Dec 21 2014

Whitebark pine selectively bred to resist blister rust

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

I’ve heard that the area around Hornet Lookout is one source of the seeds used in this project . . .

The U.S. Forest Service is growing disease-resistant whitebark pine trees to improve the chances of survival of the key high-elevation species, which blister rust is wiping out in the Northern Rockies.

“It’s just using the natural selection process and giving it a little bit of a boost,” said Tanya Murphy, a silviculturist with Great Falls-based Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Some whitebark pine trees have genetic traits that make them more resistant to disease.

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Dec 21 2014

What’s wilderness worth? Montanans explore spiritual significance of wild places

Published by under Commentary

Rob Chaney of the Missoulian posted an ambitious thought piece . . .

You’ve talked your friend/spouse/child into shouldering a heavy pack, enduring a painful blister, incurring dozens of mosquito bites, foregoing a soft bed and questioning his/her self respect and your good/evil intentions.

All for a turn in the trail that explains everything. An “ah-ha” moment of revelation. An encounter with God, some would say.

Can a wilderness waterfall or wandering grizzly bear really deliver all that meaning? Or is it just a fantasy humans impose on dirt that might hide gold and trees that might become houses in a place that Great-Grandma can’t reach anymore?

Read more . . .

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Dec 21 2014

Group gathers in West Glacier to celebrate North Fork protection

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Last Friday, December 19, a group of folks met with Senators Tester and Walsh at the Belton Inn in West Glacier to celebrate the passage of a number of Montana lands bills, including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. Yours truly was there, along with a fair number of other North Forkers, conservationists, business people, community leaders and federal officials. The media was out in force. I knew perhaps a third of the folks in the room.

The meeting was informal, with both politicos in blue jeans and very accessible. They even showed up ahead of time to have more time to chat with the attendees. Everyone made a point, before and after the speechifying, of thanking the senators for getting legislation through the system that was developed collaboratively here in Montana. It was all very adult and non-political. Refreshing.

There’s been a ton of attention from both the press and from a number of conservation outfits. Rather than generate a bunch of individual posts, I’m going to do a roll-up here, with links to a representative sample of the online coverage . . .

Supporters Hail Passage of North Fork Bill as Conservation Milestone (Flathead Beacon; nice photos)

North Fork preservation celebrated in West Glacier (KPAX)

Obama signs bill protecting North Fork, Rocky Mountain Front (Helena Independent Record)

Victory for the Crown of the Continent (Montanans for Healthy Rivers newsletter; also has nice Trail Creek article)

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Dec 21 2014

Group seeks grizzly re-introduction in Selway-Bitterroot

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing to have grizzlies re-introduced into the Selway-Bitteroot . . .

An advocacy group has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot area of Idaho and Montana.

The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday that it hopes to revive a stalled recovery plan for the animals that was finalized in 2000.

The group says having bears in the Selway-Bitterroot would help connect grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park with other populations of the animals in Montana and Idaho. It says the 16-million-acre area could support 300 to 600 bears.

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Dec 18 2014

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work continues

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The feds will keep investigating the status of the sage grouse, even though they can’t actually do anything about it right now . . .

U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday.

They could determine the greater sage grouse is heading toward possible extinction, but they would be unable to intervene under the Endangered Species Act. The bird’s fate instead remains largely in the hands of the 11 individual states where they are found…

Jewell said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue collecting and analyzing data on sage grouse. A decision on whether protections are warranted will be reached by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, Interior officials said.

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Dec 12 2014

Woo-hoo! Senate passes defense bill with North Fork and Rocky Mountain Front additions intact

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, the annual National Defense Authorization Act, along with a package of Montana lands bills including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, was passed by the Senate and sent on to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature.

This is very good news for the protection of the North Fork. It is also excellent news for our friends on the Rocky Mountain Front, not to mention carrying with it the first new wilderness additions in Montana in 31 years.

Here’s the lead-in for an early article in the Missoulian. We’ll add links to more coverage (see below) as it occurs . . .

The Senate voted to pass its annual National Defense Authorization Act on Friday , sending Montana’s first wilderness additions in 33 years to President Barack Obama’s desk.

The vote wound up at 3 p.m. after several attempts to add amendments and return it to committee. The final tally was 89-11, with both Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh voting in favor. Walsh held the gavel as Senate chairman at the start of the vote.

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $585 billion in Pentagon discretionary spending and $63.7 billion in overseas contingency operations. Those dollars go to things like developing the F-35 fighter jet, maintaining nuclear weapons, operating aircraft carriers and paying military personnel.

It also includes a package of 70 public land management bills; the biggest collection since the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. They create about 250,000 acres of new wilderness designations and protection of other lands from energy development…

Read more . . .

More coverage:

Senate passes North Fork, Rocky Front bill (Hungry Horse News)

Senate Approves Montana Lands Package (Flathead Beacon – good article)

Congress Approves Montana Wilderness (Associated Press)

Tester: U.S. Senate maneuvers kept land bills uncertain until final vote (Missoulian)

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Dec 10 2014

Montana lands package roll-up nears finish line

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

An “historic” lands package including provisions of significant impact on Northwest Montana approaches a critical vote in the Senate . . .

A raft of public lands measures is headed for a vote in the U.S. Senate this week following a last-minute series of negotiations between the state’s congressional leaders, who together marshaled a bundle of Montana bills into the historic package.

The product of 11th-hour arbitrations that nearly collapsed in the waning moments of Dec. 2, the sprawling lands package was rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has lawmakers optimistic it would sail through the Senate with the lands bills intact.

Read more . . .

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Dec 10 2014

Feds decide not to upgrade protections for Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies are butting heads over the status of the grizzly bear population in the Cabinet-Yaak region . . .

Federal wildlife officials last week declined to upgrade protections for a small population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak River drainage in Northwest Montana, sparking outcry from a conservation organization that claims the population is nearing extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a decision in the Federal Register on Dec. 5 that said grizzlies living in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem are stable and likely to reach a recovery goal of 100 without changing their status from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act…

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Dec 08 2014

Conservationists wonder what’s next for Montana lands

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

This is the conclusion of a two-part series by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian on the roll-up of Montana land-use legislation inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act last week . . .

While everyone wonders if the U.S. Senate will pass a huge package of public lands legislation this week, many Montanans are already looking beyond the fate of the two wildland protection bills in the mix.

“The positive thing is a logjam is going to break loose,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers in Bozeman. “That helps future conservation bills. I think members of our delegation were reluctant to take on other big projects as long as the logjam existed.”

Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg felt quite the opposite…

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Dec 08 2014

Montana wilderness bill a product of last-minute horse-trading

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

This is part one of a two-part series by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian on the roll-up of Montana land-use legislation inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act last week . . .

Years of legislative wrangling squeezed down to hours of last-minute negotiating to get a bundle of Montana land bills into the National Defense Authorization Act last week.

“We were not sure what was going to be in the package until 11 p.m. Tuesday night,” Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said Friday. “There’s a lot of pieces in that package. It was late in the game before we could see what was going on.”

For Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, the legislative work started in October. But the final horse-trading took place just days before all three members of the congressional delegation stood together to announce their achievement on Wednesday.

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