Apr 16 2015

Secure Rural Schools money restored

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Secure Rural Schools funding (aka “RAC Grant” money) has been restored. Locally, this means some bucks for work on the North Fork Road, including dust abatement . . .

A federal funding program that will provide about $1.4 million for Flathead County roads and schools this year has been reauthorized.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to extend Secure Rural Schools funding for two years as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

In September 2013 the U.S. Senate passed legislation to extend Secure Rural Schools funding for an additional year. The 113th Congress, however, failed to reauthorize the act, which expired in September 2014. The Senate’s latest action retroactively restores the funding for fiscal year 2014 and assures funding through fiscal year 2015.

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Apr 16 2015

Murkowski amendment stirs up national opposition to federal lands transfer

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The debate over transferring large chunks of federal lands to state control has gone national . . .

Stung by a recent vote in Congress, national conservation groups are mustering opposition to an increasing call from many western states to transfer federal lands to state control.

The U.S. Senate last month narrowly approved a budget amendment sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that could set the stage for future legislation to sell or transfer federal lands to state or local governments.

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Apr 16 2015

Risk to Glacier Park stonefly triggers lawsuit

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Center for Biological Diversity is leaning on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate threats to the western glacier stonefly . . .

Wildlife advocates asked a judge Wednesday to force federal officials to decide if a rare aquatic insect that’s found only in Montana’s Glacier National Park should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Western glacier stoneflies were first identified by scientists in 1963. They live in streams fed by cold water from glaciers in northwest Montana…

In a Wednesday lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to follow through on a 2011 finding that protections might be needed for the insects.

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Apr 16 2015

Comment deadline for revised Flathead National Forest plan extended to May 15

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Well, now, you’ve got an extra 10 days to submit comments on the proposed Forest Plan Revision for the Flathead National Forest. Here’s the bulk of the official press release . . .

A 10-day extension to the public comment period, now concluding on May 15, 2015, has been authorized for the proposed action for the Flathead Forest Plan revision and the proposed forest plan amendments to incorporate relevant direction from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy. Comments are used to identify the range of issues to be addressed and the significant concerns related to the proposed action. This scoping process will assist the interdisciplinary team in developing a reasonable range of alternatives and in the analysis and documentation of the environmental and social effects of the proposed plan components and alternatives, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures. There will be additional opportunities for commenting, including a 90-day comment period, once the draft environmental impact statement is available, which is anticipated in January 2016.

In March, the Flathead National Forest released for public comment the proposed action for the revision of the land and resource management plan (forest plan) as directed by the National Forest Management Act. The proposed action for the revised forest plan includes management direction to support a variety of proposed and possible actions that may occur on the plan area over the next ~15 years, or life of the plan.

The Flathead National Forest plan revision website provides the full proposed action text for the revision, describing preliminary desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and other plan content; the 2014 Assessment; summaries of the public meetings and public meeting materials, and public comments. The revision component of the proposed action is located at
www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/fpr. The amendment component of the proposed action can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/gbamend. Links to the 2012 planning rule and the draft NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy can be found on these websites as well.

For further information about the project, contact Joe Krueger, Forest Planner, Flathead National Forest, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, Montana 59901, (406) 758-5243, or at flatheadplanrevision@fs.fed.us.

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Apr 16 2015

Review of Canada lynx status delayed

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The feds are doing their required Canada lynx threat assessment, but they are a bit behind schedule . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is applying a new threat assessment for federally protected Canada lynx from Maine to Washington State, delaying completion of the first five-year review.

The structured threat assessment will involve several other agencies, at least 15 states and more than 20 Native American tribes. The resulting assessment will serve as the basis of a streamlined five-year review, and a recovery plan if one is necessary, said Jim Zelenak of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Montana.

The delayed five-year review is the first since Canada lynx were declared threatened in 2000. Designations of critical habitat have been made in parts of Maine, Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Minnesota.

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Apr 11 2015

NTSB says oil tank cars need urgent upgrades

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Locally, oil transport safety is a hot issue. Heavy rail traffic passes through a number of sensitive areas . . .

Tank cars carrying oil or ethanol by rail urgently need to be retrofitted or replaced to make them more fire-resistant after a spate of explosive accidents in recent months revealed the shortcomings of voluntary industry standards, U.S. safety officials said Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a series of recommendations calling for tank cars to be fitted with protective systems better able to withstand fire than the bare steel construction now widely in use. It said a decade-long retrofit timeline that’s been suggested by the tank car industry was too long to wait.

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Apr 11 2015

Blackfeet chief urges President to end oil leases in Badger-Two Medicine

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

More tribal pressure to terminate oil leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region. . .

The chief of the Blackfeet Nation has asked President Barack Obama to cancel oil leases in the culturally and environmentally significant Badger-Two Medicine area east of the divide.

Chief Earl Old Person, a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council since 1954, sent a letter to Obama last month asking him to help protect the mountainous area between the Blackfeet Reservation, Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He also invited the president to Blackfeet Country to see the area for himself.

The Badger-Two Medicine is an important area in the Blackfeet creation story and is known as the “Backbone of the World.” In 1982, the U.S. government leased land within the Badger-Two Medicine to oil companies and of the 47 land leases originally issued, 18 remain. For years, tribal officials have tried to terminate the leases but in 2013 the final leaseholder, Sidney Longwell of Solenext, LLC, filed a lawsuit so it could begin drilling for oil. No ruling has been made in the case.

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Apr 05 2015

Bears emerging across Northwest Montana

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The bears are definitely on the move. We spotted a black bear right on the south edge of Coram yesterday, quite close to a number of buildings . . .

With the arrival of spring, bears are emerging from their mountain dens and descending into the lower valleys in search of food.

Earlier this week, tribal biologists located a radio-collared female grizzly bear at the base of the Mission Mountains on the Flathead Reservation.

Stacy Courville, wildlife program bear biologist with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, reminds the public that springtime is accompanied by an increase in bear activity. After stirring awake, bears begin seeking food sources, and they are often drawn to items such as garbage, pet food, bird feeders and chicken coops. Food-depleted bears can react aggressively if they’re surprised while feeding.

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Apr 05 2015

Montana wolf population declines

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Hunting pressure decreased the number of wolves in Montana . . .

The number of gray wolves in Montana continues to decline under the state’s management efforts but remains above federal recovery goals, according to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks department.

State officials released an annual report detailing the status of the controversial animal, which remains the subject of scrutiny and debate throughout the West.

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See also: FWP Releases Minimum Wolf Count For 2014

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Apr 05 2015

Park reiterates opposition to North Fork Road paving and concerns over rail shipments

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Jeff Mow, Superintendent of Glacier National Park, reiterated the park’s opposition to North Fork Road paving and expressed a lot of concern over the safety of oil shipments along the park’s boundary . . .

Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow said last week he is not in favor of paving the North Fork Road to the Camas Road, a project strongly supported by Columbia Falls city officials.

The goal of paving the North Fork Road has been debated for years, but now Columbia Falls business and civic leaders are pitching the idea not only to boost tourist traffic through town but as an emergency route for West Glacier in case of a rail disaster.

City leaders told Sen. Jon Tester on March 20 that the Park supports paving the North Fork Road, but Mow disagreed.

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