Category Archives: Documents

Bull Trout project in Big Creek drainage; public feedback requested

Bull Trout - Joel Sartore/National Geographic Stock with Wade Fredenberg/USFWS
Bull Trout – Joel Sartore/National Geographic Stock with Wade Fredenberg/USFWS

Rob Davies, the Hungry Horse/Glacier View district ranger, is asking for public feedback on a small, low-impact project in the Big Creek drainage to improve conditions for Bull Trout.  If possible, they’d really like to get this accomplished in April, before the stream flows really get going. This means they are looking for public comments by March 30.

Here’s what Rob had to say in his email (lightly edited), followed by the full text of the project letter . . .

We will be issuing a NEPA decision for a small simple project that was presented at the Inter-local Meeting last February.

We would like to know if anyone has concerns or wishes to provide comments on this project…

Essentially the State and the Forest Service wants to breach a log jam, and several small beaver dams where migrating bull trout were blocked from upstream movement to their normal spawning area (last fall). The work would be accomplished using a Spider Backhoe…… if you never have seen this type of heavy equipment it is really interesting…….. it’s essentially a small excavator but instead of using steel tracks, it moves on 4 robotic-like legs so that soil and vegetation disturbance is very minimal.

We would like to complete this work before peak runoff occurs this spring so natural flows will help scour and maintain the channel. Normally bull trout projects never remove or disturb large wood in streams but in this case, the Flathead bull trout populations are so depressed from other Flathead Lake issues…… doing all that we can to assure spawning success is important.

Please provide comments, by email, in writing, or by phone no later than March 30th, 2016.

Rob’s contact information:

Rob Davies , District Ranger
Flathead National Forest
Hungry Horse – Glacier View Ranger Districts
PO Box 190340
Hungry Horse, MT, MT 59919
Phone: 406-387-3801
Email: rdavies@fs.fed.us

Continue reading Bull Trout project in Big Creek drainage; public feedback requested

Flathead Forest Plan proposal: Where to get it

As befits a document that will have quite an impact on this little corner of Montana, the proposed Flathead National Forest Plan revision is big — some 499 pages of text and figures. The grizzly bear amendment, describing how the forest will coordinate grizzly bear management with other agencies and jurisdictions across the entire Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), adds another 64 pages to the pile.

If you’re the sort of person who likes to go straight to the source documents, here’s how to get them:

Report maps out plan for long-term species conservation in Flathead National Forest

Dr. John Weaver of the Wildlife Conservation Society, long an advocate for targeted landscape preservation to boost species survival, has issued a new report, specifically addressing the area encompassed by the Flathead National Forest.

Here’s the press release. We also offer a link to the full report . . .

BOZEMAN (June 23, 2014) A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) calls for completing the legacy of Wilderness lands on the Flathead National Forest in Montana. The report identifies important, secure habitats and landscape connections for five species—bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, and mountain goats. These iconic species are vulnerable to loss of secure habitat from industrial land uses and/or climate change.

Located in northwest Montana adjacent to Glacier National Park, the 2.4 million-acre Flathead Forest is a strategic part of the stunning and ecologically diverse Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. From the 1930’s to the present, generations of citizens and government leaders have worked to protect this special area through designations of wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and protection of critical wildlife habitat.

In his report, “Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wild Lands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana,” WCS Senior Scientist Dr. John Weaver notes that these protections may not be enough in the face of looming challenges such as climate change.

For example, warmer winters will reduce mountain snow cover and suitable habitat for the rare wolverine – a species highly adapted to persistent snow pack. Reduced stream flow and warmer stream temperatures will diminish habitat for native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout that are well adapted to cold waters – while favoring introduced rainbow trout and brook trout.

Weaver found that the Flathead is a stronghold for these fish and wildlife species that have been vanquished in much of their range further south. His analysis shows that 90 percent of the Flathead has a “very high” or “high” conservation value for at least one of the five focal species.

In his recommendations, Weaver employs a “smart strategy for resiliency” that protects and connects large landscapes that have high topographic and ecological diversity. Such a strategy will provide a range of options for animal movements as conditions change. Importantly, remaining roadless areas account for nearly 25 percent of the best habitats for these species. In particular, these higher-elevation areas will provide key options for such vulnerable species in a warmer future.

In total, Weaver recommends 404,208 acres of roadless area on the Flathead Forest for Congressional designation as National Wilderness, and another 130,705 areas be conserved in roadless condition as legislated “Backcountry Conservation.” Vital places with particular concentration of present and future habitat include the Whitefish Range adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Swan Range east of Flathead Lake.

“This report will help inform discussions and decisions about future management on the Flathead National Forest,” said Weaver. “These spectacular landscapes provide some of the best remaining strongholds for vulnerable fish and wildlife and headwater sources of clean water. These roadless refugia offer a rare opportunity to complete the legacy of protecting wildlife and wildlands on this crown jewel of the National Forest system for people today and generations yet to come.”

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Full report: Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wildlands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana (PDF format, 8.9MB).

Site update: Zoning materials updated

We’ve updated our collection of zoning information. The “Zoning Documents & Links” section of the archives now includes:

  • the North Fork Neighborhood Plan,
  • the full set of Flathead County zoning regulations and
  • the North Fork-specific pages from the zoning regulations.

These materials were retrieved from the Flathead County Planning and Zoning “Documents Online” page. All are PDF documents.

Whitefish Range Partnership Agreement summary available online

For those of you interested in the Whitefish Range Partnership Agreement, but who don’t wish to wade through an entire ring binders’ worth of material, a two page summary of the agreement is now available to view or download in PDF format.

We have hosted a copy of the agreement summary here: https://www.gravel.org/files/04.15.2014_WRP_summary_Final.pdf

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf recovery information online

For those of you who like to dig into source materials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a web site with news, information and recovery status reports on gray wolves on the Northern Rockies. You’ll find it here: http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov.

The agency’s “Office of External Affairs” also maintains a page with links to wolf-related press releases, public notices, hearing transcripts, articles and studies at http://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery/.

Southwest Montana grizzly bear management plan approved

According to a recent press release, Montana FWP now has a plan in place for managing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem if/when the bears are removed from the endangered species list . . .

As more than 700 grizzly bears begin to emerge from winter dens in southwestern Montana, state wildlife officials say a recently updated conservation plan shows Montana is well prepared to take over management of the federally threatened species.

The plan, approved by the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission in February, was developed over the past year in conjunction with a programmatic environmental impact statement. The update addresses state management options once the Greater Yellowstone Area’s more than 700 grizzly bears are removed from the federal list of threatened species.

Read more . . .

Further reading: The management plan is available online at fwp.mt.gov. Click “SW MT Grizzly Bear Management Plan.”

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service delays decision on wolverine protection

Over at the Missoulian, Rob Chaney posted more information about the delay in extending federal protections to wolverines . . .

Disputes over the science of wolverines has prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take an extra six months of study before it decides whether to put the elusive carnivore on the endangered species list.

The agency already extended its public comment period once through Dec. 2, after receiving conflicting opinions on the reliability of available research earlier this year. Wolverines had been considered “warranted but precluded” from ESA protection until 2012, when FWS decided to make a more thorough review.

“During the six-month extension, we will be formally engaging with experts in the scientific community to further evaluate areas of scientific disagreement and uncertainty as they relate to the wolverine delisting,” the agency said in a written statement Tuesday. “We intend that any final action resulting from these proposals be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible.”

Read more . . .

Note: The instructions in the article for retrieving information about the proposed rule to list wolverines under the Endangered Species Act have minor errors. The best approach seems to be to open the entire “docket folder” and browse the contents.

Researchers find grizzlies not heavily dependent on whitebark pine nuts

The grizzly bear delisting saga continues . . .

Grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have a varied diet and are minimally affected by the decline in the number of whitebark pine trees, federal research found.

The findings were presented Thursday in Bozeman at a meeting of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The subcommittee voted 10-4 to accept the research findings. It also gave preliminary approval to a motion that recommends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remove federal protections for the bears, currently listed as “threatened.”

The USFWS delisted the bears in 2007, but a federal judge returned the protection two years later, saying the effect of the decline in whitebark pine trees on bears wasn’t given adequate consideration. Whitebark pine nuts are a key food source for grizzlies as they prepare for hibernation.

Research found that grizzly bears eat more than 200 types of food, 75 of them frequently. That means when one food source is low, as the whitebark pine is, they find another, said Frank van Manen, interagency study team leader.

Read more . . .

See also: Grizzly Bear Subcommittee Recommends Delisting in Yellowstone