All posts by nfpa

Appeals court rules in favor of Flathead Forest management plan

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Following an updated assessment by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the 2018 Flathead Forest management plan. . .

An appeals court has decided that the Flathead National Forest management plan adequately addresses endangered species, now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated its assessment of the plan.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed a five-page memorandum in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreeing with federal district court Judge Donald Molloy that the Flathead National Forest properly considered public challenges to its 2018 Management Plan so the plan can stand.

“Therefore, the Forest Service did not ignore any adverse impact of the (final environmental impact statement on grizzly bears and bull trout) and took ‘the requisite hard look’ at the environmental consequences of its actions, regardless whether Swan View agrees with its scientific conclusion,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Continue reading at the Missoula Current . . .

Flathead Forest Supervisor leaves for position at regional headquarters

Kurt Steele
Kurt Steele

Kurt Steele, Flathead National Forest Supervisor has moved to a position with Region 1 Forest Headquarters. In the meantime, Deputy Flathead Forest Supervisor Tami McKenzie is holding the fort . . .

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele has accepted a new position at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region headquarters in Missoula, capping a three-and-a-half-year stint overseeing 2.4 million forested acres in northwest Montana that in the past year had become beset in controversy.

Tami MacKenzie
Tami MacKenzie

According to an agency spokesperson, Steele “was offered and accepted” a new post as deputy director at the regional office that involves “environmental planning,” although the details of the position are still being worked out.

“I think it’s just a lateral move to a position at the regional office level,” Dan Hottle, the federal agency’s northern region public information officer, said Friday afternoon, when details about the transition were still scant. “It’s a new role and he will work closely with the regional leadership team on a number of different projects across the region as deputy director. His start date is still being negotiated right now.”

Continue reading . . .


Polebridge Bear Smart Report, Spring 2023

Garret Tovey of Glacier Institute discusses the correct way to deploy bear spray at Polebridge Bear Smart training session, May 24, 2023 - photo by Suzanne Hildner
Garret Tovey of Glacier Institute discusses the correct way to deploy bear spray at Polebridge Bear Smart training session, May 24, 2023 – photo by Suzanne Hildner

Polebridge Bear Smart (PBBS) is looking forward to a busy summer with continuation of existing projects and the addition of exciting new ones.

The late spring/early summer season is in full swing with the first of two PBBS trainings for seasonal employees of Polebridge businesses completed on May 24th. This year the program was advanced by partnering with the Glacier Institute as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) both of whom were on hand to help with training, providing inert bear spray for practice and to answer the insightful questions posed by participants.

Bears Zoë Zardis and Jennifer Pentrack entertained participants at Polebridge Bear Smart training session, May 24, 2023 - photo by Suzanne Hildner
Bears Zoë Zardis and Jennifer Pentrack entertained participants at Polebridge Bear Smart training session, May 24, 2023 – photo by Suzanne Hildner

We are particularly excited about an Initial Response Program we have developed in collaboration with Justine Vallieres, bear biologist with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. PBBS volunteers recently completed training and are standing by ready to respond to North Fork land owners who have a bear incident or a bear frequenting their property. The intent is to quickly provide assistance under the guidance of the bear biologists who are often overwhelmed with incidents during the busy summer months. We are able to loan game cameras and scare devices on the short term to identify individual bears and deter them. In doing so we hope to protect the bears from habituation as well as mitigate property damage, keeping both bears and humans safer. PLEASE reach out if you have an issue with a bear frequenting your property and please let FWP know if a bear causes damage or does not respond to hazing. This information helps them determine which individual bears might be involved. Recent research has shown that early efforts at deterring bears is most effective; removing bears to an alternative location often does not resolve the issue as bears tend to migrate back to their previous habitat.

Additionally, PBBS will be expanding its programs this year to include outreach to short term rental property owners with tools to help renters be responsible and safe in bear country. If you own a short term rental, expect an email contact regarding this program.

During the summer of 2022, with support from a Sierra Club grant and private donations, we launched a bear canister program for North Fork residents. The 96 gallon Kodiak bear resistant canisters were made available at a reduced cost for purchase or rent. This program will continue in 2023; please see accompanying information if you wish to purchase or rent a canister.

Feel free to contact Suzanne Hildner with any comments questions or suggestions. Here’s looking forward to a fun filled and safe summer for both humans and bears.

Suzanne Hildner, PBBS Chair

How much U.S. forest is old growth? It depends who you ask…

Several Types of Public Lands

Defining “old growth” on a landscape periodically reshaped by fire is tough enough, but doing so for the country as a whole really gets interesting . . .

Last spring, President Joe Biden surprised forest scientists when he ordered the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to inventory their holdings of mature and old-growth forests by Earth Day 2023. The order triggered a scramble for the United States to, for the first time, formally define what constitutes “mature” and “old-growth” forests and to apply those definitions across millions of hectares of land.

Now, the agencies have delivered their findings: Of the nearly 72 million hectares of forest managed by the two agencies, 45% are mature and 18% are old growth, according to a report released last week. The figures far exceed previous estimates published by nonfederal researchers and are likely to add fuel to an already raging debate about how to manage older forests and make them resilient to climate change.

The government’s tally has drawn a divided response…

Continue reading . . .

Bob Haraden, noted Glacier Park superintendent, dies at 100

From a North Fork perspective, Bob Haraden was a good guy to have around in those days. According to the Hungry Horse News article

Haraden also received the “Man of the Year” award from the Wilderness Society for his involvement in external environmental issues such as the proposed Cabin Creek coal mine in British Columbia and other oil and gas development outside the park.

Cabin Creek was a proposed mine up the North Fork of the Flathead River and had great potential to harm the water quality of the pristine waterway.

Continue reading . . .

Montana FWP soliciting public comments on wolf management plan EIS

Gray Wolf - Adam Messer-Montana FWP
Gray Wolf – Adam Messer-Montana FWP

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is soliciting public comment on revisions to their wolf plan environmental impact statement (EIS) . . .

FWP is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and conducting public scoping on a proposed action to revise the existing Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was developed in 2003.

The 2003 Wolf Plan and associated EIS were developed 20 years ago. Since then, new and improved research, management tools and methods have been developed and incorporated into Montana’s gray wolf management strategy; however, they are not described in the 2003 Wolf Plan. Gov. Greg Gianforte asked FWP to update the 2003 Wolf Plan with broad public engagement due to the interest in wolf management across the state . . .

Continue reading . . .

FRA looks to boost stewardship, safety & citizen science on the Flathead Wild & Scenic River

From our colleagues at the Flathead River Alliance . . .

Flathead Rivers Alliance (FRA) announces 2023 River Ambassador and River Recreation/Citizen Scientist volunteer program trainings ahead of float season to enhance river safety, stewardship and citizen science, on the Three Forks of the Flathead River.

FRA is ramping up for the 2023 river season and recruiting 20-30 volunteer team members! Are you passionate about the river system that inspired a national protected Wild and Scenic River system and want to be an active stakeholder or citizen scientist? In anticipation of another record river user year for the Three Forks of the Flathead River, FRA is expanding their River Ambassador and River Recreation Monitoring/Citizen Scientist volunteer programs. River Ambassador training will be offered April 18th 6:00-8:00 PM and River Recreation/Citizen Scientist training April 27th 6:00-8:00 PM at Glacier Outdoor Center, in West Glacier. Trainings are conducted in partnership with FRA, Glacier National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Flathead National Forest. These partners are invested in river users having an enjoyable and safe experience, while ensuring the river system’s outstanding remarkable values are protected. Dinner will be provided, so please RSVP so we can plan accordingly.

Continue reading at the FRA website . . .

County seeks federal funding to potentially pave lower North Fork Road

North Fork Road in Fall - USFS
North Fork Road in Fall – USFS

In case you missed it . . .

Flathead County applied for funding, which they more or may not get, to pay for a study on whether or not the lower North Fork Road could be paved.

Heading north out of Columbia Falls towards the North Fork corridor along the Flathead River is one of the most scenic, enjoyable drives in Northwest Montana, that is, until just after mile post 12, where the pavement ends. Then drivers and passengers are subjected to a slow, teeth-rattling and dusty ride in order to access two popular entrances to Glacier National Park, more than 100,000 acres of national forest land and the Wild and Scenic North Fork Flathead River.

That may change in the next few years, however, as Flathead County recently applied for a nearly $6 million Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to begin the preliminary environmental evaluation and public involvement process looking at the feasibility of paving 10 miles of the North Fork Road to the intersection of Camas Road. The funding would also cover roughly two-and-a-half miles of road improvements as a first phase of the full corridor improvement project.

The North Fork Road (NFR) stretches from the north end of Columbia Falls to the Canadian border, passing from state to county jurisdiction just past mile post 12, where it transitions from pavement to a gravel road. Other than a brief half-mile of pavement, there is a 10-mile stretch of dirt road until the intersection with Camas Road, a turnoff that leads to Glacier National Park.

Continue reading . . .

Tester: Forest Service ‘found a loophole,’ ‘cut a deal’ on Holland Lake Lodge expansion

Holland Lake - USFS
Holland Lake – USFS

Senator Tester doesn’t have a clear understanding of categorical exclusions, but he sure knows an end-run when he sees it…

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana grilled the chief of the U.S. Forest Service this week about its initial decision — since reversed — to give an expansion plan at Holland Lake Lodge an exemption from a thorough environmental review.

Tester said Congress meant that type of exemption — called a “categorical exclusion” — to be used for projects that protect communities from wildfires.

At least he wouldn’t have supported it for “making some corporation rich off our public lands,” Tester said.

Continue reading . . .