Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Glacier National Park: Mapping Threats to Wilderness Character

Mountain edge in foreground (Tinkham Mountain) with glacier in background (Pumpelly Glacier) - Glacier NP, Jacob W. Frank
Mountain edge in foreground (Tinkham Mountain) with glacier in background (Pumpelly Glacier) – Glacier NP, Jacob W. Frank

OK. this is pretty impressive. Below is the lead-in to an excellent story by the Missoulian’s inimitable Rob Chaney about a mapping study just completed by Brad Blickhan and Jillian McKenna concerning the wilderness character of Glacier National Park. If you can’t get past the newspaper’s paywall, just jump straight to the study’s immersive web page. You won’t regret it . . .

Two things about Glacier National Park might seem obvious but aren’t. First, for all its million wild acres of peaks and lakes, Glacier is not legally wilderness. And second, for all the satellites, traffic counters, lidar scanners and other gizmos monitoring activity in the park, we don’t have a good measuring stick showing how its wild qualities have changed over time…

Which brings us to that measuring stick and Brad Blickhan, Glacier’s wilderness and wild and scenic river corridor manager. Blickhan and colleague Jillian McKenna spent much of last year developing a “wilderness character” analysis of the park…

Read more . . .

Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River: Comprehensive River Management Planning Resumes

North Fork Flathead River from Ford Station - USFS
North Fork Flathead River from Ford Station – USFS

Here’s some good news! Work has resumed on the Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.

From the official press release . . .

Kalispell, MT, November 4, 2021– The Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, is excited to announce that after a year-long delay, planning efforts will begin once again on the Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. The project will continue to be coordinated by HydroSolutions Inc, a Helena, Montana natural resource consulting firm.

In the fall/winter of 2020 the project team was working on an initial draft of the CRMP. This plan along with an environmental assessment was anticipated to be released for public comment in January of 2020, with a final decision in the summer of 2020. The CRMP project was delayed due to lack of funding for completing the contract as well as staffing and capacity issues. In January 2021, the Forest Service secured additional funding to extend the contract with HydroSolutions through August 2022.

The purpose of the project is to fulfill the requirements of Section 3(d)(1) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that states that “the Federal agencies charged with the administration of each component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System shall prepare a comprehensive management plan…to provide for the protection of river values and Section 3(d) (2) that requires that river management plans for Wild and Scenic Rivers designated prior to 1986 be reviewed for conformity with the Act. Prior to developing the proposed action, six public engagement sessions were held to discuss water quality, wildlife, cultural and ethnography features, fisheries, geology and botany, and recreation and scenery. The Proposed Action was then drafted and released in late summer 2019, which included a 45-day public scoping period that generated 126 written comments and included two public meetings attended by approximately 180 people.

The purpose and need for the Flathead River CRMP Project, as stated in the proposed action is:

    • To protect and enhance the outstandingly remarkable values identified in the original designation.
    • To update the existing river management plan as required to maintain compliance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and to reflect changes that have occurred since designation (1976) in forest and park management, special status species, and other laws that affect resources within the Wild and Scenic River corridor.

This plan will be implemented through three primary mechanisms including intergovernmental coordination, individual agency action, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the public. This plan provides management direction and information on the desired river conditions as well as monitoring indicators, triggers, and thresholds for the Flathead Wild and Scenic River into the future. Future projects and site-specific activities must be consistent with the regulatory guidance provided in the CRMP as well as the Flathead Forest Plan.

Because some time has passed since the release of the proposed action, we encourage interested public to review the proposed action document and project background materials. The Proposed Action document highlights the elements of the CRMP that address the current status of the outstanding remarkable values along these river segments, outlines goals and desired conditions, describes the user capacity determination process, and proposes a monitoring strategy, indicators, and management direction to carry forward. The proposed action can be accessed at the Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan project website and the CRMP Project Background link on the Flathead NF CRMP Website includes all the materials from the 2018 Pre-scoping public engagement meetings and detailed project background.

The new project timeline anticipates that a Draft CRMP and environmental assessment will be released in the spring of 2022 for public review and comment. The project team plans to hold a public engagement session to provide more information and facilitate public input on the Draft Plan. The final decision and CRMP is expected to be released late summer 2022.

The Forest appreciates the public’s continued engagement and interest in the Flathead CRMP Project and look forward to receiving more input as we move forward. The Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River is a nationally and locally important resource. The Forest/Team is committed to developing a CRMP that will meet the requirements of the Wild and Scenic River Act and continue to protect and enhance the rivers free flowing conditions, water quality, and the outstandingly remarkable values for current and future generations.

Feds to explore relisting the gray wolf

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

Aggressive wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho are drawing the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . . .

On opening day of Montana’s expanded wolf-hunting season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it has decided to conduct an in-depth status review to determine whether state management plans aiming to aggressively reduce wolf populations threaten the recovery of gray wolves.

The agency now has a year to conduct a further review of the species using the best available science to determine whether listing under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.

The process was initiated this summer when environmental groups asked the agency to relist the animals through two separate petitions. The groups filed the petitions after lawmakers in Montana and Idaho passed laws that encouraged aggressive population reduction by broadening the methods hunters could use to harvest wolves and expanding the trapping season.

In a release about the decision, the agency wrote that the two petitions presented “substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.” and that the “new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat.”…

Read more . . .

Fed bears; dead bears

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

The Flathead Beacon has a good article by Tristan Scott discussing the loss of Monica and her three cubs, as well as the general North Fork community issues surrounding living with wildlife . . .

Twenty years ago, new arrivals to the remote North Fork Flathead River community of Polebridge were likely to hear some version of the following when asking for directions — just head north and hang a right at the pile of bear scat.

Situated on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, which merges with the Bob Marshall Wilderness to create the largest intact natural ecosystem in the Northern Rockies, the North Fork’s resident grizzly bear population has historically outnumbered its year-round residents, as evidenced by the prominent distribution of scatological droppings along the area’s trails and roadways. Still, the human interlopers who do call this wild chunk of country home have, more or less, learned how to coexist with their mammalian neighbors, reaching an accord that just comes with the territory in bear country.

And yet in recent years, due in part to the increased visitation at Glacier National Park, whose western boundary is defined by the North Fork Flathead River, as well as the expansion of commercial services in and around the community of Polebridge — leading to the development of “work camps” to house a growing number of seasonal workers — human-wildlife conflicts have been on the rise.

Read more . . .

Joint NFPA/NFLA press release: Small Community Loses Grizzly Family

For Immediate Release: September 8, 2021
Contact:
   Richard Hildner, NFLA President, richardhildner@icloud.com or
   Flannery Coats, NFPA President, flannery.e.coats@gmail.com

Small Community Loses Grizzly Family

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

Polebridge, Montana [September 8, 2021] – Bear #418, known to locals as Monica, was euthanized Saturday, September 4th along with her three female yearlings, after receiving a multitude of food rewards over the past week. Due to several incidents involving improper food and garbage storage within an eight-mile radius of the Polebridge townsite the bears were ultimately deemed food-conditioned. Monica had been a resident female grizzly bear in the North Fork Valley for 17 years.

In response, two local non-profits, the North Fork Landowners Association (nflandowners.org) and the North Fork Preservation Association (gravel.org), will be working together, along with agency partners, to help improve food and garbage storage in the area as well as to make financial aid resources from conservation organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and Vital Ground more readily available to residents and business owners in the North Fork.

The North Fork community deeply grieves the loss of Monica and her cubs and in the coming months will explore new avenues to further educate and assist residents and visitors in how to live and recreate in bear country in a manner safe for both bears and humans.

Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 - W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

Here’s the latest from Tim Manley on the tragic saga of Monica and her three cubs. It was posted to Facebook in the early morning hours of September 6th. Scroll to the end of this post for a photo gallery  . . .

Update on the grizzly bears… well, it was a difficult week. One that I would rather not repeat. I have read some of the comments and I understand everyone’s concerns and feelings. I think it is important to put a few things into context so everyone knows what transpired.

I am not going to mention names or locations but I think most people have heard about some of the locations where these incidents occurred. We tried to prevent further conflicts from occurring, but as you will see, this family group of bears were very food-conditioned and the property damage was extensive and knowing what they were going to do next was difficult to predict.

The adult female grizzly bear was known as Bear #418 or as we called her “Monica”. Based on the annual cementum of her premolar, her age was 20 years old. She was originally captured in 2004 as a sub-adult on the east side of the mountains at the site of a calf depredation. They didn’t know if she was the bear that killed the calf but the decision was made to relocate her to the west side of Glacier Park. She remained in the North Fork for 17 years and spent a majority of her time in Glacier Park, but denned in Hay Creek and on Cyclone.

Continue reading Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

A letter to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission regarding wolf management

Collared Wolf - courtesy USFWSHere’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.

Sincerely,

Flannery Coats, President
For the NFPA Board of Directors

ALERT: Less than a week to challenge horrific Montana wolf harvest proposals!

Gray Wolf

Several horrific bills were passed by the 2021 Montana Legislature that will harm wolves and grizzly bears! These include significant reduction of the wolf population through neck snaring, longer seasons, hunting at night with spotlights, larger bag limits, bounties, etc. These proposed changes are based on the angry emotions of a few legislators, and prohibit MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) from being able to reasonably manage wolves and bears based on the best science available. The FWP Commission will be voting on these proposed detrimental changes in August. We have until 5pm on July 26 to get comments to our commissioners against these disastrous new laws. Please comment before July 26! In your letter, please recommend “Option 1—Limited New Tools.” For more information & online comment submission go to: https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/public-comment-opportunities  and click on 2021 WOLF SEASON. You can also email the individual commissioners at:

Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission members

Announcing the Loren Kreck – Edwin Fields Wilderness Scholarship

View along Nasukoin Mtn Trail #375
View along Nasukoin Mtn Trail #375 in recommended wilderness area, Aug 19, 2020 – W K Walker

The North Fork Preservation Association(NFPA) is pleased to offer the Kreck/Fields Wilderness Scholarship to a graduate student at a Montana institution of higher education. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a student who is using their education to advocate and promote wilderness protection and preservation. This advocacy and promotion can be in the areas of public policy, literature, journalism or the arts. Specific fields of study can be but are not limited to wildlife biology, ecology, environmental studies, environmental law, journalism or the expressive arts.

The value of the scholarship is $1500, awarded annually. The distribution will go directly to the educational institution for tuition, fees, the acquisition of information technology or assigned books, journals and reports.

Continue reading at the Kreck/Fields Scholarship page  . . .

2021 edition of North Fork Bear News available online

Grizzly bear strolling along a roadThe 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.

View/download the 2021 North Fork Bear News (PDF, 5.68MB)