Alongside many Flathead conservation groups, we are asking our supporters and members to please sign the EPA petition to get CFAC and the main stem of the Flathead river cleaned up once and for all! From headwaters to main waters, you can be a part of the bigger, cleaner picture. There’s more work to come, but for now, you can learn more and sign your name to the petition by visiting the Coalition for a Clean CFAC website.
You can also read a short summary of the situation below.
Summary written by Peter Metcalf; lightly edited here…
We are reaching out to you about the cleanup of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant Superfund site in hope you may be concerned and willing to help. We are part of a growing group of concerned citizens who are pressing for a complete cleanup of the approximately 1.2 million cubic yards of contaminants that remain on site. It’s a doozy of nasty chemicals, including cyanide, fluoride, arsenic and selenium. The proposed “cleanup” plan would leave all this waste on site where it can potentially leach into nearby drinking water wells or the Flathead river. Rather than restored or redeveloped, the 960-acre site would be mostly off limits to future human uses. For years the local citizens and the elected leaders have consistently asked for the waste to be removed. But CFAC did not analyze this option during the feasibility study. The company simply dismissed it as too costly and too disruptive to local communities to truck the waste and too costly. (They conveniently glossed over the fact that for nearly 20 years they removed toxic waste by the existing rail line to a hazardous waste landfill out of state.
We are at a critical juncture. The EPA is reviewing the proposed plan and expects to issue a decision this spring. We are trying to get the EPA to stop their decision making process and require a full cost-benefit analysis be conducted before issuing a final plan. We are also trying to organize a community visioning process to help determine the future uses of the site. So how can you help?
Please share the petition with others. You can do so by forwarding the website link or by passing along the flyer and paper petition to collect signatures (linked below). We need as many signatures as possible.
Contact our elected officials (especially the county commissioners) and ask them to tell the EPA they do not support the proposed waste-in-place plan.
A fascinating article on mountain lions with a North Fork focus and some excellent photos . . .
Populations of big cats are declining globally because of habitat loss and poaching, but mountain lion numbers are increasing. They are the most successful large cats in the Americas and live from the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in South America, north to Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Jim Williams, author, biologist and former regional director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says Montana has two to four times as many lions as wolves on the landscape. More mountain lions live in Glacier National Park than Yellowstone proper, Williams says, due to the high white-tailed deer population in Glacier, and wolf packs in Yellowstone have displaced mountain lions from the high, open plains to the northern region of the park where deep canyons and steep slopes are prevalent. “There are 4.9 resident adults per 100 square kilometers in Glacier,” he said. “That’s the highest we’ve detected in Montana.”
The story below happened in Glacier, but could have easily occurred in Greater Yellowstone or anywhere carnivores face off in conflict.
Federal wildlife managers denied a petition to restore ESA protections to the gray wolf population in the northern Rockies . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Friday denied a listing petition from an alliance of more than 70 conservation groups seeking to restore Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Although federal wildlife managers framed the decision as following “a path to support a long-term and durable approach to the conservation of gray wolves,” and pledged to adopt a first-of-its-kind National Recovery Plan, the conservation groups said they were considering a legal challenge.
Gray wolves are still listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, and are considered threatened in Minnesota; however, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and portions of eastern Oregon and Washington, the wolves are managed under state jurisdiction, with their respective legislatures passing laws allowing wolf harvests, while setting quotas and regulations to manage the populations.
Although the FWS decision doesn’t change existing policy, it signals the latest turn in a decades-old debate over state and federal management of wolves in the West, as well as how to quantify the species’ recovery following their delisting in places like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Montana Land Reliance (MLR) announces a forested property near Glacier National Park will forever be protected from development. MLR has completed a conservation easement on a 310-acre property north of Polebridge owned by the Chrisman family. Funded by the MLR Jeff Shryer Fund and the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, the easement property is located less than a half mile from Glacier National Park and bordered by Flathead National Forest. The Chrisman property includes a small tributary of the North Fork River and contains a diverse ecosystem with varied upland timber and riparian wetland habitats.
Deer, elk, moose, black and grizzly bear, lynx, gray wolves, wolverine, and bald eagle will forever thrive on the property – including the grizzly pictured here, taken on the family’s game camera. Many thanks to the Chrisman’s and Heart of the Rockies Initiative for partnering with us!
A group of local residents are not happy about plans to handle pollution at the old CFAC Superfund site by treating and storing the toxic waste on-site rather than shipping it elsewhere . . .
A pair of Flathead County citizen advocacy groups have formed a coalition in response to the proposed cleanup plan at the site of the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) along the Flathead River, where federal regulators have proposed containing hazardous wastes as part of their final remediation rather than shipping the toxic materials off-site.
The newly formed Coalition for a Clean CFAC is requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “take a timeout to fairly re-evaluate the cost benefits of removing, not leaving, the toxic waste at CFAC,” which the EPA declared a Superfund site in 2016.
According to a press release announcing the formation of the new coalition, it represents two existing organizations, Citizens for a Better Flathead and the Columbia Falls-based Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association, as well as a “rapidly growing number of city and county residents throughout the Flathead including a number of former CFAC employees and other local organizations.”
Sierra Club and Save the Yellowstone Grizzly is showing Return of the Grizzly around the region. It is scheduled to be shown at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on Jan 29th at 5:30pm with a question and answer period to follow. This is a project spearheaded by Doug Peacock. NFPA is a co-sponsor of this presentation.
This powerful 37-minute documentary follows the path and challenges of the “explorer bear,” the pioneering young male grizzlies that come from small, isolated core populations. The grizzly bear needs to explore and pioneer new habitats to spread its gene pool, and its long journeys are increasingly driven–and hemmed in–by the ravages of climate change. Return of the Grizzly is premiering NOW at numerous theaters in the West.
Good article on the current status of whitebark pine and the efforts to restore the species . . .
Sitting atop the highest slopes in western North America, the whitebark pine has adapted to the continent’s harshest growing conditions. Temperatures in the sub-alpine zone where it thrives are often well below zero, snow is measured in feet and winds often exceed 100 miles an hour. These stout, twisted trees are survivors: The oldest have grown for nearly 13 centuries.
But change has come to this high-elevation redoubt, threatening not only the whitebark pine’s survival but that of a host of creatures — from birds to bears — that rely on this keystone species. Warmer temperatures, a fungal disease called white pine blister rust, and swarms of mountain pine beetles have killed hundreds of millions of whitebark pines across the West. Wildfires are taking an increasing toll, and other conifer species are moving upslope in the rapidly changing environment, outcompeting the whitebark for nutrients and moisture.
In some areas, including regions within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which has Glacier National Park at its center, more than 90 percent of whitebark pine trees have died. Across the tree’s range, there are more dead trees than live ones, and high-country skylines in many places are marked by their skeletal remains.
Montana is not happy with the idea of placing the wolverine on the Endangered Species List . . .
Less than two months after federal wildlife officials recommended Endangered Species Act protections for the North American wolverine, whose diminishing alpine habitat scientists have recognized as imperiled by climate change for decades, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) on Friday notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of its intent to challenge the listing in court.
“In Montana, wolverines continue to do well and inhabit much, if not all, of their available habitat,” FWP’s Chief of Conservation Policy Quentin Kujala stated in an agency press release. “We work closely with our neighboring states to ensure the continued conservation of these iconic species. Federal protections in this case will only get in the way of good conservation work.”
Specifically, state wildlife officials took issue with how their federal counterparts’ “switched course” in their listing notice by identifying the lower 48 states as a distinct population segment instead of as connected to Canadian wolverine populations in Canada. The finding came despite protections in Canada and states like Montana to ensure wolverine conservation, according to FWP.
Good op-ed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about efforts to establish wildlife crossings along Hwy 89, which bisects Paradise Valley and is the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park…
It is not uncommon to hear Montanans refer to driving certain wildlife-dense sections of highway as “running the gauntlet.” Those of us who have hit wildlife remember the incident each time we pass the location — our stomachs in our throats and our heads on a swivel.
According to a 2017 report, there is a one in 57 probability of hitting a deer on Montana highways. We rank second in the U.S. for reported deer-vehicle collisions, and damage from wildlife collisions costs Montanans $212 million a year. Nationally, the annual cost of wildlife collisions is $8 billion. This includes costs associated with human injuries and fatalities, vehicle repairs, towing, lost hunting value, and more. As more Americans move into rural and suburban areas, and wildlife populations expand, collisions and their associated costs will only increase.
Beyond putting people, property, and individual animals at risk, roads also inhibit wildlife movement. They fragment habitat, isolate populations, and disrupt migrations.
Fortunately, there are solutions. Research shows when crossing structures and appropriate fencing are built in areas frequented by wildlife it reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 97%. Wildlife crossings work. These projects are expensive, so in 2021 the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $350 million over five years to fund wildlife crossings. In December, the Federal Highway Administration announced the first round of grant recipients. Two Montana projects were among the 19 selected — one submitted by the Montana Department of Transportation and the other by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Katy Spence of the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) recently published a wonderful interview with Roger Sullivan, who happens to be a board member of both MEIC and our own NFPA. Roger has also been involved with the NFPA from the very beginning.
This piece was originally published in the MEIC’s quarterly Down to Earth publication and is used here with permission. To see the article in full context and with better formatting, you can download the entire newsletter here.
MEIC is fortunate to have a number of friends and allies that we can call upon for support, encouragement, or assistance. This year, we feel especially fortunate to know our board member, mentor, and friend Roger Sullivan. Roger has a deep history in Montana environmental law and justice. For more than 35years, Roger has advocated for Montanans and our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. He has successfully represented dozens of Libby residents sickened by exposure to asbestos from the W.R. Grace mining operations. Most recently, Roger was one of the attorneys in the landmark youth climate trial Held v. State of Montana.