Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Biologist Diane Boyd does some wolf mythbusting

Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field
Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field

Diane Boyd, large carnivore specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (and NFPA member), gave a well-received talk last week . . .

Wolves live in family groups. They don’t think twice about traveling long distances. They’re territorial. They make a lot of noise. And some have no qualms about capturing and killing their foes.

In other words, they’re a lot like humans.

Contrary to the host of conspiracy theories out there, wolves in Northwest Montana aren’t hybrids and they weren’t shipped in from points north. They came here on their own volition back in the late 1970s, stragglers from Canada that eventually made the North Fork of the Flathead in Glacier National Park home, biologist Diane Boyd said during a talk last week.

Read more . . .

Glaciers may ‘cling to the landscape’ or vanish

Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park's Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 - USGS supplied image
Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park’s Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 – USGS supplied image

The Missoulian reports on the first annual Montana Lakes Conference . . .

The inaugural Montana Lakes Conference began here Wednesday night with a mix of good news and bad news.

The good: It may still be possible to preserve half of the world’s remaining glacial ice.

The bad: If humanity remains on its current path of high carbon dioxide emissions, it can expect “large-scale “deglaciation” in coming decades, and a thicket of accompanying environmental and economic problems.

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Feds to ease land restrictions meant to protect sage grouse

Sage Grouse - BLM photo
Sage Grouse – BLM photo

Looks like the U.S. aims to ease the painstakingly developed oil and gas development regulations designed to protect sage grouse populations . . .

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other industries that were meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West, federal officials said Thursday.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes would protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that existing policies governing millions of acres of federal land were too restrictive.

Critics say the changes will lead to more disturbances of grouse habitat, undermining efforts to shore up the bird’s population.

Read more . . .

Town Hall in Kalispell, March 20, to discuss modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

A note from NFPA board member Suzanne Hildner: “This media note [from the U.S. Department of State] sent to me by a friend who is a nationally recognized conservationist now working on this issue, is pertinent to us as obviously the Flathead drains into the Columbia system ultimately. I will plan on attending.”

The town hall meeting, co-hosted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, will be held on March 20, 2019, from 5:30 p.m. to approximately 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Grand Ballroom, 20 S Main St., Suite 150, Kalispell, MT 59901.

February 27, 2019

Town Hall to Discuss Modernization of the Columbia River Treaty Regime

U.S. Columbia River Treaty Negotiator Jill Smail will lead a town hall March 20, 2019, in Kalispell, Montana on the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime.  The town hall, which is co-hosted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, is free of charge, open to the public, and will take place at the Red Lion Hotel from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.  This town hall will follow the February 27-28 round of negotiations on the treaty regime in Washington, D.C.  At the town hall, U.S. government representatives will provide an overview of the negotiations and take questions from the public; feel free to send questions in advance to  For more information on the town hall, including call-in details, please see the Federal Register Notice.

The Columbia River Treaty is an international model for transboundary water cooperation.  The 1964 treaty’s flood risk and hydropower operations have provided substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.  The treaty has also facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.  More information can be found on the Department’s Treaty website .

As the United States continues bilateral negotiations with Canada, key objectives are guided by the U.S. Entity Regional Recommendation for the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024, a consensus document published in 2013 after five years of consultations among the Tribes, states, stakeholders, public, and federal agencies.  The U.S. negotiating team is led by the U.S. Department of State and comprises the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To receive periodic updates on events and developments related to the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty regime, please contact  For press inquiries, please contact

Columbia River Treaty Team
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs • U.S. Department of State
2201 C St. NW Rm. 3918, Washington, DC  20520

U.S. Plans to lift wolf protections for rest of country

Wolves from Welcome Creek Pack in 2011 - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Wolves from Welcome Creek Pack in 2011 – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Not entirely unexpected: The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List for for the entire country . . .

U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s run into conflicts with farmers and ranchers after rebounding in some regions, an official told The Associated Press.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal during a Wednesday speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, a weeklong conservation forum for researchers, government officials and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.

The decision was based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. Further details were expected during a formal announcement planned in coming days.

Read more . . .

A permit to float the upper North Fork?

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

Well, maybe . . .

The Flathead National Forest is eyeing the prospect of the possibility of a permit system or other crowd controls for the scenic section of the North Fork of the Flathead River. The scenic section, as defined under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, runs from the border with Canada to the Camas Bridge.

The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Park Service, are working on a comprehensive river management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River. Some 219 miles of the river system are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. But as more and more people come to the Flathead Valley, the rivers are becoming more crowded.

Glacier National Park over the past three summers has seen more than or just under 3 million people each year.

Read more . . .

Bitterroot grizzly management taking flak from both sides

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP, nicely backlit - Ken Pekoc, YNP
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP, nicely backlit – Ken Pekoc, YNP

Here’s a well-researched article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on grizzly management in the “Bearless Bitterroot” . . .

Despite having virtually no grizzly bears and no time to think about them, Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark faces a lot of criticism for how he handles grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot Mountains.

“I’ve got some people here who think, given my connection to forest plan revision, that my role as chairman of the Bitterroot Ecosystem (grizzly recovery) Subcommittee is a conflict of interest,” Mark said. “And there were other folks that piped in, asking what should we be doing with bears showing up outside recovery areas.”

Mark and eight others serve on the Bitterroot Subcommittee, which includes six national forests, the Nez Perce Tribe, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which also includes the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, state wildlife agencies, and other stakeholders in the grizzly recovery effort.

Read more . . .

Natural Resources Management Act clears House, heads to Trump

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

The Natural Resources Management Act made it through the Senate a couple of weeks ago. Now, it has passed the House and is headed to the President for signature . . .

In the unlikely event you tuned into C-SPAN’s live stream on Feb. 26, you saw a bipartisan conga line of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives making a pitch for public lands.

For stakeholders on both sides of the political aisle, it was a refreshing sight, particularly given the polarized political climate that too often overshadows popular pieces of legislation with gridlock and ingrained party differences.

But that didn’t happen this week when, in passing the largest conservation legislation in a decade, an oft-divided House furnished the public lands package with bipartisan support. In doing so, lawmakers sent a message to their constituents that protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers is good for the environment and for the economy.

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Predicting how forests in the western US will respond to changing climate

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Here’s an interesting research paper on predicting western forest response to climate change . . .

On the mountain slopes of the western United States, climate can play a major role in determining which tree communities will thrive in the harshest conditions, according to new work from Carnegie’s Leander Anderegg and University of Washington’s Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.

Their findings, published in Ecology Letters, are an important step in understanding how forest growth will respond to a climate altered by human activity.

As researchers try to anticipate how climate change will affect forest ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence how forest habitats change over time — including both environmental conditions and competition for resources. One of the oldest ecological principles asserts that competition between trees will constrain growth under mild conditions and climate will constrain growth under harsh conditions.

Read more . . .Read more . . .

Senate passes public lands bill, including permanent authorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

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 U.S. Senate passed a significant new public lands bill . . .

The Senate passed an omnibus public lands bill on a vote of 92-8 on Tuesday, allowing permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and blocking a proposed gold mine on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.

“Everybody is crying,” said Chico Hot Springs owner Colin Davis, who led a coalition of 400 Paradise Valley businesses supporting the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. “It’s been a long couple years.”

Davis was on a conference call with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, as the vote tally was coming down Tuesday afternoon. Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte also backed the Yellowstone Gateway and LWCF measures.

Read more . . .