What does Killarney National Park have in common with Glacier National Park in Montana, USA?

Killarney National Park became Ireland’s first national park when it was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. Since then the park has expanded to cover nearly 26,000 acres and includes the Lakes of Killarney, expansive woodlands, waterfalls and Ireland’s highest mountain range.

Glacier National Park on the other hand was created in 1910 and extends to over one million acres. The national park, located in north-western Montana on the Canada-United States border, includes parts of 2 mountain ranges, over 130 lakes and thousands of native plant and animal species.

Both national parks are celebrated for their dark skies. Glacier National Park received a provisional Gold Tier designation as Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park through the International Dark Sky Association in 2017. While Killarney National Park is a designated Dark Sky Park.

Following a virtual signing ceremony on 22nd March, the 2 national parks are now officially “sister parks”.

Despite their differences (you won’t find moose or grizzly bears around the Lakes of Killarney)… there are a number challenges shared by both parks either side of the Atlantic.

The agreement allows the two national parks to partner up as sister parks, and share ideas on everything from managing invasive species in both parks, to working with local communities and improving ecological monitoring at both destinations, according to RTE.

Mark Daly, a Fianna Fail Senator from County Kerry who currently serves as the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, worked behind the scenes with the US Department of the Interior on the new “sister parks” agreement.

According to the USA’s National Parks Service website, the Sister Parks system in the USA has been put in place because “it is widely accepted national parks are simply too small to fulfil their mission of preserving natural and cultural resources on their own”.

The idea is that by pairing up with national parks around the world, including our own here in Ireland, different regions can share their expertise to not only preserve their wildlife and fauna, but to also find new initiatives to protect the landscapes from factors ranging from air pollution to over-tourism.

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