Impromptu ‘Science March’ in Polebridge

Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 - Debo Powers photo
Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 – Debo Powers photo

Debo Powers reports . . .

Visiting biologists staged an impromptu “Science March” in Polebridge on Earth Day, April 22, in solidarity with hundreds of thousands in Washington DC and around the globe who marched to support science and research-based policy. Several North Fork residents joined in making the statement in front of the Polebridge Mercantile.

Harvey Locke leads charge to prevent global-scale extinction

Harvey Locke
Harvey Locke

Many of you will remember Harvey Locke from the 2014 NFPA Annual Meeting as a charismatic orator who thinks in large landscapes. “Large” may be too mild an adjective. The Calgary Herald has the story . . .

Harvey Locke would grimace at the suggestion he’s on a mission to save the world.

But the Calgary native and Banff resident has embarked on a campaign to convince world leaders to preserve 50 per cent of their countries’ land mass to avert what’s seen as the earth’s sixth great extinction event, this one preceded by the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

“It doesn’t lack ambition, that’s for sure, but it’s more feasible than it might appear,” said Locke, a veteran conservationist. “This is the kind of conservation we need if the world is to continue functioning in the way we know it to be.”

Read more . . .

More muscle needed against mussels

Zebra mussels
Zebra mussels – via Wikipedia

The Flathead Basin Commission wants stepped up protection against invasive mussels for Flathead Lake. (The Hungry Horse News gets credit/blame for the headline pun.) . . .

With the detection of invasive mussels last November in the Tiber Reservoir, Montana lost its status as one of the last few states free of zebra or quagga mussels.

These mussels may be small, but they cause big problems. When they hitch a ride on watercraft or in bilge water and travel between water bodies, they reproduce quickly and have a host of negative effects, including structural damage, water chemistry changes, and algal blooms.

They also rob native species of food and habitat. As the mussels infest water bodies increasingly closer to the Flathead Basin, conservation organizations are scrambling to develop new plans for prevention and management. The current state plan for managing aquatic invasive species includes three links in a “protective tripod,” as Thompson Smith, Chair of the Flathead Basin Commission called it during a meeting last week.

Read more . . .

Trout don’t make healthy mutts

Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana - Jonny Armstrong-USGS
Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana – Jonny Armstrong-USGS

Here’s a little bit different take on the cutthroat trout report mentioned here a couple of days ago . . .

Unlike dogs, trout don’t make healthy mutts.

Don’t expect hybrid vigor when rainbow trout interbreed with cutthroats in Montana’s high mountain streams. Despite the rainbow’s success as the most widely distributed game fish in the world, and the cutthroat’s remarkable ability to thrive through wildfires and landslides, their co-mingled offspring tend to be too dumb to live long.

That fact leaps out of analysis on one of the largest genetic data sets anywhere of Rocky Mountain cutthroat trout at the University of Montana’s Conservation Genetics Lab. In a recently published paper, the researchers looked at what happened to native trout after decades of artificial stocking in lakes and rivers.

Read more . . .

Reminder: Flathead Earth Day celebration, April 22

Earth Day 2017 PosterFrom the press release . . .

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd with a free family-friendly festival in Whitefish!

The third annual Flathead Earth Day Celebration will be at a new location this year, on the lawn at Whitefish Middle School (at the intersection of Second Street and Spokane Avenue in downtown Whitefish – or inside the school in the event of rain). From 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM, explore over 40 booths hosted by local conservation organizations and green businesses. Each booth will feature a different hands-on activity or craft focused on one of four Earth Day pillars: Grow It, Fix It, Save It,and Live It.

Attendees will be able to plant their own seeds, create repurposed art and toys, visit with live raptors, identify local wildlife and plants, learn about local fish and rivers, sort out how to recycle and help paint a community recycle bin, master how to Leave No Trace, meet Woodsy the Owl and Gracie the “Bark Ranger”, see aquaponics and solar power in action, and discover opportunities to keep celebrating Earth Day all year long – just to name a few!

Kids are encouraged to bring their bicycle for the bike rodeo obstacle course to practice important safety skills. There will be free bike safety checks and tire fills available for bicyclists of all ages.

Participants that complete activities at 10 or more booths with their Earth Day Punch Card will receive a complimentary coffee or treat from Montana Coffee Traders, as long as they go green by bringing their own mug!

Between booth activities, festival goers can enjoy live music, guest speakers, and interactive presentations at the Earth Day Stage (schedule below), or reach new heights on the Get-a-Grip rock-climbing wall and jumper, available free of charge. Local food trucks will be dishing out fresh lunch fare and tasty treats.

E-waste recycling will be collected at the event. E-waste includes computers, flat screen monitors,printers, laptops, servers, cell phones, flat screen televisions, stereos, VCRs, and similar electronics.Old tube CRT televisions or monitors cannot be recycled at the event.

This lively, fun-filled event is a chance to celebrate and learn about all things green in the Flathead.The festival is made possible by Citizens for a Better Flathead, Glacier National Park Lodges,Montana Coffee Traders, and Valley Recycling.

Earth Day Stage Schedule:
11:00 AM – Live music by Here to Make Friends
12:00 PM – A Special Welcome from Glacier National Park
1:00 PM – Wild Bird Show with Wild Wings Recovery Center
1:30 PM – Meet Gracie, the Glacier National Park “Bark Ranger”
2:00 PM – Climate Smart Champion Awards Ceremony with Climate Smart Glacier Country

Find more information on Citizens for a Better Flathead’s Facebook page ( or at

Climate change spells trouble For cutthroat trout

Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana - Jonny Armstrong-USGS
Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana – Jonny Armstrong-USGS

NPR has an article about the problems faced by westslope cutthroat trout in the this corner of the country . . .

There’s an unplanned experiment going on in the northern Rocky Mountains. What’s happening is that spring is arriving earlier, and it’s generally warmer and drier than usual. And that’s messing with some of the fish that live there.

The fish is the iconic cutthroat trout. It’s a native North American fish that thrives in cold, small streams. Explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame was among the first European-Americans to catch this spangly, spotted fish. He used deer spleen as bait.

It’s relative rarity now makes it a favorite for catch-and-release anglers. But biologists have now found that it’s in danger. The much more common rainbow trout is invading cutthroat streams and mating with the native fish. Ecologist Clint Muhlfeld says that creates hybrids.

Read more . . .

“Era of Megafires” Presentation at FVCC, April 25

Wildfire Plume - USFS
Wildfire Plume – USFS

From the official press release . . .

Wildfire plays an important and integral role in our forested ecosystems. Local fire history records show that our forests have evolved with fire for thousands of years. We have successfully suppressed 98% of wildfires in the greater Flathead Area since approximately 1930, and the resulting accumulation of fuel creates an environment conducive to large fire growth. It’s important for our community to understand wildfire and promote a proactive approach to mitigating impacts to our communities; private property, airshed, watersheds and forest ecosystems.

On April 25th, the community is invited to a public event and conversation at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building Room 139 at 6:00 p.m., for an “Era of Megafires” presentation. This 70-minute multi-media traveling presentation by Dr. Paul Hessburg, will help our community understand the issues surrounding Megafires, so collectively we can move toward solutions that can change the way we receive wildfire and related smoke. Dr. Hessburg has conducted fire and landscape ecology research for more than 27 years.

The “Era of Megafires” presentation will be followed by a question and answer session around topics that are relevant to the community in order to identify local challenges and local actions. Typically, different communities face different obstacles when it comes to wildfire preparedness and resilience.

The intent of this presentation is to significantly reduce the amount of loss we are experiencing by developing a collective understanding of fire, approaches to wildfire management, and how landowners can engage.

The “Era of Megafires” is brought to you by Flathead Area FireSafe Council, Northern Rockies Fire Science Network; Southwestern Crown Collaborative, Montana DNRC/Kalispell Unit; Flathead National Forest, Flathead Valley Community College and FireSafe Montana. For more information, contact Mike West, Flathead National Forest at 758-3539, or Ali Ulwelling, MT DNRC at 751-2270.

Jeff Mow to give presentation April 19

Jeff Mow, Superintendent of Glacier National Park - NPS photo
Jeff Mow, Superintendent of Glacier National Park – NPS photo

Jeff Mow, Glacier National Park Superintendent, is giving a talk at Flathead Valley Community College on Wednesday, April 19 . . .

In celebration of National Park Week, Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow will give a community presentation about challenges and opportunities the park sees in the future at the heart of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

The talk will take place at Flathead Valley Community College on Wednesday, April 19 at 6 p.m. in the Large Community Room, Arts and Technology Building, Room 139.

Mow will address management strategies including the importance of community and partner collaboration in the face of increasing park visitation, invasive species, funding, and climate change.

Read more . . .

Study looks at rare critters

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

Here’s a pretty interesting article from the Hungry Horse News regarding an effort to study small carnivores in the Swan and Mission valleys . . .

Down in the basement of the Condon work center there’s a wall with paper bags tacked to it, carefully labeled, drying out.

It’s what Adam Lieberg of the Swan Valley Connections Southwestern Crown Collaborative Carnivore Project calls the “wall of scat.”

He used to have the bags in his living room, but it smelled like a very old litter box and his wife-to-be almost left him, he joked.

Read more . . .