Category Archives: News

Flathead National Forest announces new forest supervisor

Kurt Steele with wife Melissa and son Jack at USFS Fish Lake Campground in Idaho
Kurt Steele with wife Melissa and son Jack at USFS Fish Lake Campground in Idaho

Kurt Steele, Chip Weber’s replacement as forest supervisor takes over in mid-February.

From the press release . . .

Kurt Steele has been named forest supervisor for Flathead National Forest. He’s expected to begin work in mid-February. Steele has been the deputy forest supervisor for the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests for the past three years.

“I am very pleased to welcome Kurt to the Flathead National Forest,” said Regional Forester Leanne Marten. “Kurt is a proven leader who welcomes new voices and diverse perspectives, and has dedicated his career to public service.”

In addition to his current service as deputy forest supervisor, Steele has completed three recent temporary forest supervisor assignments on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. Prior to his current position on the Nez Perce-Clearwater, Steele served as a district ranger on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.

“I am tremendously honored to serve the public and forest employees as Flathead National Forest’s new supervisor,” said Steele. “I look forward to engaging with our partners, local businesses, and surrounding communities as we write the forest’s next chapter together. The Flathead Valley is an incredibly special place, and my family and I are excited about the opportunity to be able to settle in here and raise our family in this welcoming, community-oriented area.”

Continue reading Flathead National Forest announces new forest supervisor

Local environmental groups raise objections over bike paths in griz habitat

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

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Brian Peck are concerned that the Flathead Forest is not adequately evaluating the impact of establishing new trails . . .

Two local environmental groups have raised objections to a planned bike and pedestrian path network north of Columbia Falls in the lower Whitefish Range, claiming it could result in more conflicts with grizzly bears and displace other wildlife.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Many biologists, however, believe the population locally has recovered; while others disagree,

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Columbia Falls resident and wildlife consultant Brian Peck are all claiming the Forest Service should take a cumulative approach and create an Environmental Impact Statement that encompasses several other projects that add trails to the Whitefish Range and areas near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Read more . . .

Forest Service seeking public comment on Frozen Moose Project

The Forest Service has big plans for the upper North Fork — including a lot of forestry and restoration work . . .

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - north half
Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – north half

The Glacier View District of the Flathead National Forest is asking for public comment on the Frozen Moose Project. The project area is on National Forest System lands from Red Meadow Creek to the Canadian Border. The project proposes several types of management activities to reduce fuels in the wildland-urban interface, improve the resiliency of vegetative communities, improve aquatic ecosystems, and provide a mix of forest products. These proposed activities include 3,552 acres of commercial vegetation treatment, 4,630 acres of noncommercial vegetation treatments, road management activities, and other aquatic restoration activities.

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - south half
Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – south half

Maps of the proposed action, detailed descriptions of activities, and information on how to comment can be accessed at the project Web site: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57310. Hard copies of the proposed action documents are available by request or can be reviewed at the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Station (10 Hungry Horse Drive, Hungry Horse, MT, 59919). Please contact Sarah Canepa, project team leader, if you would like more information about the project at (406) 387-3800 or sarah.canepa@usda.gov.

Montanans willing to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ for conservation

HunterHere’s an interesting press release regarding Montanans’ attitudes towards general conservation. Not surprisingly, they’re for it, even to the extent of targeted tax increases. (Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one.) . . .

Montanans are willing to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to conservation, according to a new survey.

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project has released results of its summer survey of more than 11,000 residents, or about 1% of the state’s population.

More than 80% of respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support more dedicated conservation funding – even if it means higher taxes.

Read more . . .

More reading: Link to survey report

Glacier Gateway Project seeks backing

Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway Project land acquisition
Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway Project land acquisition

In case you haven’t heard about it already, the Vital Ground Foundation and the US Forest Service are working on something called the “Glacier Gateway Project.”

They are proposing to acquire two properties totaling about 23 acres using Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). The parcels are along the section of the Polebridge Loop Road between the Polebridge Mercantile and the entrance to Glacier National Park. The acquisition would connect adjacent public lands managed by the Flathead National Forest along the designated Wild and Scenic corridor of the North Fork Flathead River.

The owners of both properties are willing sellers who wish to protect their lands from further development. (There are rumors that one potential buyer wanted to build an RV park.)

Also note that he Pacific Northwest Trail runs along the Polebridge Loop Road after the trail emerges from Glacier Park. Hikers sharing the road with motorized traffic, especially during tourist season, is less than ideal. Acquiring the Glacier Gateway parcels makes it easier for the Forest Service to achieve its eventual goal of a separate trail parallel to the road.

Here’s the deal: Vital Ground and the Forest Service are hoping to get individuals and organizations to send in letters of support for this proposal *by the end of the month.*

Want to read more? Here are the project documents:

Glacier Gateway Project Fact Sheet
Glacier Gateway Project Pictures
Glacier Gateway Project Sample Support Letter (Word format; also see note below)

NOTE: Even though the sample letter is addressed to Leanne Marten, the USFS Regional Forester, please send letters of support (by email preferably) to Mitch Doherty at the Vital Ground Foundation so that he can scan them and include them with the application submission. Here is Mitch’s contact information:

Mitch Doherty
Conservation Program Manager
Vital Ground Foundation
20 Fort Missoula Rd 59804-7202
Missoula, MT
(406) 549-8650
MDoherty@VitalGround.org

 

Moncrief retires drilling lease in Badger-Two Medicine; one more to go

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Well, now. This is good news. Moncrief Oil relinquished their drilling lease in the The Badger-Two Medicine region Tuesday, leaving only one, stubborn holdout: Solonex . . .

Leaders of the Blackfeet Nation on Tuesday celebrated another victory in their mission to furnish permanent protections on the sacred Badger-Two Medicine area after Moncrief Oil relinquished an energy lease spanning more than 7,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front.

With the announcement of the relinquishment of Moncrief’s lease, there remains only one oil and gas leaseholder in the Badger Two Medicine area, Solenex LLC. The company’s 6,200-acre lease was cancelled by the government in 2016, but reinstated in 2018 after the D.C. District Court ruled in favor of Solenex. The case is currently in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Still, the news on Tuesday prompted an outpouring of gratitude from members of the Blackfeet Nation, for whom the Badger-Two Medicine carries deep historical and cultural significance, as well as from conservation groups intent on preserving the area’s ecological heritage.

Read more . . .

Bear Fair on Saturday, Aug 24 at noon!

2019 Bear Fair PosterAs an answer to two Grizzly bear cubs being euthanized last fall, Polebridge is hosting a Bear Fair next Saturday, August 24th, from noon-3pm behind the Northern Lights Saloon. If persuasion of proximity to a delicious watering hole (and bakery) isn’t enough, there will be opportunities to practice your shot with inert bear spray cans, meet Karelian Bear Dogs, sample products for living with bears, enjoy presentations by a few local bear experts and games and prizes for the entire family! Join us in Polebridge, Saturday, August 24th from noon-3pm.

The ‘Crown’ just got bigger

A researcher heads into Glacier National Park's backcountry - NPS, Melissa Sladek
A researcher heads into Glacier National Park’s backcountry – NPS, Melissa Sladek

This is pretty interesting. The “Crown of the Continent” just expanded a bit, due principally to the efforts of Rick Graetz and some of his students. Many of you will remember Rick for bringing one of his geography classes through the North Fork on an annual basis . . .

The 13 million-acre Crown of the Continent officially just grew by 496,164 acres, the equivalent of 775 square miles.

The Crown has embraced the wildest and largest intact ecosystem in Alberta and the United States, running from the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, since its unofficial inception in the early 1900s. But to Rick Graetz, a University of Montana geography department lecturer and longtime outdoor enthusiast, the lines drawn on the map didn’t take into account what he was seeing on the ground south of Highway 200.

So in 2014, he enlisted the aid of graduate geography students to truth-check his theory. And this week, now that Verena Henner’s mapping project, Katie Shank’s study on biological diversity and wildlife corridors, and Josh Hoerner’s look at topographical maps and GPS readings are finished, Graetz announced their findings.

Read more . . .

Trump administration makes major changes to endangered species protections

Grizzly Bear - Thomas Lefebvre, via Unsplash
Wait! What?

Rising up like the creature from the black lagoon . . .

In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation’s premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.

Republican lawmakers and industry groups celebrated the revisions, some of the broadest changes in the way the act is applied in its nearly 50-year history.

They come at a moment of crisis for many of the world’s plant and animal species. As many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction — many within decades — according to a recent U.N. report. Wildlife groups and Democratic lawmakers, pointing to that document, are promising to challenge the new rules in Congress and in court. “Now is the time to strengthen the ESA, not cripple it,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on a press call.

Read more . . .

Scoping document released for the Comprehensive River Management Plan

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

I just got this note from Rob Davies, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger . . .

The Proposed Action for the River Plan is out today. [In the press release below,] you will see the link to the Flathead NF web page where you can locate the July 2019 Draft Proposed Action (50 pages).

Also public meetings are now set for Tue Aug 13th, and Tue August 20th, Flathead Community College, 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

If you could please pass this on to the home owners association and others in the North Fork on your email list who you know are interested. This info will also be distributed in all the next editions of the local papers.

And here is the official press release . . .

Flathead Wild and Scenic River: Scoping for the Comprehensive River Management Plan

Kalispell, MT, July 31, 2019- The Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, is beginning the scoping process for the Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.

The proposed action document discusses potential management direction and information on the desired conditions for the Flathead River segments. The public is asked to pay particular attention to how the desired condition statements as well as the proposed monitoring indicators, thresholds and triggers protect and preserve Outstanding Remarkable Value’s for the three forks of the Flathead River system presently and into the future. This is the foundation of the CRMP and will inform management actions and inform how the user capacity process will be done. More information on the Flathead Wild & Scenic River Comprehensive River Management Plan can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/crmp.

The proposed action can also be accessed at the Flathead National Forest NEPA page (Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan): https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56536.

Continue reading Scoping document released for the Comprehensive River Management Plan