Frozen Moose Project begins second round of public comment; online meeting July 16

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest, Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District, has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for the Frozen Moose Project.

Project documents, including the environmental assessment and maps, can be accessed at the project Web site under the “Analysis” tab: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57310.

They will be hosting a virtual public meeting on Thursday, July 16, 2020, from 6:00-7:00 pm. The purpose of the public meeting is to share information with the public about the environmental assessment and to answer questions about the Frozen Moose Project. (See the “Frozen Moose Environmental Assessment Cover Letter” below for details on joining the meeting.)

More information about the project, including how to submit a comment, and connection information for the virtual meeting can be found on the project Website.

Questions or comments about the Frozen Moose Project should be submitted to comments-northern-flathead-hungry-horse-glacier-view@usda.gov.

Associated documents…

Press Release – “North Fork fuels reduction, timber, and restoration project seeks second round of public comment”

Frozen Moose Environmental Assessment Cover Letter

Status of Special Use Permits in the North Fork

 

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

Here’s an excerpt from a note Rob Davies, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger, sent around yesterday (July 2) concerning the issuance of special use permits in the North Fork. This is not quite officially final information, but it is unlikely to change in any meaningful way. The full email text is available here: https://www.gravel.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Special-Use-Permits-in-the-North-Fork-Email-July-2-2020.pdf

NW Adventures, ATV Guiding,   I have decided to not issue a permit in the North Fork based on comments received during scoping.   This company will still be permitted and operate on the West side of the Whitefish divide with one exception, they will be allowed to take clients to Red Meadow Lake and depart back to the West.  They will not be allowed to travel beyond Red Meadow Lake and they will not be able to take clients to Red Meadow Lake on weekends or Holidays.    Due to the COVID situation they are not expected to have as many clients as they were hoping for in their proposal.

Whitefish Shuttles.    Van tours and livery service to several trail heads, short hikes and bike tour in the North Fork will be permitted.  They expect much reduced numbers of clients and trips due to the COVID situation.

Cycling House, Bicycling tours cancelled due to COVID.

Adventure Cycling, Bicycle tours, cancelled due to COVID.

Spotted Dog Cycles:   Bicycle tours cancelled due to COVID.

Two of the five permits that were proposed in The North Fork will be issued this year, and they are only valid for 1 season.  The proponents would have to reapply if they wish to operate next year.

North Fork Interlocal meeting, July 8th!

Sondreson Hall, circa 2010

The summer North Fork Inter Local Agreement meeting will be held, Wednesday, July 8 at Sondreson Hall. Start time is 1:00 p.m. This summer’s meeting is hosted by the North Fork Trails Association.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues, we’re shooting for a “lite” version of the Interlocal this summer…

  • There will be no lunch prior to the meeting. Feel free to bring your own drinks and snacks.
  • At this time, the hall occupancy limit is 50 people. Attendance at the past few summer Interlocals has been in the 80-90 range. Agencies should send only the minimum necessary staff. If appropriate, we can also accept written reports to be read aloud at the meeting (email them to me). North Fork residents and organizations should also consider ways to trim attendance.
  • Please wear a mask! If needed, we will have some disposable masks available at the hall (suggested donation $1).

Also, don’t forget the annual Firewise Day meeting in the morning, starting at 9:30 a.m.

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

Court upholds cancellation of Solonex’s Badger-Two Medicine oil and gas lease

The sun sets over the Badger-Two Medicine area near Browning in March 2016 - AP

Solonex lost big in court this week in their effort to retain their oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine. Unless the case goes to the Supreme Court, that puts paid to the last lease in the region . . .

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. upheld the cancellation of the last remaining federal oil and gas lease in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine region adjacent to Glacier National Park on Tuesday. The historic decision protects lands and waters sacred to the Blackfeet and critical for wildlife habitat, advocates for the region noted.

The 6,200-acre lease, held by Louisiana-based Solenex LLC, was one of many issued by the federal government in the early 1980s. Since then, with the leases under suspension for environmental and cultural review, other companies voluntarily retired all holdings in the Badger-Two Medicine, noting the area’s rich natural and cultural values. Solenex, however, filed a 2013 lawsuit demanding the right to begin drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine backcountry.

In March 2016, the Obama Administration responded to that Solenex demands by canceling the company’s holding, saying the lease had been improperly issued in violation of environmental law and without required tribal consultation. Solenex again sued, seeking to overturn that decision, and a federal district court ruled for the company in September 2018, reinstating Solenex’s lease. But today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed that ruling, and restored the cancellation of the Solenex lease.

In their ruling, the Appeals Court judges fully vacated the lower court’s judgment . . .

Read more . . .

Moncrief Oil permanently retires 7,600-acre lease in Badger-Two Medicine

Badger-Two Medicine Flowers

Some good news for the Badger-Two Medicine region: Moncrief Oil has retired their oil and gas lease. Only the Solonex leases remain in contention . . .

One of two contentious oil and gas leases is no longer a threat to a sacred wild land south of Glacier National Park.

On Tuesday, the Wilderness Society announced it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Moncrief Oil to permanently retire a 7,640-acre oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. That leaves one 6,200-acre lease owned by Solonex LLC still in play.

“The Wilderness Society thanks Mr. W.A. Moncrief, Jr. for his willingness to negotiate, and we are pleased to have been able to secure the retirement of this lease. We look forward to working with our partners in the Blackfeet Nation and other stakeholders to obtain permanent protections for this important area of our nation’s public lands,” said Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams in a statement.

Read more . . .

Expanded touring & guiding on the North Fork: summary of routes, maps, dates and ‘service days’

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

For those of you interested in more information about the Forest Service special use permits being considered for touring and guiding in the North Fork, Rob Davies passed along a very useful “summary of the routes, maps, dates, and service days that folks asked about at the meeting last Tuesday night.“ (Note that Rob must be working some long hours. I got his email a little after 930pm yesterday evening.)

Read the document here (PDF format)

Judge cancels almost 300 oil & gas leases in Montana

The BLM had a bad day in court this week when a bunch of oil leases they’d sold in central and southern Montana got canceled . . .

A federal judge on Friday canceled nearly 300 oil and gas leases in Montana because government officials failed to properly study the risks of all that drilling to the environment and water supply.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management sold 287 leases covering approximately 227 square miles of public land in central and eastern Montana in 2017 and in 2018. The agency’s environmental reviews concluded that drilling would carry minimal risk to the areas’ natural resources.

Three residents and two environmental groups sued in 2018, saying the agency didn’t consider the risks of shallow hydraulic fracturing on groundwater or the cumulative effects of adding hundreds of drilling sites to the landscape. They also said the agency did not address the leases effects on the release of greenhouse gases and climate change.

Read more . . .

Federal court orders Glacier Park, 22 others, to make air tour management plans

Glacier Park and 22 other national parks is being forced to devise a formal air tour management plan . . .

A federal appeals court has ordered Glacier National Park along with 22 other national parks to come up with an air tour management plan with the federal Aviation Administration within two years.

The May 1 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is in response to a lawsuit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“For almost 20 years, the FAA and the NPS have allowed an airborne reign of terror to go unmitigated over park skies,” PEER attorney Paula Dinerstein, who argued the case before the court said. “PEER will work with affected communities and parks to, at long last, develop responsible air tour management plans.”

The Air Tour Management Act of 2000 requires vendors who wish to conduct commercial air tours over certain national parks and tribal lands to first obtain a permit from the FAA.

Read more . . .

Forest Service wants to allow expanded touring & guiding on the North Fork

UPDATE: The NFPA’s comments on this issue were submitted to the Forest Service on April 29. Read them here. Or visit the “Official Comments” page.

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is seeking public comment on a number of “recreation events and services,” several of which would occur on the North Fork. Only a couple of major requests significantly affect the portion of the North Fork north of Big Creek.

The Hungry Horse News has a good write-up on the situation. The items most relevant to the North Fork are quoted below.  [Clarifying comments are in brackets.]

“Whitefish Shuttle is seeking a permit to provide guided day-use van tours, biking, and hiking on Forest Service system open roads and trails in the North Fork area of the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District and west of Highway 93 on the Tally Lake Ranger District. The permit would allow for shuttle services and guided van tours, biking, and hiking and between June 1 and Oct. 31 on various system roads and trails including Forest Service Roads 115 [Red Meadow Rd], 376 [Hay Creek Rd], 909 [road from Hay Creek Rd past Cyclone LO trailhead to Coal Creek Rd], 317 [Coal Creek Rd], 316, 315, 5207 [these last three are the route to Moose Lake, starting at the Big Creek Rd turnoff from the North Fork Rd] and Forest Trails 40 [trail to Cyclone LO] and 266 [Demers Ridge Trail – likely the trailhead near the Camas Road intersection that accesses the ‘quad burn’ trail up Glacier View Mountain].”

“Northwest Adventure Sports is requesting a permit to provide guided ATV tours on “various” open motorized system roads on the Tally Lake and Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Districts. Roads currently requested include Forest Roads 9790, 1658, 316 [Big Creek Rd], 115 [Red Meadow Rd]. The permit would allow for guided trips from June 1 until Oct. 31.”

Also note the following other item of interest:

“Spotted Dog Cycles out of Missoula is seeking a permit to run a “bike packing” tour for one week that would stop in the Red Meadow area one night and then drop down into Polebridge. Owner Joe Riemensnider said the entire tour, which will last six days in July, will cover about 150 miles, but only two are actually in the North Fork.”

The deadline for comments is May 1, although this may be extended. Please read the full official announcement document for details on how to submit comments for the various projects.

Read more at the Hungry Horse News . . .

Read the official Forest Service announcement here . . .

North Forkers prepare to “shelter in place”

COVID-19 Symptoms InfographicCOVID-19 is now considered a global pandemic with cases rising exponentially around the world. This disease can cause pneumonia and death and there is no vaccine against it and no cure. People over 60 are most at risk. There are probably many more infected with the virus in the U.S. than has been reported due to the lack of testing across the country.

In Montana, as in many states in the country, schools are closed and events have been cancelled in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming our hospitals which is happening in Italy right now.

The North Fork is a good place to isolate oneself and many North Forkers have prepared to “shelter in place” for the duration of the threat. However, as North Forkers continue to travel and make trips to town, the chances increase that the virus will find its way to the North Fork. Please exercise precaution when returning to the North Fork and delay getting together with friends and neighbors until you are certain you haven’t brought home a nasty souvenir.

North Forkers who have gone to town have reported empty grocery shelves and a long line at Costco as people stock up.

Below is the latest notice from Governor Bullock regarding the coronavirus.

Continue reading North Forkers prepare to “shelter in place”