Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Frozen Moose way more than just logging

Whitebark Pine Closeup, 2016 - W. K. Walker
Whitebark Pine Closeup, 2016 – W. K. Walker

Here’s a good overview of the North Fork’s Frozen Moose project . . .

The Forest Service aims to accomplish much more than homeowner protection from wildfires through the Frozen Moose Project. That was the message presented by Glacier View/Hungry Horse District Ranger Rob Davies at the North Fork Interlocal meeting held last week in Kalispell.

The proposal, an 8,000-acre fuels reduction project entailing non-commercial thinning, commercial timber sales, and prescribed burning on Forest Service land in the North Fork of the Flathead hopes to fulfill many other objectives, Davies told the crowd.

During thinning and logging operations, the agency hopes to push the forest composition towards more fire-resilient species, favoring tree species like larch and Douglas fir, which are more disease and insect resistant, drought tolerant, and with their thick bark, more fire-resilient.

Read more . . .

Researchers spend years building datasets for elusive wildlife

Canada lynx sitting - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Canada lynx sitting – US Fish and Wildlife Service

Here’s an interesting piece on the efforts over the last 20-plus years to collect data on rare, elusive species like the Canada lynx . . .

In a state where regal mountains and unconfined rivers demand attention and esteem, there exists also the less obvious, but no less significant creatures that call these places home. And one would be hard-pressed to find a Montanan who hasn’t acknowledged a simple creed: our state wouldn’t be as special if our wild landscapes lacked wildlife.

“These animals are part of Montana’s history, and when some of these species start dropping off, like you lose a lynx here or some grizzlies there, then you lose the essence of our state’s culture,” said John Squires, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula.

Squires has devoted decades of his life to researching some of Montana’s most elusive animals, the ones most humans will never witness in their natural habitats. At the heart of those efforts is the threatened Canada lynx, an incredibly rare and snow-dependent cat facing potential removal from the federal Endangered Species List despite there being a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support delisting.

Read more . . .

Appeals Court hears oral arguments in Badger-Two Medicine oil and gas case

 

The sun sets over the Badger-Two Medicine area near Browning in March 2016 - AP

As we mentioned yesterday, the latest chapter in the battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-two Medicine region opened with oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

The Missoulian has an excellent report on the hearing . . .

The legal battle over oil-drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area continued Tuesday, with attorneys for the leaseholder accusing the U.S. government of “arbitrary and capricious” behavior and lawyers for local environmental groups emphasizing the land’s environmental and cultural importance before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Reagan-era drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, a territory next to the Blackfeet reservation held sacred by members of that tribe, have drawn controversy for years. In late 2016 and early 2017, the Bureau of Land Management cancelled the leases held by Solenex LLC and W.A. Moncrief, Jr., drawing a lawsuit from those firms. In September 2018, Judge Richard Leon in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered them reinstated.

In the legal wrangling that followed, Moncrief reached a settlement and agreed to relinquish its leases. But Louisiana-based Solenex is still defending its lease from appeals filed by the federal government and a coalition of Montana environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice. The U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from attorneys representing that group, the federal government and Solenex Monday.

Read more . . .

Last Badger-Two Medicine energy ease on the line

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

The next chapter in the battle over oil and gas leases in the Badger-two Medicine region opens today with oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

The Flathead Beacon has a good article, including links to online information . . .

Last October, leaders of the Blackfeet Nation celebrated a major victory in their mission to furnish permanent protections on the Badger-Two Medicine area when Moncrief Oil relinquished an energy lease spanning more than 7,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front.

The news provided a capstone to a monumental effort by the Blackfeet and numerous other stakeholders determined to preserve one of the last best places and rid the region of the looming threat posed by energy holdings.

It also meant that one oil-and-gas leaseholder still remained in the Badger-Two Medicine area, a place held sacred by the Blackfeet and which provides habitat to a range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, elk, and cutthroat trout. It serves as the headwaters of two drainages, Badger Creek and the South Fork Two Medicine River, which together water the reservation and the northern plains of Montana.

Read more . . .

Local environmental groups raise objections over bike paths in griz habitat

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. – Montana FWP

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Brian Peck are concerned that the Flathead Forest is not adequately evaluating the impact of establishing new trails . . .

Two local environmental groups have raised objections to a planned bike and pedestrian path network north of Columbia Falls in the lower Whitefish Range, claiming it could result in more conflicts with grizzly bears and displace other wildlife.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Many biologists, however, believe the population locally has recovered; while others disagree,

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Columbia Falls resident and wildlife consultant Brian Peck are all claiming the Forest Service should take a cumulative approach and create an Environmental Impact Statement that encompasses several other projects that add trails to the Whitefish Range and areas near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Read more . . .

Forest Service seeking public comment on Frozen Moose Project

The Forest Service has big plans for the upper North Fork — including a lot of forestry and restoration work . . .

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - north half
Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – north half

The Glacier View District of the Flathead National Forest is asking for public comment on the Frozen Moose Project. The project area is on National Forest System lands from Red Meadow Creek to the Canadian Border. The project proposes several types of management activities to reduce fuels in the wildland-urban interface, improve the resiliency of vegetative communities, improve aquatic ecosystems, and provide a mix of forest products. These proposed activities include 3,552 acres of commercial vegetation treatment, 4,630 acres of noncommercial vegetation treatments, road management activities, and other aquatic restoration activities.

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - south half
Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – south half

Maps of the proposed action, detailed descriptions of activities, and information on how to comment can be accessed at the project Web site: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57310. Hard copies of the proposed action documents are available by request or can be reviewed at the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Station (10 Hungry Horse Drive, Hungry Horse, MT, 59919). Please contact Sarah Canepa, project team leader, if you would like more information about the project at (406) 387-3800 or sarah.canepa@usda.gov.

Montanans willing to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ for conservation

HunterHere’s an interesting press release regarding Montanans’ attitudes towards general conservation. Not surprisingly, they’re for it, even to the extent of targeted tax increases. (Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one.) . . .

Montanans are willing to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to conservation, according to a new survey.

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project has released results of its summer survey of more than 11,000 residents, or about 1% of the state’s population.

More than 80% of respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support more dedicated conservation funding – even if it means higher taxes.

Read more . . .

More reading: Link to survey report

Glacier Gateway Project seeks backing

Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway Project land acquisition
Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway Project land acquisition

In case you haven’t heard about it already, the Vital Ground Foundation and the US Forest Service are working on something called the “Glacier Gateway Project.”

They are proposing to acquire two properties totaling about 23 acres using Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). The parcels are along the section of the Polebridge Loop Road between the Polebridge Mercantile and the entrance to Glacier National Park. The acquisition would connect adjacent public lands managed by the Flathead National Forest along the designated Wild and Scenic corridor of the North Fork Flathead River.

The owners of both properties are willing sellers who wish to protect their lands from further development. (There are rumors that one potential buyer wanted to build an RV park.)

Also note that he Pacific Northwest Trail runs along the Polebridge Loop Road after the trail emerges from Glacier Park. Hikers sharing the road with motorized traffic, especially during tourist season, is less than ideal. Acquiring the Glacier Gateway parcels makes it easier for the Forest Service to achieve its eventual goal of a separate trail parallel to the road.

Here’s the deal: Vital Ground and the Forest Service are hoping to get individuals and organizations to send in letters of support for this proposal *by the end of the month.*

Want to read more? Here are the project documents:

Glacier Gateway Project Fact Sheet
Glacier Gateway Project Pictures
Glacier Gateway Project Sample Support Letter (Word format; also see note below)

NOTE: Even though the sample letter is addressed to Leanne Marten, the USFS Regional Forester, please send letters of support (by email preferably) to Mitch Doherty at the Vital Ground Foundation so that he can scan them and include them with the application submission. Here is Mitch’s contact information:

Mitch Doherty
Conservation Program Manager
Vital Ground Foundation
20 Fort Missoula Rd 59804-7202
Missoula, MT
(406) 549-8650
MDoherty@VitalGround.org

 

Bikers vs. bears

Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone
Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone

The New York Times has a longish article focused on conflicts between bears and mountain bikers. The story centers on events in this corner of Montana, so you’ll encounter some familiar names and places . . .

The death of a ranger, Brad Treat, in 2016 was a wake-up call for grizzly bear biologists.

Mr. Treat, an avid mountain biker, was zipping along at about 25 miles an hour through dense forest near Glacier National Park in the middle of a summer afternoon when he collided with a large male grizzly bear.

Apparently startled, the bear reacted defensively and quickly killed him. A witness couldn’t see what happened but could hear it. “I heard a thud and an ‘argh,’” the unnamed witness told investigators. Then the bear made a noise “like it was hurt.” The bear disappeared before emergency responders arrived.

Read more . . .