All posts by nfpa

Hecla Mining president says ‘bad actor’ label is just delay tactic

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Here’s your daily dose of schadenfreude: Hecla Mining wants to develop two mines along the boundary of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness area. Montana wants them to pay cleanup costs for a previous mess first . . .

The head of an Idaho mining company says Montana officials appear to be trying to delay two mines proposed beneath a wilderness area, designating him a “bad actor” because of past pollution.

Hecla Mining President Phillips S. Baker, Jr. told The Associated Press Friday the designation was unwarranted during his first public interview since accusations last week that he violated state mining laws.

Baker is a former vice president for Pegasus Mining. Its bankruptcy left taxpayers on the hook for costly pollution cleanups including at the Zortman-Landusky gold mine.

Read more . . .

Montana gets $1.8 million for mussel monitoring

The feds allocated $1.8 million to help Montana deal with invasive mussels this year . . .

The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week includes funding for Montana’s fight against aquatic invasive species.

Within the $1.3 trillion bill, $5 million is appropriated for watercraft inspections and mussel monitoring in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. An additional $1 million will go to controlling the spread of flowering rush, an invasive water plant.

Montana will receive about $1.8 million of these funds, said Kate Wilson, invasive species outreach coordinator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Read more . . .

Bears emerging from dens across Northwest Montana

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

Spring has sprung, which means bears are emerging from hibernation and heading to the valley bottoms looking for something to eat. This piece from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is a pretty good write-up . . .

Bears are emerging from dens across northwest Montana and residents are reminded to remove food attractants from their properties to avoid conflicts.

Montana is home to grizzly bears and black bears that roam the mountains and valley floors from spring through late fall before denning in wintertime. Starting in mid-March, bears begin emerging and move to lower-elevation areas seeking food.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks encourages residents to “Be Bear Aware” and remove attractants every spring by April 1.

“With this year’s above-average snowpack, bears are coming out of their dens and digging out from several feet of snow. There’s no place for them to go but down toward the valley floor to feed,” said Tim Manley, FWP Region 1 Grizzly Bear Management Specialist.

Residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

Continue reading Bears emerging from dens across Northwest Montana

No grizzly hunt in Montana this year

Grizzly Bear - courtesy NPS
Grizzly Bear – courtesy NPS

Interesting. Montana decided against a Yellowstone Region grizzly hunt this year. Idaho is annoying everyone by proposing to take a single male bear. Wyoming, of course, is another matter . . .

While Idaho and Wyoming pursue plans to allow grizzly bear hunting outside Yellowstone National Park, Montana wildlife officials say they don’t regret deciding against holding a hunt this year.

This past week, Idaho opened public comment on a proposal for a hunt of one male grizzly. Wyoming has released a proposal to sell 24 grizzly tags.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department officials decided against proposing a hunt in February.

Read more . . .

April Wilderness Speaker Series presentation addresses grizzly bear recovery

A reminder: The last Wilderness Speaker Series event of this year is by Rick Mace, Wildlife Biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, speaking on “The Recovery of the Grizzly.”

The presentation is on Wednesday, April 4 from 7:00 to 8:15pm at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology Building, room 139.

Recommended. Rick always does a good job.

Wilderness Speaker Series 2018 Poster - April Presentation
Wilderness Speaker Series 2018 Poster – April Presentation

Zinke supports restoration of grizzlies to North Cascades

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

Ending a period of uncertainty, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced his support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades . . .

The federal government intends to restore grizzly bears in the remote North Cascade Mountains of Washington state, a goal that represents “the American conservation ethic come to life,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Friday.

Zinke made the announcement during a visit to North Cascades National Park’s headquarters in Sedro-Woolley, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) north of Seattle.

The Department of the Interior announced in 2014 that it would consider relocating grizzlies to aid their recovery in the Cascades. An environmental review has been underway, but in recent months there have been questions about whether it would continue. Zinke made clear it would, with a formal decision expected by the end of the year.

“Restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem is the American conservation ethic come to life,” Zinke said in a news release. “The loss of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades would disturb the ecosystem and rob the region of an icon.”

Read more . . .

Hecla Mining fires lawsuit at Montana over ‘bad actor’ designation

That didn’t take long. As mentioned here yesterday, Hecla Mining and its president were deemed to be in violation of the state’s “bad actor” law. Basically, Montana wants to be reimbursed for cleaning up messes made back in the late ’90s. Hecla, which is trying to open up two new mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, has responded with a lawsuit . . .

An Idaho mining company sued Montana environmental regulators on Friday for labeling the company and its president “bad actors” who should pay for cleanups at several polluted sites before pursuing two new mines beneath a wilderness area.

Attorneys for subsidiaries of Hecla Mining described the state’s allegation that the company is responsible for past and ongoing pollution from defunct mines as frivolous.

Hecla, based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, claims to be the oldest precious metals mining company in the United States. It says it had no direct involvement in the polluted mines at issue.

Read more . . .

UM to Host 5th Annual International Columbia River Treaty Conference

This conference on April 11 at the University of Montana looks pretty interesting. Note that its remit includes the Flathead River. Kudos to Suzanne Daniell for spotting this item.

From the official press release . . .

MISSOULA – As Canada and the United States start negotiations over the Columbia River Treaty, the University of Montana will host a conference to discuss the future of rivers flowing through western Montana.

“One River, Ethics Matter” will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the University Center Ballroom. The event is hosted by UM’s Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and the Department of Geography and is free and open to the public. Lunch is provided, and an evening reception will follow. Participants are required to RSVP at

Tribal, First Nations and religious leaders, along with scholars and authors, from the Upper Columbia River will lead the one-day conference on ethics and the Columbia River. The conference series is a multiyear undertaking based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter issued in 2001 by the 12 Northwest Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed, combined with tools used by hospital ethics consultation services.

The conference brings together religious leaders, indigenous people, educators and writers, including:

  • Ron Abraham, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal councilman and elder
  • Gary Aitken, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal chairman
  • Barbara Cosens, University Consortium on Columbia River Governance, University of Idaho College of Law, professor
  • Jessica Crist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Montana Synod, bishop
  • David James Duncan, writer
  • Tony Incashola, Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, director
  • Brian Lipscomb, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, CEO of Energy Keepers Inc.
  • D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes, executive director
  • Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, author of “A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change”
  • David Shively, UM Department of Geography, chair
  • William Skylstad, Roman Catholic, bishop emeritus
  • Pat Smith, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, former Montana delegate
  • Dan Spencer, UM Environmental Studies program, professor
  • Pauline Terbasket, Okanagan Nation Alliance, executive director

“One River, Ethics Matter” will examine the moral dimensions of the dam-building era, focusing on U.S. Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations people, rivers and the life that depends on them, and the compelling need to add ecosystem-based function to the Columbia River Treaty.

Topics will include the Libby dam and its international impacts to the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake; the Hungry Horse dam and efforts to protect resident fisheries; and the Séliš Ksanka Qlispé Project on the Flathead River, a federal license now held by the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the first tribal nation to own and operate a major hydropower facility.

The conference series is modeled on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission public dialogue in the wake of apartheid. The Missoula ethics conference follows four prior conferences in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Revelstoke, British Columbia. The previous conferences focused on restoring salmon above the Grand Coulee dam, floodplain development in the Portland area, the impacts of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon complex of dams and the effects of treaty dams in British Columbia.

Conference sponsors for 2018 include the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Upper Columbia United Tribes, Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, the Canadian Water Research Society, the Sierra Club’s Montana, Idaho and Washington chapters, the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, WaterWatch of Oregon, the Columbia Institute for Water Policy, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Rachael and John Osborn, UM’s Environmental Studies program, UM’s Native American Studies Department, the Flathead Lake Biological Station and UM’s Department of Geography.

To read more about the Ethics & Treaty Project from the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, visit For more information about “One River, Ethics Matter,” visit or email Sophia Cinnamon, UM environmental studies graduate student and chair of the conference planning committee, at

Other contacts are David Shively, UM Department of Geography chair, at; Rich Janssen, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Department of Natural Resources director, at; Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at;  and John Osborn, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at


Continue reading UM to Host 5th Annual International Columbia River Treaty Conference

Violations of Montana’s ‘bad actor’ law could delay progress on mines near Cabinet Wilderness

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Well now, Hecla Mining is definitely not having things all their own way with plans to develop two mines along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness area There’s a little matter of past sins coming home to roost . . .

An Idaho company could be forced to pay the state of Montana more than $30 million in cleanup costs from pollution at several former mining sites before it can pursue two new projects beneath a wilderness area, state regulators said Tuesday.

Hecla Mining Inc. and its president were deemed to be in violation of the state’s “bad actor” law that targets individuals and companies that abandon polluted sites, said Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers. The alleged violations were first reported by The Associated Press.

Hecla’s president and CEO, Phillips Baker, Jr., is a former executive for Pegasus Gold Corp., which went bankrupt in 1998, leaving government agencies with a massive cleanup bill from three Montana sites that polluted surrounding waterways when cyanide, arsenic and other contaminants leaked out of the mines.

Read more . . .

Grizzly debate has lawyers running in packs to Missoula’s courthouse

Grizzly Bear - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS
Grizzly Bear – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS

According to the Missoulian, there are lots of folks worried about the fate of the Yellowstone grizzlies and they all want their say in court . . .

Amid the six lawsuits swirling around the status of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, several sideline players highlight some odd angles in play.

On Tuesday [March 13], Federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen told all parties he wanted the whole delisting debate wrapped up in one comprehensive review before September, when Wyoming’s grizzly hunting season is set to start. That means getting a lot of cats herded in the same direction, on both sides of the case.

Below the title “Crow Indian Tribe et. al. vs United States of America et. al.” at least a dozen groups and agencies say they have a stake in how 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park get managed.

Read more . . .