Stop the blame game

NFPA President Debo Powers had this op-ed published in the Hungry Horse News recently…

I was too busy working as a volunteer fire lookout this summer to immediately respond to the outrageous and opportunistic comments made by Senator Daines, Congressman Gianforte, Secretary Zinke, and Secretary Perdue at the Lolo Fire. To use a time when many Montanans were evacuating their homes, firefighters were risking their lives, and all of us were tired of breathing smoke to start a “blame game” and push a political agenda was insensitive and unethical.

This has been one of the hottest, driest summers we’ve ever had and everything wanted to burn … whether it was grassland or former timber plots or old growth forest … everything wanted to burn. And given a spark, it did just that.

Land managers have been working diligently for a decade on thinning and fire mitigation projects on public lands that are adjacent to private land. These projects have been very helpful, but in a drought like this one, nothing will stop wildfire. Our leaders need to, not only be supportive of land management projects, but also be looking for solutions to the bigger, more complex, problem.

The fact is that our fire seasons are longer, drier, and hotter than ever before. Ninety-seven percent of our scientists say that this is the result of our over-consumption of fossil fuels which produce more greenhouse gases than the natural world can handle. The planet is getting hotter at a faster rate than can be explained by natural cycles. We are now seeing the results in horrific fire seasons. Rather than playing the unproductive “blame game,” real leaders should be working together, pushing for real solutions to address this complicated problem, like renewable energy and decreasing the use of fossil fuels.

Debo Powers

How Doug Chadwick’s Willful Optimism Just Might Save A Species

Book cover - Tracking Gobi Grizzlies by Douglas Chadwick
Book cover – Tracking Gobi Grizzlies by Douglas Chadwick

Montana Public Radio did a nice segment on North Forker Doug Chadwick and his new book Tracking Gobi Grizzlies: Surviving Beyond the Back of Beyond. Thanks to Patti Craig-Hart for spotting this one . . .

‘I mean I don’t know where all this is going, but I can’t believe we’re letting the fabric of the natural world unravel without more of a hullabaloo about it because it’s essentially our greater selves.’ — Doug Chadwick

Sarah Aronson: What do you call it, you say every naturalist is . . .

Doug Chadwick: A stunted 11 year-old. They’re an 11 year-old who saw a rock and just has to go turn it over and go “Ooooo wow. What’s that?!” And they don’t change.

There’s a lot of wonder in that.

Well look, the earth offers an infinite supply of it [wonder] and I’ve never figured out how anybody can be bored. And people say, “Well, but I’m not into that nature stuff,” and that confuses me too because, look, there are 10 trillion cells in our body—human cells. There are more microbial cells than that in our body and they consist of thousands of species of yeast and bacteria and archaea, another microbe group, and there’s more microbial DNA is us than there is human DNA, so whenever someone says, “Well you know I’m just not into that nature stuff,” I go, “But nature’s totally into you!”

Read more/listen to the full interview . . .

Leaked memo: national monument status suggested for Badger-Two Medicine

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Well now, this is interesting. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke reportedly suggested the Badger-Two Medicine area be given national monument status . . .

Back in March, nine days into his new post as Interior Department secretary, Ryan Zinke accepted a blessing ceremony from Blackfeet tribal leaders, and heard their request to protect the Badger-Two Medicine area next to their reservation by Glacier National Park.

On Sunday, a leaked draft of Zinke’s report to President Donald Trump on revisions to national monument indicates he proposes to grant that wish.

On the next-to-last page of a 19-page memo advising Trump to amend the boundaries and management plans of 10 national monuments, Zinke suggested the creation of three new monuments:

  • the Union Army Camp Nelson training center for African-American soldiers in the Civil War in Kentucky,

  • the home of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi.

  • And No. 3? The Badger-Two Medicine area.

Read more . . .

Leaked memo: Zinke to recommend reductions in four national monuments

Bears Ears National Monument - Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr
Bears Ears National Monument – At 1.35 million acres, it is among the largest national monuments in the country – Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr

Looks like at least four national monuments will be targeted for reductions . . .

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s recommendation to shrink four sprawling national monuments in the U.S. West jeopardizes protections for ancient cliff dwellings, scenic canyons and habitat for endangered fish and threatened Mojave desert tortoises.

The recommendations, revealed in a leaked memo submitted to the White House, would scale back two huge Utah monuments – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – along with Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou.

The monuments encompass an area larger than Connecticut and were created by Democratic presidents under a century-old law. Three were created or expanded in President Barack Obama’s final weeks in office.

Read more . . .

Wildness at stake

Debo Powers spotted this long, but interesting, article on the dangers of unconstrained growth in the Gallatin Valley. Many of the concerns,  lessons and hard choices are applicable to our region as well . . .

In the stillness of a summer morning, haze from wildfire smoke thickening the air, Randy Carpenter arrives for a hike up Sypes Canyon in the pastoral northern outskirts of Bozeman, Montana. Ascending into the Bridger Mountain foothills, we talk about how “crazy” it feels these days “in town”, how quickly new subdivisions are springing up in fields that a year ago were covered with wheat.

And then Carpenter starts in, reciting some jaw-dropping statistics that seem abstract until we reach an overlook and gaze clear-eyed into an uncertain future.

Before us, and stretching for nearly 40 miles to the next muted horizon is the Gallatin Valley, one of the fastest-growing semi-rural settings in America. Carpenter, known for his work as a career land use planner, says it won’t be long, given current trend-lines, before the vast chasm of space fills in with exurban development.

Read more . . .

Grizzlies in the corn

Grizzly bear sow with three cubs - NPS photo
Grizzly bear sow with three cubs – NPS photo

The Missoulian has an interesting story about how a farmer in the Mission Valley is dealing with bear conflicts . . .

Standing in a hollowed-out section in the middle of his 80-acre cornfield, Greg Schock bends over and picks up one of dozens of corn cobs scattered about. It’s been picked clean of every kernel.

On the dark black ground just barely moistened by Thursday night’s welcome rain, there are grizzly bear tracks and fresh scat dotted with kernels of corn.

From where he’s standing, the longtime Mission Valley dairyman’s view past the edge of the clearing is obscured by the thick rows of corn that will sometime soon become the silage that his cows will depend on to eat through the winter months.

Read more . . .

Gibraltar Ridge and Weasel Fire – Road, Trail & Area Closures

Gibraltar-Weasel Closure Map, Sep 10, 2017
Gibraltar-Weasel Closure Map, Sep 10, 2017

This just in from the Flathead National Forest . . .

Media Contact: Janette Turk
(406) 758-5252
jturk@fs.fed.us

Kalispell, MT. September 10, 2017- The Gibralter Ridge Fire and the Weasel fire are burning in the Kootenai National Forest approximately 7 miles east of Eureka. The east side of the Gibraltar fire has moved into the mouth of the Blue Sky drainage in the Whitefish Range. The Weasel fire has moved near the Flathead and Kootenai forest boundary. To protect health and public safety by keeping the public out of the active fire area, the Kootenai National Forest has closed a large area from the Whitefish divide to the west boundary of the Fortine District, and from the Canadian Border to Deep Creek. The Flathead National Forest has closed an area north of Link lake trailhead north to the Canada border and east of the Kootenai border.

The following NFS Road is partially closed:

  • A portion of NFS Road #114 (Trail Creek Road) from the Flathead National Forest boundary to the junction with Stoken Bridge/Foothills Road. To support these efforts the Flathead National Forest has installed a gate on NFS Road #114 (Trail Creek) and has closed NFS Road #114 from mile point 8.8 to 14.8, the boundary with the Kootenai National Forest.

The following NFS trails are closed:

  • Trails 19, 23, 114, 113, 22, 13, 28, 79, 11, 13, 106 and 26 from the Link lake TH to the north.

The following NFS area is closed:

  • Area from the Link lake TH north along the Kootenai/Flathead NF boundary to the Canada border

Forest fire fighting resources are supporting the fires listed above and are prepared with initial attack resources as needed. For more information contact the Hungry Horse/Glacier View District at 406-387-3800.

Zinke won’t eliminate any national monuments

Bears Ears National Monument - Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr
Bears Ears National Monument – At 1.35 million acres, it is among the largest national monuments in the country – Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr

There may be a few (cough) adjustments, though . . .

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday he won’t seek to rescind any national monuments carved from the wilderness and oceans by past presidents. But he said he will press for some boundary changes and left open the possibility of allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites.

Twenty-seven monuments were put under review in April by President Donald Trump, who has charged that the millions of acres designated for protection by President Barack Obama were part of a “massive federal land grab.”

If Trump adopts Zinke’s recommendations, it could ease some of the worst fears of his opponents, who warn that vast public lands and marine areas could be stripped of federal protection.

Read more . . .

‘Last Best Outdoor Fest’ celebrates public lands

Columbia Falls had quite an event last Tuesday in support of public lands and the part they play in the economy . . .

Montana’s public lands and outdoor recreation provide 71,000 jobs in the state and $7.1 billion in consumer spending, Montana Sen. Jon Tester told a capacity crowd at the Last Best Outdoor Fest Tuesday night in Columbia Falls.

The fest celebrated Montana’s abundance of public lands and was also a political rally to oppose any measures to sell them off.

With a host of public lands at its doorstep and a river running through it, Columbia Falls is becoming the place to live for those who love the great outdoors.

Read more . . .

Judge rules Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies merit endangered status

Brown Grizzly Bear - Wikipedia User Mousse
Brown Grizzly Bear – Wikipedia User Mousse

A judge has ruled that the isolated grizzly bear population in the Cabinet-Yaak area can be treated as endangered . . .

Animals and plants can be considered endangered even if they are not on the brink of extinction, a judge ruled in overturning the U.S. government’s re-classification of a small population of grizzly bears living in the forests of Montana and Idaho near the Canada border.

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited from narrowing the definition an endangered species in its future decisions without explaining why it wants to make the policy change.

The federal Endangered Species Act defines an endangered species as one that is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Read more . . .