Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Holland Lake expansion proposal puts spotlight on lodging in grizzly habitat

A grizzly bear tips a dead tree near Obsidian Creek in Yellowstone NP - Jim Peaco, NPS
A grizzly bear tips a dead tree near Obsidian Creek in Yellowstone NP – Jim Peaco, NPS

Here’s a very interesting report from the recent winter Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee NCDE subcommittee meeting regarding a debate, triggered by the recent application by POWDR to expand lodging at Holland Lake, over how to handle such issues when they affect core grizzly habitat. Even better, the meeting was chaired by Flathead Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele, who is currently juggling the Holland Lake hot potato.

…The disagreement over land management, specifically development of more overnight lodging, was laid bare in Missoula Friday morning at the winter meeting of the NCDE Subcommittee. That’s part of the national Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which coordinates the species’ recovery across six ecosystems in the West.

Tensions were high because of a recent proposal from Utah-based ski corporation POWDR to significantly expand Holland Lake Lodge in the Swan Valley, within the NCDE. The Flathead National Forest recently rejected the proposal. POWDR stated it plans to submit a new, similar proposal of the same size…

Continue reading . . .

Michael Jamison awarded for work furnishing permanent protections on the North Fork

Michael Jamison at Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit Fireside Chat and Film Festival, Dec 5, 2018 - Justin Franz, Flathead Beacon
Michael Jamison at Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit Fireside Chat and Film Festival, Dec 5, 2018 – Justin Franz, Flathead Beacon

Wow! The Flathead Beacon has a great article on Michael Jamison, centered around his selection by the North Fork Preservation Association as this year’s Glacier National Park Stewardship Award recipient.

Well done. Recommended reading!

In the eight years since helping broker a deal to pass historic federal legislation that permanently banned new energy development along the North Fork Flathead River, which forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park, Michael Jamison has continued to furnish protections to all corners of the Crown of the Continent.

…In those eight years, Jamison has received plenty of awards and accolades for his work, but the most recent feather in his cap marks his proudest recognition.

Earlier this month, the North Fork Preservation Association (NFPA) announced it had selected Jamison as this year’s Glacier National Park Stewardship Award recipient.

Read more . . .

Court order changes wolf hunting season, effective immediately

Gray Wolf - Adam Messer-Montana FWPOn Tuesday, a District Court in Lewis and Clark County issued a temporary restraining order impacting some of Montana’s wolf hunting and trapping regulations. The changes go into effect immediately. The order restores the 2020 wolf quotas for several units, including the old two-wolf limit for WMU 110, which covers the North Fork. It also restricts “hunters and trappers to harvesting five wolves total per person, per season” and prohibits the use of snares. There’s a hearing scheduled for November 28 on this order.

Read more in the official press release . . .

Background information: Lawsuit asks for halt to Montana wolf hunt (Helena IR)

Two Kreck/Fields Scholarship Winners Announced for 2022

The NFPA Awards Committee found  the applicant pool for this year’s Kreck/Fields Scholarship so strong they decided to award two scholarships . . .

Jacob Bretz

Jacob Bretz

Jacob Bretz is a Masters Student at University  of Montana in the field of Environmental Philosophy. Jacob says “ The environmental problem is the existential issue of our time.”

Najifa Farhat

Najifa Farhat

Najifa Farhat is a Masters student at the University of Montana in Journalism, Environmental Science and Natural Resources. Najifa, a professional journalist reporting on environmental issues in Bangladesh prior to coming to Montana told us “my passion for writing and advocacy of issues related to nature, earth and the environment brought me into this profession.”

Scores of wildlife biologists criticize Holland Lake Lodge proposed expansion

The Holland Lake Lodge project continues to draw fire. You’ll see some familiar names in the signature block . . .

Holland Lake Lodge

United States Forest Service
Swan Lake Ranger District
Attn: Shelli Mavor (Holland Lake Lodge)
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, Montana 59911

Re: 1950 (0110): Proposed Holland Lake Lodge Facility Expansion

To: Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurtis Steele,

Commercialization of wildlife habitat on public lands for corporate profit is wrong

We are 38 Montana professional wildlife biologists and habitat managers with a total of 1,196 years of experience who have served as university faculty, commissioners on the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, or as professional agency staff with the U. S. Forest Service; Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks; U.S. Geological Survey; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. National Park Service; and Tribal wildlife agencies.

An “adventure lifestyle” corporation, POWDR Inc., has proposed to expand Holland Lake Lodge, which operates on public land via a USFS special use permit. This proposal is apparently fully supported by the Flathead Forest Supervisor who said: “Improvements at the Holland Lake Lodge and the East Holland Lake Connector Trailhead would offer the opportunity to satisfy some of the increased demand for outdoor recreation on public lands in the Swan and Flathead Valleys.” This project will not “satisfy increased demand for outdoor recreation” but instead will massively increase demand with many negative impacts of outdoor recreation in prime grizzly bear and lynx habitat.

Continue reading Scores of wildlife biologists criticize Holland Lake Lodge proposed expansion

Beyond the border: A tale of two rivers

Kootenai River
Kootenai River

One of the North Fork Preservation Association’s founding goals was fighting resource extraction upstream in the Canadian Flathead Valley. This article provides a vivid illustration of what could have happened in the transboundary Flathead and what did happen in the Elk/Kootenai watershed just to our west . . .

On a recent late-August morning, buzzing above the peak-studded North Fork Flathead River Valley in a single-engine Cessna, the familiar summits of Glacier National Park dominated the view to the east, revealing a sky-high harbor of sapphire-green amphitheaters filigreed with waterfalls and bejeweled with cerulean lakes, representing a sliver of the one-million-acre ecosystem permanently protected from the intrusions of industry.

On board the six-seater plane were Erin Sexton, a senior research scientist with the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, and Richard Janssen, head of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ (CSKT) Natural Resource Department, as well as a trio of journalists and pilot Bruce Gordon, founder of the nonprofit EcoFlight, which for more than three decades has worked to illuminate critical environmental issues on western landscapes.

Cruising amid calm, clear skies, Gordon’s flight plan called for an aerial tour of the North Fork Flathead River Valley girding Glacier Park and spanning the U.S.-Canada border, where mining and energy development has been banned for years, before crossing over into the Elk and Kootenai (spelled Kootenay in Canada) River Basin south of Fernie, British Columbia (B.C.), below which a chain of open-pit coal mines is responsible for leaching harmful pollutants into Montana.

Continue reading . . .

[Update: September 30] See also this photo-heavy article from the National Wildlife Federation about the same flight: An Eye in the Sky: Transboundary Mining.

Judge reinstates drilling lease in Badger-Two Medicine

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

The zombie case that just won’t die…

A federal judge on Friday reinstated the last remaining drilling lease on land in the Badger-Two Medicine region near the Blackfeet Reservation, renewing the threat of industrialization on lands held sacred to the tribe even as its cultural leaders pledge to continue their fight.

“It’s just more of the same from people who refuse to consult with the Blackfeet Nation about the industrialization of our last cultural refuge,” John Murray, the Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve lived under this kind of reckless threat to our sacred lands for decades, and we will never surrender to roads and drill rigs in the Badger-Two Medicine.”

The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area flanking Glacier National Park was canceled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, a decision upheld by a federal appeals court in 2020.

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Keeping it wild: how mules help preserve the last untamed places in the US

Chinese Wall - Bob Marshall Wilderness
Chinese Wall – Bob Marshall Wilderness

Here’s an excellent article centered on the Bob Marshal Wilderness. NFPA founding member Frank Vitale gets more than just a passing mention.

(And there’s even a link back to this website. See if you can find it.) . . .

Here’s a partial list of things you cannot, under any circumstances, take into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, in Montana: chainsaws, mountain bikes, ATVs, tractors, wheelbarrows. If it has gears, it stays home. If it’s mechanical in any way, it’s a no-go.

Those are the rules deemed necessary to protect the United States’ 803 federally designated wilderness areas. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, with its 1,849 miles of trails, happens to be one of the biggest.

The Bob, as it is affectionately called by Montanans, is home to wolves, grizzlies, elk, moose and mountain lions. The pristine territory is more than 1.5m acres, roughly eight times the size of New York City. And thanks to the 1964 Wilderness Act, it is not crossed by a single road. Drones and bush planes are also, today, strictly forbidden.

But here’s what you can take along for the ride instead: the humble mule.

Continue reading . . .

Larry Wilson: Remembering Frederick

John Frederick - by Steven Gnam
John Frederick – by Steven Gnam

Larry Wilson had nice things to say about the NFPA 40th anniversary annual meeting in his Hungry Horse News column this week . . .

I still miss John Frederick. Over the years we became close friends although our political views were usually completely opposed. We had hundreds of political discussions and we both enjoyed them. We both recognized that the other had the same or similar goals in mind—we just differed on how to reach those goals.

I thought of John a lot this week because he was one of the founders of the North Fork Preservation Association which celebrated its fortieth anniversary this week, and there were photos of John and even a sweatshirt with his likeness on it.

I have never been a member of the NFPA, but I always try to attend their annual meeting The business portion is always short—they tend to re-elect their officers almost automatically—John Frederick was president for over twenty years and our friend Frank Vitale was Vice-President for an equal number of years.

What they do have every year, including this year, is a knowledgeable, interesting and informative speaker. Also, I really enjoy the members and the opportunity to see and talk with them.

Read more…

New Study Shows Risks of Moving Grizzlies

Trail camera in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem shows a sow grizzly and two cubs at a hair corral site used to collect DNA samples - Wayne Kasworth, USFWS
Trail camera in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem shows a sow grizzly and two cubs at a hair corral site used to collect DNA samples – Wayne Kasworth, USFWS

Looks like the success rate for relocating grizzlies is not very encouraging . . .

Moving grizzly bears is no easy task. It’s far better to let them move themselves.

That’s the takeaway from a new study published in The Wildlife Society’s Journal of Wildlife Management. The investigation analyzes 40 years of grizzly translocation events performed in Alberta, Canada. It determines that out of 110 attempts, just 33 translocations—or 30 percent—succeeded.

That conclusion supports some long-established foundations for our work here at Vital Ground. Wildlife managers use translocation both to remove problem bears from an area and to bolster recovering grizzly populations. In either case, the new research demonstrates that relocating bears is far from a cure-all.

Continue reading . . .