Public hearings scheduled in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, Conrad
The Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved language for a proposed administrative rule that would codify population objectives for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).
The decision on August 9, 2018 sets into motion a public comment period that will run from Aug. 24 through Oct. 26. Public hearings will be held in Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, and Conrad. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will explain and answer questions about the proposed population objectives at the hearings and take public comment.
The population objective is for NCDE, which is one of six designated recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states. Grizzly bears in the NCDE are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, although they have met their recovery criteria and may be proposed for delisting in the future.
The NCDE subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) released a revised conservation strategy for grizzly bears (found here) earlier this summer. This document summarizes the commitments and coordinated efforts made by the state, tribal and federal agencies to manage and monitor the grizzly bear population and its habitat upon delisting.
Here’s a pretty good summary of Montana’s proposed management plan for grizzly bears in the northwest section of the state . . .
Wildlife officials endorsed a plan Thursday to keep northwestern Montana’s grizzly population at roughly 1,000 bears as the state seeks to bolster its case that lifting federal protections will not lead to the bruins’ demise.
The proposal adopted on a preliminary vote by Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners sets a target of at least 800 grizzlies across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) expanse just south of the U.S.-Canada border.
However, officials pledged to manage for a higher number, about 1,000 bears, to give the population a protective buffer, said Dillon Tabish with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Hecla Mining wants to dig a couple of mines along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Montana wants reimbursed for cleaning up an old mess first. This excellent Flathead Beacon op-ed by Jim Nash lays out the situation very clearly . . .
When Webb Scott Brown of the Chamber of Commerce attacks Montana’s enforcement of a state law that protects taxpayers from shouldering the cleanup bill for mining companies, it’s clearly time to impose an old-fashioned smell test. In weaving together his argument, he got many of his facts wrong.
I live in the community where Phillips Baker’s company proposes to mine. And as the retired owner of a sawmill and wood products company I know the challenges of creating jobs and making a livelihood in rural Montana. I also understand the obligations businesses and their leaders must take on when they seek the privilege of developing our state’s natural resources.
From my perspective, the bad actor law is common sense. It simply says that mining companies and their top executives don’t get another shot at our state’s natural resources if they walked out on their cleanup obligations in the past — unless they’re prepared to pay back the state for cleanup work the public had to do in the company’s place.
Here’s a good overview, with useful links, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.
On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.
In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.
Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.
“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”
This well-researched article by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian uses bear roadkill along US93 as a starting point to make a broader examination of grizzly mortality . . .
The dictionary defines “mortality” as both death and loss. For grizzly bears along the Northern Continental Divide, both definitions came into play last month when the ecosystem recorded five grizzly mortalities, although only four bears died. And because two of the deaths were adult females of breeding age, the loss could have longer term consequences.
On July 24, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks workers found a dead sow grizzly near the southern end of Hungry Horse Reservoir in the Spotted Bear Ranger District. The 16-year-old female had a radio collar that was sending out a mortality signal, indicating it had stopped moving. The carcass was too decomposed to immediately reveal the cause of death.
Three days later, the driver of a car on Highway 93 ran into a sow grizzly and two of her cubs about three miles south of Ronan. The bear family apparently came out of the barrow pit and tried to cross the highway together about 11 p.m. All three bears died at the scene. The driver and one passenger were injured and the car had to be towed away.
As is usual this time of year, our “Wildfire Information” page has gotten a few updates. We’ve fixed up several broken links and added one new website, Wildfire Today.
The “Wildfire Information” page is a collection of wildland fire information links, including prescribed burns, applicable to the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests and Glacier National Park. There’s also a group of links for Canadian wildfire information.
And remember . . .
TO REPORT A WILDLAND FIRE – CALL (406) 758-5260 OR CALL 911
Despite what the article below says, neither NFPA nor any other Montana conservation group that I am in contact with has been contacted by Gianforte to set up a meeting to talk about WSAs. In fact, many of our fellow conservation groups are being attacked for our strong stands on this issue. This shows how effective the conservation community has been in influencing public opinion on this issue. According to a recent poll conducted by a partnership of Democratic and Republican pollsters, 87% of Montanans say conservation issues are important considerations in their voting decisions. We will keep up the good work!
Furthermore, we must change the language in this debate from “unlocking” or “releasing” WSAs to “removing protection from” WSAs or “losing” these potential wilderness areas forever. Please call Gianforte’s office at 202/225-3211 to express opposition to H.R. 5148 and H.R. 5149.
Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte said Thursday he’ll personally meet with people across Montana — including conservationists — who want a say in the controversial issue about unlocking federal Wilderness Study Areas for multiple uses such as motorized recreation, mining or logging.
“We’ll be meeting more broadly with all the concerned parties,” Gianforte told the Chronicle’s editorial board. “Because we got to hear everybody.”
Gianforte has been criticized by some environmental groups for not taking their input on the issue. The congressman said that’s what he’ll be doing throughout August.
Hecla Mining inches closer to Forest Service approval of their proposed Rock Creek Mine on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
Meanwhile, Montana has a bone to pick with Hecla CEO Phillips Baker Jr. over past shenanigans in the state . . .
Federal officials proposed approval of the first phase of a silver and copper mine beneath a northwestern Montana wilderness area amid a legal fight between state officials and the company behind the project, officials said Wednesday.
A final decision is expected in coming weeks on the Rock Creek Mine near Noxon after the Kootenai National Forest released a lengthy environmental study of the proposal, forest spokesman Willie Sykes said
Idaho-based Hecla Mining Co. would initially mine on 20 acres, to determine the feasibility of a full-scale mine that would cover almost 500 acres.