Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Grizzlies roam, but where? A new study offers clues

Grizzly bear strolling along a road
Grizzly Bear strolling along a road

Here’s a very interesting write-up on a study of how grizzly bears disperse across the landscape . . .

If you were a grizzly bear on the move, where would you go and how would you get there?

According to a new study released this month by University of Montana’s Sarah Sells, you’d primarily favor mountainous areas but would also follow waterways through open valley landscapes. But your destination would depend in large part on where you started, and whether you were on a mission to go somewhere else or simply exploring beyond your home range.

The conclusions came from a modeling program that predicted pathways through Montana between the bears’ current core habitat areas. The two biggest, each with about a thousand grizzlies, are the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem around Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Continue reading at the Missoulian . . .

Judge rules in favor of Montana youths climate lawsuit

Our own Roger Sullivan was heavily involved with this and gets a well-deserved check-mark in the “win” column . . .

In the first ruling of its kind nationwide, a Montana state court decided Monday in favor of young people who alleged the state violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment” by promoting the use of fossil fuels.

The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs, by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.

The win, experts say, could energize the environmental movement and reshape climate litigation across the country, ushering in a wave of cases aimed at advancing action on climate change.

Continue reading . . .

Montana proposes reduction in wolf hunt quota from 450 to 289

Wolf near Winona Lake, May 2013 - Steve Gniadek
Wolf near Winona Lake, May 2013 – Steve Gniadek

This is interesting — and encouraging — news . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are proposing to reduce the hunting quota for wolves statewide from 450 to 289, according to the department and an interview with a spokesperson.

FWP said the wolf population has dropped in the last two years, and it believes the new quota will keep wolves at a healthy and sustainable population per state law.

“State law, set by the 2021 Montana Legislature, requires FWP to reduce wolf populations in Montana to a sustainable level,” said Greg Lemon, FWP public information officer. “We believe the quota of 289 wolves will meet that statutory requirement while ensuring a healthy wolf population in the state.”

This announcement comes a year after the wolf numbers fell in 2022, according to the 2022 FWP Wolf Report.

Continue reading . . .

Wolf management plan should be informed by science

Gray wolf - John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Gray wolf – John and Karen Hollingsworth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Last Saturday’s (June 17) Bozeman Daily Chronicle carried a guest column by Douglas W. Smith and our own Diane Boyd on the importance of using  accurate, science-based methods  in wolf management . . .

This summer offers a timely opportunity to help craft a new wolf management plan being written by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP). Wolves are always controversial, and this new plan is an opportunity to reinstate scientifically-based wildlife management. We are concerned that, of late, Montana has managed wolves in a fashion that emphasizes population reductions without clear evidence or adequate justification. Montana has provided for hunter and trapper opportunity and, despite misconceptions about wolf-elk interactions, elk have maintained healthy populations across the state and are even overabundant in some game management units. Livestock depredations are very low, less than 1/10 of 1 percent of all cattle losses in 2021.

The fundamental issue is an accurate population estimate — all wildlife management decisions depend on this. Wolves are hard to count. Initially Montana estimated numbers by MTFWP staff conducting field work along with radio collaring to come up with a minimum count of wolves across the western third of the state where most wolves live. As wolf numbers grew this method became impractical, so the state switched to a method that estimates numbers based on wolf sightings by hunters with resulting data plugged into a model. This model, called an integrated Patch Occupancy Model or iPOM, uses some other information about wolves like territory size and pack size, and calculates a population estimate.

This method is well-known and respected scientifically for estimating distribution (the area occupied). It is not known to be a good abundance estimator. The rationale is that Montana wolves are thought to be well above the required minimum set by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hence a precise estimate is not necessary. For scientifically based management of a high-profile predator, we need a better population estimate.

Continue reading at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle . . .

Bear resistant containers available for loan or purchase

Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can
Grizzly trying to open Kodiak Can

NFPA/Polebridge Bear Smart is offering Kodiak brand 96 gallon bear resistant garbage containers for loan or purchase at a reduced price. This opportunity is being made to the Polebridge community with the help of grants and private donations.

Purchase price per canister is $300.
Canister Loan Program fee is on an able-to-pay basis.

Kodiak Can

Cans are available now! Please contact Suzanne Hildner or (406) 253-3263 to purchase or rent.


Help the Polebridge Community be BEAR SMART!!

Landmark youth climate trial begins in Montana

Our own Roger Sullivan gets a mention! . . .

A landmark climate change trial opened on Monday in Montana, where a group of young people are contending that the state’s embrace of fossil fuels is destroying pristine environments, upending cultural traditions and robbing young residents of a healthy future.

The case, more than a decade in the making, is the first of a series of similar challenges pending in various states as part of an effort to increase pressure on policymakers to take more urgent action on emissions.

Continue reading at the New York Times . . .

Appeals court rules in favor of Flathead Forest management plan

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

Following an updated assessment by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the 2018 Flathead Forest management plan. . .

An appeals court has decided that the Flathead National Forest management plan adequately addresses endangered species, now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated its assessment of the plan.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed a five-page memorandum in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreeing with federal district court Judge Donald Molloy that the Flathead National Forest properly considered public challenges to its 2018 Management Plan so the plan can stand.

“Therefore, the Forest Service did not ignore any adverse impact of the (final environmental impact statement on grizzly bears and bull trout) and took ‘the requisite hard look’ at the environmental consequences of its actions, regardless whether Swan View agrees with its scientific conclusion,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Continue reading at the Missoula Current . . .

How much U.S. forest is old growth? It depends who you ask…

Several Types of Public Lands

Defining “old growth” on a landscape periodically reshaped by fire is tough enough, but doing so for the country as a whole really gets interesting . . .

Last spring, President Joe Biden surprised forest scientists when he ordered the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to inventory their holdings of mature and old-growth forests by Earth Day 2023. The order triggered a scramble for the United States to, for the first time, formally define what constitutes “mature” and “old-growth” forests and to apply those definitions across millions of hectares of land.

Now, the agencies have delivered their findings: Of the nearly 72 million hectares of forest managed by the two agencies, 45% are mature and 18% are old growth, according to a report released last week. The figures far exceed previous estimates published by nonfederal researchers and are likely to add fuel to an already raging debate about how to manage older forests and make them resilient to climate change.

The government’s tally has drawn a divided response…

Continue reading . . .

Montana FWP soliciting public comments on wolf management plan EIS

Gray Wolf - Adam Messer-Montana FWP
Gray Wolf – Adam Messer-Montana FWP

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is soliciting public comment on revisions to their wolf plan environmental impact statement (EIS) . . .

FWP is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) and conducting public scoping on a proposed action to revise the existing Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was developed in 2003.

The 2003 Wolf Plan and associated EIS were developed 20 years ago. Since then, new and improved research, management tools and methods have been developed and incorporated into Montana’s gray wolf management strategy; however, they are not described in the 2003 Wolf Plan. Gov. Greg Gianforte asked FWP to update the 2003 Wolf Plan with broad public engagement due to the interest in wolf management across the state . . .

Continue reading . . .

County seeks federal funding to potentially pave lower North Fork Road

North Fork Road in Fall - USFS
North Fork Road in Fall – USFS

In case you missed it . . .

Flathead County applied for funding, which they more or may not get, to pay for a study on whether or not the lower North Fork Road could be paved.

Heading north out of Columbia Falls towards the North Fork corridor along the Flathead River is one of the most scenic, enjoyable drives in Northwest Montana, that is, until just after mile post 12, where the pavement ends. Then drivers and passengers are subjected to a slow, teeth-rattling and dusty ride in order to access two popular entrances to Glacier National Park, more than 100,000 acres of national forest land and the Wild and Scenic North Fork Flathead River.

That may change in the next few years, however, as Flathead County recently applied for a nearly $6 million Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to begin the preliminary environmental evaluation and public involvement process looking at the feasibility of paving 10 miles of the North Fork Road to the intersection of Camas Road. The funding would also cover roughly two-and-a-half miles of road improvements as a first phase of the full corridor improvement project.

The North Fork Road (NFR) stretches from the north end of Columbia Falls to the Canadian border, passing from state to county jurisdiction just past mile post 12, where it transitions from pavement to a gravel road. Other than a brief half-mile of pavement, there is a 10-mile stretch of dirt road until the intersection with Camas Road, a turnoff that leads to Glacier National Park.

Continue reading . . .