Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Conservation project funding in the Flathead Valley

Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 - Greg Evans
Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 – Greg Evans

The Flathead Beacon has a good article on conservation project funding in the valley . . .

A slate of conservation projects are nearing completion or recently came to fruition in the Flathead Valley, underscoring the importance of private donations and a federal program that funds a suite of conservation projects, including land acquisition and grants to state and local entities for everything from conservation easements to municipal parks.

Recently, the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped complete the next phase of a 13,400-acre conservation easement northwest of Whitefish Lake, providing $2 million for the final piece of the multi-phased Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, which helps protect wildlife, promote timber production, and allow public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor pursuits.

The conservation and recreation community has praised the easement because it protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and provides continued public access for outdoor recreation, while also securing the city of Whitefish’s water supply, 20 percent of which is drawn from Whitefish Lake.

Read more . . .

Grizzly delisting coming for Northwest Montana

Brown Grizzly Bear - Wikipedia User Mousse
Brown Grizzly Bear – Wikipedia User Mousse

The Flathead Beacon has a good story on the plans to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List in this corner of Montana . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce plans this September to delist grizzlies from the federal Endangered Species Act in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the rugged chunk of Northwest Montana that includes Glacier National Park, parts of five national forests and two reservations.

It’s also believed to be home to the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

The strategy to move grizzlies from federal to state control has long been in the works, and bear managers are now coordinating the scientific and policy research necessary to propose a delisting rule.

“We have believed this population has likely met the demographic recovery goals for many years now,” Hillary Cooley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) grizzly bear recovery coordinator, said. “We’ve met our recovery goal and we’re probably well above it, so this is a good time to start evaluating it formally.”

Read more . . .

Next public meeting on Flathead River Comprehensive Management Plan on May 16

Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 - Greg Evans
Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 – Greg Evans

The next in a series of meetings on the Flathead River Comprehensive Management Plan is on Wednesday, May 16 at the Heaven’s Peak Room of Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls from 6 to 8 p.m. . . .

On the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, is seeking public input as it develops a comprehensive management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River.

A series of six public meetings are scheduled over the next six months. The first meeting, on May 16 [actually, the first meeting was in March], will focus on water-quality conditions, management and concerns on the Middle, South and North forks of the Flathead River. It will be held at the Heaven’s Peak Room of Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls from 6 to 8 p.m.

The meeting will include presentations on current water-quality information, as well as “facilitated discussion on how water quality should be addressed” in the comprehensive river management plan (CRMP), according to the U.S. Forest Service. A brief introductory presentation to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act will begin at 5:45 p.m.

Read more . . .

Feds to seek Montana grizzly delisting this fall

Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs - NPS photo, Tim Rains
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs – NPS photo, Tim Rains

The U.S. plans to propose removing Montana’s grizzlies from endangered species act protection this fall . . .

U.S. officials expect to release a proposal this fall that would remove federal protections for grizzly bears in northwestern Montana, home to the largest grizzly population in the Lower 48.

The plan was released Wednesday as part of the U.S. Interior Department’s regulatory agenda for coming months.

An estimated 1,000 bears occupy at least 22,000 square miles in northwestern Montana centered on Glacier National Park.

Read more . . .

UofM survey: Montanans overwhelmingly support public lands

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

No surprises here. A pretty well-designed survey by the University of Montana revealed that people who live in Montana really like their public lands.

But, in a related story, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte say they don’t believe it because “they had the support of local county commissions” for legislation to close down several wilderness study areas (WSA’s). You just can’t make this stuff up.

Anyways, here’s the lead-in for a good article on the survey. A link for the WSA issue follows . . .

The University of Montana 2018 Public Lands Survey showed wide, bipartisan appreciation for the state’s wild places.

“The takeaway for me is, support for policy to protect public land is going up, not down,” said Rick Graetz, director of UM’s Crown of the Continent Greater Yellowstone Initiative, which commissioned the survey. “That’s true on both sides of the aisle. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all see the value of it. That wasn’t true even 10 years ago when we started our program.”

The poll found four out of five Montanans considered public lands an economic benefit to the state, while just 3 percent said their presence hurt the economy.

Read more . . .

Also read: Daines, Gianforte discount poll showing broad support for keeping Wilderness Study Areas (Missoulian)

Flathead Wild and Scenic River water quality meeting May 16th

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

The next in a series of meetings on developing a comprehensive river management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River is scheduled for May16. It will be held from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, at the at the Heaven’s Peak room in the Cedar Creek Lodge, Columbia Falls.

Here’s the full press release . . .


Flathead Wild and Scenic River: Comprehensive River Management Plan Meeting to Discuss Water Quality

Kalispell, MT. May 3, 2018- The Flathead National Forest, in coordination and partnership with Glacier National Park, is in the process of preparing a comprehensive river management plan (CRMP) for the 3-forks of the Flathead River.

A series of resource-focused public meetings will be held over the next six months, beginning on May 16th. This meeting will focus on water quality conditions, management, and concerns as part of the efforts to develop the CRMP. The meeting will be held at the Heaven’s Peak room in the Cedar Creek Lodge, Columbia Falls, Montana. The meeting will be from 6 pm to 8 pm and include presentations on current water quality information and facilitated discussion on how water quality should be addressed in the CRMP. For those new to the comprehensive river management plan process, an introductory presentation on the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act will begin at 5:45 pm. Future meeting topics and a preliminary schedule will be posted on the Flathead National Forest website.

The CRMP will address the current status of the river and the surrounding resources, outline goals and desired conditions, determine user capacity and create a monitoring plan for the next 15 to 20 years. In order to reflect the diverse users of the river and surrounding lands, the public is encouraged to help craft the future management of this designated wild and scenic river to ensure the river and its outstanding resources are maintained and protected.

For more information, please call Flathead National Forest Recreation Program Manager, Chris Prew at 406-758-3538.
Updates on the CRMP can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/flathead/home/?cid=fseprd573051&width=full

Last caribou herd in lower 48 ‘functionally extinct’

Caribou in Jasper National Park, Canada -Photo by Annie K on Unsplash
Caribou in Jasper National Park, Canada -Photo by Annie K on Unsplash

From the New York Times comes another object lesson on the effects of unbalanced industrial development . . .

The battle to save the so-called gray ghosts — the only herd of caribou in the lower 48 states — has been lost.

A recent aerial survey shows that this international herd of southern mountain caribou, which spends part of its year in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and Washington near the Canadian border, has dwindled to just three animals and should be considered “functionally extinct,” experts say.

The Selkirk herd had been disappearing for the last several years.

Read more . . .

New U.S. spending bill requires scrutiny of Kootenai Watershed issues

Kootenai River
Kootenai River

A provision in the recent federal budget bill requires the EPA to get off the dime and work with U.S. and Canadian agencies to do something about mining waste in the Kootenai Watershed . . .

Stemming the flow of dangerous mining contaminants spilling from Canada into the Kootenai River watershed was listed as a priority in the 2,232-page government-spending bill signed by President Donald Trump, marking a hard-won victory for advocates of the endangered river and the communities it supports.

Inclusion of the beleaguered river system in the massive spending bill is another in a recent series of significant steps toward tackling a decade-long problem brewing in the transboundary Kootenai River watershed, where toxic contaminants leaching from upstream Canadian coal mines in the Elk River Valley of British Columbia continue to threaten Montana’s prized aquatic ecosystems.

Spearheading the latest charge to bring attention to the Kootenai is U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who helped draft the annual budget bill as a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and who for years has been mounting pressure on the U.S. and B.C. governments to develop a bilateral water quality standard for mining contaminants, including selenium, sulfates and nitrates.

Read more . . .

Carolyn Kormann: Ryan Zinke’s Great American Fire Sale

Here’s a well-researched piece by New Yorker staff writer Carolyn Kormann discussing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan ZInke’s efforts to open up more public lands for resource development. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .

Not long ago, the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, began distributing “vision cards” to its employees. The front of each card features the B.L.M. logo (a river winding into green foothills); short descriptions of the Bureau’s “vision,” “mission,” and “values”; and an oil rig. On the flip side is a list of “guiding principles,” accompanied by an image of two cowboys riding across a golden plain. Amber Cargile, a B.L.M. spokeswoman, told me that the new cards are meant to reflect the agency’s “multiple-use mission on working landscapes across the West, which includes grazing, energy, timber, mining, recreation, and many other programs.” Individual employees, she added, can opt to wear or display the cards at their own discretion. But, according to the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which obtained photos of the cards and shared them with the Washington Post, supervisors in at least two B.L.M. field offices have been verbally “advising that employees must clip them to their lanyards.” Some workers, speaking to the Post anonymously, said that they felt they had no choice but to comply.

Read more . . .

Hecla Mining challenges its ‘bad actor’ label

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. Hecla is challenging this in court . .

An Idaho mining company was due in a Montana courtroom on Thursday to challenge its designation by state officials as an industry “bad actor” because of pollution tied to its CEO.

Hecla Mining Co. wants a judge to block the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from suspending permits for two new silver and copper mines the company has proposed beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, a remote, 147-square mile (380-square kilometer) expanse of glaciated peaks near the Idaho border.

[April 12,] State District Judge Matthew Cuffe scheduled afternoon arguments in the case.

The Coeur d’Alene-based company and its president and CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., were issued violations letters last month because of ongoing pollution at mines operated by Baker’s former employer.

Read more . . .