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Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

Here is a well-reasoned op-ed that recently appeared in the Helena Independent Record opposing grizzly bear delisting due to problems with Montana’s current wildlife management  regime. You’ll see some familiar entries in the 35-name signature block, including NFPA Board of Directors member Diane Boyd.

(Bonus: the Char-Kosta News, official news publication of the Flathead Indian Reservation, has a lengthy discussion of the underlying background issues.)


Grizzly bear on log - Ken Peaco, NPS

We are 35 state, federal, and Tribal wildlife professionals who have worked together for more than 40 years to help recover and manage grizzly bears, wolves, and other wildlife in Montana. We did this by building science and fact-based management policies and plans with public input while carefully balancing the needs of bears and other wildlife with the needs of the people who live, work, and recreate in Montana.

We believed in and promoted the eventual delisting of recovered grizzlies and wolves and turning them over to state management. We believed that the wildlife professionals in Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) would be good stewards who would continue to carefully manage grizzly bears and wolves using science and facts after recovery and delisting.

All this changed in 2021 when a new legislative majority and a like-minded governor took office. Science-based wildlife management in Montana was replaced by anti-predator hysteria fueled by misinformation and emotion. Professional wildlife management by FWP biologists was replaced by partisan political intervention that overturned decades of sound wildlife policy.

Continue reading Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

‘Grizzlies and Us’ series worth the read

Grizzly Bear - Montana FWP
Grizzly Bear – Montana FWP

Wow! Lee Enterprises, owner of a number of newspapers in this part of the country, including the Missoulian, recently wrapped up their “Grizzlies and Us” project, a ten-part series consisting of some 22 individual articles examining “…the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans…”

Highly recommended reading . . .

Alert! Bear resistant containers available!

Attention!!
BEAR RESISTANT CONTAINERS AVAILABLE
Immediate Action Needed

Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can
Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can
Kodiak Can
Kodiak Can

NFLA and NFPA are partnering to offer members the opportunity to purchase 96-gallon Kodiak bear resistant garbage containers at a reduced price. NFPA has negotiated a reduced price of $300 per container. In order to take advantage of this opportunity your order needs to be placed by January 24thPlease send a check made out to “Northland Products” to NFPA ASAP or hand deliver to Flannery Coats, Randy Kenyon, or Suzanne Hildner. If you miss the deadline, there may be a few containers available for purchase, but we expect them to disappear rapidly. Delivery will be in April.

NFPA Address:

77 Moose Creek Rd.
Polebridge, MT 59928

Because USPS (and Karin) only deliver twice a week and time is short you may also mail to:

Suzanne Hildner
104 5th St
Whitefish, MT 59937

Randy Kenyon:  kenyonnorthfork@gmail.com
Flannery Coats:  flannery.e.coats@gmail.com
Suzanne Hildner: sdhildner@icloud.com

Bear thoughts

Flannery Coats Bio PhotoNFPA President Flannery Coats has an excellent op-ed in the Hungry Horse News . . .

Most people who live up the North Fork call themselves “North Forkers.” You’ll know a North Forker when you meet one. At meetings outside of the North Fork, introductions usually go “my name is so and so and I’m a North Forker.” This is meant to imply a few things. For starters, an aptitude for self-sufficiency. For some of us, though, it’s more of an attitude with a willingness to learn. Another, the affliction of joy when things don’t go according to plan 80% of the time. In the shed that usually means a zip tie to the rescue while in the kitchen it’s more like what’s in the pantry is what’s on the menu. Being a North Forker also implies a code of living. Living with bears. Living with each other, although many will joke about which one makes a better neighbor. In true North Forker fashion, the place has a unique history of what living with bears looks like. At backcountry cabins you’ll see 2-foot long nails spiked through the heavy log doors, an old school ranger “bear proofing” their cache. Back in the ‘90s downtown Polebridge was full of Karelian bear dogs, the first of many special touches grizzly bear management specialist, Tim Manley, gave in his career with FWP. The years following he taught landowners to secure attractants and bear proof places like garages where food and garbage is stored until a town run is imperative. Thanks to those educational opportunities the North Fork is now a model of how people and bears can coexist given the right tools, although this fall would indicate that education is imperative after improper food and garbage storage by a few new landowners led to the death of four grizzlies.

This brings us to the recent announcement that the state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, opening up possible hunting opportunities in areas surrounding Glacier. As a former Glacier Park Ranger and seasoned local business owner, I have seen that the experience visitors want most is the chance to see a grizzly in the wild. Protected. Secondly, the grizzly bear population in Montana consists of two very separated “islands.” One in Yellowstone and one in Glacier and there is no evidence of intermingling yet which, in my opinion, is necessary to achieve “recovery” of a threatened species. According to USFWS, grizzly bears currently inhabit just 6% of their historic range. The North Fork is a decent chunk. To be a North Forker is to live with grizzlies while cutting firewood or fixing the snowblower, always remembering that the remote corner of the ecosystem spanning the Rocky Mountains you get to call home, too. As fellow North Forker Doug Chadwick says in his new book, “Four Fifths a Grizzly”: Do unto your ecosystems as you would have them do unto you. Up here, that means neighbors caroling on a full moon night. Happy Holidays to all!

How does the wildlife cross the road?

Wildlife underpass, US-93 in Montana
Wildlife underpass, US-93 in Montana

Kudos to Roger Sullivan for spotting this one. It is the first of a three-part series . . .

During a Nov. 17 hearing, Martha Williams answered dozens of questions you’d expect an incoming director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to field from the Congressional committee considering her nomination. After she spoke about a life “steeped in conservation,” the Maryland farm she grew up on and lessons she learned at the helm of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee grilled Williams about climate change, hunting on wildlife refuges and the USFWS-administered Endangered Species Act.

Then committee chair Tom Carper, D-Delaware, presented her with an unexpected question: How had Williams’ experience with wildlife crossings in Montana prepared her to help implement a $350 million federal pilot program that aims to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and increase habitat connectivity?

Williams described the program, which was included in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Congress passed Nov. 5, as “a big moment … a long time coming.” Adding some levity to the conversation, she described a video of a person sleeping in a wildlife underpass on the Flathead Reservation, oblivious to a grizzly bear sauntering by. Then she circled back to the intersection of transportation and wildlife conservation.

Continue reading . . .

Grizzly settles in south of I-90

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPHere’s another good story from the recent meeting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear subcommittee. Of special note is that the bear managed, with considerable effort, to make it past Interstate 90, a substantial barrier to animal migration . . .

Slowly, but surely, grizzly bears continue to expand their range in Montana. Perhaps the most interesting find has been a male grizzly bear that moved south of Interstate 90 in the past year or so and now has a home range near Deer Lodge, outside of Butte.

The bear was radio-collared after getting into trouble with chickens, but has pretty much stayed out of trouble since, noted Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologist Cecily Costello at a meeting earlier this month of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear subcommittee. The bi-annual meeting brings bear managers and land management agencies to discuss all things grizzly.

According to radio-collared data, the grizzly made multiple attempts to cross Interstate 90. She said they believe the bear finally actually went under the highway, where a bridge goes over the Clark Fork River. That passage also allowed the grizzly to go under railroad tracks that parallel the highway as well.

Continue reading . . .

Solenex sues Interior over Badger-Two Medicine ruling

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

They’re baaack! . . .

Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas company have asked a federal judge to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land considered sacred to Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada.

The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of northwestern Montana near the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court last year.

Now Solenex LLC — the company that held the lease — is making another run at getting a court to restore its drilling rights. In court documents filed Thursday in a lawsuit against the Interior Department, its attorneys argued that Jewell exceeded her authority and the lease should be reinstated.

Continue reading . . .

Griz caught in coyote trap & other tales

Grizzly Bear - Montana FWPMontana grizzly bear managers had a lot to discuss and many stories to tell . . .

Bear managers across the state relayed plenty of grizzly bear stories during the Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting earlier this month.

Region 2 bear specialist Jamie Jonkel spoke briefly about the fatality this summer of a bicyclist who was camping in Ovando and was killed by a grizzly bear that came into town.

Leah Davis Lokan, 65, of Chico, California, was killed when a bear attacked her in her tent . . .

Continue reading . . .

52 known grizzly deaths noted in northern Montana

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

This year’s grizzly death toll includes Monica and her cubs but, surprisingly, no railroad fatalities . . .

The region saw 42 known grizzly bears deaths in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, with an additional 10 deaths outside of what’s known as the demographic monitoring area, Cecily Costello, research wildlife biologist with Montana, Fish Wildlife and Parks reported recently.

The numbers are preliminary and could go up.

Costello said the bear mortalities are still well below thresholds of sustainability for the demographic area.

Continue reading  . . .