Golf course hazard released in North Fork

Personnel load up a grizzly bear that was darted in Conrad, MT on June 4, 2018. - photo by Donna Hepp
Personnel load up a grizzly bear that was darted in Conrad, MT on June 4, 2018. – photo by Donna Hepp

Tim Manley posted the following note to Facebook yesterday letting us know that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had “translocated” a couple of grizzlies to the North Fork:

“Hi, I wanted to let you know that two sub-adult grizzly bears were translocated to the NFK drainage on June 5th. A 3 year old male captured in Conrad was released on the Coal Cr State Forest in Coal Cr. The second bear is a 2 year old male captured just NW of Columbia Falls. He was released on the Canadian border at Moose City. He has moved north into B.C. I will give an update at Sonderson Hall Sunday evening.”

What he didn’t mention is that the grizzly released in the Coal Creek drainage got the heave ho because he was interfering with everyone’s golf game at the Pondera Golf Course in Conrad. See “Montana golfer demands refund due to course hazard: Grizzly bear” for details.

Plan aims to preserve griz habitat

Grizzly Bear - courtesy NPS
Grizzly Bear – courtesy NPS

Here’s a good article in the Hungry Horse News on the federal habitat plan intended to provide protection for grizzly bears in this corner of the country even after they are removed from the Endangered Species List . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on plan May 16 that looks to maintain grizzly bear habitat and recovery along the Continental Divide even after the bear is removed from the Endangered Species List.

The Habitat Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes about 8 million acres of land along the Divide from Glacier National Park south to Ovando, looks to maintain road density and other standards on federal lands, though it does include some wiggle room.

Roads and bears over the years have been a controversial subject, as federal land agencies — most notably the Forest Service, have either closed or completely torn out hundreds of miles of dirt roads that once criss-crossed the Forest. Studies have found that roads and grizzlies don’t mix — not because grizzlies won’t cross roads — they will — but because open roads often result in poaching or other forms of bear deaths due to interactions with humans.

Read more . . .

Habitat rules for grizzly delisting released

Grizzly Sow with Two Cubs - Wikipedia en:User Traveler100
Grizzly Sow with Two Cubs – – Wikipedia en:User Traveler100

Amid substantial debate, plans for removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List proceed apace . . .

A crucial piece of the plan to hand the biggest population of grizzly bears in Montana over to state management was released on Thursday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem describes what grizzlies there need to remain off Endangered Species Act protection if the federal government decides to delist them. A full delisting plan for the grizzlies should come up for public review in June.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) stretches from the southern tip of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex north to the Canadian border. It includes Glacier National Park, but does not connect to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park. An estimated 1,000 grizzly bears inhabit the NCDE.

Read more . . .

Wyoming approves its griz hunt

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

Here’s a pretty good overview of Wyoming’s recently approved grizzly bear hunt . . .

A debate over whether the Yellowstone ecosystem’s grizzly bear population can thrive while being hunted will be put to the test this fall after Wyoming officials on Wednesday approved the state’s first grizzly hunt in 44 years.

The hunt, approved 7-0 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, could allow as many as 22 grizzlies to be killed in a wide area east and south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Hunt proponents and opponents made last-minute pleas before the commission, which held several public meetings on the hunt around the state and tweaked the hunt rules in response to some previous comments.

Read more . . .

Excellent commentary on conservation and public lands

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

The Flathead Beacon has posted a couple of excellent, well-reasoned op-eds over the past week.

The first, by Jim McCormack, titled What Happened to the Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist? takes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to task for gutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund .

The second, Montanans Want a Say on the Future of Our Wild Public Lands by Connie and Mack Long, has some pointed and reasonable things to say about the importance of public involvement when making broad decisions about public lands.

Wolf population estimate at 900, up about 50 from last year

Gray Wolf

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released its annual wolf population estimate recently. Short version: They think there are abut 900 wolves in the state now, up from 851 a year earlier . . .

There are roughly 900 wolves in Montana according to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, the 13th consecutive year that Montana has exceeded wolf recovery goals.

FWP now estimates wolf numbers using a method called Patch Occupancy Modeling. The old way of trying to count wolves from an airplane became a less accurate picture of wolf numbers as the wolf population grew beyond the agency’s ability to count them. Additionally, the old method was expensive and took a lot of staff time.

FWP has used POM estimates along with the old minimum counts for several years. POM uses wolf sightings reported to FWP during annual deer hunter surveys, known wolf locations, habitat variables and research-based wolf territory and pack sizes to estimate wolf distribution and population size across the state. The most recent POM estimates were 961 wolves in 2015 and 851 in 2016. Data has been gathered for 2017 estimates and analysis will take place during summer 2018.

Read more . . .

Also read the Montana FWP press release: Wolf numbers remained strong in 2017

Conservation project funding in the Flathead Valley

Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 - Greg Evans
Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 – Greg Evans

The Flathead Beacon has a good article on conservation project funding in the valley . . .

A slate of conservation projects are nearing completion or recently came to fruition in the Flathead Valley, underscoring the importance of private donations and a federal program that funds a suite of conservation projects, including land acquisition and grants to state and local entities for everything from conservation easements to municipal parks.

Recently, the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped complete the next phase of a 13,400-acre conservation easement northwest of Whitefish Lake, providing $2 million for the final piece of the multi-phased Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, which helps protect wildlife, promote timber production, and allow public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor pursuits.

The conservation and recreation community has praised the easement because it protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and provides continued public access for outdoor recreation, while also securing the city of Whitefish’s water supply, 20 percent of which is drawn from Whitefish Lake.

Read more . . .

One-stop flood information for Northern Rockies

Whale Creek near flood stage, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
Whale Creek near flood stage, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

This is handy. So handy, in fact, that we’ve added it to the site’s “Flood Information” page.

The National Weather Service office in Missoula constructed a sort of one-stop information page for all Northern Rockies flood-related information. Here’s the official write-up . . .

This past winter the Northern Rockies experienced significant snowfall with many mountain observations hitting record values. This snow has been steadily melting this past May and will continue into June producing flooding conditions throughout the Northern Rockies. This web page was developed to pull all hydrology products into one location. Click on the tabs… to observe the river and stream gauges within each county that is serviced by the National Weather Service in Missoula, Montana.

Recommended! Check it out.

Grizzly delisting coming for Northwest Montana

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

The Flathead Beacon has a good story on the plans to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List in this corner of Montana . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce plans this September to delist grizzlies from the federal Endangered Species Act in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the rugged chunk of Northwest Montana that includes Glacier National Park, parts of five national forests and two reservations.

It’s also believed to be home to the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

The strategy to move grizzlies from federal to state control has long been in the works, and bear managers are now coordinating the scientific and policy research necessary to propose a delisting rule.

“We have believed this population has likely met the demographic recovery goals for many years now,” Hillary Cooley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) grizzly bear recovery coordinator, said. “We’ve met our recovery goal and we’re probably well above it, so this is a good time to start evaluating it formally.”

Read more . . .