museum. Other new projects include donating money for studies of bighorn sheep and bats and matching a United Parcel Service grant for a volunteer ranger corps program for senior citizens.
“Our intent is to help make Glacier a great place to visit,” Metzmaker says. “We’re a little baffled as to why someone would target us like that,” especially considering that park visitors provide the Flathead Valley—including its radio stations and advertisers—with millions of dollars in economic benefit.