[Updated original April 30 post on May 3 to incorporate various “The Last Best Ride” errata.] The Flathead National Forest has released a “Special Uses Scoping Letter” dated April 26 (PDF, 194KB) discussing this year’s batch of pending Special Use Permits (SUP’s). There has been no press release yet. I suspect we’ll see one next week.
I have had no opportunity to do a deep dive yet, but there are ten SUP’s that affect the North Fork to a greater or lesser extent. I have highlighted those items in the scoping letter and added links to their project documentation. They range from the usual collection of hiking, biking and motorized activities, to a trail run up Nasukoin Mountain, and a late-September marathon from Big Creek to Columbia Falls. Details, including maps, are posted on the forest’s “Projects” page: https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/flathead/landmanagement/projects. The cover letter lists contact information for comments and inquiries.
Note that most of the project permits impacting the North Fork are not being handled by Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District personnel. Also note that the Forest Service is only responsible for activities occurring on their lands – the marathon, for instance, is mostly a city/county/state issue.
Here’s the text of a letter sent yesterday by the North Fork Preservation Association to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding wolf management. See also yesterday’s alert regarding the situation…
Dear Montana Fish and Wildlife Commissioners:
The mission of the North Fork Preservation Association is to champion stewardship of the natural resources and protect the exceptional biodiversity of the North Fork of the Flathead River. We live simply in the North Fork, off the grid, make concessions for our wild neighbors, and, best of all, the ecosystem contains a full complement of wildlife, which also forms the foundation for our thriving recreation-based economy. Wolves and grizzly bears roam freely through our public (96%) and private (4%) lands here in relative harmony with the human residents. Sustainable population levels of ungulates have coexisted with wolves, bears, and other carnivores for a very long time here.
We were dismayed to see our 2021 Legislature pass many new bills that undermine the role of the FWP wildlife biologists and managers who make their professional decisions based on the best science available. These new bills are not based on science but rather on emotions, especially the bills regarding wolves. We are asking the Commission to maintain the pre-legislature status quo and avoid the significant, detrimental changes to wolf management. We support FWP’s professional management processes, and we hope that the Commission will continue to support FWP by taking a long, hard look at the newly proposed options and select those options for wolf management that preserve FWP’s ability to professionally manage them—Option 1, Limited New Tools.
While we understand that the Legislature indicated that it wants a smaller wolf population in Montana, each region should be evaluated on its own merits by the professional managers at FWP. We hope that a reasonable status quo harvest throughout Montana and our 2-wolf quota in the North Fork will be upheld by the Commission. Please support “Option 1—Limited New Tools” for management of wolves.
Thank you for your consideration.
Flannery Coats, President
For the NFPA Board of Directors
The North Fork Bear News is back! Many of you should have received the 2021 edition in the mail, but it is now also available online.
Editor Julie Zeigler’s introduction tells the story . . .
We’re back! The North Fork Bear News was an annual newsletter that Amy Secrest, with layout assistance from Richard Wackrow, created and thoughtfully published from 2000-2005. A big shout out and thanks to the both of them for all their work! I have humbly taken up the mantle, and with support from the North Fork Preservation Association, plan to resume a yearly spring mailing to any and all North Forkers who would like to receive it. I would like to encourage any feedback you may have on this issue, but even more so any suggestions for content you would like to see in the future (my contact info can be found on page 6). It is our hope that this newsletter be educational, interesting, and inspiring; not only a way to stay informed on the wildlife that we are lucky enough to cohabit alongside, but also to celebrate the ways that we are all connected to each other as the North Fork community.
The 2021 edition of the NFPA’s “Living with Wildlife” brochure is available online. This publication, authored by wildlife biologist and researcher Diane Boyd and published by the NFPA, is highly recommended reading for anyone who lives near or interacts with our abundant local wildlife!
From the introduction:
The meadows, mountains and rivers of the North Fork are home to wildlife as well as humans who live and recreate in these areas. This interface can lead to conflict in which the wildlife usually loses. While private lands make up only 3% of the North Fork valley, they offer some of the best wildlife habitat. This brochure offers suggestions on how we can better coexist with our wildlife.
For those of you interested in more information about the Forest Service special use permits being considered for touring and guiding in the North Fork, Rob Davies passed along a very useful “summary of the routes, maps, dates, and service days that folks asked about at the meeting last Tuesday night.“ (Note that Rob must be working some long hours. I got his email a little after 930pm yesterday evening.)
The new Flathead Forest Plan, as well as the associated grizzly bear management amendments, went into effect late last year. Here, delayed by the recent government shutdown, is the official press release announcing them . . .
Flathead National Forest Releases Signed Record of Decisions for the Forest Land Management Plan and NCDE Forest Plan Amendments
Kalispell, MT., February 1, 2019 – After four years of collaborative effort and public input, the Flathead National Forest has released a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Forest’s Land Management Plan (Forest Plan) and associated final environmental impact statement (FEIS). A separate ROD was signed and released for the amendments to the Helena, Lewis and Clark, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests’ land management plans that incorporate the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear habitat management direction as forest plan direction (NCDE amendments).
“We greatly appreciate the commitment of interested participants who’ve provided important contributions toward the development of the land management plan through their participation in the planning process,” Forest Supervisor Chip Weber said. “We look forward to working with our partners and public in the years ahead in utilizing the vision in this land management plan to reach strategic objectives.”
The 2018 Forest Plan replaces the 1986 Plan, updating the long-term strategic vision for managing the Forest’s 2.4 million acres of lands in northwest Montana. The Forest Plan is the second in the nation to implement the Forest Service’s 2012 Land Management Planning Rule (36 CFR 219), which facilitates goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in promoting sound land stewardship in partnership with communities.
“We were glad to be part of a robust collaborative process that included a wide range of stakeholders willing to work hard to find space for everyone in our National Forests,” stated Paul McKenzie, the Lands & Resource Manager for F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company. “We feel the collaborative proposal to the USFS was given good consideration in the Forest Planning process. Many elements of the proposal are reflected in the management plan for the North Fork Area. It just goes to show that working together produces better results than working against each other.”
Amy Robinson, Conservation Director for the Montana Wilderness Association added, “The Montana Wilderness Association thanks the Forest Service for including many of the collaborative recommendations the Whitefish Range Partnership offered regarding timber harvest, recreation, and weed management. We are particularly pleased the Forest Service is recommending 80,000 acres of new Wilderness in the northern Whitefish Range. This recommendation will help secure and enhance critical habitat for grizzly bears, lynx, and other wildlife that make this corner of Montana so unique.”
The Notice of Plan Approval was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2018. The Forest Plan went into effect 30 days after publication and the NCDE amendments went into effect upon publication of the Notice of Plan Approval on December 27, 2018. The Notice of Plan Approval, signed ROD, Forest Plan, and FEIS are available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/fpr. The signed ROD for the NCDE amendments, are available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/gbamend.
Many of you have met and interacted with the steady stream of University of Montana geography students visiting the North Fork over past years. One of them, Jedd Sankar-Gorton, used his studies of the Transboundary Flathead as the basis for his master’s thesis. Here’s an introduction to his work written by Lois Walker…
Jedd Sankar-Gorton recently graduated with an M.S. degree in Geography from the University of Montana. His master’s thesis focuses on efforts to secure joint U.S.-Canadian protections for the upper reaches of the Flathead River from 1974-2014. It’s worth a read. For the benefit of future researchers, he has pulled together in one place an extensive body of reference material related to preservation efforts in the upper Flathead.
While this study primarily discusses proposed coal mining in British Columbia, it draws attention to other potential environmental threats to the river, as well. In the broader context, he highlights the thorny diplomatic challenges that governments around the world face as they try to design and implement effective management of transboundary waters. The bottom line is that, although we have secured some basic protections for the Flathead, there is still much that can be done to improve dialogue with our Canadian neighbors and craft more coordinated environmental management of the river system.
On August 25, 2018, the NFPA submitted the following statement to the Department of Interior during the comment period on their proposed changes to Endangered Species Act rule-making.
Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0007
On behalf of the Board of Directors for the North Fork Preservation Association, we stand for a strong Endangered Species Act.
We believe that it is important to keep the “blanket 4(d) rule” in place, that automatically grants all species listed as Threatened protection from harm, harassment, injury and death.
If the current proposal moves forward, already vulnerable species would only be protected if and when your agency decides to undertake a specific rulemaking process. Not only would this increase the rulemaking workload for your agency, but Threatened species would be left waiting for protection that may never happen.
We believe that a strong Endangered Species Act is in the best interest of humans and wildlife. While some exploitative industries would benefit from this change because they could continue to disregard threatened species, this change is not in the interest of the rest of us.
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most cherished pieces of legislation in our country’s history and should not be weakened. Please keep this vital rule to protect our Threatened species in place.
Debo Powers, President
North Fork Preservation Association
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
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: