Category Archives: News

Feds won’t fund North Fork Road paving study

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

The expected result, but still good to know for certain . . .

Flathead County did not receive federal funding for an environmental analysis to look at paving a portion of the North Fork Road, county public works director Dave Prunty confirmed Monday.

The county sought Federal Lands Access Program monies to do a National Environmental Policy Act review of improving the road from just north of Glacier Rim to the Camas Road entrance to Glacier National Park earlier this year, but the analysis wasn’t funded.

Continue reading . . .

Montana Supreme Court revokes Rosebud Coal Mine Expansion

NFPA board member Roger Sullivan was involved in this case . . .

The Montana Supreme Court has halted an expansion of a Westmoreland-operated mine that supplies the Colstrip power plant with coal. The court’s decision vacated an 8-year-old permit that allowed Westmoreland to pull 12 million tons of coal from the Rosebud Mine located in southeastern Montana.

The environmental concern at issue related to water quality impacts to the East Fork of Armells Creek, an intermittent stream that flows into the Yellowstone River. The Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club argued that allowing strip-mining operations in AM4, a  49-acre parcel in Area B of the mine, would result in material damage to the waterway by increasing the creek’s salinity to the detriment of one of its established beneficial uses: the support of aquatic life.

The order, authored by Chief Justice Mike McGrath and signed by the court’s six other justices, largely affirmed a lower court’s ruling. It nullifies the AM4 permit, disallowing mining in that area. Prior to arriving at the Montana Supreme Court, DEQ’s decision in 2015 to approve the expansion had been weighed by the Board of Environmental Review (a quasi-judicial, governor-appointed body) and the Sixteenth Judicial District Court.

Continue reading . . .

(A tip of the hat to Debo Powers for spotting this one.)

Tribes set end-of-year ultimatum for U.S. and Canada to address transboundary mining crisis in Elk-Kootenai drainage

Lake Koocanusa
Lake Koocanusa

Their patience has run out . . .

When Rich Janssen flips through the 2023 calendar, he sees months of missed opportunities to tackle a multi-national environmental crisis that has united tribal and First Nation governments spanning the U.S.-Canada border as few causes have before.

Last year’s calendar isn’t much different. Neither is the year before that.

For decades, open-pit coal mines located in the Elk Valley of southeast British Columbia (B.C.) have leached selenium, nitrate, and sulphate into the Elk and Kootenai rivers. Since 2012, Indigenous leaders from the Ktunaxa Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the Kootenai Tribes of Idaho (KTOI) have been urging Canada and the U.S. to address the water quality crisis.

Continue reading . . .

Wolverines to receive federal protection

Wolverine in snow - Steve Kroschel
Wolverine in snow – Steve Kroschel

Well, now. Here’s some good news . . .

The North American wolverine will receive long-delayed federal protections under a Biden administration proposal released Wednesday in response to scientists warning that climate change will likely melt away the rare species’ snowy mountain refuges.

Across most of the U.S., wolverines were wiped out by the early 1900s from unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns. About 300 surviving animals in the contiguous U.S. live in fragmented, isolated groups at high elevations in the northern Rocky Mountains.

In the coming decades, warming temperatures are expected to shrink the mountain snowpack wolverines rely on to dig dens where they birth and raise their young.

The decision Wednesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service follows more than two decades of disputes over the risks of climate change, and threats to the long-term survival of the elusive species. Officials wrote in the proposal that protections under the Endangered Species Act were needed “due primarily to the ongoing and increasing impacts of climate change and associated habitat degradation and fragmentation.”

Continue reading . . .

Court limits wolf trapping season over threat to grizzlies

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

Wolf trapping in Montana got curtailed in those areas with grizzly bear populations . . .

A federal judge in Missoula issued an order late Tuesday afternoon that will limit Montana’s wolf trapping season to Jan. 1 to Feb. 15 next year in hunting Regions 1 through 5 and three counties along the north-central border, citing the possibility that threatened grizzly bears get caught in wolf traps or snares.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s order granting a preliminary injunction in the case came less than 30 hours after he heard arguments from the plaintiffs – the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizens Task Force and WildEarth Guardians – and the state over whether he should grant the injunction. The State of Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte, and Fish and Wildlife Commission Chair Lesley Robinson are the named defendants in the suit.

In his order, he sided with the plaintiffs on most of the points raised at Monday’s hourlong hearing, saying the traps could indeed injure a grizzly, that any capture of a grizzly is considered an illegal “take” under the Endangered Species Act, and that limiting the wolf trapping season to those six weeks would also limit the potential for any grizzlies to be caught in traps.

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Flathead Forest invites public comment on winter recreation special use permit proposals

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

Tristan Scott at the Flathead Beacon posted an excellent write-up on this winter’s set of special use permit proposals for the Flathead National Forest.

Details of these proposals can be found here: . . .

The Flathead National Forest is processing a flurry of requests for outfitting and shuttle services this winter, with proposals ranging from guided snow-bike, snowmobiling, skiing and snow-shoe tours to therapeutic “forest bathing.”

Officials with the Flathead National Forest (FNF) are soliciting public input on requests for nine temporary special-use permits authorizing outfitting and guiding activities from approximately Dec. 1, 2023, through May 15, 2024. According to a news release announcing the proposals, each request meets the criteria to receive a special-use permit under a categorical exclusion, which is the least-intensive form of environmental review.

Eight of the proposed special uses have been approved for one-year permits in the past; however, each proposal requires approval on an annual basis. One new proposal by Glacier Nordic Club is also under review.

Continue reading . . .

Feds draft plan to bring grizzlies back to the North Cascades

A grizzly bear at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center outside Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone, MT, in 2017 - Whitney Shefte, The Washington Post
A grizzly bear at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center outside Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone, MT, in 2017 – Whitney Shefte, The Washington Post

Here’s a good update on the status of grizzly bear reintroduction in the North Cascades. (Kudos to Randy Kenyon for passing this one along.)

The federal government has drafted plans to bring grizzly bears back to Washington state’s North Cascades, the next step toward reintroducing the threatened species to a region where it was eliminated by hunters decades ago.

Grizzlies once played a key role in north-central Washington’s vast expanse of forest, mountains and valleys. Now the North Cascades is one of the last places left in the Lower 48 states where grizzly bears would be able to thrive — and U.S. agencies are evaluating whether to start a population there that could grow to 200 bears within a century.

Bringing them back would be the culmination of a decades-long effort to restore grizzly bears to the ecosystem, one of six spots in the country where federal biologists have aimed to recover decimated populations.

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mastodon test

Grizzlies are coming to town. Can the west live with them?

A female grizzly bear chews grass in Yellowstone National Park - NPS
A female grizzly bear chews grass in Yellowstone National Park – NPS

Here’s an excellent article from the New York Times discussing human-bear conflict, especially in Montana. The Bear Smart program gets a nod and you’ll also see some familiar names . . .

Aries, an Anatolian shepherd, warily watches a stranger approach a pen where he and other members of his family — including eight fuzzy, 2-month-old puppies — roam alongside a grunting pig and several bleating goats.

Livestock guard dogs like Aries are in demand in Montana these days, an important tool as the state deals with an increasing number of grizzly bears.

Anatolians — large, muscular dogs that originated in Turkey and were bred by shepherds — are extremely loyal and highly protective of those in their care, even against top predators.

“We have gray wolves, grizzly and black bears here,” said Natalie Thurman, owner of Apex Anatolians, whose pups go for $3,300 each. “We just had a grizzly bear in the creek a hundred yards from here.”

Continue reading . . .

DEQ asking for input, holding listening sessions on updating Montana Environmental Policy Act

Kudos to Debo Powers fpr spotting this one.

Her comments: DEQ is holding “listening sessions” around the state to find out how citizens think that MEPA (Montana Environmental Policy Act) should be revised as a result of a district judge’s ruling in Held v State of Montana.  This ground-breaking ruling held that greenhouse gas emissions (which cause climate change) violate our right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

60 people attended the first listening session in Billings this week and every speaker (except 1) wanted MEPA to be strengthened to protect our environment and deal with greenhouse gas emissions. At least two more listening sessions will be held this month in Helena and Missoula.

Read more at the Daily Montanan . . .

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park announces 20th annual Science and History Week

This looks pretty interesting. From the press release . . .

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is hosting its Annual Science and History Week through a live webinar series offered October 3 to 6 at noon MDT on the Microsoft Teams webinar platform. Parks Canada and the US National Park Service have hosted an annual Science and History event together since 2004.

Participants from around the world will have the opportunity to connect with scientists and subject matter experts as they highlight current natural and cultural research related to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and World Heritage Site. Each presentation will give a unique look at our partnerships, insights, and latest findings.

Please join us to learn more about the exciting research initiatives in the world’s first International Peace Park. Participants can register by filling out the online registration forms on the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center website.

This year’s presenters and topics: Continue reading Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park announces 20th annual Science and History Week