The Flathead Valley Community College will host the annual Wilderness Speaker Series in partnership with three local environmental non-profit organizations. The series is presented by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, the Northwest Montana Lookout Association, and the Flathead-Kootenai Chapter of Wild Montana, with support from the Natural Resources Conservation & Management program at FVCC.
The series will be held on the 3rd Wednesdays of February, March and April in the Large Community Room (#139) at FVCC’s Art and Technology Building from 7:00-8:15 PM. The events are free of charge.
On Wednesday, February 21st local historian and lookout Mark Hufstetler is the featured speaker. As a professional historian who spends his summers on Baptiste Lookout on the Flathead National Forest, Mark will share his unique perspective and take a look at the lives of the men and women who have staffed these towers over the generations – a unique shared experience that is remarkably little-changed today.
Federal wildlife managers denied a petition to restore ESA protections to the gray wolf population in the northern Rockies . . .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Friday denied a listing petition from an alliance of more than 70 conservation groups seeking to restore Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Although federal wildlife managers framed the decision as following “a path to support a long-term and durable approach to the conservation of gray wolves,” and pledged to adopt a first-of-its-kind National Recovery Plan, the conservation groups said they were considering a legal challenge.
Gray wolves are still listed under the ESA as endangered in 44 states, and are considered threatened in Minnesota; however, in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and portions of eastern Oregon and Washington, the wolves are managed under state jurisdiction, with their respective legislatures passing laws allowing wolf harvests, while setting quotas and regulations to manage the populations.
Although the FWS decision doesn’t change existing policy, it signals the latest turn in a decades-old debate over state and federal management of wolves in the West, as well as how to quantify the species’ recovery following their delisting in places like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Montana Land Reliance (MLR) announces a forested property near Glacier National Park will forever be protected from development. MLR has completed a conservation easement on a 310-acre property north of Polebridge owned by the Chrisman family. Funded by the MLR Jeff Shryer Fund and the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, the easement property is located less than a half mile from Glacier National Park and bordered by Flathead National Forest. The Chrisman property includes a small tributary of the North Fork River and contains a diverse ecosystem with varied upland timber and riparian wetland habitats.
Deer, elk, moose, black and grizzly bear, lynx, gray wolves, wolverine, and bald eagle will forever thrive on the property – including the grizzly pictured here, taken on the family’s game camera. Many thanks to the Chrisman’s and Heart of the Rockies Initiative for partnering with us!
A group of local residents are not happy about plans to handle pollution at the old CFAC Superfund site by treating and storing the toxic waste on-site rather than shipping it elsewhere . . .
A pair of Flathead County citizen advocacy groups have formed a coalition in response to the proposed cleanup plan at the site of the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) along the Flathead River, where federal regulators have proposed containing hazardous wastes as part of their final remediation rather than shipping the toxic materials off-site.
The newly formed Coalition for a Clean CFAC is requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “take a timeout to fairly re-evaluate the cost benefits of removing, not leaving, the toxic waste at CFAC,” which the EPA declared a Superfund site in 2016.
According to a press release announcing the formation of the new coalition, it represents two existing organizations, Citizens for a Better Flathead and the Columbia Falls-based Upper Flathead Neighborhood Association, as well as a “rapidly growing number of city and county residents throughout the Flathead including a number of former CFAC employees and other local organizations.”
Sierra Club and Save the Yellowstone Grizzly is showing Return of the Grizzly around the region. It is scheduled to be shown at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on Jan 29th at 5:30pm with a question and answer period to follow. This is a project spearheaded by Doug Peacock. NFPA is a co-sponsor of this presentation.
This powerful 37-minute documentary follows the path and challenges of the “explorer bear,” the pioneering young male grizzlies that come from small, isolated core populations. The grizzly bear needs to explore and pioneer new habitats to spread its gene pool, and its long journeys are increasingly driven–and hemmed in–by the ravages of climate change. Return of the Grizzly is premiering NOW at numerous theaters in the West.
Good article on the current status of whitebark pine and the efforts to restore the species . . .
Sitting atop the highest slopes in western North America, the whitebark pine has adapted to the continent’s harshest growing conditions. Temperatures in the sub-alpine zone where it thrives are often well below zero, snow is measured in feet and winds often exceed 100 miles an hour. These stout, twisted trees are survivors: The oldest have grown for nearly 13 centuries.
But change has come to this high-elevation redoubt, threatening not only the whitebark pine’s survival but that of a host of creatures — from birds to bears — that rely on this keystone species. Warmer temperatures, a fungal disease called white pine blister rust, and swarms of mountain pine beetles have killed hundreds of millions of whitebark pines across the West. Wildfires are taking an increasing toll, and other conifer species are moving upslope in the rapidly changing environment, outcompeting the whitebark for nutrients and moisture.
In some areas, including regions within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which has Glacier National Park at its center, more than 90 percent of whitebark pine trees have died. Across the tree’s range, there are more dead trees than live ones, and high-country skylines in many places are marked by their skeletal remains.
Montana is not happy with the idea of placing the wolverine on the Endangered Species List . . .
Less than two months after federal wildlife officials recommended Endangered Species Act protections for the North American wolverine, whose diminishing alpine habitat scientists have recognized as imperiled by climate change for decades, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) on Friday notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of its intent to challenge the listing in court.
“In Montana, wolverines continue to do well and inhabit much, if not all, of their available habitat,” FWP’s Chief of Conservation Policy Quentin Kujala stated in an agency press release. “We work closely with our neighboring states to ensure the continued conservation of these iconic species. Federal protections in this case will only get in the way of good conservation work.”
Specifically, state wildlife officials took issue with how their federal counterparts’ “switched course” in their listing notice by identifying the lower 48 states as a distinct population segment instead of as connected to Canadian wolverine populations in Canada. The finding came despite protections in Canada and states like Montana to ensure wolverine conservation, according to FWP.
Katy Spence of the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) recently published a wonderful interview with Roger Sullivan, who happens to be a board member of both MEIC and our own NFPA. Roger has also been involved with the NFPA from the very beginning.
This piece was originally published in the MEIC’s quarterly Down to Earth publication and is used here with permission. To see the article in full context and with better formatting, you can download the entire newsletter here.
MEIC is fortunate to have a number of friends and allies that we can call upon for support, encouragement, or assistance. This year, we feel especially fortunate to know our board member, mentor, and friend Roger Sullivan. Roger has a deep history in Montana environmental law and justice. For more than 35years, Roger has advocated for Montanans and our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. He has successfully represented dozens of Libby residents sickened by exposure to asbestos from the W.R. Grace mining operations. Most recently, Roger was one of the attorneys in the landmark youth climate trial Held v. State of Montana.
Folks in Montana seem to be growing more tolerant of wolves . . .
\As wolves gain prominence in the northern Rockies and management policies evolve to keep the populations in check, researchers are tracking the shifting social dynamics surrounding Montanans’ complex attitudes toward a species that is both reviled and revered.
According to a new survey conducted cooperatively by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the University of Montana, attitudes and beliefs about wolves and wolf management have generally grown more tolerant. Distributed three times – in 2012, 2017 and 2023 – the survey is aimed at providing insights to wildlife managers and officials tasked with making decisions on wolf management.
“We know people have complicated views and values on wolves, which is reflected in the results of the survey and the trends we see,” Quentin Kujala, FWP chief of conservation policy, stated in a press release announcing the latest survey’s findings. “It’s important for us and our partners at the University to continue research like this because how stakeholders feel about wildlife and its management is a critical awareness for FWP to have.”