No Ordinary Adventure

Preserving GBNP with Scientist and Superintendent Phillip Hooge

October 25, 2020 No Ordinary Adventure by UnCruise Adventures Season 1 Episode 2
No Ordinary Adventure
Preserving GBNP with Scientist and Superintendent Phillip Hooge
Show Notes Transcript

Our National Parks are some of our national best ideas, and we join Glacier Bay National Park, Superintendent on life as a public servant, avid sailor, scientist, and diver who has logged 3800 cold water dives in his own national park! We dive into what's new for the park, how they are pivoting during COVID and no tourism, their work with local tribes, and the passion of becoming a passionate outdoorsman and advocate for the environment.

Find more at NPS.Org,  GBNP Superintendent Phillip Hooge
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Hey adventures. Welcome to the no ordinary adventure podcast, a place we call home for adventure and the conversations you want to have. We bring you inspiration stories from the field and talk with adventure travelers and industry experts from around the world. This is a place to fill your heart and head with travel knowledge. Now, your host Dan Blanchard, a lifelong Mariner traveler and CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a small boat adventure company defining the UN in UnCruise. Let's get started. Today, we're going to be talking with Philip, who is the superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park. And what makes it so unique is he actually comes from the research end of the business, and science. So in this day and age, when we all talk about the importance of science, we have a superintendent at Glacier Bay National Park, who's a scientist isn't that great news? Fellow How you doing? Pretty good, pretty good. All things considered, you know? You could go on with a long list of good or bad you know, how do you how do you answer that question these days? Any anything positive? It could be the fact that they have something I need to store is a major victory these days. That's all the all the time I got to stand on my boat in the park. That was good. You don't fill up i? I've known you for some time now. And even back in the day when I was working on the Thunder Bay. As the captain, you were in the park as a researcher and I just find that totally amazing. And I just kind of can't help but wonder how does a guy go from being a researcher to the superintendent of one of our gemstones in the park system. It's a Securitas pathway. You know, Dan, as you as you say, you know, I was researcher in Glacier Bay. I came here right after graduate school at UC Berkeley and fell in love with this place. And I got to do some incredible projects here. You know, I worked on movements of marine species on oceanography on benthic mapping. And I managed to get 3800 dice here in Glacier Bay, including swimming most of the shoreline. 800 dives and Glacier Bay. Yes, coldwater dive so a lot of a lot of time underwater here including using a diver propulsion vehicle to map the entire shoreline. So I ended that project those that those 10 years I am working with a colleague, John Brooks, who is now works on the avatar films and work on the Titanic, we we get an underwater film here beneath the reflections. And that film is still the visitors that are film. And so that's a lot of a lot of the booties from the areas that we we did work in and so that was exciting. But one day I walked up to Tommy Lee was one of the one of the most attentive superintendents in the National Park Service. And this is a classic Connie, I, you know, I said to her, you know, tell me, why don't why isn't there more superintendents that no science, you know, and she looks at me and says, Well, that's nothing I can really do anything about, but you could. The next year, I find myself as deputy superintendent at Denali National Park, which was a school of hard knocks. So we talked about the throw you in and swim type of experience. And, you know, as a, as a very research oriented science scientist, it was, it was, it was it was quite the transition, a place of a lot of political controversy and stuff. And I had two wonderful mentors there. And, and they, they helped me through those years, and we get a lot of great things that Dolly for 10 years. And that that really did prepare me for for for coming back with the right tool set. And I appreciate so much. I could not have done the job without those 10 years at Denali National Park Service decided they wanted a superintendent with a marine background in a marine park and then I got to go back. And since then, it's been a wonderful wild ride with so many great memories. Yeah, for sure. And I do remember when word got out that one of maybe the first or one of the first researchers ever to be a superintendent. Correct. He had the biological deals and we weren't very many certainly certainly a marine biologist and a coastal Barker. That was a that was an absolute first Yeah. Yeah. Remember, you know all the gossip around you save us before that final decision was made and you're one of the finalists and Then of course there was this like, excitement about somebody that actually knows the way that no science and is out there person. And I think that you know, those were there were a lot of big smiles on a lot of faces when that word came out and I think that's a fear of so highly of course I know that you you have some secrets in your back pocket too. You happen to believe in the same invisible force that I do that powers boats across the oceans. Tell us about that. Well, that's right. I am a sailing fanatic. Now we when we lived here in Lakeisha Bay before we lived on a 54 foot boat, and my first kid was was was born but wasn't born on the boat but was first year was raised there we we went to France because it appeared that was the only place that made these kinds of boats and we bought a aluminum 45 footers with a lifting keel that was built for sailing to the Antarctica or the Arctic. And we got her here sailed up the Inside Passage, and she can be single handed on the cockpit. All the sails are on and and so it's was built on one of the the solid race boats. So design, so we designed for sailing couple, and with a lifting keel, we can get into just every little nook and cranny in the park. In fact, you know, we kind of anchor our boat all the time. And basically, what's the tide pool? You know, you can get in for a couple hours a day, and then it just, and then it's the most just depended up there. But um, so yeah, we've and we definitely taken advantage this last year, I said, you know, well, if I have a summer that doesn't have visitation, I have more time I you know, I'm going to kick myself if I do not get out in the park. And we managed to do it every other weekend, and revisit a lot of places and discovered some new ones too. Yeah, there are so many places people just don't realize how large Glacier Bay National Park is. And I think you're aware that my first year up there, there was a housing shortage and 86 and my son was sold we had one of the cover and we lived our sailboat for our 42 foot sell that I still have and live on in Seattle when I'm here. And yeah, first word so work mom or dad. It was yeah, if you're in especially heating the water there through the hall up and Marcy and artlink code you can sometimes it just rains, you know? almost scary the first time you hear it. So yeah, we've had a couple complaints from the campground like, you know, there's a Steam release, you know, at the park service maintenance facility. They kept us all up all night. Oh, that's priceless. I've never heard that in any way. Oh, that's awesome. So their attitude changes once they once they know what it was, you know? Well, you know, speaking of the park, of course, you and I could go on for days and days on our sailing stories, our love for the outdoors. But you know, I've been obviously falling apart very closely. And I know there's some really great news during this time of COVID My absolute favorite little place that I just call my own is nestled into a little spot towards the back of bird Bay and we recently have some just terrific news on that topic you could share this is quite a partnership to put together but basically the you know the park has only six small in holdings native allotment and three of them are inside the park which is in the controlled area which were which were always the ones of most concern. These tended to be what they called fractionated ownership they're inherited down and split among all the heirs and and there had many of them there's confusion about who owns the property but but the heirs for one of the pieces got together and decided to sell and so all of a sudden we have this situation where a there's a there's a piece of property inside the park in an amazing place that is on its way to becoming a launch and not only was that a problem but because of Anelka and access to in holdings it would be exempt from the capacity management system. And and to even top it off where it was a chicken at Homeland and the chicken at really site and sacred to the chicken ad and we had to act, you know, unfortunately, you know, we lined up multiple funds sources that would pay for the whole thing but the land came out at an appraised value that was just a few $100,000 Too much over over the appraised value and that basically Stop the Park Service from making an offer and also was a problem for many organizations that go and buy land. Because if you know, they, they feel like if they start paying above appraised value for lands, it's going to cascade into other land purchases here we're seeing, you know, this homeland that you could add to tend to them being potentially cut off the park having what would be a Denali decantation situation, and all for $200,000. And it was, it was one of the stressful moments and really also brought home to me how Glacier Bay needs to a friend's organization. I mean, we were sitting here with with multiple donors, we just couldn't funnel the money through. So they tried stepped in and they they got the owners to prioritize selling to the tribe and the tribe tried to gather money up. And then then we were able to put a three way partnership with the Conservation Association, paying the appraised value. And then the National Park Foundation coming in and using the last of the settlement fund, for when the cruise ship hit the whale rate. And so we use that, combined with the Conservation Association funding with the agreements that the tribe got, and put that package together for the land. And then it was covenants on the land were developed with the tribe and the park on propriate use of the tribe for perpetually those covenants were agreed upon. And then the National Park Service was able to purchase a land minus the cost of those covenants, which came in with just a couple $100,000. So and the Conservation Association got reimbursed for that funding, but though all those partners just came together in the most fantastic way and, and so now we have that property preserved, but we also have for credit, actually, we have tribal access to these lands. And we have the ability to you know, construct some small temporary structures on the land to aid in with the tribal house in in cultural interpretation and cultural cultural activities, such as, you know, fish camp there. So I would be hard pressed to define a more win win win situation than then that and it seems like a small piece of Alaska 150 acres, but you know, when you consider that the implications it was, it was big. Oh, yeah. And you know, I, one of the reasons of course, at berbasis historic even in modern times, John Muir camped at the entrance to ERBE way back in the day, we know that were negative villages, they're not really that long ago, I needed to let you know that I am just intrigued with that area for the park. Because as you know, there's that little cubelet is just kind of South, when you're in the bay, that is a PR. And, you know, you can go in there with a small boat or kayak in and see hundreds and hundreds of sea otters and even given time, of course, the brownies are prolific in their tremendous coho and Sockeye run. It's kind of like my little heaven, I have to say, so what you described is, I know, very boiled down version, all the complexity that went into that. The fact that you're able to pull that off during this tremendous pandemics is just a tribute to you and your team and everyone involved. Yeah, it's pretty exciting. You know, other things going on the park. I'm curious. I know, you know, we had hoped, one or a few trips in the bay. That didn't happen. I know you didn't have any cruise ships? What's been the impact? both good and bad, without dissertation or any real tight the summer? Yeah. So it's been it's been a very interesting year, you know, the first the staff here and the community, you know, the major effects have not been the disease. So our community has come together very well, to the testing with with good behavior, social distancing, and we've had very few cases in those cases have been able to be pretty isolated and and dealt with it's, it's it's wonderful to see how the community has gotten together. On the other hand, the fiscal effects are immense to the US and Glacier Bay is easy, Nick, and in this situation, we share a lot with the industries that utilize Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay has special legislative authorization to use crucial funds for base and over 75% of our base is cruiseship revenues. That's unheard of in the park service as the only the only place it's just anything comparable to this so and those revenues were stable over over decades. More able to then then then federal government funds and, and Glacier Bay did really well. And so we were able to kind of get back to this year, we, you know, we found ourselves without 75% of that revenue, we had luckily saved up a bunch of money to implement the frontcountry plans. And we were, you know, the structures, we were, we were on a fast track to completing deferred maintenance, or the lodge buildings, extra trails, a Discovery Center, all these things that would be wonderful for visitors coming right to the park. And we're able to utilize those funds to basically survive this year. And they will get us in through part of next year, when we all hope, you know, this is this is going to be over in some form or veto. Meanwhile, we also have had national parks too, since a whole kind of recognize the problems we have. And, you know, we're not going to get abandoned by the service. But, you know, it can be hard to hard times next year if we don't, if we don't see a return. So what we tried to do, you know, make lemonade out of lemons as much as we can here, the research group here has focused on looking at a baseline condition for wildlife species here to see how we are doing in a system with a lot less vessels, our interpretive staff have started to work on interpretive products that they never had the chance to in a summer, our maintenance staff as prioritize a lot of work that was extremely disruptive during the during the normal year, and we had to cram into a small season. So folks will come back here and they will be able to sit on the large stack, and it will look like it did back in the 60s when the place was built. You know. So there you can actually see the water. Oh, my God. I've talked about that a lot over the years one trade success bill. Yeah, it's good. It took a while, because we really needed to build it into the long term management plans, it needed to be something that didn't, wasn't just the ups and downs of who are the superintendent. And so we we really did tie to the historical character and, and create work on the park service called historical landscapes. And it's a divine vegetation plan that says those views will exist for perpetually and it is interesting, you know, it's a little bit traumatic for people to see, you know, a logging operation and started all kinds of jokes like, you know, this superfan is logging the park to fund, you know, fund employees, you know, and that was a good one. And, but you know, how fast things grow back here, Dan? And it's right now you can't even see we had a stump grinder and you brown down the stumps to the bottom and it looks like it would, you know, nothing happens here. It makes sense. For those of us who know, we can actually see the ocean, you know, on there. And so the multi tribal house now and, and the lodge have those those landscapes built into there. And we'll we'll we'll say like that. So those, those are, those are good, you know, those examples of kind of making the lemonade out of lemons, we did some interesting work, you know, on, you know, and all the results are in on looking at Wildlife behavior and distributions. But I mean, the good news is, I mean, we saw a few more wildlife and things and we're not seeing growth changes. So you know, the indications are, that we're doing a good job here. And I guess I'm not surprised that that of the amount of science and work and the capacity management system that has worked so well for this park, so So I think we are going to feel assured that we're, we're doing the right thing, and we're not and pencils are not affecting the speed exam. Interestingly enough, though, so you know, 97% of the visitation is my cruisetour vessels, like such as yours. We, you know, that decline precipitously, we had a little bit of launch activity, we had almost a normal year in terms of the number of small boats, really, and so it you know, individual boats are great COVID isolation vehicles. You know, we have a lot of people who, in se to, you know, Glacier made with another target screen normally came up a lot, a lot of larger vessels that, you know, I suspect for people, you know, isolating on on their vessels come and that was interesting. We miss everybody, you know, always my weed, but I do know, the back of what you're saying about the private vessels, we saw a lot of private vessels in general over the summer. And, you know, I think that the world probably more than normal actually doesn't because people are taking advantage sois started my my career in Alaska and Glacier Bay Lodge, and it just does my heart good to know that she's getting the attention she deserves and she's And to hear that decline house also has, you know, a clearing, and that's going to be maintained so soon from the water, it sounds like just thanks me to know Him. Because I, I've always felt that Glacier Bay has so much to offer our worlds both in the front country and in the back country. And it's, you know, I'm on board with 100%. In what you've been able to accomplish. Well, I'm sure folks have heard about the Great America outdoor act right now, you know, Congress passed it and met some $2 billion a year for the National Congress to deal with deferred maintenance. And while we have lost some of our internal funds to go deal with this, we have put together packages of things and are real hopeful that we could get in for some significant enhancement projects for our code. So those ones that were being talked about inside the frontcountry plan we've put forward to the great American outdoor act. One of them, as you know, redoing all the housing for employees at the lodge and getting right now we have actually multiple rooms that are being occupied by staff because there's not adequate housing, say that comes through, we'll be doing some really across the board to the lodge and helping helping to build some trails and make make a place a much better probably much better stop location. Yeah, that's, that's really true. And it's going to be a bit I mean, almost like a new day for Glacier Bay for visitors standpoint. I'm curious to know, though, I mean, you and I share a similar heart love of the outdoors, love sailing, love of Glacier Bay? I mean, is there a particular experience you had at Glacier Bay that you could share with us that just is the type of thing you might share with me when I come and see on your deck, and that just is one of those life experiences that you could share? Yeah, that's, you know, it's funny that you would ask that Ito yield. So many things come to mind and this year has been sealed with so many adventures, you know, you know, what I have picked out, you know, sailing until the two yet or four sail sailing to eat out into those twisty turns into into mere harbor and going to the hot springs, but, you know, I'll just, I mean, because it's just on my mind all I have to say, last week, two weeks ago, so two weeks ago, we you know, sailed up with my kids and we first tied up next to gloominess put 600 foot lines to the to the shore to lock ourselves in and we climbed up a new route that we picked on the top of gloominess made it to the top in glorious weather I mean not a cloud in the sky I did it do you can see from one end to the bay to the other you know it was hot you know, and then we you know, the wilderness areas open up in the in the in the winter this time of year and we were able to go into emailer and just do more and then we basically anchor to a tide pool that I've always wanted to do next to your bay and you know the tide goes out where we're hanging there you know, like eight inches under the hall as we came in but there's plenty you know, and then we then we went and explored weird day and it's ever been the weird Bay is in an amazing place is weird yeah and then and then we then we got 30 knot winds and we just in the right direction and under shortened sail the boat just loves that and we just flew you know? Yeah, so it was quite an adventure and you know at this time of year you know, well most call this summer do was low low numbers but at this time of year it's Yeah, we didn't see anybody so so that had all those all those magical components and you know just renews your soul you just are just so filled up with with imagine and then to share it with your family of 11 and you know, I have made our up to gloomy na wiki down on vivid ants but of course when you and I were younger you know was easy to get to and it's all grown in so yeah a little bit late but I think that those experiences like going up to glooby and and I have another hole like that that I took myself into quite a bit in the backend he keeps another one that he's you know or that or the one behind the island and bear track you know that's that's always I love that likes time back a bear track I consider it's kind of house its own little weirdness about it that there has been a dark and gloomy oh my gosh, that is that is like the place I love to go exploring of that river basin and the islands is awesome. Yeah, there's something about like, you know, yourself into this little nook and cranny you know that it's just a, you know, I don't know, comforting. Yeah, I agree. It's a family there. It's really, the blessing of National Park Service to us as persons and humans and families really speaks loudly in most situations. 10 close. I'm curious, what's what's in the future for Philip, you've been at Glacier Bay now, a number of years as superintendent, I'm thinking, you know, both you and I aren't getting any younger, what are your? Yeah, well, I'm certainly am good to see the park to this current challenge through recovery, right this next year, but you know, I am, I am thinking about some of those next adventures, and one of them is that, you know, we're remaking the underwater film right now. And, and so I'm thinking about getting my cold water diving gear back together again, and, and I'm hoping to get those great shots that I never got before, or redo them and, and redo the animation, which was not that great. But and then, you know, we had a dream of sailing the Northwest Passage, and we got a boat that could do it, you know, that's on the list. But, you know, se also just has so many places to go, I you could just spend a lifetime I, I think that you know, at one point, we were like thinking about sailing around the world. And now we're just thinking about the north, you have a couple of book ideas here. Right? You know, I think it's time that somebody did a good a cruising guide that actually put marine biology and, and the management stories behind these relations together in one place. Please, please, seriously, there's cruising guides that are doing the job of telling us what places might be very few that go into any detail on realize, or even really, for fun, and most of the time, they're just navigation pieces. So I could see that being a powerful piece of and continuing education of people learning and then moving towards preservation. Yeah, the I think people enjoy the more and more folks enjoying hearing about, you know, how these laces are preserved. And, you know, the, the hard work that actually goes into it. And, and, and some of those stories, too, are fascinating, you know, things have happened within our lifetime. So, you know, we don't think of it in a historical context. So we're, you know, it's, it's time to write down some of those some of those stories. Yeah, for sure. Well, this has been a really great time to touch base I, I deeply appreciate it, please, please give my regards to your staff. It kills us not to be there with you. But you know, we're all taking care of our own little business right now. Until if I just hope that when the day comes that you depart the park, I hope you leave. With such a feeling of success and getting things done, I, I have been in Glacier National Park through many superintendents rarely attacked, in my mind, nobody's even come close to the positive impacts who got to the park, I know, you'll be cherished in the eyes of many people of the park for a long time. So when that day comes, you will let me know because I'm going to be involved in that. Day Dad, it's been a great team here. And, and one of those fortuitous times, you know, both good and bad to have out here. And and that's been good. And we are we are so looking forward to you guys coming back. And, you know, we were feeling really positive about some of the efforts aimed to bolster up security while the while we might not have full herd immunity or full of vaccine things that you know, there are some satellites with a MCI present alien efforts that people are doing and expansion of testing and so we are kind of you know, we're preparing here for you know, when there's, you know, when we have to have those systems in place well, people will have a wonderful time Yeah, and I have right with you and and you know my my plea to our senators and congressmen from Alaska as well as washed organize them who is you know, nationalized, wrapped, rapid, reliable, regular testing. I like to call the three R's we do that is a nation. We're going to get travel going again, we're gonna get people out in the wilderness again. Now we're gonna continue the appreciation for all things wild. Yeah, well, my friend, thank you very much. It has been a joy, you know, we still have to go. Over we COVID times are over we, we have to go take the sail up someplace and end. Maybe just one last word on how can people best support Glacier Bay National Park? For those that might donate time or funds, what's the best method for them to contact? One of the best ways right now is make sure the message is out there that you know, Glacier Bay is your friend then a lot of other parks and is and is being dramatically affected, just like the cruise tourism is the you know, it's just not like some places just government funded and everything's the same. And you know, in the end with the great American outdoor act, this is a good place, which means a good place to get the these these things that were the front country plan, we're going to dramatically enhance people's experience in our country plan. I mean, people want to walk in the trails they want, they want to go see that, see that environment, we've never had a visitor center, you know, a real Visitor Center in the park, these things would be helpful not only to the visitors, but also to the local economy, we need to need to build some more resilience, you know, it's really crucial tourism is an extremely important part, it's wonderful, and we can get so many visitors here at such a high quality of experience. But we also need to have a more diversified economy in this in here and build that for both. So you know, the community of the park, those you know, getting the word out there that that's that's important. You know, and I think our you know that we have a lot of supporters out there that can do that, that that helps, that helps build the build the constituency. Well, we'll do our best to do that. We're always encourage our guests to donate to the different organizations that support the Park Service and Glacier Bay and SAS is playing exciting stuff. And hopefully we'll be doing our part jumping until the end of the summer to buy a bunch of our small little tour boats up there. Yeah, yeah, getting getting people Yeah, you guys focus on getting boats here. That's what's especially for folks that get to dive in as much as your guests do. It just builds a conservation ethic. I mean, if you can't, and not be inspired and not see why this place is special and why it's worth worth keeping special. Yeah, amen to that. Thank you. It's been great. Take care. Thanks for listening to no ordinary adventure sharing locally harvested stories about adventure. Be sure to subscribe, leave a review, tell a friend and help spread the word we are a community of nature lovers, intrepid travelers and outdoor adventurers mostly from the comfort of a small boat and we want to spread our love of this fascinating planet. That's it for this episode. Now get outside