Dec 04 2014

House passes defense bill that includes Rocky Mountain Front, North Fork provisions

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The defense bill passed the U.S. House this afternoon, including the provisions for the various Montana conservation and lands legislation packages. Next week, the bill is debated in the Senate, a much higher hurdle . . .

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a defense spending bill containing a broad public lands package for Montana, including new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front, a ban on mining near Glacier National Park and changes supporting oil exploration and grazing on federal land.

The Republican-controlled House voted 300-119 for the $585 billion defense policy bill, which funds U.S. troops, military operations, ships, planes and war equipment. Montana’s only House member, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, voted for it.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where a vote is expected next week.

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Dec 04 2014

Peripatetic grizzly’s 2,800-mile tour intrigues experts

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

When the state and federal grizzly bear people got together in Missoula this week, one of the highlights of the meeting was a discussion of Ethyl, a grizzly who decided to take a lengthy tour of Western Montana and Northern Idaho . . .

The roomful of biologists had lots of funny ideas why Ethyl the grizzly bear logged 2,800 miles arcing from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, past Florence and Missoula and eventually up to Eureka by way of Glacier National Park.

Maybe she ate a bad chicken. Or she was looking for someone she couldn’t find. Or she couldn’t find her back to her home range northeast of Bigfork – the one place she noticeably missed in the three-year ramble.

Read more . . .

Update: A Fox News version of this story includes a map showing Ethyl’s travels.

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Dec 04 2014

‘Historic’ Montana lands conservation bill roll-up merged into defense bill

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Montana’s congressional delegation is taking another swing at getting several long-delayed lands use bills passed. This time around, they’ve rolled up the whole collection, including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, and merged it with the pending defense spending bill, a “must pass” piece of legislation.

Here’s the lead-in from the Hungry Horse News, along with links to additional local coverage . . .

Montana’s Congressional delegation announced Dec. 3 they have come together on an agreement for a major land-use bill that rolls several pieces of key conservation legislation into a defense spending bill that could pass Congress in the coming days.

In a conference call Wednesday morning, Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and Rep. Steve Daines said the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, the Northern Cheyenne Lands Act and several other lands-use bills would be merged into the legislation.

“Today is an historic day for Montana,” Tester announced.

Read more . . .

Further reading:

‘Historic’ Montana Lands Package to Advance – Flathead Beacon

Front, North Fork, other Montana lands bills set to advance – Missoulian

Poised for Protection – Montana Wilderness Association

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Nov 28 2014

Will lame duck Congress pass any Montana lands bills?

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Will any of the languishing Montana lands bills get passed by year’s end? . . .

In the lame-duck weeks of December 2010, Sen. Jon Tester tried to get his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act attached to any must-pass legislation likely to make it out of Congress before the end of the year.

The effort failed.

But this December has a much larger slate of Montana-related lands bills looking for a vote, and a Democratic Senate caucus about to lose its majority status in January. That’s got a lot of congressional watchers wondering what last-minute legislation might wind up under President Barack Obama’s Christmas tree.

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Nov 26 2014

Flathead Basin pollution model completed

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

A long-awaited model for nutrient pollution in the Flathead Basin has been released, with mixed results . . .

A long awaited computer model for nutrient pollution in the Flathead Basin is completed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contracted with TetraTech to support development of the model, and a draft report on the model was released Nov. 3.

Deficiencies in the model are described in the draft report. While the model reportedly did well in simulating point sources, nonpoint source modeling proved difficult, an issue with political ramifications for the Flathead’s cities and towns, where officials are concerned about spending millions of dollars on treatment plants that will provide small incremental benefits to the watershed.

“There is uncertainty associated with the simulated loading results from many of the nonpoint sources,” the report concludes. “Given the lack of source-specific monitoring data, quantifying the uncertainty is not possible.”

Many nonpoint sources are caused by natural changes in the watershed, and the report states that “additional work outside of this modeling framework would be necessary to quantify the split between natural and anthropogenic (manmade) nonpoint sources.”

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Nov 25 2014

Glacier Park to get new Chief Ranger

Published by under News

Glacier Park is getting a new Chief Ranger . ..

Paul Austin has been named chief ranger for Glacier National Park, the National Park Service announced Nov. 24.

Austin, the current chief ranger at Saguaro National Park in Arizona, will oversee the law enforcement, fire and trails programs, among other duties within the park’s visitor and resource protection division.

He will begin his new duties in mid-December and is replacing Mark Foust, who stepped down in spring to become superintendent at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah.

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Nov 24 2014

Dead grizzly reported in North Fork

Published by under News

Sounds like someone killed a grizzly bear somewhere up the Moran Creek drainage off Hay creek Road . . .

Montana Game Wardens and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agents are seeking information on a grizzly bear that was shot and killed recently.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks received an initial report from a hunter on Nov. 12 that the dead bear was in the Hay/Moran Creek area in the North Fork of the Flathead Drainage.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for killing this grizzly bear. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the USFWS at 406-761-2286; or 1-800-TIPMONT. Callers may remain anonymous.

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Nov 23 2014

NYT: Climate change threatens to strip the identity of Glacier National Park

This morning’s New York Times has a survey article — with a photo spread — discussing the potential impact of climate change on Glacier National Park specifically and the Northern Rockies in general . . .

What will they call this place once the glaciers are gone?

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

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Nov 22 2014

Wolf travels from Northern Rockies to Arizona

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Those rumors about a wolf near the Grand Canyon turn out to be true . . .

A female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies traveled hundreds of miles into northern Arizona, marking the species’ first appearance in the region in more than 70 years and the farthest journey south, wildlife officials confirmed Friday.

A wolf-like animal had been spotted roaming the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the adjacent national forest since last month. Biologists collected its scat and sent it to a University of Idaho laboratory for testing, verifying what environmentalists had suspected based on its appearance and a radio collar around its neck.

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Nov 21 2014

Reports says sage grouse needs 3-mile buffer from energy projects

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

A recent government report calls for a 3-mile buffer from energy development activities to protect sage grouse. This is not just a drilling restriction, it also applies to other activities such as solar arrays and wind farms . . .

A government report with significant implications for the U.S. energy industry says a struggling bird species needs a 3-mile buffer between its breeding grounds and oil and gas drilling, wind farms and solar projects.

The study comes as the Obama administration weighs new protections for the greater sage grouse. The ground-dwelling, chicken-sized birds range across 11 western states and two Canadian provinces.

A 3-mile buffer for the birds represents a much larger area than the no-occupancy zones where drilling and other activity is prohibited under some state and federal land management plans.

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