Jul 05 2014

Sage grouse become political touchstone in West

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

This is a pretty good overview of the concerns and election-year politics behind the sage grouse preservation issue . . .

An obscure, chicken-sized bird best known for its mating dance could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate in November.

The federal government is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year. Doing so could limit development, energy exploration, hunting and ranching on the 165 million acres of the bird’s habitat across 11 Western states.

Apart from the potential economic disruption, which some officials in Western states discuss in tones usually reserved for natural disasters, the specter of the bird’s listing is reviving the centuries-old debates about local vs. federal control and whether to develop or conserve the region’s vast expanses of land.

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Jul 05 2014

Flathead National Forest seeks input on travel analysis

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

As far as I  can figure, the following press release is saying that the Flathead National Forest is seeking public help in evaluating its road system. This information will  be used as an aid to future decision making.

This sounds like something some of us should pay attention to.

Here’s the press release . . .

The U.S. Forest Service seeks public input on an analysis of the road system on the Flathead National Forest. The travel analysis process (TAP) is a science-based approach that is used to inform future road-related travel management decisions. This travel analysis report (TAR) documents a broad-scale analysis that encompasses all existing National Forest System Roads (NFSR) on the Flathead NF. The report provides a course assessment of the road infrastructure and a set of proposals for change to the forest transportation system that can be evaluated when subsequent site-specific National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning is undertaken. This report will not change or modify any existing NEPA decisions, but should help to inform decision makers with future NEPA assessments related to the road infrastructure.

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber says, “The travel analysis is not a proposal or decision, but is intended to help inform possible future road management planning. We will need public input to inform the analysis, but this will not be a formal public comment process. Before any projects are implemented on the ground the public will have an opportunity to comment through the NEPA process.”

The Forest Service asks the public to view the analysis and provide input to help identify risks and benefits we may have missed as well as provide feedback on the process used to analyze the road system. An interactive mapping tool reflecting the initial results of the analysis is available on the FNF website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/flathead and is the primary tool for providing public input. The Forest will accept inputs through July 31, 2014. A hard-copy of the maps which capture the results of the analysis area are available at the Swan Lake, Hungry Horse and Tally Lake Ranger District offices for those not able to view them online.

The Flathead National Forest is hosting an open-house on July 8, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Supervisor’s Office located at 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT, to discuss the process used in the analysis and to demonstrate how to use the online mapping tool to provide inputs.

The agency expects to maintain an appropriately sized and environmentally sustainable road system that is responsive to ecological, economic and social concerns. The national forest system of the future must continue to provide access for recreation and resource management, as well as support watershed restoration and resource protection to sustain healthy ecosystems. Nearly everyone who uses the National Forest will be affected by possible future road management decisions, making it important to work together today to identify a sustainable road system.

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Jul 02 2014

Lundgren family sells West Glacer holdings to GPI

Published by under History,News

This has only a tenuous North Fork preservation angle, but it’s momentous news for the area . . .

Most of the business district of this iconic entrance to Glacier National Park – and undeveloped acreage in and around the little village of about 225 people – has been sold to Glacier Park Inc., a subsidiary of Viad Corp. of Arizona.

Bill Lundgren, whose family has owned the West Glacier Mercantile Company since 1946, and Paul Dyststra, chairman, president and CEO of Viad, weren’t returning phone messages Monday or Tuesday, as rumors of a possible sale mounted.

But GPI president Cindy Ognjanov confirmed Wednesday morning in a news release that a deal had been struck to purchase almost 200 acres of land from the Lundgrens at the park’s west entrance. Included in the sale are the West Glacier Mercantile (which sells everything from food to fishing tackle), the West Glacier Gift Shop, the West Glacier Shirt Company, the West Glacier Motel and Cabins, the West Glacier Bar (known locally as Freda’s) and the West Glacier Restaurant.

Another 3.8 acres inside the park, at Apgar, are also part of the sale, and include the Apgar Village Lodge and Cedar Tree gift shop.

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Jul 02 2014

North Fork Watershed Protection Act gets mired in election-year politics

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

It seems the North Fork Watershed Protection Act is bogged down in election-year digestive by-product. Tristan Scott over at the Flathead Beacon just posted an excellent discussion of the situation . . .

When the state’s congressional leaders introduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act last year, the measure to ban new energy development on 430,000 acres of wild and scenic river corridor near Glacier National Park stood out for its singular brand of bipartisan support.

The Montana-made bill gained near universal esteem, even at the height of partisanship, and was hailed by conservationists, oil tycoons and politicians alike as a commonsense piece of legislation – 80 percent of energy leases in the area have been voluntarily released, and it dovetails with an effort by British Columbia’s parliament to place similar protections north of the border, on the headwaters of the Flathead River.

Representing the first public lands bill in recent memory to garner the full support of Montana’s entire congressional delegation, it also provided a convenient platform for the state’s electorate to display the kind of esprit de corps that Washington lacks, a welcome departure from the gridlock that has stalled Congress, and a rare display of bipartisan teamwork greeted by much local fanfare…

But just as the North Fork bill appeared poised to transcend the morass, it fell victim to the same political arrest that has come to typify Congress – a fanatical brand of doctrinarian politics from which the measure and its backers attempted to distance themselves…

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Jul 02 2014

Public invited to noxious weed blitz in Glacier Park on July 15

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

From a Glacier Park press release . . .

Glacier National Park’s Citizen Science Program announces two opportunities to help with early detection of invasive plants along park trails: Noxious Weed Blitz on July 15 and an online training course for the Invasive Plants Citizen Science program. Both opportunities are free of charge and open to the public.

The fifth annual Noxious Weed Blitz will take place on Tuesday, July 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., meeting at the park’s community building in West Glacier. Participants will be trained to assist the Invasive Plant Management Program by learning to identify, map, and pull invasive plants. A free lunch will be provided by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Be prepared to spend the afternoon in the outdoors, pulling invasive plants. Please bring gloves for hand pulling, footwear for hiking, and drinking water. Please RSVP if you would like to attend.

An online training opportunity teaches participants how to identify five targeted invasive plants, conduct surveys, and map locations of invasive plants using GPS units. Once training has been completed, visitors may check-out GPS units from the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center to detect invasive plants while in the park. The online training program can be accessed http://www.crownscience.org/getinvolved/citizen-science/noxious-weeds.

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Jul 02 2014

Cutthroat conservation project has three lakes left

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ South Fork Flathead Cutthroat Conservation Project is just about wrapped up. They’ve got three lakes left in their effort to restore a genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout population to the South Fork Flathead River drainage.

From the official press release . . .

Project status: The South Fork Flathead Cutthroat Conservation Project has been systematically removing non-native fish and replacing them with pure westslope cutthroat. The goal has been to maintain the world class genetically pure westslope cutthroat fishery in the South Fork Flathead River Drainage. FWP Project Biologist Matt Boyer reports that 12 mountain lakes have been successfully chemically treated and an additional 6 lakes are being genetically swamped and may not require chemical treatment. Only three lakes remain on the original list of 21 encompassed by the project in the South Fork Flathead Drainage.

This year’s activities and limit waiver: This year, Koessler Lake is scheduled for rotenone treatment in September. Koessler is an 86 acre lake located at the head of the Gordon Creek drainage within the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. The lake was historically stocked with nonnative Yellowstone cutthroat trout and presently contains westslope cutthroat/Yellowstone cutthroat trout hybrids. Koessler is a remote backcountry angling destination. In past years, anglers have asked for limit waivers to allow more harvest of fish prior to treatment. The current bag limit is 3 trout per day. The proposal to lift the fishing bag limit on Koessler Lake will be submitted to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission. The FWP Commission will evaluate public comments and consider final approval of this proposal at their July meeting. It would go into effect immediately upon approval. Please contact your local Fish and Wildlife Commissioner if you have comments; address comments to: fwpcomm@mt.gov.

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Jun 29 2014

Report maps out plan for long-term species conservation in Flathead National Forest

Published by under Documents,Environmental Issues

Dr. John Weaver of the Wildlife Conservation Society, long an advocate for targeted landscape preservation to boost species survival, has issued a new report, specifically addressing the area encompassed by the Flathead National Forest.

Here’s the press release. We also offer a link to the full report . . .

BOZEMAN (June 23, 2014) A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) calls for completing the legacy of Wilderness lands on the Flathead National Forest in Montana. The report identifies important, secure habitats and landscape connections for five species—bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, and mountain goats. These iconic species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change.

Located in northwest Montana adjacent to Glacier National Park, the 2.4 million-acre Flathead Forest is a strategic part of the stunning and ecologically diverse Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. From the 1930’s to the present, generations of citizens and government leaders have worked to protect this special area through designations of wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and protection of critical wildlife habitat.

In his report, “Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wild Lands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana,” WCS Senior Scientist Dr. John Weaver notes that these protections may not be enough in the face of looming challenges such as climate change.

For example, warmer winters will reduce mountain snow cover and suitable habitat for the rare wolverine – a species highly adapted to persistent snow pack. Reduced stream flow and warmer stream temperatures will diminish habitat for native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout that are well adapted to cold waters – while favoring introduced rainbow trout and brook trout.

Weaver found that the Flathead is a stronghold for these fish and wildlife species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south. His analysis shows that 90 percent of the Flathead has a “very high” or “high” conservation value for at least one of the five focal species.

In his recommendations, Weaver employs a “smart strategy for resiliency” that protects and connects large landscapes that have high topographic and ecological diversity. Such a strategy will provide a range of options for animal movements as conditions change. Importantly, remaining roadless areas account for nearly 25 percent of the best habitats for these species. In particular, these higher-elevation areas will provide key options for such vulnerable species in a warmer future.

In total, Weaver recommends 404,208 acres of roadless area on the Flathead Forest for Congressional designation as National Wilderness, and another 130,705 areas be conserved in roadless condition as legislated “Backcountry Conservation.” Vital places with particular concentration of present and future habitat include the Whitefish Range adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Swan Range east of Flathead Lake.

“This report will help inform discussions and decisions about future management on the Flathead National Forest,” said Weaver. “These spectacular landscapes provide some of the best remaining strongholds for vulnerable fish and wildlife and headwater sources of clean water. These roadless refugia offer a rare opportunity to complete the legacy of protecting wildlife and wildlands on this crown jewel of the National Forest system for people today and generations yet to come.”

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Full report: Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wildlands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana (PDF format, 8.9MB).

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Jun 29 2014

Brian Sybert: Lessons from the Scapegoat Wilderness

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

Brian Sybert, executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association, has a pretty good op-ed in Hungry Horse News supporting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act . . .

In 1972, nearly 240,000 acres of federal public land lying between Montana’s iconic Rocky Mountain Front and storied Blackfoot River Valley became the first acres in the nation to enter the wilderness system at the behest of ordinary citizens.

The story of the Scapegoat Wilderness has influenced every effort to protect wild country during the past 40-plus years in Montana and throughout the nation.

And it’s a great story, full of colorful characters and bugling elk. On some levels it is also a heartbreaking tale of sacrifice and the heavy emotional burden that comes with standing up for what you believe is right.

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Jun 29 2014

Flathead Forest Plan work renews wilderness discussion

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Flathead National Forest’s Forest Plan revision process reawakened serious discussion about wilderness within the area . . .

Conservation groups may agree the new Flathead National Forest plan should contain recommended wilderness, but there’s some disagreement about where.

Amy Robinson, Northwest Montana field director for the Montana Wilderness Association, says her organization is focused on preserving areas that have been recommended in the past as well as areas largely adjacent to existing wilderness.

 

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Jun 29 2014

Feds get until 2018 to hand in their Lynx recovery homework

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets until 2018 to come up with a Canada Lynx recovery plan . . .

A federal judge on Wednesday set a 2018 deadline for the government to complete a long-delayed recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx in the Lower 48 states.

Wildlife advocates had asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to push the government into faster action on the snow-loving big cats, which were added to the list of threatened species in 2000.

But after federal officials said budget issues and competing priorities were slowing their work, Molloy indicated Wednesday in an order that he was reluctant to second-guess them. He said the January 2018 deadline proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was reasonable.

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