Glacier to lift restrictions on hand-propelled boats with invasive species inspections this season

Zebra mussels
Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

Glacier Park has decided to allow small, hand-propelled watercraft on their lakes this season, as long as they are inspected for invasive mussels. Anything with a motor or big enough to require a trailer, is prohibited while the park further evaluates the danger posed by invasive mussel species.

Possibly in response to some points raised at last month’s Interlocal Meeting, “local users who live in more remote locations” (i.e., North Forkers) can get their equipment inspected at the “nearest ranger station.”

Here is the full press release, including a useful Q&A section. It’s followed by a link to a good summary article in the Hungry Horse News . . .

Date: March 16, 2017
Contact: Office of the Superintendent, 406-888-7901

WEST GLACIER, MT. – Glacier National Park announced today that hand-propelled, non-trailered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be permitted in the park with mandatory inspection beginning May 15 for Lake McDonald and the North Fork and June 1, 2017 for all remaining areas of the park. Last November, park waters were closed to all boating as a precaution after invasive species of non-native mussels were detected in two popular Montana reservoirs east of the park.

Hand-powered boat users will be required to have their craft certified mussel-free (“clean, drained, and dry”) by Glacier staff under a new inspection program with stations in four popular locations in the park. (Local users who live in more remote locations will be directed to the nearest ranger station for inspection.) This is a change from last season, when hand-propelled watercraft required visitors to complete an AIS-free self-certification form before launching into Glacier’s lakes.

Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft brought into the park will not be allowed to operate on Glacier’s waters this summer while a comprehensive assessment of the threat from mussels is underway. Among other measures, this will include comprehensive testing of waters in the park and elsewhere in Montana for the presence of quagga and zebra mussels. These non-native mollusks reproduce quickly and can wreak havoc with lake environments, water quality, native wildlife, lake infrastructure, and cause significant economic harm to infested regions.

Continue reading Glacier to lift restrictions on hand-propelled boats with invasive species inspections this season

Columbia River watershed is last refuge from invasive mussels

Zebra Mussel Shells Cover a Lake Michigan Limestone Beach in Door County Wisconsin - PJ Bruno
Zebra Mussel Shells Cover a Lake Michigan Limestone Beach in Door County Wisconsin – PJ Bruno

Here’s a scary wake-up call regarding invasive mussels . . .

They don’t look like much, but it’s hard to overstate the threat posed by aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels to Montana’s public waterways – and all the waterways downstream in other states. “It’s terrifying,” explained Heidi Sedivy, the program manager for the Flathead Basin Protection Fund.

During an informational talk at the nonprofit Clark Fork Coalition Wednesday, Sedivy said the Columbia River watershed is the last watershed in the lower 48 states that is currently free from nonnative zebra and quagga mussels, which originated in Eastern Europe.

Western Montana represents the headwaters of the Columbia watershed, and alarm bells all over the state were raised when mussels were detected in the Tiber Reservoir in north-central Montana late last year – meaning the entire Missouri River watershed is essentially doomed.

Read more . . .

Rob Breeding: Americans like their public lands public

Lake in Flathead National Forest
Lake in Flathead National Forest

The Flathead Beacon has a persuasive op-ed by Rob Breeding concerning the public lands transfer movement . . .

So far 2017 hasn’t been a great year for those who want to transfer federal public lands to the states, beginning an inevitable process of turning these public lands over to private hands.

That may seem counter intuitive as the anti-public lands crowd is on the ascendancy politically. Sometimes in politics, however, it’s better to have an issue you can use to rally supporters and fuel fundraising campaigns, rather than be in a position to enact policy to change the situation you’ve been railing against.

So it goes for the opponents of public lands. After the 2016 election they seemed closer than ever to their goal. What these politicians don’t seem to get is the people they represent do not share their anti-public land zealotry.

There may be a bit of political buyers’ remorse here.

Continue reading Rob Breeding: Americans like their public lands public

Board of review: Mountain bike collision caused Coram area death

The Missoulian has an excellent story on the board of review findings concerning last summer’s mountain biker fatality. It includes links to the actual report document, as well as to the board’s recommendations for alleviating future biking-bear encounters . . .

An analysis of the fatal collision last summer between a grizzly bear and a mountain biker near Coram recommends more safety evaluation before new biking trails are built in grizzly habitat.

“Current safety messaging at trailheads and in the media is usually aimed at hikers,” the interagency board of review report stated. “However mountain biking is in many ways more likely to result in injury or death from bear attacks to people who participate in this activity.

“In addition, there are increasing numbers of mountain bikers using bear habitat and pressure to increase mountain bike access to areas where black bear and grizzly bear encounters are very likely.”

Read more . . .

Proposed Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act draws critics, supporters

The Swan Range - Lee Boman
The Swan Range – Lee Boman

The Missoulian’s Rob Chaney posted a good overview of the issues and debates surrounding Senator Jon Tester’s new wilderness bill, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. The article includes links to supporting documents . . .

A week after Sen. Jon Tester released his Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, some wilderness advocates question what it might really do.

Now designated as S. 507, the bill resurrects a portion of Tester’s 8-year-old Forest Jobs and Recreation Act affecting the southwest corner of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. That bill ran into opposition from some environmentalists and U.S. Forest Service officials who objected to the way it mandated commercial work in the forests.

The new bill has raised eyebrows for the compromises it’s made with mountain biking groups.

Read more . . .

NYT: Public Lands in Private Hands?

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

Jimmy Tobias, currently an environmental reporter and, for three summers, a trail crew worker in this corner of the country, has a strongly worded op-ed in the New York Times regarding public lands transfer . . .

The Senate’s confirmation this week of the former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior has revived concerns about the future of public lands in the Trump administration. While Mr. Zinke has branded himself as a Teddy Roosevelt-style conservationist — and resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention last year to protest the party’s support for transferring federal lands to states or private groups — his record is spotty…

My generation and those that follow have much at stake in this battle. We stand to lose our ability to hike and camp, to bike and boat, to hunt and fish and explore freely in these superlative places. We also stand to lose the opportunities for meaningful work, civic engagement and spiritual fulfillment that our public lands provide…

Read more . . .

The fate of the Flathead

Zebra Mussel Shells Cover a Lake Michigan Limestone Beach in Door County Wisconsin - PJ Bruno
Zebra Mussel Shells Cover a Lake Michigan Limestone Beach in Door County Wisconsin – PJ Bruno

Thompson Smith, chair of the Flathead Basin Commission, has an excellent op-ed in the Flathead Beacon discussing the importance of aggressive efforts to block further spread of invasive mussels throughout Montana’s waters . . .

In early November, state officials announced the first documented presence of zebra and quagga mussels in Montana, after positive tests at sites in the Missouri River system.

For the Flathead Basin, these devastating invasive species are now at our doorstep: just a few hours away for people hauling boats from Tiber Reservoir.

In coming days, our ability to protect Montana’s remaining non-infested waters will be determined by the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) legislation and rule-making now being finalized in Helena. What is emerging appears to be a far more robust AIS program, and it should be passed. But the devil is in the details. Experts point to a number of deficiencies that must be addressed.

First, it is important to understand that if invasive mussels do become established here, they would ravage both the aquatic environment and the economy. Tiny, razor-sharp shells would coat and clog every hard surface — rocks, boats, pipes, docks, dams. They could ultimately cause the collapse of native fisheries, a vital cultural resource and linchpin of the recreation industry. They would wreak havoc with irrigation systems, power facilities, and municipal water supply and treatment.

Once established, invasive mussels are virtually impossible to remove. The whole game is prevention.

Continue reading The fate of the Flathead

Montana recognizes National Invasive Species Awareness Week

From a Montana Mussel Response press release . . .

Zebra mussels
Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

National Invasive Species Awareness Week comes at a unique time for Montana, as Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation continue their joint efforts to implement a plan to fight aquatic invasive mussels.

“We take the fight against invasive species in Montana very seriously and continue to be vigilant in addressing threats to Montana’s critical infrastructure, economy and recreational way of life,” said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

NISAW runs from Feb. 27 through March 3 to raise awareness and identify solutions for invasive species at the local level. The Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council encourages Montanans to participate in local events and offers ways you can help observe.

Continue reading Montana recognizes National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Humans leading cause of US wildfires

Ten wildfires burn over 200,000 acres in Southern California, Oct 2003 - MODIS image, NASA
Ten wildfires burn over 200,000 acres in Southern California, Oct 2003 – MODIS image, NASA

Nationwide, the latest research claims 84% of wildfires are human-caused . . .

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires.”

But the average for all forests is even higher. The latest research shows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.

Read more . . .

Additional reading:
Humans sparked 84 percent of US wildfires, increased fire season over two decades (Science Daily)
Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States (original publication in PNAS)

What light pollution costs us every night

The Milky Way near the Grand Canyon - Bob Wick, BLM
The Milky Way near the Grand Canyon – Bob Wick, BLM

Astrophysicist and science writer Ethan Siegel has a great article on the importance and increasing rarity of dark skies. It’s a short read, but very informative, with lots of photos and data. Recommended reading . . .

If you don’t have pristine, dark skies, you might never connect to the Universe. But there’s hope.

Human vision is ill-adapted to true darkness, but our eyes can provide us with stellar views of the night sky. Since the invention of artificial lighting, however, our views of those natural wonders have diminished precipitously.

Read more . . .