Category Archives: Environmental Issues

No grizzly hunt in Montana this year

Grizzly Bear - courtesy NPS
Grizzly Bear – courtesy NPS

Interesting. Montana decided against a Yellowstone Region grizzly hunt this year. Idaho is annoying everyone by proposing to take a single male bear. Wyoming, of course, is another matter . . .

While Idaho and Wyoming pursue plans to allow grizzly bear hunting outside Yellowstone National Park, Montana wildlife officials say they don’t regret deciding against holding a hunt this year.

This past week, Idaho opened public comment on a proposal for a hunt of one male grizzly. Wyoming has released a proposal to sell 24 grizzly tags.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department officials decided against proposing a hunt in February.

Read more . . .

April Wilderness Speaker Series presentation addresses grizzly bear recovery

A reminder: The last Wilderness Speaker Series event of this year is by Rick Mace, Wildlife Biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, speaking on “The Recovery of the Grizzly.”

The presentation is on Wednesday, April 4 from 7:00 to 8:15pm at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology Building, room 139.

Recommended. Rick always does a good job.

Wilderness Speaker Series 2018 Poster - April Presentation
Wilderness Speaker Series 2018 Poster – April Presentation

Zinke supports restoration of grizzlies to North Cascades

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

Ending a period of uncertainty, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced his support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades . . .

The federal government intends to restore grizzly bears in the remote North Cascade Mountains of Washington state, a goal that represents “the American conservation ethic come to life,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Friday.

Zinke made the announcement during a visit to North Cascades National Park’s headquarters in Sedro-Woolley, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) north of Seattle.

The Department of the Interior announced in 2014 that it would consider relocating grizzlies to aid their recovery in the Cascades. An environmental review has been underway, but in recent months there have been questions about whether it would continue. Zinke made clear it would, with a formal decision expected by the end of the year.

“Restoring the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem is the American conservation ethic come to life,” Zinke said in a news release. “The loss of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades would disturb the ecosystem and rob the region of an icon.”

Read more . . .

Hecla Mining fires lawsuit at Montana over ‘bad actor’ designation

That didn’t take long. As mentioned here yesterday, Hecla Mining and its president were deemed to be in violation of the state’s “bad actor” law. Basically, Montana wants to be reimbursed for cleaning up messes made back in the late ’90s. Hecla, which is trying to open up two new mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, has responded with a lawsuit . . .

An Idaho mining company sued Montana environmental regulators on Friday for labeling the company and its president “bad actors” who should pay for cleanups at several polluted sites before pursuing two new mines beneath a wilderness area.

Attorneys for subsidiaries of Hecla Mining described the state’s allegation that the company is responsible for past and ongoing pollution from defunct mines as frivolous.

Hecla, based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, claims to be the oldest precious metals mining company in the United States. It says it had no direct involvement in the polluted mines at issue.

Read more . . .

UM to Host 5th Annual International Columbia River Treaty Conference

This conference on April 11 at the University of Montana looks pretty interesting. Note that its remit includes the Flathead River. Kudos to Suzanne Daniell for spotting this item.

From the official press release . . .

MISSOULA – As Canada and the United States start negotiations over the Columbia River Treaty, the University of Montana will host a conference to discuss the future of rivers flowing through western Montana.

“One River, Ethics Matter” will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the University Center Ballroom. The event is hosted by UM’s Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and the Department of Geography and is free and open to the public. Lunch is provided, and an evening reception will follow. Participants are required to RSVP at http://bit.ly/2EWa6yi.

Tribal, First Nations and religious leaders, along with scholars and authors, from the Upper Columbia River will lead the one-day conference on ethics and the Columbia River. The conference series is a multiyear undertaking based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter issued in 2001 by the 12 Northwest Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed, combined with tools used by hospital ethics consultation services.

The conference brings together religious leaders, indigenous people, educators and writers, including:

  • Ron Abraham, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal councilman and elder
  • Gary Aitken, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, tribal chairman
  • Barbara Cosens, University Consortium on Columbia River Governance, University of Idaho College of Law, professor
  • Jessica Crist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Montana Synod, bishop
  • David James Duncan, writer
  • Tony Incashola, Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, director
  • Brian Lipscomb, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, CEO of Energy Keepers Inc.
  • D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes, executive director
  • Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, author of “A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change”
  • David Shively, UM Department of Geography, chair
  • William Skylstad, Roman Catholic, bishop emeritus
  • Pat Smith, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, former Montana delegate
  • Dan Spencer, UM Environmental Studies program, professor
  • Pauline Terbasket, Okanagan Nation Alliance, executive director

“One River, Ethics Matter” will examine the moral dimensions of the dam-building era, focusing on U.S. Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations people, rivers and the life that depends on them, and the compelling need to add ecosystem-based function to the Columbia River Treaty.

Topics will include the Libby dam and its international impacts to the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake; the Hungry Horse dam and efforts to protect resident fisheries; and the Séliš Ksanka Qlispé Project on the Flathead River, a federal license now held by the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the first tribal nation to own and operate a major hydropower facility.

The conference series is modeled on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission public dialogue in the wake of apartheid. The Missoula ethics conference follows four prior conferences in Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Revelstoke, British Columbia. The previous conferences focused on restoring salmon above the Grand Coulee dam, floodplain development in the Portland area, the impacts of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon complex of dams and the effects of treaty dams in British Columbia.

Conference sponsors for 2018 include the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Upper Columbia United Tribes, Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, the Canadian Water Research Society, the Sierra Club’s Montana, Idaho and Washington chapters, the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, WaterWatch of Oregon, the Columbia Institute for Water Policy, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Rachael and John Osborn, UM’s Environmental Studies program, UM’s Native American Studies Department, the Flathead Lake Biological Station and UM’s Department of Geography.

To read more about the Ethics & Treaty Project from the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, visit http://www.celp.org/ethics-treaty-project/. For more information about “One River, Ethics Matter,” visit http://www.celp.org/ethics-montana/ or email Sophia Cinnamon, UM environmental studies graduate student and chair of the conference planning committee, at sophia.cinnamon@umontana.edu.

Other contacts are David Shively, UM Department of Geography chair, at david.shively@mso.umt.edu; Rich Janssen, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Department of Natural Resources director, at richard.janssen@cskt.org; Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at waltsoe@gmail.com;  and John Osborn, Ethics & Treaty Project coordinator, at john@waterplanet.ws.

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Continue reading UM to Host 5th Annual International Columbia River Treaty Conference

Violations of Montana’s ‘bad actor’ law could delay progress on mines near Cabinet Wilderness

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Well now, Hecla Mining is definitely not having things all their own way with plans to develop two mines along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness area There’s a little matter of past sins coming home to roost . . .

An Idaho company could be forced to pay the state of Montana more than $30 million in cleanup costs from pollution at several former mining sites before it can pursue two new projects beneath a wilderness area, state regulators said Tuesday.

Hecla Mining Inc. and its president were deemed to be in violation of the state’s “bad actor” law that targets individuals and companies that abandon polluted sites, said Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers. The alleged violations were first reported by The Associated Press.

Hecla’s president and CEO, Phillips Baker, Jr., is a former executive for Pegasus Gold Corp., which went bankrupt in 1998, leaving government agencies with a massive cleanup bill from three Montana sites that polluted surrounding waterways when cyanide, arsenic and other contaminants leaked out of the mines.

Read more . . .

Supporters pump support for Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act

Senator Jon Tester is keeping up the pressure to pass the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act . . .

A year after he introduced the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act, Sen. Jon Tester rallied supporters to keep momentum going.

“Two-thirds of the Montanans surveyed said they supported this collaborative effort,” Tester said of a recent private survey on the bill. “We can’t get two-thirds of Montanans to agree if they want ‘Clamahto’ or ‘Clamayto’ in their red beer. It’s time for the rest of the delegation to get on board and push this across the finish line.”

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, the two-term Democrat said the legislation designating 79,000 acres of new wilderness around the Seeley-Swan and Blackfoot basins as well as recreation areas for mountain biking and snowmobiling reflected years of compromise.

Read more . . .

Arguments heard on Badger-Two Medicine drilling lease case

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

It’s spring and time for the next chapter of the legal dispute over the Solonex oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

The legal dispute over possible oil and gas drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine area advanced Wednesday.

The case centers on a roughly 6,200-acre mineral lease there, held by Louisiana-based firm Solenex. The firm’s owner, Sidney Longwell, acquired the lease in 1982. But as he sought approval to drill, he drew greater opposition from enviornmental groups and the Blackfeet Nation, whose reservation abuts Badger-Two Medicine. In 2016, then-secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell concluded that the lease had been improperly issued and canceled it altogether.

Solenex amended a lawsuit it already had pending against Jewell, claiming that she had acted improperly in that decision. In the hearing Wednesday, the sides presented their arguments for summary judgment before Judge Richard Leon in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Read more . . .

Wyoming announces grizzly hunt rules

Grizzly Bear - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS
Grizzly Bear – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Terry Tollefsbol, NPS

From NFPA President Debo Powers . . .

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced today a proposal to allow two dozen grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region to be killed through a state trophy hunt. The announcement comes despite strong public and tribal opposition to trophy hunting of the iconic bear and litigation challenging the removal of Endangered Species Act protections last summer.

NFPA is opposed to the trophy hunting of grizzlies.

Bonnie Rice from Sierra Club said in a press release: “Grizzly bears are one of the slowest animals to reproduce; it takes a female grizzly ten years to replace herself in the population. It’s a pipe dream to believe that hunters are going to be able to distinguish between male and female grizzly bears. We will undoubtedly lose more female grizzlies in a hunt– even more than authorized under this proposal.”

Here’s a write-up by the Jackson Hole News & Guide . . .

The first Wyoming grizzly bear hunt in over four decades will target 24 animals if commissioners who oversee the state’s wildlife sign off on a proposal released Friday.

A topic of fierce controversy, the hunt is being devised in a way that state officials hope will limit the chance of the bold large carnivore being shot in public view, or killed adjacent to Grand Teton National Park. A no-hunting zone will abut the east boundary of the park, and throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem it will be illegal to kill a grizzly within a half-mile of a named highway, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Chief Warden Brian Nesvik said.

“The intention is to address public concern that was focused on there being hunting and wildlife viewing going on at the same time,” Nesvik said.

Read more . . .

Gianforte wants to dump some wilderness study areas

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

Congressman Gianforte is trailing along with Senator Daines in proposing to eliminate quite a few Montana wilderness study areas . . .

Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte has drafted two bills proposing to release almost 690,000 acres (279,000 hectares) of wilderness study areas in Montana.

One of Gianforte’s bills echoes Montana Sen. Steve Daines’ bill introduced in the Senate late last year. It proposes to release 449,500 acres (182,000 hectares) of wilderness study areas all on national forest lands.

The Billings Gazette reports that Gianforte also authored a separate act to release an additional 240,000 acres (97,000 hectares) of Bureau of Land Management wilderness.

Read more . . .