Feb 10 2016

Fish & Wildlife Service may transfer National Bison Range to tribes

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Close up of bison grazing

It should be interesting to watch this story unfold . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun negotiating a possible transfer of the National Bison Range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

In an email sent to agency employees Friday, Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Noreen Walsh announced the opening round of discussions but provided few specifics.

“Given that we are today in a much better place regarding the future of bison … and that we want to strengthen our partnership with the CSKT, we believe that now is the right time to investigate the possibility of transferring the refuge, which was long ago carved out of tribal lands, into trust for the benefit of the CSKT,” Walsh wrote.

Her email also noted such a transfer would require an act of Congress.

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Feb 10 2016

Lawsuit seeks tougher protections for grizzlies in Cabinet-Yaak

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Grizzly Sow with Two Cubs - - Wikipedia en:User Traveler100

The US Fish and Wildlife Service continues to butt heads with conservationists over the status of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly population . . .

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to upgrade federal protections for grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem.

Grizzlies in the lower 48 states have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. One of five distinct populations, the bears in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem have struggled compared with the populations occupying areas near Glacier and Yellowstone national parks.

The Missoula conservation group’s lawsuit alleges that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to use a scientific rationale in its 2014 decision not to reclassify the Cabinet-Yaak population as “endangered.”

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Feb 09 2016

11th Annual Backcountry Film Festival this Friday, Feb 12

Published by under News

Annual Backcountry Film Festival

The Montana Wilderness Association just passed along this reminder . . .

Produced by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Backcountry Film Festival celebrates human-powered winter recreation with films from around the globe. Now in its 11th year, this year’s festival includes nine short films, including “The Weight of Winter” by Ben Sturgulewski, “Japan by Van” by Sweetgrass Productions, and “55 Hours in Mexico” by Joey Schusler. After the screening of their film “Shifting Ice,” guest speakers Martha Hunt of Whitefish and KT Miller of Bozeman will share stories from the making of the film.

Friday, February 12
6 – 9 p.m.
O’Shaughnessy Center
1 Central Ave., Whitefish

Click here to see a trailer of the festival.

Tickets are on sale now at Rocky Mountain Outfitter, Runner-Up Sports, and Great Northern Brewing Company. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door.

No responses yet

Feb 09 2016

Wolverine case probes if feds made rational decision

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Wolverine (Gulo gulo, female, born 1996) at the Helsinki Zoo

Here’s the latest on the fight over adding wolverines to the endangered species list. (Bonus fact: The judge has actually seen three of them.) . . .

In a room packed with wolverine legal experts, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen may have had the best brief. He actually saw the rare carnivore on three separate occasions.

“I don’t know what the odds are of seeing a wolverine three times,” Christensen told the attorneys, “but there’s no reason for any of you to explain it’s a member of the weasel family with large feet that eats marmots. I’ve seen that.”

Christensen added he also had read the scientific reports on the wolverine’s habitat and population, was aware of how elusive the animal is and how hard it is to study. What he wanted to know in the case of Center for Biological Diversity et. al. v. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was whether an agency decision denying Endangered Species Act protection to wolverines was reasonable or arbitrary.

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Feb 07 2016

U.S. Forest Service strategy document paints bleak picture

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Forest Service has had a conflicting set of goals for the last few decades but, for Region 1 at least, things seem to be coming to a head . . .

A new strategy for managing public lands for recreation, heritage and wilderness paints a bleak picture of the U.S. Forest Service’s own ability to tackle the job.

“You could say this looks like a D-minus report card,” said George Bain, Forest Service Region 1 director of recreation, lands, minerals, heritage and wilderness. “To us, this is how it is. We wanted to take a good, hard look and develop a strategy for how to work in that world. We don’t have all the money we’d want. We don’t have all the workforce we’d want. We don’t have the ability to take care of everything the way we’d like. This is the landscape we’re working in. Let’s see how to address this.”

The 50-page document released last August got little notice outside the Region 1 Missoula headquarters. But it had been more than a year in the drafting, and it has been signed by Regional Forester Leanne Marten, her deputies and the supervisors of all 10 national forests that report to her.

Read more . . .

See also: The Northern Region Sustainable Recreation, Heritage, Wilderness (RHW) Strategy 2015-2020 (1.68MB, PDF)

No responses yet

Feb 07 2016

Climate impacting trout populations worldwide

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout

Rising water temperatures and general problems with access to clean, fast running water are affecting trout populations globally . . .

Temperature-sensitive trout thrive in water that is cold, clear and abundant – not exactly groundbreaking news. But a recent study tracking the relationship between warming climes and the adverse effects on global trout populations is the first to establish a scientific connection.

A team of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey – including two researchers based at Glacier National Park – found that climate directly and consistently influences trout populations worldwide, and published their finding recently in the international quarterly journal “Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.”

In the study, titled “Impacts of Climatic Variation on Trout: A Global Synthesis and Path Forward,” lead author Ryan Kovach and his colleagues provide the first global synthesis of trout responses to climate change over time. Despite the economic, cultural, and ecological value of trout, Kovach said long-term data comparing the health of trout populations to changes in streamflow and water temperature are surprisingly limited.

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Feb 05 2016

Bear hibernation linked to changes in gut microbes

Published by under Environmental Issues,News,Science

Grizzly Bear - Thomas Lefebvre, via Unsplash

Two years ago, we mentioned the weird stuff that goes on when bears hibernate. Here’s another article along those lines . . .

Each year, bears hibernate for the winter. They gorge themselves on food to pack on fat, but somehow avoid health consequences. Now, scientists have found that the bears’ shifting metabolic status is associated with significant changes in their gut microbes.

“The restructuring of the microbiota into a more avid energy harvester during summer, which potentially contributes to the increased adiposity gain without impairing glucose metabolism, is quite striking,” said Fredrik Backhed, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The composition of gut microbiota can influence the amount of energy harvested from the diet. In fact, microbiota shifts in people who are obese and in those with type 2 diabetes.

In this latest study, the researchers collected fecal samples from wild bears during hibernation and in the active period. Then, the researchers analyzed the microbes living within these sample. The scientists found reduced diversity in the hibernation microbiota…

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Feb 05 2016

Montana state senator new CEO of lands privatization group

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, a Republican representing Thompson Falls, is the new CEO of the American Lands Council.  The ALC is one of the point organizations behind the movement to demand that federal lands be turned over to state control. The states, in turn, would auction management of these lands off to private control.

What we have here, folks, is a serious conflict of interest what with her being a legislator involved in public land study/bills and being CEO of a group that wants public lands to be transferred to states. Senator Fielder has already had issues with a legislative staffer being a paid lobbyist of ALC and other groups.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

The Salt Lake Tribune has more details . . .

No responses yet

Feb 05 2016

Edward Monnig: Wilderness and Collaboration

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

Hiking in GNP

Here’s an outstanding op-ed posted yesterday to the Flathead Beacon web site. Recommended reading . . .

In preface to commenting on Stewart Brandborg’s opinion piece on wilderness issues (Dec. 16 Beacon: “Today’s Wilderness Challenge”), I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the service that he and others like Howard Zahniser, Mardy and Olaus Murie, and Aldo Leopold rendered in establishing the framework of our National Wilderness Preservation System. These men and women fought for decades to establish a legacy that benefits all Americans from active users to passive appreciators. Nonetheless, I must offer an alternative perspective to Stewart’s injunction to “resist the fuzzy, fuzzy Neverland of collaboration” when addressing critical wilderness issues.

The Wilderness Preservation System certainly made my career with the U.S. Forest Service immeasurably more rewarding. In my final career assignment, I was supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, a forest of 6.3 million acres, including 1.2 million acres of congressionally-designated wilderness. In addition, the H-T has about 3 million acres of roadless areas, de-facto wilderness as it were, that was the subject of intense battles to determine what part should be formally included by Congress in the Wilderness Preservation System.

Managing wilderness is also challenging and much more than a passive exercise in “let it be.” Stewardship of designated wilderness areas is bound by the mandates of the 1964 Wilderness Act. And therein lie many of our management challenges. The introductory section of the 1964 Wilderness Act is inspiring and oft-quoted: “an enduring resource of wilderness…where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man…” But as a counterpoint to these two paragraphs of poetic vision the Wilderness Act concludes with two pages of exceptions allowing various non-wilderness practices to continue. A cynic might say “Yeah right, untrammeled by man except for multiple airstrips, irrigation reservoirs and ditches, livestock grazing, mineral exploration and mining” – all allowed under the 1964 Act.

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Feb 05 2016

Dispute over Badger-Two Medicine drilling leases still simmering

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Badger-Two Medicine Region

The Hungry Horse News has a nice summary of the battle over drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine . . .

The battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine will continue. The Department of Interior and Solonex, the company that owns the leases had asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon to suspend the case so the two parties could negotiate a settlement in the 30-plus year battle. But those talks have fallen apart.

Now Solonex, in a brief to the court on Jan. 19, claims that any attempt to cancel the leases by the DOI would be arbitrary and contrary to federal law. Solonex is represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that often takes up private business and citizens issues in land use disputes in federal court.

The DOI in December said it tentatively planned on canceling the leases altogether, claiming the U.S. Forest Service never did a proper examination of the impacts on Blackfeet Tribe cultural resources when it sold the leases in 1981.

Read more . . .

No responses yet

Next »