Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Lynx delisting proposal triggers conflict

Canada lynx - USFWS
Canada lynx – USFWS

Here’s a pretty good, locally focused backgrounder on the USFWS proposal to delist the Canada Lynx. You’ll encounter several familiar names . . .

The new millennium brought a new challenge for Lorin Hicks.

For years, Hicks has worked as a wildlife biologist for Weyerhaeuser and its predecessor, Plum Creek Timber Co., studying the inhabitants of Northwest Montana’s sensitive forests.

He gained a new research focus in 2000, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Continental U.S. population segment of Canada lynx as a threatened species. That move required the agencies that manage area forests to take the lynx’s well-being into account.

Read more . . .

No Montana grizzly hunt in 2018

Grizzly Sow with Two Cubs - Wikipedia en:User Traveler100
Grizzly Sow with Two Cubs – – Wikipedia en:User Traveler100

As expected, Montana Fish and Wildlife Commissioners voted not to allow hunting of Yellowstone grizzlies this year. Basically, they are waiting for the dust to settle before they make a move . . .

Montana won’t hold a grizzly bear hunt in 2018 after state officials said Thursday they want to avoid complicating lawsuits over the animal’s legal status.

Federal officials last year lifted Endangered Species Act protections for about 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park, opening the door to potential hunting in the three-state region.

Montana wildlife commissioners said letting hunters kill some of those bears could give momentum to pending legal challenges that seek to restore protections.

Read more . . .

Keeping partnership vision intact

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

This op-ed has been making the rounds of local and state newspapers for the past week.

The NFPA has been a member of the Whitefish Range Partnership from the beginning . . .

There’s a lot of bad news about divisiveness in America. Here’s a local good-news story: Folks with very diverse interests in the Flathead Valley met over a 13-month period, got way past “No!” and achieved a unanimous agreement on national forest management. Sound impossible? No, not really. The Flathead Forest has formally adopted most of the Whitefish Range Partnership’s recommendations in their recently released revised forest plan, proving that local input matters, and that people who work together in good faith can have a positive impact.

The Partnership focused exclusively on the Whitefish Range, located north of Whitefish and west of Glacier Park. Our group is composed of nearly 30 members from landowners, business owners, wilderness advocates, motorized recreationists, horsemen, fishermen and women, mountain bikers, timber interests, and wildlife and trails advocates, among others.

The Partnership came together early in the Flathead Forest plan revision process. This was the first time that many historically divergent interests in the Flathead sat in the same room together to try and talk it out. In the beginning no one was sure what we were doing or what would come of it. But, after the first few meetings, we were able to define our collective vision for the Whitefish Range and began putting our results on paper.

We worked in sub-committees on ten subjects ranging from wildland and prescribed fire, to fisheries, weed management, recreation, and more. Experts came and shared information about each topic to inform our work, and keep us within the Forest Service laws and guidelines. Committees reported back to the larger group for further debate and a vote. By our own rules, we had to reach 100 percent consensus on each topic before we could proceed to the next.

So, what’s resulted from this hard work?

In the end, we agreed unanimously to submit our recommendations on ten subjects to the Forest Service. Everyone felt that by supporting one another, each of our values could be elevated in the planning process for the Whitefish Range. Where and how was timber harvest best? Where are the areas that snowmobiling is important and desired? Where should there be more trails? What special areas should be protected as Wilderness? These are examples of the elements of our agreement.

Ultimately, for our partnership to succeed, we need to see a signed forest plan. It’s important that officials in Washington DC allow the Flathead Forest plan to proceed and conclude without top-down interference. The Final Plan should be signed following the official “objection period” that is currently underway.

Collaborative groups and processes represent the best available opportunities for resolving socially complex, natural resource decision-making. Other Montana-based collaboratives, like the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition, can only succeed if our elected officials and our local decision-makers consider and act on citizen recommendations.

In this period of American history where many people – and many elected officials – seem to think that their point of view is the only point of view, we recommend talking and listening, and coming up with forest plans, community plans, even state and national legislation, that reflects the consensus of the community served.

We wish to thank the Flathead Forest planning staff for taking time, providing resources, and listening to citizens. While the Flathead staff clearly considered other points of view and suggestions for the North Fork Geographic Unit (the Whitefish Range), as reflected in the Final Plan, the plan also reflects the consensus of the Whitefish Range Partnership.

Noah Bodman, Flathead Area Mountain bikers; Allen Chrisman, North Fork Compact; Paul McKenzie, F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company; Amy Robinson, Montana Wilderness Association; Heidi Van Everen, Whitefish Legacy Partners; Bill Walker, North Fork Preservation Association; Larry Wilson, North Fork landowner

On behalf of the Whitefish Range Partnership.

River management plan meeting March 6

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

Now that the Forest Plan is in its final stages, the Forest Service and allied agencies are rolling up its sleeves and getting to work on a management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River. Here’s a good overview by the Hungry Horse News. See also the official Comprehensive River Management Plan announcement . . .

Columbia Falls will host the first of several meetings on a new comprehensive river management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. March 6 at the Cedar Creek Lodge Conference Room.

The Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park are embarking on a joint plan to track river use on the three forks of the Flathead, with the eventual goal of crafting management plans for the Wild and Scenic rivers.

Read more . . .

Press release: Flathead Wild and Scenic River: Comprehensive River Management Plan

‘Our land, our legacy’ campaign launches

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

A message from our friends at the Montana Wilderness Association…

On Monday morning, February 5, we helped launch the campaign for our Our Land, Our Legacy – a diverse group of Montanans from across the state who have come together to celebrate and defend Montana’s 44 wilderness study areas (WSAs), which comprise more than 1 million acres of Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

Five of our wilderness study areas, a half-million acres in all, are under attack by Senator Steve Daines, who introduced a bill in December (S. 2206) that would open these areas to oil and gas development and destructive off-road vehicle use.

Each of the folks featured in Our Land, Our Legacy has a special relationship to one or more of the WSAs and can speak on behalf of these places like few others. We’re proud to have them as our partners in fighting tooth and nail for Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

The launch of Our Land, Our Legacy drew a wave of media, locally and nationally, from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to the Ravalli Republic to U.S News & World Report. On Tuesday, Our Land, Our Legacy advertisements opposing Sen. Daines’ bill appeared in newspapers across the state.

Then on Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) held a hearing on the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas. With support from a spectrum of interests, from timber to outdoor recreation to conservation, this proposal is truly the product of grassroots collaboration happening in Montana, and it shows in the 74 percent approval it gets from Montanans. We couldn’t be more grateful to Senator Jon Tester for championing this bill.

The grassroots, bipartisan roots of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act stands in stark contrast to the other Montana public lands bill that got a hearing in the SENR on Wednesday – Sen. Daines’ WSA bill. In the hearing, Sen. Daines claimed he had the support of Montana’s communities for this top-down, one-size-fits-all bill.

Only a few hours later at a Ravalli County Commission meeting in Hamilton, Montana, MWA members proved Sen. Daines wrong.

Oh so wrong.

Thanks to the mobilizing efforts of our staff and volunteers, around 250 people showed up to the open meeting, held to address a letter the commission sent to Senator Daines in support of stripping protection from two of the WSAs in the bill – Sapphire and Blue Joint, which mostly lie in Ravalli County.

A staggering 153 people signed into the county meeting as opposed to Senator Daines’ bill, only 41 in support. Over the course of the next few hours, 52 people testified against the bill, 20 in favor. Moreover, 78 people sent the commission emails opposing the bill, compared to 20 in favor.

Read more about the meeting.

Please take a moment to visit the Our Land, Our Legacy website. Be sure to watch the video featuring some of the Our Land, Our Legacy spokespeople, and then sign the letter asking Montana’s congressional delegation to take a more balanced and inclusive approach to Montana’s WSAs.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, let the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee know that you oppose Sen. Daines’ bill, S. 2206. You can email the committee at fortherecord@energy.senate.gov.

 

ALERT: Tell Sen. Daines to stand up for our values

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

Two important bills will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, February 7.  Senator Steve Daines is a member of this committee.

Please call Senator Daines’ office today at (202) 224-2651.

(1)  Ask Senator Daines to SUPPORT S. 507, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

This bill is the result of an agreement reached by a diversity of citizens—mill owners, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, backcountry horsemen, business owners, and conservationists.  The bill meets the needs of these diverse forest users, while designating 80,000 acres of new wilderness and solving many other business and recreation problems.  Senator Tester proposed this citizen-developed legislation while Senator Daines has refused to endorse it even though 3 out of 4 Montanans support the bill.  Let Senator Daines know that he needs to co-sponsor this made-in-Montana legislation.

(2)  Ask Senator Daines to OPPOSE S. 2206, which will end protection of many of Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas.

This bill, introduced by Senator Daines, represents the biggest rollback of protected public land in Montana’s history.  Not a single public hearing was held before crafting this legislation affecting almost half of million acres of some of most remote and beautiful public lands in our state, including Big Snowies, Middle Fork Judith, West Pioneers, Sapphire Mountains, and the Blue Joint.  Rather than save these lands for future generations to enjoy in their wild state, this legislation could open them for mining, drilling, or destructive development.  Ask Senator Daines to withdraw his support for this bill and allow citizens to have a voice in what happens in our wilderness study areas.

Thanks for your support of NFPA.

Warm Regards,

Debo Powers, NFPA President

US FWS considering lynx delisting

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

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing the Canada lynx from the threatened species list . . .

Wildlife officials in the United States declared Canada lynx recovered on Thursday [January 11] and said the snow-loving wild cats no longer need special protections following steps to preserve their habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it will begin drafting a rule to revoke the lynx’s threatened listing across the Lower 48 state under the Endangered Species Act. Wildlife advocates said they would challenge the move.

First imposed in 2000, the threatened designation has interrupted numerous logging and road building projects on federal lands, frustrating industry groups and Western lawmakers.

Read more . . .

G. George Ostrom: Gianforte peddling wrong thing

U.S. Rep. Greg Gainforte is taking heat from across the political spectrum for supporting “bikes over wilderness” legislation. This latest zinger is from G. George Ostrom . . .

Worrisome news recently broke with the new U.S. House Rep. Greg Gianforte, from Montana, suggesting the Wilderness Bill be amended to allow bicycles and other questionable uses. He implied the original bill allowed such things. As this paper’s editor, Chris Peterson, pointed out in his fine column last week, Gianforte has a very bad idea and, from this columnist’s point of view, Gianforte is inaccurate in his statement, not to mention the very real dangers bike riders would create for themselves and other legitimate users.

Please let me remind readers that I interrupted my growing journalistic career, sold my home and moved my family from Washington D.C. to help write the Wilderness Bill in the 87th Congress. I came home in debt from what we accomplished, but felt proud and honored to have been a part of it.

Read more . . .

States battle the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting DIsease (CWD) - illustration of effects on elk
Chronic Wasting DIsease (CWD) – illustration of effects on elk

From the New York Times comes this article about what the states, especially Montana, are doing to combat deer family CWD . . .

As darkness closed in, one hunter after another stopped at this newly opened game check station, deer carcasses loaded in the beds of their pickups.

They had been given licenses for a special hunt, and others would follow. Jessica Goosmann, a wildlife technician with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department, stepped outside to greet them, reaching for the neck of each freshly killed deer to cut an incision and remove a lymph node for testing.

On the edge of this south-central Montana village, where deer hunting is a way of life, the game check station has become the front line of the state’s efforts to stop the spread of a deadly infection known as chronic wasting disease.

Read more . . .

Study: Closing roads counters effects of habitat loss for grizzlies

Grizzly bear cubs on old road bed - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Grizzly bear cubs on old road bed – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Here’s an interesting roads vs. grizzlies study based on DNA data out of British Columbia . . .

It’s simple math, says scientist Clayton Lamb. The closer grizzly bears are to humans, the more ways there are for the bears to die. Put more simply, more roads equal fewer grizzly bears.

In a recent study examining a long-term DNA dataset of grizzly bear activity in British Columbia, Lamb and his colleagues conclusively determined what scientists have long suspected: higher road density leads to lower grizzly bear density, a critical problem for a species still rebounding from a long period of human persecution.

“The problem with grizzly bears and roads is a North American-wide issue. This is the first time that strongly links roads to decreased grizzly bear density,” said Lamb…

Read more . . .