Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Conservation scrapped, climate change ignored

Dovetail, a "land with wilderness characteristics" not protected in 2019 Lewistown RMP - photo by Aubrey Bertram
Dovetail, a “land with wilderness characteristics” not protected in 2019 Lewistown RMP – photo by Aubrey Bertram

An alert from the Montana Wilderness Association concerning the current BLM Resource Management Plan for the area around Lewiston, in central Montana . . .

The Bureau of Land Management yesterday released a second version of a resource management plan (RMP) draft directing how the agency’s Lewistown Field Office will manage 650,000 surface acres of public lands in central Montana over the next 20 to 30 years.

We’ve dubbed this area “the wild heart of Montana,” because it’s one of America’s last and largest intact prairie ecosystems, supporting one of the most productive populations of ungulates in North America and a thriving host of grassland bird species. It’s a remote and stunning place of buttes, breaks, and unbroken grasslands bordering the Upper Missouri River Breaks, the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, and the UL Bend Wildlife Refuge. The area epitomizes what makes Montana so special.

But the preferred management option Interior presents in the draft RMP released today would protect none of this area. Instead, the RMP would open up almost all of it to oil and gas development and other uses that would diminish the wild character, wildlife habitat, and everything else that makes central Montana so special.

Read more . . .

Citizen science opportunities and trainings announced for 2019

From a Glacier Park news release . . .

Citizen Science Opportunities and Trainings Announced for 2019
Public Invited to Participate in Wildlife and Plant Research

West Glacier, MT –This summer, the public is invited to help the park track and study important species of concern through its citizen science program. The program allows participants to explore the park and learn about important park resources while collecting valuable data for park managers.

One citizen scientist said the experience was an “excuse to go into the park, sit down for an hour and just search with scope and binoculars—the greatest and most effective and cost-efficient therapy out there!”

Participants can help out with several projects on an ongoing basis, or attend a one-time citizen science event.

Citizen Science Projects

People who would like to collect data on a variety of species of concern and can commit to completing a minimum of three surveys should sign-up for a one-day training session to learn how to identify, observe, and record species information.

Once trained, citizen scientists are free to collect data during their own scheduled hiking trips in the park. Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986 to sign-up for training or for more information.

Scheduled training dates for all ongoing citizen science projects are listed below. Additional training sessions may be scheduled based on interest.

–      Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success.

West Glacier training dates:  May 7, May 14, June 27, July 9

St. Mary training date:  May 29

–      High Country Citizen Science

Document mountain goats and pikas at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates and genetic mapping. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive, and may be affected by changing climate.

West Glacier training dates: June 4, June 15, July 16, July 29

St. Mary training date:  June 26

–      Huckleberry Phenology Citizen Science 

Huckleberries are an important food source for wildlife, including grizzly bears. The park is collecting data to understand how weather and other factors influence the phenology, or timing, of berry ripeness.

West Glacier training date: June 6

–      Lynx Camera Trapping

Canada lynx are a rare and elusive predator native to Glacier National Park. The goal of this project is to learn the status of lynx populations in the park using camera traps to determine where they are currently present. Citizen scientists can help this research project by hiking to camera traps along trails to check and take down cameras. This is a new project, made possible by donor funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

West Glacier training date: August 1 (evening)

–      Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Counts

One of the most important migration routes for golden eagles and other raptors on their way from northern breeding grounds to warmer climates passes through the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. Citizen scientists count migrating raptors at Mount Brown or Lake McDonald Lodge.

West Glacier training date: August 27

Citizen Science Special Events

 Noxious Weed Blitz on July 18, 2019
Participants learn about the ecological impacts and identification of noxious weeds and assist in hand pulling.

July Wildlife Crossings Map-a-Thon
The park will hold a map-a-thon this summer to document wildlife crossings along US Highway 2. Multiple workshops will be held in July in West Glacier and East Glacier. Participant observations will help prioritize locations for wildlife crossing structures or other mitigation efforts to help keep wildlife migrating throughout the Crown of the Continent.

Alpine Bird Bioblitz on July 19, 2019
Participants will document and learn about twelve of Glacier’s alpine bird species.

Fall Fungus Bioblitz on October 12- 13, 2019
Participants team up with mycologists to identify as many species of fungus as they can find.

Citizen Science Program Information
Since 2005, the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center in Glacier National Park has managed the Glacier Citizen Science Program. It relies on trained citizen scientists to collect population data on species of interest to the park. Citizen science training informs participants about threats to native plants and animals that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. The citizen science program not only provides valuable data to park managers, but also creates an informed group of people involved in active Glacier National Park stewardship.

Glacier National Park Conservancy donors provide nearly all funding for the park’s citizen science program. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/rlc/crown/citizen-science.htm or contact the office at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986.

www.nps.gov

 

More than 150 apply for grizzly bear advisory panel

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Huh? How many?

There is quite a bit of interest in Governor Bullock’s grizzly bear advisory panel . . .

More than 150 people have applied to sit on an advisory committee to come up with recommendations on how to manage Montana’s grizzly bears.

Randy Arnold, a regional supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, tells The Missoulian the application process has been “flooded,” and the committee will probably consist of fewer than 20 people.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced in March he would appoint the committee, a move that came shortly after a judge restored federal protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Bears from Yellowstone and in northwestern Montana have been spreading into new areas, triggering conflicts with ranchers, hunters and others.

Read more . . .

FWP reports detail efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflicts

Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 - by Diane Boyd
Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 – by Diane Boyd

Here’s a nice article in the Daily Inter Lake discussing a set of wildlife management reports issued recently by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks . . .

The grizzly drew crowds in October as it prepared for denning by grazing with gusto in an oats field south of Polebridge along the North Fork Road.

As is often true in such encounters, a few spectators who acted recklessly in a quest for close-up photos created problems for the bear. Some people approached to within 20 feet of the grizzly, a subadult male, according to witnesses.

Ultimately, after attempts to haze the bear failed, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks decided to capture and move the bear. The animal was fitted with a GPS collar and released at Packers Roost in Glacier National Park.

Read more . . .

How to bring dark skies back in an increasingly developed world

Rural and urban night skies - Jeremy Stanley, Flickr
Rural and urban night skies – Jeremy Stanley, Flickr

If you wish to become well-informed about light pollution and the dark skies initiative, this article by Ethan Siegel is an excellent place to start. Dr. Siegel is a well known “science writer, astrophysicist, science communicator & NASA columnist.” . . .

For most of us here on planet Earth, navigating the world at night is just a little more challenging than during daytime. Without the Sun’s bright light to illuminate our world, our eyes do their best to adapt. Our color-sensing cones move back in our eyes while the monochrome-sensitive rods move forward. Our pupils dilate to larger diameters, letting more light in. Even in the wild, the Moon and stars provide enough light for a sufficiently dark-adapted eye to make out shapes and objects.

Evolutionarily, this was a spectacularly useful adaptation. Human vision may be optimally suited to daytime vision, but the ways our eyes adjust also allow us to perceive the Universe far beyond our world. Unfortunately, our connection with the night sky has been severed by a truly human endeavor: artificial lighting. While the benefits to public safety and commerce are inarguable, the tradeoff is unnecessary. Light pollution may a worse problem than ever, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

From a truly dark site — on a moonless night where there’s less artificial light generated on Earth than is incoming from the night sky — thousands of stars, multiple planets, the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, and up to four other galaxies beyond our own can be seen. Yet dark sites are becoming harder and harder to find, as the rise in artificial lighting has followed humanity wherever our species has settled. 80% of the entire world, including 99% of Europe and the United States, lives under light-polluted skies, where the Milky Way is never visible even under ideal weather conditions.

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Wolf population declining in Yellowstone

Wolf in Yellowstone National Park - Jim Peaco, YNP
Wolf in Yellowstone National Park – Jim Peaco, YNP

Disease and migration have reduced the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park by half since 2003 . . .

The gray wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has dropped to about 80 wolves, officials say — less than half of the high population mark in the park.

While Yellowstone leaders won’t have an accurate count until the fall after surviving pups are visible, the park’s top biologist doesn’t expect numbers to rise dramatically after litters are included in population estimates.

“Unfortunately, many of them die. Gray pup survival is about 7 percent,” Doug Smith, long-time project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a Wednesday video broadcast on the park’s Facebook page.

Read more . . .

Another lawsuit challenges Flathead Forest plan

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

As promised, Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition have filed suit against the new Flathead Forest Plan . . .

Two environmental groups have filed suit against the Forest Service and other federal agencies claiming the new Flathead National Forest plan doesn’t do enough to protect grizzly bears and bull trout.

The suit, filed by Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition, claims road rules under the new plan reverse a decades-old policy that closed roads in the 2.4 million-acre Forest.

The suit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the two groups.

Read more . . .

Court rejects water permit for mine near Cabinet Wilderness

Leigh Lake below Snowshoe Peak, highest point in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness - Wikipedia image
Leigh Lake below Snowshoe Peak, highest point in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness – Wikipedia image

Hecla Mining, which is trying to establish two mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, lost a round in district court last week . . .

A Lewis and Clark County District Court judge has struck down a water permit issued by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for the proposed Rock Creek Mine near Noxon.

The decision by Judge Kathy Seeley last week is the latest in a series of setbacks for Idaho-based Hecla Mining Company, which is trying to permit and develop two copper and silver mines in Northwest Montana. But environmental groups cheered the decision and said it was a major step forward in protecting the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, which sits directly above the proposed mines.

“The court’s rulings safeguards some of the purest waters in the lower 48 from the destructive impacts threatened by the Rock Creek Mine,” said Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien. “The ruling also affirms that the state’s job is to protect Montana’s waters from the benefits of all Montanans — not to give those waters away to corporate interests without taking a hard look at the impacts.”

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Satellite imagery helps spot Glacier Park’s huckleberry patches

Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall - USGS photo
Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall – USGS photo

Researchers have developed a new tool to spot huckleberry patches in Glacier Park . . .

The average huckleberry is about as big around as a pencil eraser. But now we can spot them from space.

Several years of refinement have allowed researchers in Glacier National Park to tease apart landscape photos and pinpoint huckleberry patches. The method works on both aerial and satellite photos.

That could qualify as classified intelligence for some secrecy-bound huckleberry hunters. U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Tabitha Graves and biologist Nate Michael joked they could be endangering themselves by revealing berry hot spots.

Read more . . .