Coal Ridge Fire at 331 acres; stage 2 restrictions begin Thursday

Ridge top burned by the Coal Ridge Fire, August 13, 2018 - USFS
Ridge top burned by the Coal Ridge Fire, August 13, 2018 – USFS

Here’s the Wednesday morning update on the Coal Ridge Fire. The fire is a little bigger, with more resources assigned today. The Coal Ridge “patrol cabin” was wrapped Tuesday evening. Note that stage 2 fire restrictions go into effect at 0001 Thursday, August 16…

Location: 10 miles west of Polebridge MT, in the Flathead National Forest
Detected: August 12, 2018, 07:45 a.m. Cause: Lightning
Lat/Long: Lat. 48° 43.475, Long. -114° 29.952 Current size: 331 acres Containment: 0%
Resources on the fire: Shared resources with the Paola Ridge Fire, 2 heavy equipment task forces, 1 engine
Ownership/Jurisdiction: Flathead National Forest; Other cooperators: Flathead County Sheriff, Office of Emergency Services


FIRE SUMMARY: The Coal Ridge Fire is burning in the Flathead National Forest. This fire is being managed with modified confine and contain tactics, with fire fighter and public safety as a priority. The fire is burning in steep terrain with subalpine forest and brushy avalanche chutes. There are no evacuation warnings in place on this incident. Any warning notices or evacuations will be coordinated with @FlatheadOES.

Coal Ridge Fire - Road, Trail and Area Closures, Aug 13, 2018
Coal Ridge Fire – Road, Trail and Area Closures, Aug 13, 2018

CURRENT SITUATION:
Following lightning storms across the Flathead National Forest evening of August 11, the Coal Ridge Fire was detected the next morning. A Type 3 fire management team is assigned to the fire. Cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity yesterday led to minimal fire behavior with limited growth. As a pre-emptive defense measure, the Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin was wrapped yesterday evening.

Today’s plan is to begin implementing shaded fuel breaks on area roads and previously treated units, using heavy equipment. The equipment utilized will include: skidgine, feller-buncher, skidder and dozer. An area closure has been ordered for the area, closing local roads and trails. A section of the PNW National Scenic Trail, between Polebridge to the East and Red Meadow Lake to the West, is impacted by this closure. The recommended alternate route is Red Meadow Road #115, which runs parallel to the trail north of the closure. Please see the enclosed map for further detail. A Type 1 Management Team has been ordered and will begin managing the fire, along with other fires in the zone, on Thursday.

GENERAL INFORMATION:
The Flathead National Forest, excluding the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas, is implementing Stage 2 fire restrictions at 0001 on Thursday, August 16th. Under these restrictions, the following is prohibited: building/maintaining a camp fire, smoking except within buildings/vehicles and specific areas. Hoot owl hours apply for internal combustion engines and welding. For more information, see https://firerestrictions.us.

Coal Ridge Fire at 300 acres, still growing

View of Coal Ridge Fire burning in the upper elevation of Coal Ridge, Aug 12, 2018 - USFS
View of Coal Ridge Fire burning in the upper elevation of Coal Ridge, Aug 12, 2018 – USFS

Here’s the latest on the Coal Ridge Fire. Also note that stage 2 fire restrictions go into effect at 0001 Thursday, August 16…

Location: 10 miles west of Polebridge MT, in the Flathead National Forest
Detected: August 12, 2018, 07:45 a.m. Cause: Lightning
Lat/Long: Lat. 48° 43.475, Long. -114° 29.952 Current size: 300 acres Containment: 0%
Resources on the fire: Shared resources with the Paola Ridge Fire, and 1 squad of firefighters
Ownership/Jurisdiction: Flathead National Forest; Other cooperators: Flathead County Sheriff, Office of Emergency Services


FIRE SUMMARY: The Coal Ridge Fire is burning in the Flathead National Forest. This fire is being managed with modified confine and contain tactics, with fire fighter and public safety as a priority. The fire is burning in steep terrain with subalpine forest and brushy avalanche chutes. There are no evacuation warnings in place on this incident.

Coal Ridge Fire - Road, Trail and Area Closures, Aug 13, 2018
Coal Ridge Fire – Road, Trail and Area Closures, Aug 13, 2018

CURRENT SITUATION:
Following lightning storms across the Flathead National Forest evening of August 11, the Coal Ridge Fire was detected the next morning. A Type 3 fire management team is assigned to the fire, and a squad of firefighters; additional resources has been ordered. Fire behavior is single and group tree torching; rolling out limited distances followed up by short uphill runs.

Initial plans are for the incident commander and the squad of firefighters to get a full size up of the fire and the situation, and identify and prioritize values at risk. Initial plans is to have local heavy equipment to begin implementing a fuel break on National Forest system land. The fire will be monitored overnight. An area closure has been prepared for the area, closing the area, and local roads and trails. Please see the enclosed map.

GENERAL INFORMATION:
The Flathead National Forest and our interagency partners experienced lighting storms throughout the northwest Montana zone yesterday evening, August 11th. Multiple fire reports are coming in, initial attack is occurring, resources are responding, and more firefighting resources are being ordered. A size up of the big picture across the Flathead National Forest is occurring now, as the priority is ensuring firefighters respond quickly to these new fires. There are no evacuations at this time for this incident, however please follow @FlatheadOES, as any warning notices or evacuations will be coordinated through this partner.

Montana to keep 1000 grizzlies after delisting

Montana NCDE Bear Management Units
Montana NCDE Bear Management Units

Here’s a pretty good summary of Montana’s proposed management plan for grizzly bears in the northwest section of the state . . .

Wildlife officials endorsed a plan Thursday to keep northwestern Montana’s grizzly population at roughly 1,000 bears as the state seeks to bolster its case that lifting federal protections will not lead to the bruins’ demise.

The proposal adopted on a preliminary vote by Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners sets a target of at least 800 grizzlies across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) expanse just south of the U.S.-Canada border.

However, officials pledged to manage for a higher number, about 1,000 bears, to give the population a protective buffer, said Dillon Tabish with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Read more . . .

The ‘bad actor’ law and common sense

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Hecla Mining wants to dig a couple of mines along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Montana wants reimbursed for cleaning up an old mess first. This excellent Flathead Beacon op-ed by Jim Nash lays out the situation very clearly . . .

When Webb Scott Brown of the Chamber of Commerce attacks Montana’s enforcement of a state law that protects taxpayers from shouldering the cleanup bill for mining companies, it’s clearly time to impose an old-fashioned smell test. In weaving together his argument, he got many of his facts wrong.

I live in the community where Phillips Baker’s company proposes to mine. And as the retired owner of a sawmill and wood products company I know the challenges of creating jobs and making a livelihood in rural Montana. I also understand the obligations businesses and their leaders must take on when they seek the privilege of developing our state’s natural resources.

From my perspective, the bad actor law is common sense. It simply says that mining companies and their top executives don’t get another shot at our state’s natural resources if they walked out on their cleanup obligations in the past — unless they’re prepared to pay back the state for cleanup work the public had to do in the company’s place.

Read more . . .

Montana FWP to set grizzly population targets

Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 - by Diane Boyd
Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 – by Diane Boyd

Here’s a good overview, with useful links,  of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.

On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.

In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.

Read more . . .

FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs - NPS photo, Tim Rains
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs – NPS photo, Tim Rains

Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.

“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”

Continue reading FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

Record grizzly roadkill

A grizzly bear female and two of its cubs died in a car collision on July 27 about three miles south of Ronan, Montana - CSKT Wildlife Dept
A grizzly bear female and two of its cubs died in a car collision on July 27 about three miles south of Ronan, Montana – CSKT Wildlife Dept

This well-researched article by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian uses bear roadkill along US93 as a starting point to make a broader examination of grizzly mortality . . .

The dictionary defines “mortality” as both death and loss. For grizzly bears along the Northern Continental Divide, both definitions came into play last month when the ecosystem recorded five grizzly mortalities, although only four bears died. And because two of the deaths were adult females of breeding age, the loss could have longer term consequences.

On July 24, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks workers found a dead sow grizzly near the southern end of Hungry Horse Reservoir in the Spotted Bear Ranger District. The 16-year-old female had a radio collar that was sending out a mortality signal, indicating it had stopped moving. The carcass was too decomposed to immediately reveal the cause of death.

Three days later, the driver of a car on Highway 93 ran into a sow grizzly and two of her cubs about three miles south of Ronan. The bear family apparently came out of the barrow pit and tried to cross the highway together about 11 p.m. All three bears died at the scene. The driver and one passenger were injured and the car had to be towed away.

Read more . . .

‘Wildfire Information’ page updated

Flathead Hotshot on the Marston Fireline, Aug 23, 2015
Flathead Hotshot on the Marston Fireline, Aug 23, 2015

As is usual this time of year, our “Wildfire Information” page has gotten a few updates. We’ve fixed up several broken links and added one new website, Wildfire Today.

The “Wildfire Information” page is a collection of wildland fire information links, including prescribed burns, applicable to the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests and Glacier National Park. There’s also a group of links for Canadian wildfire information.

And remember . . .

TO REPORT A WILDLAND FIRE – CALL (406) 758-5260 OR CALL 911

Gianforte says he will meet with conservation groups about WSAs

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

Note from NFPA President:

Despite what the article below says, neither NFPA nor any other Montana conservation group that I am in contact with has been contacted by Gianforte to set up a meeting to talk about WSAs. In fact, many of our fellow conservation groups are being attacked for our strong stands on this issue. This shows how effective the conservation community has been in influencing public opinion on this issue. According to a recent poll conducted by a partnership of Democratic and Republican pollsters, 87% of Montanans say conservation issues are important considerations in their voting decisions. We will keep up the good work!

Furthermore, we must change the language in this debate from “unlocking” or “releasing” WSAs to “removing protection from” WSAs or “losing” these potential wilderness areas forever. Please call Gianforte’s office at 202/225-3211 to express opposition to H.R. 5148 and H.R. 5149.

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte said Thursday he’ll personally meet with people across Montana — including conservationists — who want a say in the controversial issue about unlocking federal Wilderness Study Areas for multiple uses such as motorized recreation, mining or logging.

“We’ll be meeting more broadly with all the concerned parties,” Gianforte told the Chronicle’s editorial board. “Because we got to hear everybody.”

Gianforte has been criticized by some environmental groups for not taking their input on the issue. The congressman said that’s what he’ll be doing throughout August.

Read more . . .

Hecla Mining, in legal fight over Montana “bad actor” ruling, halts cleanup work at Troy mine

Hecla Mining, the company trying to get approval for two mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, is playing hard ball with the State of Montana over its CEO’s “bad actor” rating . . .

An Idaho mining company is halting reclamation work at a closed silver and copper mine in northwest Montana amid a legal fight with state regulators over cleanup expenses at other sites.

Hecla Mining Co. manager Doug Stiles said Tuesday the cleanup of the Troy Mine west of Libby has been suspended indefinitely.

Stiles says the company is evaluating potential legal risks of continuing work at the site after the Montana Department of Environmental Quality sued Hecla CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. last month.

Read more . . .