Jun 21 2015

Researcher studying huckleberries in Glacier Park

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Here’s an interesting article on huckleberry research in Glacier Park . . .

Tabitha Graves can’t say this will be a bad year for huckleberries, even though four of the five sites she is monitoring in the West Glacier area show berry production is down 75 percent to 95 percent from last year. But the fifth is showing the same number of berries as 2014, when a bumper crop was produced after a wet, cool spring.

And Graves, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, doesn’t yet know what the huckleberry crop at higher elevations – where bushes are just popping out from under snow – will be like this summer.

“It could still be a great year if the berries at the higher elevations grow,” Graves says.

Read more . . .

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Jun 21 2015

Experts mull path towards grizzly delisting

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Again, a lot of discussion of a shift from grizzly bear recovery to grizzly bear management . . .

Top grizzly bear experts from Montana, U.S. and Canadian governments descended on Many Glacier Hotel last week to discuss the future of grizzly bear populations throughout the Northwest, including in and around Glacier National Park.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, created in 1983 to oversee recovery of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is considering removing the protected status under the Endangered Species Act of two bear populations: those in the Northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone ecosystems.

Grizzlies were one of the first high-profile listings under the 1973 law, listed as a “threatened” species in 1975 after being extirpated from the vast majority of their historical range.

“The animals are leading the way — they’re recovering themselves, along with a lot of our help…”

Read more . . .

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Jun 20 2015

Aquatic invasive species an ongoing problem

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

It’s that time of year when locals and tourists are out and about in large numbers, many of them in boats and rafts. This, in turn, makes the spread of aquatic invasive species a big concern. Here’s the official press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks . . .

This summer, remember that state law requires all motorists hauling watercraft – from trailers with motorboats or inflatable rafts to canoes and kayaks perched atop cars and pick-up trucks – to stop at inspection stations.

As part of the state’s aquatic invasive species prevention program, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has 17 well-marked watercraft inspection stations set up around the state that will be in operation through September.

The annual education and enforcement effort, which this year includes multiple chances to win prizes from an array of local sponsors, is to further curb the risk of aquatic invasive species from attaining a foothold in Montana waters.

“One of Montana’s best defenses against spreading invasive species while enjoying the outdoors is to inspect, clean, drain and dry boats, trailers, and fishing gear after each use,” said Tom Boos, FWP’s AIS coordinator in Helena. “We can control the spread of these invasive plant and animal species if we don’t carry them from one water to the next.”

Montana law requires private motorists and outfitters and guides hauling watercraft – including motorboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, rowboats, rafts, jet skis and even small kick boats popular among some anglers – to always stop at AIS watercraft inspection stations for a brief interview and equipment check. Most inspections take fewer than five minutes, but failure to stop could lead to a $135 fine.

Montana’s “Inspect – Clean – Dry” slogan draws attention to a national problem threatening to take root in the West – aquatic hitchhikers. These non-native, destructive, and highly prolific AIS include harmful aquatic plants, animals, fish, and microscopic organisms, which include everything from invasive zebra mussels to whirling disease.

AIS can be easily transported from water to water by popular recreational activities like fishing and boating.

“If boaters and anglers get into the ‘inspect, clean, drain and dry’ habit we’ll be able to decrease the number of troubling and expensive introductions of harmful species in Montana,” Boos said.

To learn more, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, then click “Inspect – Clean – Dry.”

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Jun 20 2015

Spring rains helped crops, but not wildfire danger

Published by under News

Fire season is a big concern this year . . .

Montana weather experts say a wet spell this spring helped mitigate what could have been a destructive summer for crops, but it hasn’t eased the high threat of wildfire.

A state drought committee concluded Thursday that snowpack melted a month ahead of schedule and exacerbated the slight drought conditions persisting in western Montana.

Montana’s situation pales in comparison to the crippling drought in California, where mandatory water cutbacks have expanded from residential neighborhoods to rural irrigation districts. But with thousands of forest acres increasingly considered vulnerable to fire this summer, Montana is distressed enough to have been included in a June 12 drought conversation between President Barack Obama and the governors of six western states.

Read more . . .

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Jun 18 2015

Grizzly bears active in Beartooths

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Grizzlies continue to extend their range . . .

Red Lodge resident and hiker Grant Barnard is not worried that there have been more grizzly bear sightings southeast of town this spring than in decades. That’s because he used to live next door to Glacier National Park where he was “constantly surrounded” by the big bruins.

“I’m glad they’re coming back,” he said. “When we first moved here 20 years ago, I was told there were no grizzly bears. The only one I heard about was shot by a rancher.”

This year along the eastern face of the Beartooth Mountains there may be close to about 24 individual bears, most of them southeast of Red Lodge, said Shawn Stewart, a wildlife biologist with Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Red Lodge. “We have so much activity going on southeast of town that we almost add a new dot to the map every day,” he said.

Read more . . .

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Jun 18 2015

Judge demands explanation for energy lease delays

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

There’s no court decision yet on the Solonex energy leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region, but the judge is annoyed at the feds . . .

A federal judge is pressing U.S. officials to explain why it’s taken three decades to decide on a proposal to drill for natural gas just outside Glacier National Park in an area considered sacred by some Indian tribes in Montana and Canada.

A frustrated U.S. District Judge Richard Leon called the delay “troubling” and a “nightmare” during a recent court hearing. He ordered the Interior and Agriculture departments to report back to him with any other example of where they have “dragged their feet” for so long.

Read more . . .

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Jun 14 2015

40 years with grizzlies

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Well, here’s the end of an era. Rick Mace is retiring . . .

In 1976, University of Montana student Rick Mace walked into his adviser’s office to inquire about classes he needed for his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology.

He left the office with a summer job researching Northwest Montana’s newly protected grizzly bears. That was the beginning of a nearly 40-year career for Mace as one of the region’s top grizzly experts.

Now, with the Crown of the Continent area home to a robust, growing grizzly population and removal of the bears’ Endangered Species Act listing in sight, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist is bidding adieu to a lifetime spent working to understand the great bear.

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Jun 14 2015

Montana transitioning from wolf monitoring to management

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Kent Laudon, a Montana FWP wolf expert, retires as the state shifts from wolf recovery to management . . .

With gray wolves recovered in Northwest Montana, the state wildlife agency’s role has been moving from species monitoring to management, including hunting.

One of the biggest elements of that change is the departure of Kent Laudon, the region’s top wolf expert who retired Friday after a decade spent trapping, tracking and monitoring wolves in the Northwest Recovery Zone, which roughly spans the top half of Montana’s Rocky Mountains.

He started working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as the regional wolf management specialist in 2004, tasked with determining how many packs are in the area each year and how many wolves are in each pack.

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Jun 11 2015

Activity schedule updated for 2015

OK, folks. We’ve got a first cut at this summer’s activity schedule posted to the “Activities” page.

If you have additions, corrections or suggestions, let us know.

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Jun 10 2015

Montanans for Healthy Rivers announces Community River Forum series

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

[Reminder: The local Community River Forum presentation is next Tuesday, June 16. See below for details.]

Montanans for Healthy Rivers is sponsoring a Community River Forum series to discuss watershed protection throughout the state. The closest is in Kalispell at The Museum at Central School, June 16, 7-8pm. (Note that you need to tell them you’re coming.)

Here’s the announcement they’re sending around . . .

In a nation often divided by partisan politics, river conservation is a subject that unites Montanans. In a state sculpted by mountains, valleys and prairie, rivers define our identity. They are a part of our lifeblood. Clean, free-flowing rivers support our agriculture, tourist economy, fisheries, wildlife, and way of life.

From the Stillwater Valley to Big Sky, Rock Creek to Kalispell, many Montana communities are intimately connected to healthy rivers. For ranchers, anglers, paddlers, hunters, outfitter guides, watershed groups, small business owners and larger Montana-based enterprises, this is hardly breaking news.

So it is ironic that nearly all of our iconic rivers and creeks across the state are unprotected from the impacts of future industrial development.

Montanans for Healthy Rivers is proud to present a solution to protect our remarkable river heritage. Please join us at an upcoming Community River Forum to learn more about our draft citizen’s proposal for new Wild and Scenic River designations.

Seeley Lake (Seeley Lake Community Hall) – June 2nd 7-8 pm
Missoula (Holiday Inn Downtown) – June 3rd 7-8 pm
Kalispell (The Museum at Central School) – June 16th 7-8 pm
Bozeman (Bozeman Public Library) – June 23rd 7-8 pm
Billings (Billings Public Library) – June 25th 7-8 pm

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