Waterton-Glacier becomes first ‘International Dark Sky Park’

Milky Way over Logan Pass in Glacier National Park - NPS, Jacob W. Frank
Milky Way over Logan Pass in Glacier National Park – NPS, Jacob W. Frank

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was just named the first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park. Below is the lead-in from the Flathead Beacon’s article on the subject, but also check out the links following it for some spectacular photos . . .

Eighty percent of the United States’ population lives in an area where they can’t see a true dark sky. Around the globe, thanks to light pollution, only one-third of humanity can look up at the sky at night and clearly see the Milky Way.

For Glacier National Park interpretive ranger Lee Rademaker, that means every time the park prepares to host a night sky viewing, “we’re about to blow two-thirds of these people’s minds.”

For years, Glacier and nearby Waterton Lake National Park have been touting their dark night sky as another critical natural resource, just as important as glaciers or goats. On April 28, officials from the United States and Canada gathered at West Glacier to celebrate Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park being named the first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park.

Read more . . .

Also see . . .
Glacier Park’s “Night Sky” page
In Search of America’s Darkest Skies (24 Photos)

Photos: The sweeping landscapes under review by Trump

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument - Bob Wick, BLM
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – Bob Wick, BLM

NPR has an impressive photo spread of the national monuments under review by the Trump administration . . .

President Trump has ordered the Department of the Interior to review all designations of national monuments greater than 100,000 acres created since 1996.

That executive order, which he signed Wednesday [April 26], places at least 20 — and as many as 40 — monuments in the government’s sights. The areas now under review span a vast range of landscapes — from arid deserts to frozen mountain peaks, from striking craggy vistas to teeming underwater playgrounds.

And, though these monuments were all established roughly in the past two decades, they all have a history more than a century long. That’s because all of them owe their existence to the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law signed by President Theodore Roosevelt that makes it a federal crime to destroy or alter ancient artifacts and ruins on federal land.

Read more . . .

Flathead Forest edging toward new river plan

Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana - Jonny Armstrong-USGS
Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana – Jonny Armstrong-USGS

Lily Cullen, writing for the Hungry Horse News, posted a good summary of last week’s ‘river meeting’ at Flathead Forest headquarters. Several North Forkers were in attendance, as increasingly heavy river usage is becoming a significant issue locally (see, for example, older posts here and here) . . .

The Flathead National Forest has plans for a new Flathead River Wild and Scenic River plan, but it will probably take years to finalize new management policies for the three forks of the river, Hungry Horse/Glacier View district ranger Rob Davies said last week.

The plan will include updated standards for maximum river capacities and will designate launch points for half-day floats along the recreational stretches of the North, South, and Middle Forks of the Flathead River, Davies noted during a meeting of river stakeholders in Kalispell.

Crowds are a big issue for the Forest Service and Glacier National Park staff who manage the river. The standards for the ideal number of encounters on a river float — usually two to 10 per half-day float — haven’t changed since 1986. Rangers and volunteers monitor the North, Middle, and South forks during peak times in prime float season, and count the number of encounters on the water and on the shore. They also keep track of launch wait time. However, there’s no consequence or management plan for when the number of user encounters exceeds the standards, which are designed to measure the overall recreational experience.

Read more . . .

Tester bill wants ban on mining near Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park sign at the North Entrance - Jim Peaco, NPS, October 1992
Yellowstone National Park sign at the North Entrance

Sen. Jon Tester wants to firm up the ban on mining leases on public lands near Yellowstone National Park . . .

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has introduced legislation to permanently ban new mining in an area of Montana just outside Yellowstone National Park.

The Montana Democrat says responsible natural resource development is an important part of Montana’s economy but the doorstep of Yellowstone is one place that should be protected.

Tester’s proposal would withdraw federal mineral rights on some 30,000 acres of public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest just north of Yellowstone.

Read more . . .

Commentary: Working together for solutions on public lands

The Whitefish Range by Steve Gnam
The Whitefish Range by Steve Gnam

This significant op-ed on the importance of the collaborative process for developing public lands policy was written by Noah Bodman, a board member of the Flathead Area Mountain Bikers and Amy Robinson, a regional field director for the Montana Wilderness Association. It was posted to the Daily Inter Lake on April 23.

Highly relevant to this is our previous post on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project . . .

Working together locally counteracts the divisiveness that is splintering our nation and communities. Too many Americans are allowing pride, principles and politics to distract from the reality that we actually have a lot of common ground together. Reaching out to someone who does not agree with us takes courage and curiosity. Like many Montanans before us, we choose to respectfully sit down together and do the tough work to discover a path forward.

If a wilderness advocate and a mountain biker can overcome the division, then anyone can.

About four years ago, we entered into a collaborative group known as the Whitefish Range Partnership. The partnership consisted of about 30 individuals from across the Flathead Valley area that cared about how the public lands of the Whitefish Range would be managed. Everyone was aware that the Flathead National Forest would revise their forest plan, which would lay out a management blueprint for the next 20 or more years. Instead of reverting to old, ineffective fighting tactics of the past, people agreed that it was worth trying something new. Working together.

So, private landowners, businesses, timber mills, horsemen, motorized users, mountain bikers, and wilderness lovers worked together. After two years, the entire group reached an agreement that supported extraordinarily diverse values. We then presented the agreement to the Flathead National Forest to consider in their forest planning process. We won’t lie, the process of working together was not easy and we oftentimes wondered where it would lead, but we pressed on.

Continue reading Commentary: Working together for solutions on public lands

Bike deal adds heartache, hope to wilderness proposal

Grizzly Basin - added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area under the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act - Zack Porter photo
Grizzly Basin – added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area under the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act – Zack Porter photo

The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project is back in play in the U.S. Senate, but getting to that point was not at all an easy or comfortable task . . .

Smoke Elser agreed to share his favorite place in the world with his least-favorite pastime, and it nearly broke his heart.

“I will support what we’ve done,” Elser said. “I’m the only one who voted against it. But everyone else agreed. And I want Grizzly Basin. I want that Monture drainage. So I had to compromise. But I’m not going to compromise anymore.”

What the dean of Montana’s horse-packing heritage did was concede to a deal that unified an unprecedented coalition of supporters around an expansion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. In return for endorsing full federal protection of 80,000 acres, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and two Montana mountain biking groups laid claim to about 3,800 acres for future cycling trails. That’s next to a proposed 2,200-acre recreation management area designated for snowmobile use.

Read more . . .

Impromptu ‘Science March’ in Polebridge

Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 - Debo Powers photo
Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 – Debo Powers photo

Debo Powers reports . . .

Visiting biologists staged an impromptu “Science March” in Polebridge on Earth Day, April 22, in solidarity with hundreds of thousands in Washington DC and around the globe who marched to support science and research-based policy. Several North Fork residents joined in making the statement in front of the Polebridge Mercantile.

Harvey Locke leads charge to prevent global-scale extinction

Harvey Locke
Harvey Locke

Many of you will remember Harvey Locke from the 2014 NFPA Annual Meeting as a charismatic orator who thinks in large landscapes. “Large” may be too mild an adjective. The Calgary Herald has the story . . .

Harvey Locke would grimace at the suggestion he’s on a mission to save the world.

But the Calgary native and Banff resident has embarked on a campaign to convince world leaders to preserve 50 per cent of their countries’ land mass to avert what’s seen as the earth’s sixth great extinction event, this one preceded by the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

“It doesn’t lack ambition, that’s for sure, but it’s more feasible than it might appear,” said Locke, a veteran conservationist. “This is the kind of conservation we need if the world is to continue functioning in the way we know it to be.”

Read more . . .

More muscle needed against mussels

Zebra mussels
Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

The Flathead Basin Commission wants stepped up protection against invasive mussels for Flathead Lake. (The Hungry Horse News gets credit/blame for the headline pun.) . . .

With the detection of invasive mussels last November in the Tiber Reservoir, Montana lost its status as one of the last few states free of zebra or quagga mussels.

These mussels may be small, but they cause big problems. When they hitch a ride on watercraft or in bilge water and travel between water bodies, they reproduce quickly and have a host of negative effects, including structural damage, water chemistry changes, and algal blooms.

They also rob native species of food and habitat. As the mussels infest water bodies increasingly closer to the Flathead Basin, conservation organizations are scrambling to develop new plans for prevention and management. The current state plan for managing aquatic invasive species includes three links in a “protective tripod,” as Thompson Smith, Chair of the Flathead Basin Commission called it during a meeting last week.

Read more . . .

Trout don’t make healthy mutts

Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana - Jonny Armstrong-USGS
Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana – Jonny Armstrong-USGS

Here’s a little bit different take on the cutthroat trout report mentioned here a couple of days ago . . .

Unlike dogs, trout don’t make healthy mutts.

Don’t expect hybrid vigor when rainbow trout interbreed with cutthroats in Montana’s high mountain streams. Despite the rainbow’s success as the most widely distributed game fish in the world, and the cutthroat’s remarkable ability to thrive through wildfires and landslides, their co-mingled offspring tend to be too dumb to live long.

That fact leaps out of analysis on one of the largest genetic data sets anywhere of Rocky Mountain cutthroat trout at the University of Montana’s Conservation Genetics Lab. In a recently published paper, the researchers looked at what happened to native trout after decades of artificial stocking in lakes and rivers.

Read more . . .