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.

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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 . . .

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Feb 03 2016

North Valley working on climate change solutions

Published by under Environmental Issues,News


A report from Debo Powers, NFPA President, on last Monday’s community climate solutions project meeting . . .

On Monday, concerned citizens met at the Whitefish City Hall to explore a possible community climate solutions project. A diverse group of thirty-four stakeholders attended the meeting which included people working on fire and water issues, tourism and recreation, economic development/ Chambers of Commerce, high schools, local food and renewable energy. Four members of the North Fork Preservation Association attended the meeting in a packed conference room.

Steve Thompson spoke about what other Montana communities are doing to understand and adapt to climate change. One of the questions that Steve asked the group was whether this project should be for just Whitefish or for the entire North Valley, including Columbia Falls and the North Fork. The meeting featured two guest speakers from Missoula: Chase Jones from the City of Missoula and Amy Cilimburg from the Missoula Community Foundation who spoke about the new Climate Smart Missoula project. This exemplary project is focused on reducing Missoula’s carbon footprint, promoting energy conservation and renewable energy, and pursuing climate-smart economic opportunities.

Immediately following this meeting, the Whitefish City Council met for a more formal work session. In April 24, 2014, the city council set a goal of developing a climate solutions plan and this was the council’s first detailed conversation about the possibilities.


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Feb 03 2016

Meeting about road draws North Fork crowd

Published by under News

Debo Powers sent in this report on the traffic management meeting at the Columbia Falls city hall last week . . .

On January 28, many North Fork winter residents braved a foggy morning and icy roads to drive to Columbia Falls to attend a 9:00 am meeting at the Columbia Falls City Hall where officials would be discussing paving the North Fork Road to Camas Creek. North Forkers on both sides of the issue attended the meeting, but no one from the audience was allowed to speak.

Participating in the discussion was Montana State Senator Dee Brown, Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia, Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell, Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhardt, Public Works Director Dave Prunty, and Flathead County Road and Bridge Superintendent Ovila Byrd.

The officials discussed traffic congestion that will occur in 2017 when the new bridge over the South Fork is constructed on Highway 2 near Hungry Horse. Although a temporary bridge will carry traffic, the construction will most likely cause delays in travel. The two detours that were discussed were the North Fork Road to Blankenship Road or the North Fork Road to Camas Creek Road.

Since a proposal to pave the North Fork Road to Camas Creek would have to clear many legal and procedural hurdles, as well as major opposition from many landowners and conservation groups, paving the road by 2017 to provide a detour for construction on Highway 2 is not a viable option. However, the meeting showed that the paving issue is still alive and well in many people’s minds. The North Fork Preservation Association, founded in 1982 to oppose paving the North Fork Road, has vowed to fight any proposal to pave any section of the road.

Information about the road and other North Fork issues will be presented at the Winter Interlocal Meeting on February 17.

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Feb 01 2016

Conservation groups join to fight Kootenai snowmobile lawsuit

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

As we mentioned a week back, several area conservation organizations joined together to intervene in the lawsuit challenging the inclusion of recommended wilderness areas in the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests . . .

A coalition of conservationists has asked to intervene in a lawsuit filed by snowmobilers challenging wilderness provisions in the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forest plans.

The Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club, Citizens for Balanced Use and five other interest groups sued the U.S. Forest Service in November, accusing the agency of improperly excluding snowmobile use from the forest’s recommended wilderness areas and improperly recommending new waterways for the national Wild and Scenic River Act designation.

On Jan. 25, The Wilderness Society, Headwaters Montana, Idaho Conservation League, Montana Wilderness Association, Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club and Winter Wildlands Alliance formally asked to intervene in the case.

Read more . . .

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Feb 01 2016

Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and Montana Wilderness Association partner to present the 4th annual ‘Wilderness Speaker Series’

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

From the press release . . .

Now in it’s 4th year, the Wilderness Speaker Series at Flathead Valley Community College invites Montanans of all ages to learn more about the history and ecology of the public lands here in the Treasure State. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and the Montana Wilderness Association will host these FREE public events on the first Thursdays of February, March and April from 7:00pm 8: 30pm at FVCC. All three events will take place in the Arts and Technology Building.

This year, the Wilderness Speaker Series features three diverse and renowned speakers from across the region:

February 4: Wilderness Fire Management and Specific Challenges in the Flathead National Forest by Seth Carbonari (Room 139)
Wilderness managers strive to allow the ecological role of natural fire in Wilderness areas. The 2015 fires on the Flathead National Forest provide examples of some of the challenges faced in fire management; including protecting wilderness values, public safety and access.

March 3: From Flathead to Yellowstone to Yukon : Nature Needs Half, a Hopeful Agenda for the Future of Wild Nature and Humanity by Harvey Locke (Room 144 A/B)
Renowned conservationist Harvey Lock explores the “no holds barred”, Bob Marshall style declaration of love for the wild world and the landscape-scale management tactics it will take to save the precious ecosystems we have left.

April 7: This is the Crown of the Continent, Our Home by Rick Graetz (Theatre)
Photographer and naturalist Rick Graetz takes the audience on a stunning tour of the wild places in our own backyard through the eye of his camera lens and through the eye of history.

Grab a friend and join MWA and the BMWF to learn more about the beautiful mountains and region that we call home. For more information, please contact Amy Robinson at 284-1747 or arobinson@wildmontana.org. Wilderness Speaker Series events are listed on the FVCC Continuing Education Calendar.

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Jan 28 2016

Flathead Forest proposes salvage logging in Trail Creek burn

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Forest Service wants to salvage some of the standing timber from last year’s Trail Creek Fire. There’s no word on any objections to the sale, yet . . .

The Flathead National Forest is proposing a salvage timber sale within the more than 20,000 acres that burned in the Trail Creek Fire last summer.

The forest is accepting public comments on its plan to log 1,351 acres — about 6 percent of the total fire area — about two miles northeast of the Spotted Bear Ranger Station.

Forest officials estimate it would generate 6 million to 7 million board-feet of timber. The harvest, limited to burned areas outside the Bob Marshall Wilderness, would target only dead trees and those burned badly enough that they would likely die within three years.

Read more . . .

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Jan 25 2016

Conservationists seek to defend recommended wilderness against snowmobiler lawsuit

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

NEWS RELEASE: January 25, 2016

CONTACT: Tim Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699, tpreso@earthjustice.org

Missoula, MT – A coalition of conservationists, represented by Earthjustice, today requested to intervene in a lawsuit filed by snowmobilers that seeks to overturn restrictions on motorized use in recommended wilderness areas on the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

At issue are the Forest Service’s 2015 revised forest management plans for the two forests, which recommended certain rugged and pristine areas for wilderness designation and prohibited motorized use within their boundaries to protect wilderness character and preserve the opportunity for permanent protection under the federal Wilderness Act. Snowmobile interest groups filed a lawsuit in November 2015 that asks a federal judge to overturn these recommended wilderness designations and open the protected areas to motorized use by snowmobiles and four-wheelers.

“Snowmobilers already have access to 86 percent of the Kootenai forest and 70 percent of the Idaho Panhandle forest,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who is representing the conservationists. “We are standing up to defend the peace and solitude of the last pockets of wilderness-quality lands in these otherwise heavily logged and motorized forests.”

The recommended wilderness areas at issue include landscapes prized for their outstanding backcountry recreation opportunities, including Scotchman Peaks and Roderick Mountain in Montana and the Mallard Larkins and Selkirk Range in Idaho. These areas are home to mountain goats, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, wolverines, and a wide variety of other species, including the last remnant population of woodland caribou in the continental United States. In total, they constitute just 4 percent of the 2.2-million-acre Kootenai National Forest and 7 percent of the 2.5-million-acre Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Earthjustice is representing The Wilderness Society, Headwaters Montana, Idaho Conservation League, Montana Wilderness Association, Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club and Winter Wildlands Alliance. The groups seek to defend the Forest Service’s designation of recommended wilderness areas and wild and scenic river eligible areas and its decision to restrict motorized access in these areas.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

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Jan 25 2016

Brian Peck: The ‘grizzly killing fields’: An irresponsible idea

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

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

As mentioned here three weeks ago, the affected states are already divvying up hunting quotas in anticipation of grizzly bear delisting in the  Yellowstone region.

Brian Peck thinks this is a bad idea, stating his case in a sensible, non-confrontational op-ed in yesterday’s Daily Inter Lake.

Left unaddressed is the topic of trophy hunting, a hot button issue for conservationists and many tribes . . .

In recent weeks, area papers have run the article “States divvy up Yellowstone-area grizzly hunt,” noting that Wyoming will get 58 percent of the body count, Montana 34 percent, and Idaho 8 percent. With grizzlies still listed as “threatened,” and likely to remain so for years to come despite efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prematurely delist them, it’s unseemly, irresponsible, and unnecessary for state wildlife agencies to begin dividing up the “killing fields” for this iconic species.

It’s important to remember that grizzlies are the slowest reproducing mammal in North America. As such, there is no biological “need” to ever hunt grizzlies for population control. In Yellowstone, it’s taken over 40 years for the population to increase from around 300 to last year’s estimate of 717. Not exactly a bear behind every tree.

OK, but how are we going to deal with “problem bears?” First, it’s important to realize that virtually all “problem bears” are caused by “problem people” and their bad behavior — for example, leaving bird feeders out from April to October and baiting bears to their deaths. Or leaving pet food on the deck, leftover burgers on the barbecue, unsecured horse feed, or tasty chickens in flimsy enclosures. Clean up our behavior and clean up the problem.

Second, a grizzly hunt is unlikely to target problem bears in people’s back yards or subdivisions because it’s too dangerous. And Fish, Wildlife and Parks can’t lead hunters to collared problem bears because it’s unethical and unsportsmanlike.

Finally, we already have the solution in the state’s Bear Conflict Resolution Specialists, who do a fabulous job through homeowner education, aversive conditioning of food-conditioned bears, and removing those whose bad habitats can’t be broken. However, we need to adequately fund and staff this vital program.

But don’t we need to hunt grizzlies to make them fear humans and avoid us? Nonsense. There’s no credible research to back up this claim. Properly conducted, ethical hunting of grizzlies doesn’t teach them to fear humans — it teaches them to be dead. And a dead bear tells no tales to his/her fellow grizzlies. It’s far more likely that grizzlies learn to fear/avoid humans by observing the thousands of big game hunters in the woods each fall.

So, if grizzlies don’t “need” to be hunted, there’s already a solution to problem bears; and if hunting grizzlies doesn’t instill fear in them, why are the states so adamant about divvying up the killing fields and starting a hunt in Greater Yellowstone?

State wildlife agencies get nearly all of their revenue from the sale of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and were set up to manage wildlife populations through regulated “harvest” (killing). It’s part of their cultural history and ingrained in their management DNA.

Yet with grizzlies, and particularly the Greater Yellowstone bears, state wildlife agencies need to understand they’re playing in a whole new game where the old historic ways of doing business do not apply. States that insist on killing these iconic bears that millions of Americans associate with Yellowstone National Park itself, will quickly find themselves in a firestorm of public disapproval that will not only target them, but hunting itself. Time to think outside the box.

Brian Peck, of Columbia Falls, is an independent wildlife consultant.

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Jan 24 2016

Please help protect North Fork wildlife!

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

Over Snow Vehicle Use Map, 2013 - Glacier View Ranger District-North Half

Illegal snowmobile use disturbs wildlife, including lynx and wolverine. Grizzly bear tracks are seen year-round up the North Fork, but they regularly come out of their dens in April, long before the snow melts.

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the USFS map for over snow use (http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5410980.pdf)
and then educate your neighbors and friends. This map is free at USFS offices.

If you observe illegal use, send the Flathead Forest law enforcement agent, Brad Treat, a note at btreat@fs.fed.

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