The fate of our lakes

Flathead LakeThe Flathead Beacon did a nice follow-up on last week’s Montana Lakes Conference in Whitefish . . .

Scientists whose cutting-edge research on lakes spans the globe converged last week on the shore of Whitefish Lake for the inaugural Montana Lakes Conference, where they discussed a suite of emerging lake science and management issues, ranging from the threat of climate change on glacial retreat and invasive species to protecting the water quality and clarity of Flathead and Whitefish lakes.

“The reason that’s so important is because a lot of lakes are not so clean,” Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station, told conference attendees, highlighting the research projects his faculty of experts are employing to maintain lake quality.

Organized by the nonprofit Whitefish Lake Institute, the conference at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake brought together diverse panels of experts to explain the roles of research, resource management, education, local lake associations, and citizen science to address the myriad challenges bearing down on lakes and the communities that depend on them.

Read more . . .

Governor Bullock announces Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, calls for applicants

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPThis may be worth following up on. Here’s the official press release. (Also, the Missoulian has a good summary: Bullock to create citizen panel to discuss future management of grizzlies in Montana.) . . .


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced that he will establish a Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to help initiate a statewide discussion on grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. The Council will be selected through an application process that ends April 12th.

“The recovery of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems is a great conservation success. Still, official federal delisting has yet to come to fruition,” Bullock wrote in a memo to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Martha Williams.

“Legal uncertainty has created a void requiring our leadership,” Governor Bullock said. “As bears continue to expand in numbers and habitat, we must identify durable and inclusive strategies to address current issues and prepare for the future. This advisory council represents a key step toward Montana embracing the tremendous responsibility and opportunity of long-term Grizzly Bear recovery and management.

Montana is home, in whole or in part, to four grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE); the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE); the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem; and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. While grizzly bear numbers have surpassed recovery objectives in the GYE and NCDE, they have yet to reach recovery levels in the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are officially under the jurisdiction of the FWS, but much of the day-to-day management of bears in Montana is done by FWP in partnership and with oversight of the FWS. The FWS delisted the GYE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act in 2017, but a federal court decision last fall relisted the population. This delayed the delisting process for the NCDE and resulted in an appeal of the GYE decision by the State of Montana and others.

Grizzly bear populations continue to expand, in some cases into areas they have not occupied for decades. Management challenges and conflicts have increased. FWP, along with partner agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the FWS, work together to respond to conflicts as they occur. However, the situation has become increasingly complex as bears move into areas of Montana outside of existing recovery zones, such as the Big Hole Valley, Little Belt Mountains, and the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Developing strategies to ensure a timely and appropriate response to these conflicts and addressing the needs of communities and landowners most impacted in these areas are key priorities identified for the advisory council’s deliberations.

“We’re excited to work with this advisory council, and we see this as a great opportunity to find a way forward that reflects the values and needs of Montana as it relates to grizzly bear management,” FWP Director Williams said. “A council that is inclusive in its composition will allow for the balanced discussion we need to have.”

The Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will be tasked with considering broad strategic objectives, such as:

  • Maintaining and enhancing human safety;
  • Ensuring a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population;
  • Improving timely and effective response to conflicts involving grizzly bears;
  • Engaging all partners in grizzly-related outreach and conflict prevention; and
  • Improving intergovernmental, interagency, and tribal coordination.

The Council will focus on providing recommendations to the Governor’s Office, FWP, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission that are clear and actionable on how to move forward with grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. It will consider several pressing issues including bear distribution, connectivity between ecosystems, conflict prevention, response protocols, outreach and education, and the role of hunting and necessary resources for long-term population sustainability.

Governor Bullock is looking for a broad cross-section of interests to serve on the Council, including livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts, conservation groups, hunters, community leaders, Tribal Nation representatives and outdoor industry professionals.

Council application information can be found online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/species/grizzlyBear/default.html.

Wild Rivers Film Tour comes to Whitefish on April 3

Wild Rivers Film Tour - art by Andrew Pollard
Wild Rivers Film Tour – art by Andrew Pollard

The Wild Rivers Film Tour comes to Casey’s in Whitefish on Wednesday, April 3. Doors open at 6:00pm; movies start at 7:00pm. Tickets are $12.

For more details, including where to obtain tickets, here’s the write-up sent around by Montanans for Healthy Rivers . . .


As Montana’s rivers begin to thaw out from record-setting cold temperatures this winter, river lovers of the Treasure State can add a little stoke to spring’s warmth with an inspiring collection of films presented in the 2019 Wild Rivers Film Tour.

Nine magnificent films carry the audience through 110 minutes of emotional and exhilarating cinema. The 2019 selections include: Testimony to Congress: In Defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Hallowed Waters – Legacy and Lifeblood of the Big Blackfoot, The Last Green Thread, Hank Patterson’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: Fact vs. Fictions, Glen Canyon Rediscovered, Grand Canyon Water, Shred for the South Fork, and Run Wild Run Free.

The Wild Rivers Film Tour promotes the next age of river conservation in Montana and advocates for the introduction of the Montana Headwaters Security Act. The Montana Headwaters Security Act proposes to use Wild & Scenic River designations to keep iconic rivers on public lands in Montana clean and free-flowing. The effort is supported by Montanans for Healthy Rivers – a coalition of businesses, private land owners, sportsmen and conservation groups.

All Showtimes: Doors 6:00pm   Films 7:00pm
 
Cost: $12. Tickets available at the door or in advance at http://greateryellowstone.org/tix
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/WildRiversFilmTour/
Presented by: American Rivers and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition

Biologist Diane Boyd does some wolf mythbusting

Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field
Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field

Diane Boyd, large carnivore specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (and NFPA member), gave a well-received talk last week . . .

Wolves live in family groups. They don’t think twice about traveling long distances. They’re territorial. They make a lot of noise. And some have no qualms about capturing and killing their foes.

In other words, they’re a lot like humans.

Contrary to the host of conspiracy theories out there, wolves in Northwest Montana aren’t hybrids and they weren’t shipped in from points north. They came here on their own volition back in the late 1970s, stragglers from Canada that eventually made the North Fork of the Flathead in Glacier National Park home, biologist Diane Boyd said during a talk last week.

Read more . . .

Glaciers may ‘cling to the landscape’ or vanish

Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park's Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 - USGS supplied image
Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park’s Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 – USGS supplied image

The Missoulian reports on the first annual Montana Lakes Conference . . .

The inaugural Montana Lakes Conference began here Wednesday night with a mix of good news and bad news.

The good: It may still be possible to preserve half of the world’s remaining glacial ice.

The bad: If humanity remains on its current path of high carbon dioxide emissions, it can expect “large-scale “deglaciation” in coming decades, and a thicket of accompanying environmental and economic problems.

Read more . . .

Feds to ease land restrictions meant to protect sage grouse

Sage Grouse - BLM photo
Sage Grouse – BLM photo

Looks like the U.S. aims to ease the painstakingly developed oil and gas development regulations designed to protect sage grouse populations . . .

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other industries that were meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West, federal officials said Thursday.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes would protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that existing policies governing millions of acres of federal land were too restrictive.

Critics say the changes will lead to more disturbances of grouse habitat, undermining efforts to shore up the bird’s population.

Read more . . .

Town Hall in Kalispell, March 20, to discuss modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

A note from NFPA board member Suzanne Hildner: “This media note [from the U.S. Department of State] sent to me by a friend who is a nationally recognized conservationist now working on this issue, is pertinent to us as obviously the Flathead drains into the Columbia system ultimately. I will plan on attending.”

The town hall meeting, co-hosted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, will be held on March 20, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to approximately 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Grand Ballroom, 20 S Main St., Suite 150, Kalispell, MT 59901.


February 27, 2019

Town Hall to Discuss Modernization of the Columbia River Treaty Regime

U.S. Columbia River Treaty Negotiator Jill Smail will lead a town hall March 20, 2019, in Kalispell, Montana on the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime.  The town hall, which is co-hosted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, is free of charge, open to the public, and will take place at the Red Lion Hotel from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.  This town hall will follow the February 27-28 round of negotiations on the treaty regime in Washington, D.C.  At the town hall, U.S. government representatives will provide an overview of the negotiations and take questions from the public; feel free to send questions in advance to ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov.  For more information on the town hall, including call-in details, please see the Federal Register Notice.

The Columbia River Treaty is an international model for transboundary water cooperation.  The 1964 treaty’s flood risk and hydropower operations have provided substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.  The treaty has also facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.  More information can be found on the Department’s Treaty website .

As the United States continues bilateral negotiations with Canada, key objectives are guided by the U.S. Entity Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024, a consensus document published in 2013 after five years of consultations among the Tribes, states, stakeholders, public, and federal agencies.  The U.S. negotiating team is led by the U.S. Department of State and comprises the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To receive periodic updates on events and developments related to the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime, please contact ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov.  For press inquiries, please contact WHAPress@state.gov.

______________________________________________________
Columbia River Treaty Team
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs • U.S. Department of State
2201 C St. NW Rm. 3918, Washington, DC  20520

ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov

U.S. Plans to lift wolf protections for rest of country

Wolves from Welcome Creek Pack in 2011 - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Wolves from Welcome Creek Pack in 2011 – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Not entirely unexpected: The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List for for the entire country . . .

U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s run into conflicts with farmers and ranchers after rebounding in some regions, an official told The Associated Press.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal during a Wednesday speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, a weeklong conservation forum for researchers, government officials and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.

The decision was based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. Further details were expected during a formal announcement planned in coming days.

Read more . . .

Wilderness Speaker Series: The underwater world of fish, March 6

South Fork of the Flathead River - John Ruth
South Fork of the Flathead River – John Ruth

A reminder from the Montana Wilderness Association about the next presentation in the Wilderness Speaker Series . . .

Join us as we welcome fisheries experts Jim Vashro, Leo Rosenthal, and Matt Boyer to discuss Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ efforts to preserve the integrity of the world-class, pristine fisheries in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

You’ll also be able to catch our newly-released short film Hallowed Waters, a tribute to the Blackfoot and Clearwater river watersheds that stand to be protected by the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

Wednesday, March 6th
7 – 8:15 p.m.
Flathead Valley Community College
Arts and Technology Building Room 135
777 Grandview Drive, Kalispell

Fish population and creel estimates were first established in the Bob in the 1980s and now, with nearly 40 years of data, biologists and land managers are more equipped than ever to make educated decisions about the preservation of sensitive species including Bull Trout and West Slope Cutthroat Trout. 

Focusing on the South Fork of the Flathead watershed, our speakers will also discuss the threats that native fisheries face, including invasive species and stream bank erosion.

The Wilderness Speaker Series is presented by MWA, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, and Northwest Montana Forest Fire Lookout Association.

A permit to float the upper North Fork?

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

Well, maybe . . .

The Flathead National Forest is eyeing the prospect of the possibility of a permit system or other crowd controls for the scenic section of the North Fork of the Flathead River. The scenic section, as defined under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, runs from the border with Canada to the Camas Bridge.

The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Park Service, are working on a comprehensive river management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River. Some 219 miles of the river system are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. But as more and more people come to the Flathead Valley, the rivers are becoming more crowded.

Glacier National Park over the past three summers has seen more than or just under 3 million people each year.

Read more . . .