Spreading Human Ashes Glacier NP

RED LODGE POST

People often have fond memories of visiting Glacier National Park, even decades after their journey to the park ended. Some may think that spending eternity in Glacier would be a dream come true, a gift from God.

Saint Mary Lake
Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Well, the National Park Service may be able to accommodate, that is, make a dream reality. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Section 2.62b (Memorialization), cremated ashes of humans can be spread in national parks.
Section 2.62b says, “The scattering of human ashes from cremation is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”

The key language here is “except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit, or in designated areas according to conditions which may be established by the superintendent.”

Glacier Park
Glacier National Park Application for Special Use Permit, p.1. Form courtesy NPS.

At Glacier National Park, the steps to make this happen are straightforward. Complete an Application for Special Use Permit, Spreading of Ashes. In this case, in the “proposed activity” part of the application, is your request to scatter cremated human ashes. Add details as you choose, such as a statement about relationship to the deceased. The application also asks for detailed information about preferred date, location, and time, as well as alternate choices. Other specific information is requested on the form, as well.

The Park’s administration will review the application and make its decision on whether to issue a permit, which allows for an individual to go forward with scattering human ashes in the Park.

PDF of the application is online on Glacier National Park’s Website.
Or obtain an application form from:
Administration
Glacier National Park
P.O. 128
West Glacier, MT 59936

Spreading human ashes is a private and sensitive matter, so exercise good judgement when on public lands. Doing its part, Glacier National Park’s administration has special rules/regulations/guidance pertaining to this activity.
On its Web site, the Park’s administration writes as follows:

“In Glacier National Park, human ashes may be disbursed only in undeveloped areas of the Park; that is, not within 200 feet of any developed location, such as a road, trail, building, parking lot, boat ramp, swimming beach, campground, lake, etc. The ashes must be scattered and not deposited in any type of container. No marker or memorial of any sort may be placed at the site.”

“Also, please keep in mind that winter-like weather can occur at any time during the year, usually November through April, which may make access to a particular area impossible.”

“When you are ready to disburse of the ashes, send in a special use permit application and a letter will be sent to you which will serve as the official permit required by the citation referenced above and the instructions regarding location and notification will serve as the terms and conditions required by the citation. This letter or a copy thereof must be in the possession of at least one member of the party present when human ashes are scattered in the park.”

How many permits for spreading of ashes in Glacier National Park have been approved in recent years? According to Park officials, 2015: 17 permits; 2016: 16 permits; 2017: 27 permits; 2018: 21 permits; 2019: 20 permits; 2020: 16 permits (through September).

Some believe that spirits of the departed soar over the mountain peaks and valleys in Glacier during warm summer evenings. During winter months, spirits hibernate beneath timber falls and openings in nooks and crannies of mountain sides at lower elevations.

That the National Park Service and the U.S. government are happy to accommodate the wishes of many Americans is appropriate in this case. All parties gain satisfaction with this arrangement. Surely, peace of mind comes to family members. Further, the ashes, once a life, are returned to the natural environment, co-mingled with the elements and plants and animals in the Park.

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