Category Archives: News

New conservation easement protects North Fork land

Grizzly bear on Coolidge property in the North Fork Flathead - Del and Linda Coolidge
Grizzly bear on Coolidge property in the North Fork Flathead – Del and Linda Coolidge

Congratulations to North Forkers Del and Linda Coolidge on establishing a conservation easement protecting their land in the North Fork . . .

The North Fork of the Flathead River valley retains the sort of comparatively intact habitat in which wildlife thrives.

This same habitat seems to inspire in many of the people who share it with four-legged animals, migratory birds, rare plants and wild fish a sense of obligation to serve as stewards.

On Friday, the Flathead Land Trust announced that Del and Linda Coolidge, landowners in the Polebridge area, had donated a conservation easement to the nonprofit that will “conserve in perpetuity” 30 acres of scenic open space important for wildlife.

Read more . . .

B.C. border states urge action on transboundary coal pollution

It’s abut time this happened. The North Fork dodged this bullet (so far). However, other regions downstream from British Columbian coal operations have not been so lucky . . .

In a joint June 13 letter to British Columbia Premier John Horgan, a bipartisan slate of senators from all four states bordering the coal-rich Canadian province is pressing its top official to recognize the urgency of safeguarding U.S. waters from mining pollutants spilling downstream into shared transboundary watersheds.

In the latest and most authoritative appeal for Canadian officials to adopt more stringent water-quality standards, all eight senators from Alaska, Montana, Washington, and Idaho drafted a letter highlighting the ongoing efforts to mitigate the environmental and economic impacts resulting from large-scale hard rock and coal mines in British Columbia, as well as to draw attention to B.C.’s regulatory shortcomings surrounding natural resources shared by the neighboring nations.

“While we appreciate Canada’s engagement to date, we remain concerned about the lack of oversight of Canadian mining projects near multiple transboundary rivers that originate in B.C. and flow into our four U.S. states,” the letter states.

Read more . . .

Sen. Jon Tester re-launches Blackfoot-Clearwater bill

Grizzly Basin - added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area under the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act - Zack Porter photo
Grizzly Basin – added to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area under the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act – Zack Porter photo

Some very good news about the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. We’ll see if it flies this time . . .

Citing a decade of groundwork, Sen. Jon Tester has reintroduced his Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act in another attempt to protect wilderness and recreation features around the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

More than 100 supporters filled the KettleHouse Brewery taproom here on Friday to cheer the announcement. Among the first to speak was Pyramid Mountain Lumber Chief Operating Officer Loren Rose, who recalled how timber workers teamed up with wilderness advocates to create an award-winning forestry project based on Tester’s unsuccessful Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. He compared that to a three-legged stool, supported by logging work, recreation opportunities and wilderness protection.

“Everyone who collaborates expects to get something out of it, something they couldn’t get otherwise,” Rose said. “Logs on trucks. Acres for wilderness. So far, our collaborative partners have got very little, but they supported us wholeheartedly. The final piece is the wilderness additions. This stool is not going to stand on one leg forever.”

Read more . . .

Feds say judge overstepped in grizzly delisting case

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP - Ken Pekoc, YNP
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP – Ken Pekoc, YNP

Here’s a good overview of the grizzly delisting suit currently making its way through the court system . . .

Federal attorneys pushed their case that Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears should be removed from Endangered Species Act protection, arguing in an appeal filed late Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t required to do a comprehensive review of all grizzlies in the Lower 48 states.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s opening salvo to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also accused the lower court judge in Missoula of improperly substituting his opinion of the scientific evidence of grizzly genetic diversity for that of FWS biologists.

However, the government said it would not challenge U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling that state wildlife agencies aren’t ready to manage the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) bears and haven’t sufficiently studied how delisting one big grizzly population might affect smaller separate populations.

Read more . . .

Citizen science opportunities and trainings announced for 2019

From a Glacier Park news release . . .

Citizen Science Opportunities and Trainings Announced for 2019
Public Invited to Participate in Wildlife and Plant Research

West Glacier, MT –This summer, the public is invited to help the park track and study important species of concern through its citizen science program. The program allows participants to explore the park and learn about important park resources while collecting valuable data for park managers.

One citizen scientist said the experience was an “excuse to go into the park, sit down for an hour and just search with scope and binoculars—the greatest and most effective and cost-efficient therapy out there!”

Participants can help out with several projects on an ongoing basis, or attend a one-time citizen science event.

Citizen Science Projects

People who would like to collect data on a variety of species of concern and can commit to completing a minimum of three surveys should sign-up for a one-day training session to learn how to identify, observe, and record species information.

Once trained, citizen scientists are free to collect data during their own scheduled hiking trips in the park. Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986 to sign-up for training or for more information.

Scheduled training dates for all ongoing citizen science projects are listed below. Additional training sessions may be scheduled based on interest.

–      Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success.

West Glacier training dates:  May 7, May 14, June 27, July 9

St. Mary training date:  May 29

–      High Country Citizen Science

Document mountain goats and pikas at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates and genetic mapping. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive, and may be affected by changing climate.

West Glacier training dates: June 4, June 15, July 16, July 29

St. Mary training date:  June 26

–      Huckleberry Phenology Citizen Science 

Huckleberries are an important food source for wildlife, including grizzly bears. The park is collecting data to understand how weather and other factors influence the phenology, or timing, of berry ripeness.

West Glacier training date: June 6

–      Lynx Camera Trapping

Canada lynx are a rare and elusive predator native to Glacier National Park. The goal of this project is to learn the status of lynx populations in the park using camera traps to determine where they are currently present. Citizen scientists can help this research project by hiking to camera traps along trails to check and take down cameras. This is a new project, made possible by donor funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

West Glacier training date: August 1 (evening)

–      Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Counts

One of the most important migration routes for golden eagles and other raptors on their way from northern breeding grounds to warmer climates passes through the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. Citizen scientists count migrating raptors at Mount Brown or Lake McDonald Lodge.

West Glacier training date: August 27

Citizen Science Special Events

 Noxious Weed Blitz on July 18, 2019
Participants learn about the ecological impacts and identification of noxious weeds and assist in hand pulling.

July Wildlife Crossings Map-a-Thon
The park will hold a map-a-thon this summer to document wildlife crossings along US Highway 2. Multiple workshops will be held in July in West Glacier and East Glacier. Participant observations will help prioritize locations for wildlife crossing structures or other mitigation efforts to help keep wildlife migrating throughout the Crown of the Continent.

Alpine Bird Bioblitz on July 19, 2019
Participants will document and learn about twelve of Glacier’s alpine bird species.

Fall Fungus Bioblitz on October 12- 13, 2019
Participants team up with mycologists to identify as many species of fungus as they can find.

Citizen Science Program Information
Since 2005, the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center in Glacier National Park has managed the Glacier Citizen Science Program. It relies on trained citizen scientists to collect population data on species of interest to the park. Citizen science training informs participants about threats to native plants and animals that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. The citizen science program not only provides valuable data to park managers, but also creates an informed group of people involved in active Glacier National Park stewardship.

Glacier National Park Conservancy donors provide nearly all funding for the park’s citizen science program. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/rlc/crown/citizen-science.htm or contact the office at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986.

www.nps.gov

 

More than 150 apply for grizzly bear advisory panel

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Huh? How many?

There is quite a bit of interest in Governor Bullock’s grizzly bear advisory panel . . .

More than 150 people have applied to sit on an advisory committee to come up with recommendations on how to manage Montana’s grizzly bears.

Randy Arnold, a regional supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, tells The Missoulian the application process has been “flooded,” and the committee will probably consist of fewer than 20 people.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced in March he would appoint the committee, a move that came shortly after a judge restored federal protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Bears from Yellowstone and in northwestern Montana have been spreading into new areas, triggering conflicts with ranchers, hunters and others.

Read more . . .

FWP reports detail efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflicts

Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 - by Diane Boyd
Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 – by Diane Boyd

Here’s a nice article in the Daily Inter Lake discussing a set of wildlife management reports issued recently by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks . . .

The grizzly drew crowds in October as it prepared for denning by grazing with gusto in an oats field south of Polebridge along the North Fork Road.

As is often true in such encounters, a few spectators who acted recklessly in a quest for close-up photos created problems for the bear. Some people approached to within 20 feet of the grizzly, a subadult male, according to witnesses.

Ultimately, after attempts to haze the bear failed, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks decided to capture and move the bear. The animal was fitted with a GPS collar and released at Packers Roost in Glacier National Park.

Read more . . .

Wolf population declining in Yellowstone

Wolf in Yellowstone National Park - Jim Peaco, YNP
Wolf in Yellowstone National Park – Jim Peaco, YNP

Disease and migration have reduced the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park by half since 2003 . . .

The gray wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has dropped to about 80 wolves, officials say — less than half of the high population mark in the park.

While Yellowstone leaders won’t have an accurate count until the fall after surviving pups are visible, the park’s top biologist doesn’t expect numbers to rise dramatically after litters are included in population estimates.

“Unfortunately, many of them die. Gray pup survival is about 7 percent,” Doug Smith, long-time project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a Wednesday video broadcast on the park’s Facebook page.

Read more . . .

Another lawsuit challenges Flathead Forest plan

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

As promised, Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition have filed suit against the new Flathead Forest Plan . . .

Two environmental groups have filed suit against the Forest Service and other federal agencies claiming the new Flathead National Forest plan doesn’t do enough to protect grizzly bears and bull trout.

The suit, filed by Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition, claims road rules under the new plan reverse a decades-old policy that closed roads in the 2.4 million-acre Forest.

The suit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the two groups.

Read more . . .

Court rejects water permit for mine near Cabinet Wilderness

Leigh Lake below Snowshoe Peak, highest point in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness - Wikipedia image
Leigh Lake below Snowshoe Peak, highest point in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness – Wikipedia image

Hecla Mining, which is trying to establish two mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, lost a round in district court last week . . .

A Lewis and Clark County District Court judge has struck down a water permit issued by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for the proposed Rock Creek Mine near Noxon.

The decision by Judge Kathy Seeley last week is the latest in a series of setbacks for Idaho-based Hecla Mining Company, which is trying to permit and develop two copper and silver mines in Northwest Montana. But environmental groups cheered the decision and said it was a major step forward in protecting the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, which sits directly above the proposed mines.

“The court’s rulings safeguards some of the purest waters in the lower 48 from the destructive impacts threatened by the Rock Creek Mine,” said Earthjustice attorney Katherine O’Brien. “The ruling also affirms that the state’s job is to protect Montana’s waters from the benefits of all Montanans — not to give those waters away to corporate interests without taking a hard look at the impacts.”

Read more . . .