Nov 23 2016

Greg Zimmerman: Extreme views don’t represent most Montanans on public lands

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

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.

This well-written op-ed concerning public lands transfer was posted in today’s Flathead Beacon. It is written by Greg Zimmerman, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities. Interestingly, he quotes incoming President Trump as also opposing the transfer of federal lands to the states . . .

In her recent op-ed, Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder continued to perpetuate phony myths about American public lands in an attempt to prop up her naive attempts to dispose of them.

According to Sen. Fielder, Montana’s public lands are a trash dump, filled with pests and fenced off to the public. In her telling, the only thing that can save our public lands is for them to be given to the state.

Don’t tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Montanans streaming across the state’s public lands to hunt and fish, who certainly aren’t buying Sen. Fielder’s premise. On the contrary, public opinion research shows unequivocally that Montana voters value national public lands. And poll after poll shows that Montanans – like voters across the West – have little appetite for her misguided plans to “transfer” American lands to state or private interests.

This month’s election result further validates what the polls have been telling us for years.

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Nov 23 2016

Possible invasive mussel detection in Missouri River

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

Uh, oh. More evidence of invasive mussel species in Montana’s waters . . .

Preliminary test results have indicated another possible detection of mussel larvae south of Canyon Ferry Reservoir in the Missouri River, although additional lab work is needed to confirm the detection.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said Monday evening that a water sample taken from the York Islands fishing access south of Townshend was found to be “suspect” during initial testing by state scientists. He said additional testing is needed to confirm whether the sample contained larvae from zebra or quagga mussels, two species of invasive mussel known to multiply aggressively and generate costly damage to aquatic ecosystems and infrastructure.

The finding comes about two weeks after mussel larvae, known as “veligers,” were confirmed for the first time in Montana waters at Tiber Reservoir. Another sample taken from upstream in Canyon Ferry was inconclusive, but a visual microscopy test indicated the veligers were present in that water body as well.

Read more . . .

Official Montana FWP press release: Samples from Missouri River, south of Townsend, suspect for mussel larva

For additional background: Montana on High Alert After Mussel Discovery (Flathead Beacon)

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Nov 23 2016

Feds move to block new mining claims near Yellowstone

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The U.S. Department of the Interior responded to community objections over gold mining activity in the Yellowstone area . . .

The seats were full, and there wasn’t much room to stand. About 100 people — locals, environmental groups, political staffers and government officials — stuffed a conference room at Chico Hot Springs here on Monday to hear what they all considered good news.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was here to announce that the Obama administration would temporarily block new mining claims on about 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land north of Yellowstone National Park, near where two mining companies have asked the state for permission to look for gold on private land.

“We’ve all heard what you’ve told us, which is Yellowstone is more valuable than gold,” Jewell said as the room burst into applause.

Read more . . .

See also: U.S. Moves to Block Mining Near Yellowstone (Flathead Beacon)

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Nov 20 2016

Flathead Basin Commission wants more boating closures due to invasive mussel threat

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Mussel-fouled Propeller - NPS photo

Mussel-fouled Propeller – NPS photo

Regional officials are not happy about the recent detection of invasive mussels in Montana’s Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs . . .

A group tasked with protecting the aquatic resources of the Flathead River drainage is urging state officials to close the Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs to all boats as evidence mounts that both of the Central Montana water bodies now harbor invasive mussels.

The Flathead Basin Commission is including the closure recommendations in a letter to Gov. Steve Bullock, drafted last week at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station. It was the commission’s first meeting after the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Nov. 9 announcement that the long-feared presence of invasive mussels had been confirmed in Tiber Reservoir — the first such detection in the state.

Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Nation both closed all their waters to boating within days of the state’s announcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed suit by closing a popular recreation pond that supplies water to its hatchery in Creston.

Read more . . .

Also read:
Consequences of invasive mussels could prove costly (Daily Inter Lake)
Invasive Mussel Larvae Found for First Time in U.S. Northwest (Flathead Beacon)

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Nov 20 2016

Officials move a step closer to delisting Yellowstone grizzlies

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Grizzly bear sow with three cubs - NPS photo

Grizzly bear sow with three cubs – NPS photo

Members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve a conservation strategy allowing for delisting of the grizzly bear in the region including Yellowstone Park. The vote was not quite unanimous, with the superintendent of Yellowstone Park voting against it and Leander Watson of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe abstaining . . .

Wildlife officials have moved one step closer to removing the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species Act by approving a future conservation strategy.

The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted to approve the conservation strategy, sending it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of what has been a months-long process to potentially remove the Yellowstone grizzly from federal protection.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed lifting the federal protections for the Yellowstone bears in March. Grizzly bears were first listed as threatened in 1975 when the Yellowstone population was estimated to have as few as 136 bears. Recent estimates say the population is now above 700.

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Nov 17 2016

The seed savers

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Whitebark Pine Closeup, 2016 - W. K. Walker

Whitebark Pine Closeup, 2016 – W. K. Walker

Here’s an excellent article on the efforts to restore the whitebark pine population . . .

It’s a late September day, threatening to rain, and the mountainsides around Whitefish, Montana are popping with red huckleberry leaves, mountain ash, and maple. “We’re almost to the whitebark zone,” Melissa Jenkins announces as the ski lift ascends over Whitefish Mountain Resort and the air temperature drops. As we near the summit, she points out the towering, gray skeletons of dead trees poking out of the shrubby understory.

Jenkins explains that whitebark pines (Pinus albicaulis) once dominated the upper mountain here. The trees make a living in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, and in the Rocky Mountains as far south as Wyoming. But in the 1920s, a rust fungus introduced from Asia started appearing in the northern Rockies. Blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) hit whitebarks hardest in northern Montana and Idaho, southern Alberta, and British Columbia. By the time Jenkins, who oversees forest management activities on the Flathead National Forest, arrived in 2008, blister rust had killed 80 percent of the region’s whitebark pines.

The species’ outlook has grown increasingly dire over the past 20 years. Blister rust has been a big part of that problem. So have unprecedented, climate-driven outbreaks of native bark beetles. Fire suppression has also allowed shade-tolerant tree species to crowd out whitebarks. In 2011, the whitebark pine became the first widely distributed tree considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the tree warranted listing as a threatened or endangered species, limited resources have kept it from being prioritized for protection. Canada declared it endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2012.

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Nov 17 2016

Devon Energy relinquishes its oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Two Medicine Lake

Two Medicine Lake – Flikr User Phil’s Pixels

Devon Energy relinquished its 15 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region. All that’s left now is the ongoing battle with Solonex over their two leases . . .

U.S. officials cancelled 15 oil and gas leases on Wednesday in an area bordering Glacier National Park that’s considered sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada.

The cancellation was aimed at preserving the Badger-Two Medicine area, a largely-undeveloped, 130,000-acre wilderness that is the site of the creation story for members of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and the Blackfoot tribes of Canada.

“It should not have been leased to begin with,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in announcing the cancellations at her agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This sets the right tone for how business should be done in the future.”

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Nov 17 2016

Officials to discuss grizzly delisting

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Grizzly Bear - courtesy NPS

Grizzly Bear – courtesy NPS

Yet another meeting to discuss removing Yellowstone area grizzlies from the Endangered Species List . . .

State and federal wildlife managers are considering removing Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears living in Yellowstone National Park.

Officials are meeting in Cody on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss post-delisting management plans. The member agencies of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee had hoped to approve a final draft of the post-delisting management plant, but officials say it’s unclear that will happen.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed lifting the federal protections for the Yellowstone bears in March. Grizzly bears were first listed as threatened in 1975 when the Yellowstone population was estimated to have as few as 136 bears. Recent estimates say the population has now climbed above 700.

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Nov 16 2016

Grizzly bear boogie

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The BBC Planet Earth II team left some remote cameras in the Canadian Rockies hoping to film grizzly bears and got more than they bargained for . . .

Grizzly bear boogie - BBC Planet Earth II

Click image for video

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Nov 16 2016

Tribal leader’s push to protect Badger-Two Medicine paying off

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Badger-Two Medicine Region

Badger-Two Medicine Region

Looks like more lease cancellations in the Badger-two Medicine region are likely . . .

Blackfeet tribal leaders, conservationists and cultural preservationists have made numerous pilgrimages to Washington, D.C. this year in hopes of furnishing permanent protections on the wild and sacred Badger-Two Medicine region, which for more than three decades has been threatened with industrialization.

This week, their efforts are expected to pay off.

Chief Earl Old Person and the Blackfeet Nation’s elected leadership arrived in the capital this week to underscore their long-standing request that federal land managers cancel a suite of remaining undeveloped oil and gas leases on the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine, which lies on the Rocky Mountain Front, bounded on the north by Glacier National Park and the east by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

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