North Fork Interlocal Agreement meeting coming up on Feb. 21

Bob Dunkley explains Park plans for the Polebridge Ranger Station, post Red Bench Fire, at the 1988 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall.
Bob Dunkley explains Park plans for the Polebridge Ranger Station, post Red Bench Fire, at the 1988 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall.

The 2018 winter North Fork Interlocal Agreement meeting will be held Wednesday, February 21 at the Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger Station, 10 Hungry Horse Drive in Hungry Horse. Start time is 10:00 a.m. The meeting usually lasts abut three hours.

The Interlocal Agreement provides for face-to-face contact with representatives of agencies whose policies and actions affect the North Fork. Interlocal Agreement meetings are held in the winter (in town) and summer (at Sondreson Hall). Agency attendees include Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Montana Department of State Lands, U.S. Border Patrol, Glacier National Park, Flathead National Forest, U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service and Flathead County..

This is always a very interesting meeting, with reports from a range of government agencies and local organizations and often some quite vigorous discussion.

1990 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall
1990 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall – Mike Conner talking; Bruce Hayden is next to him. See who else you can spot – that is Bonny Ogle to the left…

Historical note: Although the agreement wasn’t formally signed until 1985, this year marks the 35th anniversary of the first North Fork Interlocal meeting. Here’s what Larry Wilson had to say about it in 1987, some four years after things got rolling . . . Continue reading North Fork Interlocal Agreement meeting coming up on Feb. 21

US FWS considering lynx delisting

Canada lynx sitting - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Canada lynx sitting – US Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing the Canada lynx from the threatened species list . . .

Wildlife officials in the United States declared Canada lynx recovered on Thursday [January 11] and said the snow-loving wild cats no longer need special protections following steps to preserve their habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it will begin drafting a rule to revoke the lynx’s threatened listing across the Lower 48 state under the Endangered Species Act. Wildlife advocates said they would challenge the move.

First imposed in 2000, the threatened designation has interrupted numerous logging and road building projects on federal lands, frustrating industry groups and Western lawmakers.

Read more . . .

G. George Ostrom: Gianforte peddling wrong thing

U.S. Rep. Greg Gainforte is taking heat from across the political spectrum for supporting “bikes over wilderness” legislation. This latest zinger is from G. George Ostrom . . .

Worrisome news recently broke with the new U.S. House Rep. Greg Gianforte, from Montana, suggesting the Wilderness Bill be amended to allow bicycles and other questionable uses. He implied the original bill allowed such things. As this paper’s editor, Chris Peterson, pointed out in his fine column last week, Gianforte has a very bad idea and, from this columnist’s point of view, Gianforte is inaccurate in his statement, not to mention the very real dangers bike riders would create for themselves and other legitimate users.

Please let me remind readers that I interrupted my growing journalistic career, sold my home and moved my family from Washington D.C. to help write the Wilderness Bill in the 87th Congress. I came home in debt from what we accomplished, but felt proud and honored to have been a part of it.

Read more . . .

States battle the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting DIsease (CWD) - illustration of effects on elk
Chronic Wasting DIsease (CWD) – illustration of effects on elk

From the New York Times comes this article about what the states, especially Montana, are doing to combat deer family CWD . . .

As darkness closed in, one hunter after another stopped at this newly opened game check station, deer carcasses loaded in the beds of their pickups.

They had been given licenses for a special hunt, and others would follow. Jessica Goosmann, a wildlife technician with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department, stepped outside to greet them, reaching for the neck of each freshly killed deer to cut an incision and remove a lymph node for testing.

On the edge of this south-central Montana village, where deer hunting is a way of life, the game check station has become the front line of the state’s efforts to stop the spread of a deadly infection known as chronic wasting disease.

Read more . . .

Study: Closing roads counters effects of habitat loss for grizzlies

Grizzly bear cubs on old road bed - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Grizzly bear cubs on old road bed – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Here’s an interesting roads vs. grizzlies study based on DNA data out of British Columbia . . .

It’s simple math, says scientist Clayton Lamb. The closer grizzly bears are to humans, the more ways there are for the bears to die. Put more simply, more roads equal fewer grizzly bears.

In a recent study examining a long-term DNA dataset of grizzly bear activity in British Columbia, Lamb and his colleagues conclusively determined what scientists have long suspected: higher road density leads to lower grizzly bear density, a critical problem for a species still rebounding from a long period of human persecution.

“The problem with grizzly bears and roads is a North American-wide issue. This is the first time that strongly links roads to decreased grizzly bear density,” said Lamb…

Read more . . .

Only mussel DNA found in Tiber Reservoir so far

Mussel-fouled Propeller - NPS photo
Mussel-fouled Propeller – NPS photo

Invasive mussel DNA is still being found in Tiber Reservoir, but no larvae or adults so far . . .

Samples taken last year from Tiber Reservoir bolstered older evidence for the presence of invasive mussels.

In a press release Thursday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced that samples of environmental DNA (eDNA) taken by it and the U.S. Geological Survey during 2017 indicated invasive mussels’ presence in Tiber Reservoir.

In Fall 2016, the discovery of quagga mussel larvae and a shell fragment there triggered a massive effort to detect and contain the animals. Over the course of 2017, the press release states, “FWP and partner agencies collected more than 1,500 plankton samples from 240 waterbodies,” including 128 plankton tow samples from Tiber and 147 at Canyon Ferry, where their presence is suspected.

Through these tests, “no adult mussels or larvae were found.”

Read more . . .

A tribute to Alan McNeil

Alan R. McNeil - courtesy Cecily McNeil
Alan R. McNeil – courtesy Cecily McNeil

Here’s a heartfelt article on the recent death of Alan McNeil posted by James Conner to his “Flathead Memo” website . . .

Alan McNeil, a friend of 30 plus years, died of a heart attack on 29 December, returning from a grocery buying trip to Kalispell. He was 66. Al is survived by his mother, Cecily, son Henry and daughter Fiona, and brother Bruce.

I learned of Al’s death only today. Needing a respite from outside input, I had not opened my email, which contained the bad news, since Christmas. I last saw Al at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but was not able to join them for dinner on Christmas.

Read more at Flathead Memo . . .

Chris Peterson: Wilderness Act is clear on bikes

A well-reasoned piece on the “bikes over wilderness” issue by Chris Peterson, editor of the Hungry Horse News . . .

On Tuesday, Aug. 28, 1928, Bob Marshall, a Forest Service employee and wilderness champion, started a walk at Echo Lake near Bigfork. By the end of the day, he arrived at the Elk Park Ranger Station up the South Fork of the Flathead. It was a 30 mile hike. He hiked 40 miles the next day to the Black Bear Ranger Station. The day after that, he did another hike, up and over Pagoda Pass, then off-trail through the woods to the top of the Chinese Wall and then back to Black Bear Ranger Station. That hike was 42 miles.

And so Bob walked.

Over the course of eight days, he went 288 miles, through what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountain Wilderness. He ended up at the Seeley Lake post office.

Read more . . .

John B. Sullivan III: Many Montanans rely on wilderness study areas

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

A balanced, thoughtful op-ed on wilderness study areas by John B. Sullivan III, board chairman of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers . . .

Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines surprised Montanans by introducing the deceptively named Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act that would put nearly half a million acres of prime public lands in Montana at risk of development and exploitation.

Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas were identified 40 years ago as special, wild places, worthy of careful management. They vary greatly in habitat, ecosystems, and recreational offerings. A blanket policy applied across diverse areas is never good management. We therefore oppose Daines’ one-size-fits-all plan.

Many WSAs are overdue for action, and we’re not opposed to revisiting and finalizing management plans. But forcing a top-down and broad-brush approach to managing lands that haven’t been studied in decades is irresponsible.

Review should start with local, thoughtful and diverse discussions involving various stakeholders. Daines didn’t hold a single public meeting or ask for input from Montanans about these WSAs. His proposal not only ignores local input, which, apparently, is important to Daines only when it suits his needs; it also selects areas attractive to special interest development and resource extraction.

Many Montanans rely on WSAs. With his proposal Daines once again is ignoring those of us who value them to hunt, fish and reconnect with the landscape.

North Fork stalwart and NFPA board member Alan McNeil dies

Alan R. McNeil - courtesy Cecily McNeil
Alan R. McNeil – courtesy Cecily McNeil

Obituary courtesy of Alan’s mother, Cecily . . .

Alan Rideout McNeil died of a heart attack on the 29th of December, 2017. The family wish to thank the neighbors, the Sheriff’s department, and the Coroner, all of whom were most helpful in the midst of the recent blizzard conditions.

Alan was the son of Cecily and Edward McNeil. He was born in Urbana, Illinois in 1951 and lived there until he was five, when the McNeils moved to Chicago.There he attended the Laboratory School of the University of Chicago from first grade through High School. He was most interested in art. After graduation he enrolled at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where his father Edward was a professor of physics. There, Alan majored in art, not the conventional pen and brush sort of art, but “performance art,” and also computer-generated art.That was back in the pre-internet days when computers were cumbersome and required stacks of perforated cardboard slips.

After graduating from college, Alan worked for a year or so at a Chicago trading firm, doing electronic stock transfers. Then he went to work for a company devoted to video games, which at that time resembled pinball machines and were available in the same type of venue.

Alan was the creator of one of the most famous of these early games: Berzerk. It made money for his employers, big time, but not so much for him.

In about 1987, Alan and his then wife, Karen Chesna McNeil, moved to the Flathead. Their children, Henry and Fiona McNeil, attended the Kalispell Montessori schools, and later, Flathead High School.

Alan is survived by his children—Henry and Fiona— and also by his mother, and his brother, Bruce McNeil, as well as his nieces , Lt. Commander Anna McNeil and Ellie McNeil, and his young nephew Eddie McNeil.

Alan loved the North Fork, where his parents had brought their two sons for summers when they were boys. He held office in North Fork organizations over the years, and was seriously conservation-minded. He also loved music and was an accomplished pianist.

One of Alan’s gifts was his easy comradeship with children. He taught at Montessori for a year and was a scoutmaster when his son was in a Boy Scout troop.

Responsible, friendly, creative, kind—his family and friends will miss him dearly. There will be a gathering on the North Fork this summer in Alan’s memory.

Donations to the Montana Wilderness Society would be an appropriate remembrance.