Yellowstone grizzlies to be taken off Endangered Species List

Grizzly Bear - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS
Grizzly Bear – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS

The feds officially announced they are removing the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies from the Endangered Species List . . .

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear’s population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal’s status to the state level.

The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published “in coming days” and “will take effect 30 days after publication.”

“This achievement stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “As a Montanan, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.”

Read more . . .

Also read . . .

Feds announce Yellowstone grizzly delisting (Hungry Horse News/AP)
Yellowstone grizzly bear to lose endangered species protection (NY Times)

Show your support for our national monuments

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana - Bob Wicks/BLM
Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana – Bob Wicks/BLM

Our national monuments are under attack! Please speak out in support of them by writing a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke. In Montana, the Upper Missouri River Breaks is one of the monuments under review. (See the recent NFPA letter to Ryan Zinke for ideas and for Secretary Zinke’s mailing address.)

Also, there will be a Rally for National Monuments in Whitefish where Secretary Zinke will be addressing the Western Governor’s Conference on Tuesday, June 27 at noon in Depot Park. This rally is being organized by a group of conservation organizations in our area. We need as many people to attend as possible so please pass the word …and bring friends and family members.

Mountain lions fear humans, fleeing their voices

Mountain Lion (Cougar) - Montana FWP
Mountain Lion (Cougar) – Montana FWP

Here’s some interesting research on mountain lion-human interaction. Mountain lions, it seems, aren’t just elusive, they actively avoid contact with humans. It’s almost insulting . . .

“Fraidy cat” isn’t the way most people think of mountain lions, but when it comes to encounters with humans, perhaps they should.

New research into the behavior of these big cats indicates that they don’t like encountering humans any more than we like bumping into them on hiking trails. The findings are particularly valuable as human development encroaches on lion habitat and drives up the number of human-puma encounters.

“We exposed pumas in the Santa Cruz mountains to the sound of human voices to see if they would react with fear and flee, and the results were striking: They were definitely afraid of humans,” said Justine Smith, lead author of the paper “Fear of the human ‘super predator’ reduces feeding time in large carnivores,” published in the June 21 online edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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Cautious optimism from wildfire experts in Northwest Montana

Lots of moisture as July approaches has wildfire experts cautiously optimistic . . .

Wildfire experts will rarely, if ever, venture a guess as to what the upcoming fire season holds until they’re in the middle of it.

But with Northwest Montana entering the first day of summer with a healthy reservoir of high-elevation snowpack and above-average spring rains, there’s cautious optimism that the fire season will at least be slow to start.

“Nothing’s super dry, and spring rains were good,” said Jim Flint, Fire Management Officer for the Flathead National Forest’s Spotted Bear Ranger District. “But if it doesn’t rain in the rest of June, July and August, we’ll have a fire season.”

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Grizzlies’ presence a looming issue on Rocky Mountain Front

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

Issues arise as grizzly bears spread out into their historic range in the high plains . . .

If and when they lose federal protection, grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front face an uncertain future.

The questions puzzling members at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s summer meeting went far beyond whether to have a hunting season. Although grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem remain two or three years away from potential removal from Endangered Species Act oversight, residents in and around Choteau made it clear the bears’ presence was already an issue.

“We’re having more and more issues with grizzlies moving into territory they haven’t occupied for quite some time,” Valier rancher Gene Curry said during a panel discussion on future bear management. “I grew up west of Browning, and grizzly bears never entered anyone’s mind. I used to be on my hands and knees crawling through brush to get to fishing holes. Now when my grandchildren go out to catch their horses in the morning, they have to think about grizzly bears. I had five of them in the yard one morning.”

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Glacier’s headwaters: Water tower to our continent

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

A few days ago, the National Parks Conservation Association released their Summer 2017 Field Report for the Northern Rockies. In it was an article by Michael Jamison, Crown of the Continent Program Manager, that is highly relevant to the North Fork, as well as any other region downstream of the Canadian Rockies. By permission of the author, it is reprinted here in its entirety . . .

People tend to think Glacier National Park is all about mountains.

And people are wrong.

Glacier is also about water: icy cold water rushing clean and clear across gravel and stone; whitewater plunging over cliff-band falls; sky-blue water eddying into lakes set like sapphires into the deep green of wilderness.

From the summit of the park’s Triple Divide Peak, meltwater flows west to the Pacific, east to the Atlantic, north to the Arctic by way of Hudson Bay. Glacier is water tower to a continent, spiked by peaks sharpened on a grindstone of Pleistocene ice.

I recently flew north out of Glacier, over a long slice of Alaska—another place branded by its mountains. Chugach. Wrangell-St. Elias. The Aleutians and Brooks and Chilkats.

But Alaska, like Glacier, is not really about mountains.

What I saw unfolding below was, again, a wild country defined by water: an endless winding coastline; miles of muskeg pooling like quicksilver; rivers washing the feet of mountains, slicing tundra and stone, spilling sediment braids into an ocean the color of steel.

Montana and Alaska are alike in this way. They also share a common headwater: British Columbia.

Continue reading Glacier’s headwaters: Water tower to our continent

Mine effluent water treatment failure in B.C. raises more downstream concerns

Kootenai River
Kootenai River

Yet another object lesson on why it is so important to protect the transboundary Flathead Watershed . . .

As British Columbia’s downstream neighbor, Montana has long been concerned about mining pollution spilling across the international border and into its world-class watersheds — fears that a growing body of research and evidence confirms are well founded.

Most recently, conservation groups and scientists on both sides of the border have renewed their calls for Teck Resources to halt new coal mines in the Elk River Valley, a step they say gained urgency when an experimental water treatment facility designed to stem the flow of a mining contaminant called selenium was taken offline because it was releasing an even more biologically toxic form of the heavy metal.

The trouble brewing in the Elk River is equally worrisome for Montana, where the upstream waterways of British Columbia flow into two shared bodies of water straddling the international boundary — Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River.

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Annual solstice hike on Wednesday, June 21

Cyclone Lookout
Cyclone Lookout

From Debo Powers . . .

The annual hike to Cyclone Lookout on the evening of the longest day has become a North Fork tradition. Hikers will meet at the junction of North Fork Road and Hay Creek Road at 7:30pm and carpool to the trailhead. This is a fun evening watching the sun set and returning to vehicles before dark.

Participants are asked to bring snacks, insect repellent, bear spray, and headlamps. The hike will be led by Janet and Dick Leigh.

Cliff swallows return to Polebridge; mosquitoes disappear

Cliff Swallow

The Missoulian posted a nice article about Polebridge’s burgeoning cliff swallow population . . .

A building boom has hit the North Fork of the Flathead, and for once, the neighbors are celebrating.

“They’re building a town right in our town,” Polebridge Merc owner Will Hammerquist said of the colony of cliff swallows that has claimed eminent domain on the eaves of his solar barn. “They arrived about two weeks ago. And do you see any bugs? Look at what they’ve done to the mosquitoes.”

Indeed, Polebridge feels remarkably bug-free compared to the forests of Glacier National Park just minutes to the west. The tiny birds feed on flying insects. What appear to be drunkenly random flight paths actually trace life-and-death pursuits of food on the wing.

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