Like fur-covered ghosts they silently stalk the forests of Glacier National Park.
Little is known about the population of Canada Lynx — rarely glimpsed by visitors — that make the Crown of the Continent their home, but a recently completed three-year scientific study is hoping to change that.
The first-ever comprehensive lynx population survey in the park, funded by the Glacier National Park Conservancy and conducted in collaboration with Alissa Anderson, John Waller and Dr. Dan Thornton, hopes to finally shed light on mysterious feline’s population densities and preferred habitat inside Glacier National Park…
Oh, cripes. He we go again. Montana Governor Greg Gianforte wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the region’s grizzly bears from the endangered species list. Three articles are linked here, leading with one from Montana Free Press that seems the most complete . . .
Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office announced today that the state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, citing robust population counts and touting the state’s ability to independently manage Montana’s grizzly bears, which have been federally protected since 1975.
“We worked on grizzly bear recovery for decades. We were successful and switched to a focus on conflict management years ago,” FWP Director Hank Worsech said in a release about the petition, which seeks to remove federal protections for an estimated 1,100 grizzlies in western Montana. “We’ve shown the ability to manage bears, protect their habitat and population numbers. It’s time for us to have full authority for grizzly bears in Montana.”
OK. this is pretty impressive. Below is the lead-in to an excellent story by the Missoulian’s inimitable Rob Chaney about a mapping study just completed by Brad Blickhan and Jillian McKenna concerning the wilderness character of Glacier National Park. If you can’t get past the newspaper’s paywall, just jump straight to the study’s immersive web page. You won’t regret it . . .
Two things about Glacier National Park might seem obvious but aren’t. First, for all its million wild acres of peaks and lakes, Glacier is not legally wilderness. And second, for all the satellites, traffic counters, lidar scanners and other gizmos monitoring activity in the park, we don’t have a good measuring stick showing how its wild qualities have changed over time…
Here’s some good news! Work has resumed on the Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.
From the official press release . . .
Kalispell, MT, November 4, 2021– The Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, is excited to announce that after a year-long delay, planning efforts will begin once again on the Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River. The project will continue to be coordinated by HydroSolutions Inc, a Helena, Montana natural resource consulting firm.
In the fall/winter of 2020 the project team was working on an initial draft of the CRMP. This plan along with an environmental assessment was anticipated to be released for public comment in January of 2020, with a final decision in the summer of 2020. The CRMP project was delayed due to lack of funding for completing the contract as well as staffing and capacity issues. In January 2021, the Forest Service secured additional funding to extend the contract with HydroSolutions through August 2022.
The purpose of the project is to fulfill the requirements of Section 3(d)(1) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that states that “the Federal agencies charged with the administration of each component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System shall prepare a comprehensive management plan…to provide for the protection of river values and Section 3(d) (2) that requires that river management plans for Wild and Scenic Rivers designated prior to 1986 be reviewed for conformity with the Act. Prior to developing the proposed action, six public engagement sessions were held to discuss water quality, wildlife, cultural and ethnography features, fisheries, geology and botany, and recreation and scenery. The Proposed Action was then drafted and released in late summer 2019, which included a 45-day public scoping period that generated 126 written comments and included two public meetings attended by approximately 180 people.
The purpose and need for the Flathead River CRMP Project, as stated in the proposed action is:
- To protect and enhance the outstandingly remarkable values identified in the original designation.
- To update the existing river management plan as required to maintain compliance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and to reflect changes that have occurred since designation (1976) in forest and park management, special status species, and other laws that affect resources within the Wild and Scenic River corridor.
This plan will be implemented through three primary mechanisms including intergovernmental coordination, individual agency action, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the public. This plan provides management direction and information on the desired river conditions as well as monitoring indicators, triggers, and thresholds for the Flathead Wild and Scenic River into the future. Future projects and site-specific activities must be consistent with the regulatory guidance provided in the CRMP as well as the Flathead Forest Plan.
Because some time has passed since the release of the proposed action, we encourage interested public to review the proposed action document and project background materials. The Proposed Action document highlights the elements of the CRMP that address the current status of the outstanding remarkable values along these river segments, outlines goals and desired conditions, describes the user capacity determination process, and proposes a monitoring strategy, indicators, and management direction to carry forward. The proposed action can be accessed at the Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan project website and the CRMP Project Background link on the Flathead NF CRMP Website includes all the materials from the 2018 Pre-scoping public engagement meetings and detailed project background.
The new project timeline anticipates that a Draft CRMP and environmental assessment will be released in the spring of 2022 for public review and comment. The project team plans to hold a public engagement session to provide more information and facilitate public input on the Draft Plan. The final decision and CRMP is expected to be released late summer 2022.
The Forest appreciates the public’s continued engagement and interest in the Flathead CRMP Project and look forward to receiving more input as we move forward. The Three Forks of the Flathead Wild and Scenic River is a nationally and locally important resource. The Forest/Team is committed to developing a CRMP that will meet the requirements of the Wild and Scenic River Act and continue to protect and enhance the rivers free flowing conditions, water quality, and the outstandingly remarkable values for current and future generations.
This just in from our colleagues at the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance . . .
Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance is excited to share that we are hiring a community engagement coordinator to help further efforts to protect the Badger-Two Medicine region of Montana. This full-time, salaried position is a funded, two-year fellowship designed for recent college graduates or early career professionals entering the conservation field. Ideally, the individual will have roots/connections to the Blackfeet Nation or broader Reservation community, but tribal affiliation or community ties is not a requirement. If you could post the attached job description to job boards with which you are affiliated or pass it along directly to any potential candidates you know and encourage them to apply, it would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for your help in finding terrific candidates!
Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance
Dear NFPA membership,
It is with some grief and extra caution that I write to inform you all that the NFPA Board has decided it is most appropriate to change our Annual Meeting to a Zoom format given the intensity of the COVID case load in the Flathead. Sally Thompson, our speaker, will take a rain check and deliver her much anticipated presentation next year.
So, instead, we invite you to join us on October 2 for a short business meeting and some exciting organizational updates (including the introduction of our first scholarship recipient) at 5:45pm followed by a photographic journey through the expansive public lands of our great state of Montana by past president, Debo Powers at 6:30pm.
We look forward to “seeing” you all from the comfort of your homes next weekend. You’ll find an online meeting attendance link below . . .
On behalf of the Board and until we meet again,
Flannery Coats, President
North Fork Preservation Association
To join the Zoom meeting . . .
Many thanks for your patience as we reconfigure our plans for 2021 North Fork Preservation Association Annual Meeting plans in light of the Hay Creek Fire. Based on schedules of fellow organizations, as well as Mother Nature’s say, we have set a date, time and place for our gathering:
Saturday, October 2nd
at Home Ranch Bottoms
8950 North Fork Road
Our speaker this year is
Sally Thompson who co-wrote People Before the Park: The Kootenai and Blackfeet before Glacier National Park.
We would love for you to be among our honored guests.
4:30pm: Potluck supper
5:45pm: Short business meeting to elect officers and members of the Board of Directors and report on the work of NFPA
We are excited to spend an evening with all of you, share with you what we’ve been up to, and look forward to a great presentation.
Aggressive wolf management plans in Montana and Idaho are drawing the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . . .
On opening day of Montana’s expanded wolf-hunting season, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it has decided to conduct an in-depth status review to determine whether state management plans aiming to aggressively reduce wolf populations threaten the recovery of gray wolves.
The agency now has a year to conduct a further review of the species using the best available science to determine whether listing under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.
The process was initiated this summer when environmental groups asked the agency to relist the animals through two separate petitions. The groups filed the petitions after lawmakers in Montana and Idaho passed laws that encouraged aggressive population reduction by broadening the methods hunters could use to harvest wolves and expanding the trapping season.
In a release about the decision, the agency wrote that the two petitions presented “substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.” and that the “new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat.”…
The Flathead Beacon has a good article by Tristan Scott discussing the loss of Monica and her three cubs, as well as the general North Fork community issues surrounding living with wildlife . . .
Twenty years ago, new arrivals to the remote North Fork Flathead River community of Polebridge were likely to hear some version of the following when asking for directions — just head north and hang a right at the pile of bear scat.
Situated on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, which merges with the Bob Marshall Wilderness to create the largest intact natural ecosystem in the Northern Rockies, the North Fork’s resident grizzly bear population has historically outnumbered its year-round residents, as evidenced by the prominent distribution of scatological droppings along the area’s trails and roadways. Still, the human interlopers who do call this wild chunk of country home have, more or less, learned how to coexist with their mammalian neighbors, reaching an accord that just comes with the territory in bear country.
And yet in recent years, due in part to the increased visitation at Glacier National Park, whose western boundary is defined by the North Fork Flathead River, as well as the expansion of commercial services in and around the community of Polebridge — leading to the development of “work camps” to house a growing number of seasonal workers — human-wildlife conflicts have been on the rise.
Small Community Loses Grizzly Family
Polebridge, Montana [September 8, 2021] – Bear #418, known to locals as Monica, was euthanized Saturday, September 4th along with her three female yearlings, after receiving a multitude of food rewards over the past week. Due to several incidents involving improper food and garbage storage within an eight-mile radius of the Polebridge townsite the bears were ultimately deemed food-conditioned. Monica had been a resident female grizzly bear in the North Fork Valley for 17 years.
In response, two local non-profits, the North Fork Landowners Association (nflandowners.org) and the North Fork Preservation Association (gravel.org), will be working together, along with agency partners, to help improve food and garbage storage in the area as well as to make financial aid resources from conservation organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and Vital Ground more readily available to residents and business owners in the North Fork.
The North Fork community deeply grieves the loss of Monica and her cubs and in the coming months will explore new avenues to further educate and assist residents and visitors in how to live and recreate in bear country in a manner safe for both bears and humans.