Here’s a timely news release by Bruce Auchly of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks discussing the effect — direct and indirect — of fire on animals . . .
Summer’s fires are over, right?
All that smoke-in-the-nose, ashes-in-mouth is past for the year. Or so we hope.
Yet even in the worst of it many of us had choices. Some folks left Montana, others sought relief in air conditioning at home or office or both.
Animals don’t have those luxuries. Yes, birds can fly and bears can burrow into a den, but fires in July and August happen at the wrong time for migration and hibernation.
First, let’s slay a rumor. The rash of bear conflicts, mostly black bears, this summer is not because smoke from forest fires was forcing bears out of their mountain redoubts and into towns. They are just farther afield this year looking for food.
Continue Reading »
Lots of folks on both sides of the issue are waiting with bated breath for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision on the status of the sage grouse . . .
A decision by the U.S. government on whether to propose protections for the greater sage grouse in 11 Western states could come next week, the chairman of a committee overseeing Montana’s conservation plan said Friday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until the end of the month to decide whether to propose designating the ground-dwelling bird as a threatened or endangered species. Congress has prohibited the agency from acting on that decision through at least September 2016.
The agency could decide that federal protections aren’t warranted, or that the measures are warranted but precluded by higher priorities.
Read more . . .
See also: Sage grouse is at center of national, state debates (Missoulian)
As usual, the North Fork Preservation Association has a contingent attending the Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent Conference. This year, it’s in Missoula and actually getting some press coverage . . .
With one wildfire menacing Going-to-the-Sun Road and another threatening to hop the Continental Divide into the Two Medicine basin, the last thing Jeff Mow needed last August was a new burn starting next to the isolated Goat Haunt Ranger Station along Waterton Lake.
“It may have broken all kinds of rules, but we delegated management of that fire to Parks Canada,” the Glacier National Park superintendent told the Crown of the Continent Roundtable audience Wednesday. “It was the right thing to do. And it speaks to the shared values at risk and the comfort we had working with each other. They had put the town of Waterton Lake on evacuation notice during that event. And we signed away delegation of authority to Canada in that case.”
Fortunately, the little fire only burned a couple of dozen acres before Canadian helicopters and ground crews controlled it – on the American end of Waterton Lake’s transboundary waters. But for Mow and many others at the international conference on the University of Montana campus this week, it was evidence of how political boundaries can become permeable when the needs of large landscapes take prominence.
While that kind of cross-border cooperation is fairly new, Mow said it built on an idea that’s decades old…
Read more . . .
A couple of weeks ago, Alberta announced plans to protect the Castle wilderness region. Since then, the general press has picked up on the story, including the below AP piece.
Note that this is not the proposed westward extension of Waterton Park into the Canadian Flathead drainage that has seen so much discussion lately . . .
The announcement of two new parks in Alberta has delighted environmental groups that have been fighting decades for their creation.
But the news that it will be shut out of more than 386 square miles of the Castle wilderness region in the province’s southwest corner has angered the forestry industry. “It feels to us a bit like we’re being vilified,” Brock Mulligan of the Alberta Forest Products Association said.
The parks created by the NDP government are almost twice as big as those proposed by the previous Conservative government for the same region. They will also cover valleys and wetlands, while the previous proposal focused on high alpine areas. “It’s almost night and day,” said Sean Nichols of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “This one goes so much further.”
Read more . . .
Castle Wildland and Park – Final
Download the full map (PDF – 1.24MB)
Yet another factor to consider in sage grouse preservation efforts . . .
If increasingly destructive wildfires in the Great Basin can’t be stopped, the sage grouse population will be cut in half over the next three decades, scientists say.
A report released Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey comes just ahead of a court-ordered Sept. 30 deadline faced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether sage grouse need protection under the Endangered Species Act. Experts say such a listing could damage Western states’ economies.
“The sagebrush steppe and sagebrush ecosystem are in trouble,” said Matt Brooks, a fire ecologist with the USGS and one of the report’s authors.
Read more . . .
Western Glacier Stonefly (Zapada glacier) – Joe Giersch, USGS
From today’s Flathead Beacon . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to decide whether a rare aquatic insect that’s found only in Glacier National Park should be protected under the Endangered Species Act within the year.
The Missoulian reports that in a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal agency agreed to make a decision by Sept. 30, 2016. The western glacier stonefly is one of 10 species of birds, fish and invertebrates the agency has agreed to rule on.
The stoneflies live in streams fed by cold water from glaciers in northwest Montana. Those glaciers are predicted to disappear by 2030, in part due to climate change. Researchers say the stoneflies also could disappear.
Read more . . .
NFPA member Frank Vitale has a nice op-ed in today’s Daily Inter Lake concerning drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .
The Blackfeet call it “Mistakis,” the Backbone of the World. The Continental Divide snakes its way through this land also known as the Badger-Two Medicine. It is the cornerstone of the Blackfeet creation story.
I have ridden, hiked and hunted through this area and know it well. It is some of the wildest country in the Northern Rockies. It lies between Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Great Bear Wilderness. It is one of the largest unprotected roadless areas in the state at 165,588 acres.
The Badger-Two Medicine is a rugged, remote, pristine ecosystem that’s home to grizzlies and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, wolverines and lynx. Moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer and whitetail deer and one of the largest herds of elk on the northern Rocky Mountain Front (numbering around 800 head) also live here. Its cold rivers and streams support some of the last pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout east of the Continental Divide.
The Badger and Two Medicine rivers spill out on the high prairies. Life zones range from the alpine and montane forests to short-grass prairies where grizzlies and antelope intermix.
This is not a place to drill for oil or gas. No mitigation can avoid the negative impacts of oil and gas exploration in this sacred and wild land.
Here’s the official press release on the lifting of fire restrictions for this corner of Montana. Note that Flathead County finally got with the program yesterday . . .
Date: September 8, 2015
Contact: Lisa Osborn , 406-295-7558
Contact: Jeff Stevenson , 406-283-7795
Northern Rockies Coordination Group Kalispell Area Interagency News Release
Libby,MT.—All Fire Restrictions will be rescinded across North West Montana.Jurisdictions include:
- Flathead National Forest
- Kootenai National Forest
- Bob Marshall Wilderness Lands within the Flathead National Forest
- Glacier National Park
- U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service
- MT-DNRC Northwestern Land Office
- Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 1
- Counties:Flathead, Lake (outside of Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribe), Lincoln, and Sanders
On most of the jurisdiction listed above all fire restrictions have been rescinded effective immediately. The Flathead County Commissioners will meet on Thursday to decide whether to rescind restrictions in Flathead County. [they did – editor]
Please remember that even though fire restrictions have been rescinded fire season is still active. There are many fires burning in the area so you may still see smoke and flames within fire areas. There are many fire area closures please call your local Forest Service, DNRC or county fire department office for more information. Remember that you must stay out of closure areas until the closure is lifted by the land management agency.
At this time no open burning is allowed.
As hunting season begins, land managers want to remind hunters to practice wildfire safety while enjoying the outdoors. The Kalispell area fire restrictions group isurging caution for those participating in hunting and other outdoor activities to avoid sparking a fire. Just one small spark/ember from an unattended warming fire, muzzle of a gun or a hot exhaust pipe on a vehicle can ignite the dry grass.Please refrain from building campfires/warming fires during windy or dry conditio.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to avoid sparking a wildfire:
- Keep water nearby when welding on stands.
- When shooting close to the ground, be sure there is no dry grass or tinder in front of your muzzle. Though rare, it’s not impossible for a shot to ignite a fire.
- Use properly maintained spark arresters on all power equipment.
- Never leave a campfire or warming fire unattended, even for a few minutes. Be sure to completely extinguish campfires/warming fires when ready to go.
- Keep a bucket, a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and at your camp.
- Be aware of area fire restrictions.
- Be mindful of where you drive or park and stay on designated trails. Avoid parking on dry brush or grass, since your exhaust system can ignite the vegetation.
Please keep wildfire safety in mind and have a safe and memorable hunting experience.
Montana enacts a sage grouse conservation plan without waiting for the feds . . .
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has ordered state agencies to enact a program to conserve greater sage grouse populations by the start of next year as federal officials consider whether more sweeping protections are needed.
The order issued Tuesday follows on a 2014 grouse conservation plan that places some restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other activities blamed for driving down sage grouse numbers.
Critics of the state plan say it has too many loopholes allowing companies to get around the restrictions.
Read more . . .
Pretty much all fire restrictions (Stage I and Stage II) have been rescinded in this corner of Montana except for Flathead County proper. Chances are, the Flathead County Commissioners will get around to lifting restrictions for the county on Thursday.
There is no open burning, however. That will have to wait until October, if not later.
See also: Most fire restrictions removed (Daily Inter Lake – paywall)