Category Archives: Environmental Issues

More Montana grizzlies popping up in neighboring states

Grizzly captured west of Pend Oreille River in early October 2018 - USFWS
Eleven year old, 476 pound grizzly bear captured west of Pend Oreille River in early October 2018 – USFWS

Montana’s grizzly bears are not just wandering out onto the high plains east of the Divide, they are also showing up in neighboring states to the west . . .

As Montana grizzly bears have pushed beyond their usual mountain strongholds into the Bitterroot and Judith Basin areas, Washington state residents got a surprise visit this fall from a 476-pound grizzly west of the Pend Oreille River.

“That was an eye-opener for the state of Washington,” said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife grizzly manager in Libby. “It was an unusual movement, like the bear in Stevensville and the bears showing up east of the Rocky Mountain Front. That was well outside of its expected range.”

The fall update of the Cabinet-Yaak/Selkirk grizzly activity released on Friday raised another new grizzly issue. A two-year-old male grizzly that was transplanted in the Cabinet Mountains last July got spotted prowling around a black-bear bait site in the Idaho Panhandle. FWS officials captured it and released it back in Montana around the south fork of the Bull River, but it returned to the bait site in September and now is believed to be crisscrossing the border near Huron.

Read more . . .

A call to defend the Badger-Two Medicine

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Here’s one of the more elegant of the recent crop of op-eds encouraging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to appeal a recent court decision to restore oil and gas leases to the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

Today, Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at the highest rate per capita of any ethnic or cultural population, and Montana is home to more than 6,000 tribal veterans, many of them Blackfeet. As a Pikuni (or Blackfeet) warrior and veteran of the United States Marines, it is my duty and obligation to protect my country and lands, as well as to uphold the tribe’s traditions and culture while safeguarding its natural resources for future generations.

Recently a Washington, D.C. District Court reversed the government’s decision to cancel decades-old leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, an area sacred to the Blackfeet and the source of clean water for our Tribe. Once again, we find ourselves fighting against the threat of oil and gas development. As Veterans Day approaches, I am joined by the Blackfeet men and women of the Armed Forces in asking Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to defend the Badger-Two Medicine.

Read more . . .

FWP kills two human-conditioned bears near Polebridge, relocates one

This year’s “a fed bear is a dead bear” lesson: Those grizzlies attracted to the Polebridge area by the oats in the hay field south of town eventually forced management action by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Two are dead; one was relocated to Glacier Park . . .

It’s an active season for bears as they prepare to den for winter. Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say they’ve euthanized two yearlings that had become habituated to humans, and captured two others.

From the FWP press release:

Yearling Grizzly Bears Captured Near Polebridge, Euthanized
On Sunday, Oct 21, 2018, Montana FWP staff captured two yearling grizzly bears north of Polebridge and euthanized the animals.

Landowners reported that the yearlings were ripping into a yurt, broke into a cooler, got into garbage, tried to get into bear-resistant garbage containers, and attempted to break into cars and trailers. The adult female was observed with the yearlings but mostly stayed in the background. The yearlings were very food-conditioned and habituated to human presence.

Attempts to haze the bears were unsuccessful.

Read more . . .

Alert: Public meeting to address post-delisting grizzly management in Kalispell, Sep 27

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPREMINDER – Meeting Thursday, Sep 27

Assuming grizzly bears are delisted in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE, essentially Northwest Montana), Montana would take over management of the bears. The Montana department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a series of meetings to discuss management objectives, including one in Kalispell at 6:30pm on September 27 at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive . . .

Public meetings on how the state will deal with the growing number of grizzly bears around Glacier National Park if they’re removed from the endangered species list begin this week…

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish says the meetings are not meant to address the question of whether or not to delist the bear, and are not related to a separate population of grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park, whose federal protections are currently tangled up in federal court.

“Are we comfortable with a minimum of 800 grizzly bears on the landscape? Is that too many? Is that not enough? We really, genuinely want to hear Montanans’ input on that question and that question alone.”

The meetings will feature presentations on the grizzly population by state biologists and the opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinion on the rule.

Read more . . .

RELATED: US Judge Delays Grizzly Bear Hunts in Rockies 2 More Weeks (Flathead Beacon)

Federal judge reinstates Badger-Two Medicine oil leases

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

A D.C. District Court judge reinstated a set of disputed oil leases in the Badger-Two Medicine region. The saga continues. Expect an appeal . . .

The government’s decision to cancel an oil and gas lease in the Badger-T
wo Medicine area of Montana was “arbitrary and capricious” and the lease should be reinstated, a federal judge says.

In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reiterated what he said in a previous order in the case in which he criticized the government for first delaying implementation of the lease for 29 years before finally canceling it.

Read more . . .

Also read…
Ruling Gives Sacred Montana Tribal Lands Back to Industry (Wilderness Society)

Judge restores protections for Yellowstone Grizzlies, scuttles hunting

Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs - NPS photo, Tim Rains
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs – NPS photo, Tim Rains

Here’s an excellent article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen restoring federal protection to Yellowstone area grizzlies . . .

A federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection and effectively blocked grizzly hunting seasons in Wyoming and Idaho on Monday.

“Although this order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote at the start of his 48-page ruling. “This court’s review, constrained by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress, is limited to answering a yes-or-no question: Did the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear?”

Christensen ruled the agency did err by failing to consider how delisting the estimated 750 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park might affect survival of another roughly 1,200 bears in five other recovery areas. He wrote Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also acted arbitrarily and capriciously in analyzing threats to the Yellowstone bears.

Read more . . .

Also read . . .
Grizzlies Saved: Court Stops Trophy Hunt of Yellowstone’s Iconic Bears (Earthjustice)

Grizzly delisting faces faces many challenges

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. – Montana FWP

The current court challenge to the Wyoming and Idaho grizzly hunt is only the tip of the iceberg . . .

While most stories about last week’s grizzly bear court hearing trumpeted the last-minute suspension of trophy hunts in Wyoming and Idaho, the lawsuit had nothing to do with the legality of grizzly hunting.

And while it did focus on whether grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem still need federal protection, the eventual decision will affect a far larger landscape. That points up a conundrum of the Endangered Species Act: It’s one challenge to recover a species, but quite another to delist it.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen didn’t render a decision from the bench on Thursday as many expected he might. But he did grant a 14-day restraining order blocking Wyoming and Idaho from starting their grizzly hunts on Saturday.

Read more . . .

See also…
Federal judge orders two-week delay in grizzly hunts (Missoulian)
Grizzlies Have Recovered, Officials Say; Now Montanans Have To Get Along With Them (NPR)

BREAKING: Judge suspends Wyoming, Idaho grizzly hunts

Grizzly bear sow with three cubs - NPS photo
Grizzly bear sow with three cubs – NPS photo

In response to oral arguments by a coalition of wildlife advocates, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen just granted a 14-day temporary restraining order suspending grizzly bear hunts in Wyoming and Idaho while decides whether the federal government should reinstate federal protections for the bears.

Recommended reading for more background . . .

Groups Seek Temporary Restraining Order to Stop Grizzly Hunt (Sierra Club)
Wildlife Groups Press Judge to Nix Grizzly Hunts in Rockies (Flathead Beacon)

Comment submitted to the Department of Interior regarding proposed changes to Endangered Species Act rule-making

On August 25, 2018, the NFPA submitted the following statement to the Department of Interior during the comment period on their proposed changes to Endangered Species Act rule-making.

ESA
Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0007

On behalf of the Board of Directors for the North Fork Preservation Association, we stand for a strong Endangered Species Act.

We believe that it is important to keep the “blanket 4(d) rule” in place, that automatically grants all species listed as Threatened protection from harm, harassment, injury and death.

If the current proposal moves forward, already vulnerable species would only be protected if and when your agency decides to undertake a specific rulemaking process. Not only would this increase the rulemaking workload for your agency, but Threatened species would be left waiting for protection that may never happen.

We believe that a strong Endangered Species Act is in the best interest of humans and wildlife. While some exploitative industries would benefit from this change because they could continue to disregard threatened species, this change is not in the interest of the rest of us.

The Endangered Species Act is one of the most cherished pieces of legislation in our country’s history and should not be weakened. Please keep this vital rule to protect our Threatened species in place.

Sincerely,

Debo Powers, President
North Fork Preservation Association
Polebridge, Montana

More fires expected, Naficy says

Granite Fire evening of Aug 26, 2015
Granite Fire evening of Aug 26, 2015

NFPA member Cameron Naficy’s  fire research got some ink in the Hungry Horse News . . .

Following a 2017 fire season that saw significant burning in Glacier and Waterton parks, with Kenow and Sprague wildfires, scientists and researchers have been hard at work determining what the fires mean for both parks as another fire season starts cooking.

Fire ecology was the subject of a presentation by the University of Columbia’s Cameron Naficy recently at Science and History Day in Waterton. According to Naficy, recent wildfire studies have changed the scientific community’s understanding of how fire affects the Glacier and Waterton region.

“The crown of the continent ecosystem has higher fire resiliency than we were expecting,” he said. “What we have found is that, historically in this area, a high-severity fire regime will transition into a mixed-severity fire regime.”

Read more . . .