Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Cameron Naficy to speak at Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day, July 24

Waterton Lake
Waterton Lake

Long-time NFPA member Cameron Naficy will be speaking at Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day in Waterton Townsite on July 24, 2018. Here’s the post from the Landscapes in Motion website . . .

15th Annual Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day
Where: Falls Theatre, Waterton Townsite, Waterton Lakes National Park
When: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 — 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with park entry fee and open to all

Cameron’s Talk: A multi-century, transboundary perspective on the fire ecology of the Crown of the Continent
9:45-10:15 a.m.

Cameron will present a talk about the fire ecology of the distinct forest systems on opposite sides of the Continental Divide. He will discuss how forest resilience has changed in the face of increased fire activity driven by climate change, and will present a unique view of how these ecosystems are responding to recent large fires. This is a chance to meet Cameron and learn more about the big picture of fire ecology in a changing world.

For more information about the Waterton-Glacier Science and History Day, visit https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/waterton/activ/evenements-events/journee-science-day

Poll indicates strong support for public land protections

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

The University of Montana ran a bi-partisan poll back in June that indicated very strong support for protecting public lands, including the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

A University of Montana poll done last month found there’s strong support for national monument status for the Badger Two Medicine region near Glacier National Park.

The Badger-Two Medicine is a 130,000-acre wildland south of Marias Pass on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. It is known for its elk herd and is prime grizzly bear habitat. The Blackfeet Tribe consider the ground sacred.

It’s also been embroiled in controversy for decades, as oil and gas companies have sought to drill for oil and gas there. Currently, there’s a lawsuit in federal court over the matter, as the Obama Administration canceled all the existing leases in the area during the waning days of the administration, paying off the companies in the process.

The UM poll found that 76 percent of voters supported a national monument designation for the Badger-Two Med.

Read more . . .

Interior proposes reworking of Endangered Species Act

Grizzly bear sow with three cubs - NPS photo
Grizzly bear sow with three cubs – NPS photo

Here’s an excellent article by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian concerning the Interior Department’s proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. . . .

Proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act would give federal agencies much more leeway to shrink critical habitat and modify protection rules for vulnerable animals and plants.

Interior and Commerce department officials unveiled the proposals in a Thursday morning conference call with reporters. The regulation changes must go through a public comment process and could become policy by the end of 2018. Coincidentally, another set of ESA changes has been drafted into proposed legislation before Congress.

Both moves come as a new national survey shows strong support for the Endangered Species Act among four out of five Americans.

Read more . . .

Also read: Interior Department Proposes a Vast Reworking of the Endangered Species Act (NY Times)

New advocacy group to watchdog aquatic invasive species efforts

Flathead Lake
Flathead Lake

This is interesting.

Late last year, Montana DNRC managed to kill funding for the Flathead Basin Commission. The FBC had been getting a little too pushy, especially in regards to Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention efforts. Well, it appears those annoying folks popped right back up as an independent organization named Watershed Protection Advocates . . .

A new player has emerged in the fight for the protection of the region’s waters, and next month the Watershed Protection Advocates of Northwest Montana will begin filling out its own “report card” on other agencies in the region.

The new advocacy group was formed by a number of former Flathead Basin Commission board members after the Flathead Basin Protection Fund pulled its financial support of the commission.

Watershed Protection Advocates is chaired by former Flathead Basin Commission chairperson Jan Metzmaker, and former Flathead Basin Commission Executive Director Caryn Miske is the sole contractor for the new advocacy group. Miske was terminated form her position on the commission in February following a series of allegations of misconduct made by Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials.

Read more . . .

Jane Goodall joins Wyoming protestors in buying up griz hunt tags

Grizzly on ranch east of Yellowstone - Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Grizzly on ranch east of Yellowstone – Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Now, here’s an interesting approach to combating Wyoming’s grizzly bear hunt. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is . . .

Jane Goodall is a global icon, perhaps the most admired living environmentalist and legendary for her research with chimpanzees. Cynthia Moss is famous for her conservation work in eastern Africa battling elephant poachers and speaking out against trophy hunting.

Within the last few days, Goodall, 84, and Moss, 78, entered a lottery hoping to win a coveted hunting license in Wyoming allowing them to sport shoot a grizzly bear in the Yellowstone region. They have no aspirations to actually kill a bruin. Their maneuver is part of a mass act of civil disobedience to protest Wyoming’s controversial hunt of up to 22 grizzlies—the first in 44 years—slated to commence only weeks from now.

Called “Shoot ‘em With A Camera, Not A Gun,” the impromptu campaign, spearheaded mainly by women, has caught hunting officials in Wyoming off guard. It has also created a groundswell among those who condemn the state’s recommencement of a trophy season on grizzlies just a year after they were removed from federal protection. In May, Wyoming’s wildlife commission approved the hunt unanimously 7-0.

Read more . . .

Plan aims to preserve griz habitat

Grizzly Bear - courtesy NPS
Grizzly Bear – courtesy NPS

Here’s a good article in the Hungry Horse News on the federal habitat plan intended to provide protection for grizzly bears in this corner of the country even after they are removed from the Endangered Species List . . .

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed off on plan May 16 that looks to maintain grizzly bear habitat and recovery along the Continental Divide even after the bear is removed from the Endangered Species List.

The Habitat Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes about 8 million acres of land along the Divide from Glacier National Park south to Ovando, looks to maintain road density and other standards on federal lands, though it does include some wiggle room.

Roads and bears over the years have been a controversial subject, as federal land agencies — most notably the Forest Service, have either closed or completely torn out hundreds of miles of dirt roads that once criss-crossed the Forest. Studies have found that roads and grizzlies don’t mix — not because grizzlies won’t cross roads — they will — but because open roads often result in poaching or other forms of bear deaths due to interactions with humans.

Read more . . .

Habitat rules for grizzly delisting released

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

Amid substantial debate, plans for removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List proceed apace . . .

A crucial piece of the plan to hand the biggest population of grizzly bears in Montana over to state management was released on Thursday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem describes what grizzlies there need to remain off Endangered Species Act protection if the federal government decides to delist them. A full delisting plan for the grizzlies should come up for public review in June.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) stretches from the southern tip of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex north to the Canadian border. It includes Glacier National Park, but does not connect to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park. An estimated 1,000 grizzly bears inhabit the NCDE.

Read more . . .

Wyoming approves its griz hunt

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

Here’s a pretty good overview of Wyoming’s recently approved grizzly bear hunt . . .

A debate over whether the Yellowstone ecosystem’s grizzly bear population can thrive while being hunted will be put to the test this fall after Wyoming officials on Wednesday approved the state’s first grizzly hunt in 44 years.

The hunt, approved 7-0 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, could allow as many as 22 grizzlies to be killed in a wide area east and south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Hunt proponents and opponents made last-minute pleas before the commission, which held several public meetings on the hunt around the state and tweaked the hunt rules in response to some previous comments.

Read more . . .

Excellent commentary on conservation and 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.

The Flathead Beacon has posted a couple of excellent, well-reasoned op-eds over the past week.

The first, by Jim McCormack, titled What Happened to the Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist? takes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to task for gutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund .

The second, Montanans Want a Say on the Future of Our Wild Public Lands by Connie and Mack Long, has some pointed and reasonable things to say about the importance of public involvement when making broad decisions about public lands.

Wolf population estimate at 900, up about 50 from last year

Gray Wolf

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released its annual wolf population estimate recently. Short version: They think there are abut 900 wolves in the state now, up from 851 a year earlier . . .

There are roughly 900 wolves in Montana according to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, the 13th consecutive year that Montana has exceeded wolf recovery goals.

FWP now estimates wolf numbers using a method called Patch Occupancy Modeling. The old way of trying to count wolves from an airplane became a less accurate picture of wolf numbers as the wolf population grew beyond the agency’s ability to count them. Additionally, the old method was expensive and took a lot of staff time.

FWP has used POM estimates along with the old minimum counts for several years. POM uses wolf sightings reported to FWP during annual deer hunter surveys, known wolf locations, habitat variables and research-based wolf territory and pack sizes to estimate wolf distribution and population size across the state. The most recent POM estimates were 961 wolves in 2015 and 851 in 2016. Data has been gathered for 2017 estimates and analysis will take place during summer 2018.

Read more . . .

Also read the Montana FWP press release: Wolf numbers remained strong in 2017