May 14 2015

Yellowstone to Yukon honors Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for conservation work

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Y2Y folks honored the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for their conservation efforts . . .

Members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes received the inaugural Ted Smith award for conservation collaboration at a ceremony Friday.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative gave the honor to Dale Becker, head biologist for the CSKT Wildlife Management Department. Becker and the tribal government were instrumental in creating a system of wildlife crossings over and under U.S. Highway 93 as it passes through the Flathead Indian Reservation. The award also highlights CSKT’s efforts to create the nation’s first tribally designated wilderness and its support for reintroducing trumpeter swans to historic range

The award commemorates the legacy of Ted Smith, who helped found the Y2Y network of organizations and interested conservationists.

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May 14 2015

Ron Wakimoto changed how we think about fire

Published by under Environmental Issues,History,News

Here’s a good write-up on Ron Wakimoto, an eminent fire researcher who has had a big impact on modern wildland fire management . . .

Some fire scientists burn down hillsides. Some burn up whole fire policies.

Ron Wakimoto has done both, developing research that helps save the lives of firefighters and helps return fire to the woods after a half-century of fighting to keep it out. Last week, he wound up more than three decades of teaching fire science at the University of Montana’s School of Forestry.

“Ron has been a leader in terms of teaching, and we wanted the students to be able to hear from an elder,” said Colin Hardy, director of the U.S. Forest Service Fire Sciences Laboratory, just before Wakimoto spoke to the annual Mike and Maybelle Hardy Lecture audience last Thursday. “He taught us we need to think about fire management, not just fire suppression. On the political and management side, it’s about air tankers and people on the ground and big iron – it’s a big show. But among fire managers today, Ron’s speaking to the choir.”

In large part, Wakimoto taught the choir…

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May 14 2015

New Montana law to fund sage grouse preservation

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Montana now has a pot of money for sage grouse conservation . . .

Gov. Steve Bullock has signed into law a plan to pay for and enact Montana’s strategy to preserve a struggling bird species.

Bullock signed Senate Bill 261, the Sage Grouse Stewardship Act, during a small ceremony in his office Thursday.

The measure will provide millions of dollars for the state to conserve habitat for the chicken-sized birds. Part of the money will be used by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to hire at least five new employees to manage the program.

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May 07 2015

Time is running out to submit comments on the Forest Plan!

Published by under Commentary,Environmental Issues

A very timely reminder from Debo Powers, NFPA Vice-President . . .

Dear Friends of NFPA!

Many of you know that the comment period for the Flathead Forest Plan is fast approaching! May 15 is the deadline. Letters from people who love the North Fork would be very helpful. Please take the time to write your comments today and send them to flatheadplanrevision@fs.fed.us or snail mail your comments to:

Flathead National Forest Supervisor’s Office
Attention: Forest Plan Revision
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901

In your comments, please be sure to mention that Nasukoin Mountain should be included in the proposed wilderness for the northern Whitefish Range.

The Forest Plan should be praised for accepting the recommendations from the Whitefish Range Partnership (that several of us from NFPA served on) concerning recommended wilderness for 80,000 acres in the northern Whitefish Range including Tuchuck, Hefty, Thoma, and Thompson-Seton. However, when the lines were drawn, Nasukoin was not included. Hopefully, this was just a mistake which will be corrected, but it is important that they hear from us about the importance of this peak which is the highest in the Whitefish Range and definitely has wilderness characteristics.

In addition, let us join our voices with members of the Montana Wilderness Association and Headwaters Montana in calling for protection of the wild country in the Swan and Mission Mountains in the Flathead Forest Plan:

  • Extend the Bob Marshall Wilderness north to include Bunker and Sullivan Creek – critical areas for grizzlies, elk, mountain goats and other species.
  • Expand the Jewel Basin and protect the wild Swan Front. Bring the boundary down to the valley floor.
  • Widen the Mission Mountains Wilderness! Protect the wildlife corridor of Sunset Ridge, the critical bull trout spawning beds of Elk and Hemlock creeks, and the rugged species-rich lower slopes.

Another issue to consider commenting on is to ask that “non-conforming uses” (like snowmobiling and mountain biking) not be allowed in recommended wilderness. When these activities become established in proposed wilderness, it is often difficult to exclude them later.

Please send your comments today!

Thanks,

Debo Powers,
NFPA Vice President

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May 07 2015

Report from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meeting

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Cinco - 5 May 2015

Cinco – 5 May 2015

Debo Powers, NFPA Vice President, attended the spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear management meeting yesterday. Here is her report:

I remember the old days when Chuck Jonkel held an annual Grizzly Bear Research meeting in Sondreson Hall to share grizzly bear research with North Fork landowners. We would sit on the uncomfortable wooden benches in the sweltering temperatures of a hot summer day and listen to the enthusiastic reports from young bear researchers. Those were the meetings that fanned the flames of my love for grizzly bears.

It has been many years since those meetings happened, but the memories associated with them prompted me to attend Wednesday’s meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which was held in the conference room of the Hungry Horse Ranger Station. Rather than the animated stories of youthful researchers filled with an infectious passion for learning about grizzlies in order to save them from extinction, today’s meeting featured reports from people from various agencies and tribes who have successfully brought about grizzly bear recovery in the Crown of the Continent. It’s amazing to see how things can change in a few decades when humans work together to save a fellow species.

The packed meeting was facilitated with humor and style by Deb Mucklow, the Spotted Bear District Ranger. Numerous agencies and tribes participated in the meeting. Members of the public , representatives from various environmental groups, and reporters from Flathead Beacon, Hungry Horse News, and NF News were present in the audience.

The reports were fascinating and focused on the conservation strategies that have been used by different groups in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). Some of the topics covered were: the effectiveness of food storage orders to decrease grizzly habituation, educational resources to train humans to operate awarely in grizzly country, the use of snow rangers and fly-overs to monitor snowmobiling in grizzly habitat (especially when bears are emerging from dens), and reports from management officials, like Tim Manley, on bear conflicts this spring.

Rick Mace, who will be retiring soon, received a beautiful plaque with a huge grizzly paw for his three decades of leadership in grizzly bear conservation and management. Afterwards, he presented the results of his trend monitoring research on grizzly bear populations in the 23 management units of the NCDE. It was nice to notice that we live in one of most densely populated grizzly habitats in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Rick’s final written report will be available in a few months.

It was a day of information and sharing . . . a day well spent, despite the beautiful weather that beckoned us to be outdoors in grizzly country.

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May 06 2015

Glacier Park wants comments on Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan

Published by under News

As mentioned in an earlier post here, Glacier Park has developed five “preliminary alternatives” for handling increased traffic and usage along Going-to-the-Sun Road. None of the choices are entirely palatable, although it’s pretty obvious they prefer alternative #5. In any event, they are asking for public comment with a June 5 deadline.

Here’s the official press release . . .

Glacier National Park is encouraging public comment regarding five preliminary alternatives that have been developed for the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan. These preliminary alternatives are conceptual at this time, and public comment will help in further development, modification and analysis of alternatives for the draft plan and environmental impact statement.

For many years, especially during July and August, the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor has experienced crowding and congestion along the road and at associated pullouts and parking areas. Many of the more popular trails in the road corridor are also congested, and impacts to vegetation and wildlife are increasing. Park visitation is on the rise and trends indicate it will continue to increase in the future. Increasing visitation will add to congestion and crowding, impacts to natural resources, and stress to facility infrastructure such as parking areas and restrooms. Additionally, a recent financial analysis has indicated that the portion of the entrance fees that support the shuttle system launched in 2007 are only paying for operations and maintenance and do not support acquisition of buses.

The preliminary alternatives outline various responses that park management could take to address issues along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Alternative 1 is the no-action alternative. Alternatives 2, 3 and 4 were developed using a more traditional approach of forecasting or predicting a certain future condition of high visitation and longer visitor season. They describe alternative ways the park would respond. Alternative 5 describes a flexible management approach to allow the park to respond to an uncertain future, and changes in transportation, visitation, economics, funding and climate.

The preliminary alternatives were informed by comments and concerns received from the public during the summer of 2013, research conducted by the University of Montana and socioeconomic and transportation contractors.

The alternatives are not fully developed yet and are being shared at this time to get early public comment and response. The park has not selected a preferred alternative, nor completed the environmental analysis. The draft plan and environmental impact statement will identify a preferred alternative and analyze impacts of all alternatives, and is anticipated to be available for review and comment later this fall. Public meetings will be held at that time.

The preliminary alternatives are described in the project’s spring newsletter available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/glac. Comments may be submitted online at this website or by mail to: Glacier National Park, Attn: GTSR Corridor Plan, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT, 59936. Comments are due by June 5, 2015.

For more information contact the park at 406-888-7800.

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May 06 2015

Solonex wants accelerated consideration of plans for oil drilling in Badger-Two Medicine

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

Another volley in the fight over oil drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

A Louisiana company is asking a judge to resolve its lawsuit challenging the government’s suspension of an oil and gas lease near Montana’s Glacier National Park so the company can begin drilling this summer.

The 6,200-acre lease is on land sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada. It was suspended by the U.S. Interior Department in the 1990s along with dozens of other leases in the area.

Over the years, most of the leases were retired or surrendered, and now only 18 remain, covering more than 40,000 acres in the Badger-Two Medicine area south of Glacier.

Read more . . .

See also: Solenex requests accelerated hearing in Badger-Two Medicine drilling case

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May 04 2015

Congress looking at Land and Water Conservation Fund extension

Published by under Environmental Issues,News

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has to be reauthorized by September. Almost everyone seems to think it’s a swell idea, but the devil is in the details . . .

An important conservation program could expire in September unless Congress passes legislation to save it.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was the subject of a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing last month. The hearing, which included Montana Sen. Steve Daines, comes as both the House and Senate consider passing legislation to permanently extend the fund.

The LWCF was created in 1965 and uses profits from offshore oil and gas developments to fund conservation and land acquisitions across the country. The primary goal of the fund is to protect land and ensure that it is accessible for recreation. It also offers funds to state and local governments to buy and protect land.

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May 04 2015

Glacier Park proposes solutions for Sun Road congestion

Published by under News

Glacier Park is trying to figure out what to do about overcrowding on Going-to-the-Sun Road. At this point, they’ve proposed five alternatives, none of which are entirely palatable. If you want a hand in this process, download the current management plan newsletter, read about the alternatives and submit comments. The deadline for comments is June 5.

Here’s a write-up from the Flathead Beacon . . .

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a global icon, attracting millions of visitors to Glacier National Park each year and consistently garnering praise for its awe-inspiring views and connection to pristine recreation opportunities.

But with the growing popularity comes a significant dilemma. Once word spreads that the Sun Road is fully open in summer, visitors flood the park, clogging the narrow two-lane corridor with vehicles and filling the surrounding trails with hikers.

Amid this increased visitation and congestion along the main thoroughfare, park officials are proposing several changes that could impact how visitors travel throughout Glacier.

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May 04 2015

Genetic research gives insight into Greater Yellowstone foxes

Published by under News,Science

Here’s some interesting research about foxes which, I was surprised to learn, are relatively recent arrivals on this continent . . .

Blame the snow and cold.

Thanks to nasty winters, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including the Beartooth Mountains, have become a genetic island for Rocky Mountain red foxes.

That’s one of the findings from research that Patrick Cross conducted over two years while spending finger-numbing winter days in the Beartooth Mountains trapping the native high-elevation foxes. Cross, a University of Montana graduate student in systems ecology, was working with the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center. For his research, Cross had hypothesized that the foxes may be genetically different from those found in nearby Yellowstone National Park. Instead, he found that the two populations are related.

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