REMINDER: North Fork Interlocal meeting, 10:00am, February 9th online

1990 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall
1990 Interlocal at Sondreson Hall

The Winter 2022 Interlocal Agreement Meeting is hosted by Glacier National Park at 10:00am on Wednesday, February 9. Note that this will again be a virtual meeting – hopefully, the last one. Links for the online session should be available soon.

For those of you who are new to this, The Interlocal Agreement provides for face-to-face contact with representatives of agencies whose policies and actions affect the North Fork. Interlocal Agreement meetings are held twice a year, in the winter (in town) and summer (at Sondreson Hall). This is always a very interesting meeting, with reports from a range of government agencies and local organizations and often some quite vigorous discussion.

Montana Wolf Harvest Dashboard

Collared Wolf - courtesy USFWSWant to know how Montana’s politics-before-science wolf harvest is going this year? The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wolf Harvest Dashboard has you covered. You can even drill down to information on each individual kill. For instance, the three wolves taken in Wolf Management Unit 110 (WMU 110), which encompasses the North Fork, were all trapped on January 20 in the Lazy Creek area.

Kudos to NFPA Board member Diane Boyd for highlighting this resource.

Link: Montana Wolf Harvest Dashboard

 

Wolf harvest down locally despite rule changes

Gray WolfWhat’s going on here in Region 1? Over-hunting in previous years? . . .

Following years of record regional harvests, hunters and trappers in the northwestern corner of the state have so far achieved less than a third of total state-sanctioned wolf kills for the season.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission set its Region 1 wolf hunting and trapping threshold this year — quitting the use of a “quota” — at 195 animals.

Year-to-date, the Region 1 effort, mostly comprising Lake, Sanders, Lincoln and Flathead counties, tallied 52 wolves tagged so far, according to state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department data available Friday. That’s down from the 101 killed in the region by this time last year, according to FWP.

Continue reading . . .

Montana FWP to close wolf hunting around Yellowstone after a few more kills

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

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will shut down wolf hunting in the area around Yellowstone National Park as soon a few more wolves are killed . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park commissioners voted Friday to close wolf hunting and trapping in Region 3 once the wolf take reaches 82 wolves.

Region 3 encompasses an area of Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park. The take to date is 76 wolves.

Commissioner Pat Tabor, who is from the Flathead Valley, quashed an amendment to the motion that would have immediately closed wolf hunting and trapping in wolf management units units 313 and 316, which directly border Yellowstone. The smaller units are part of the broader Region 3.

Continue reading . . .

FWP: Wolf take on par with last year; three North Fork wolves killed

Gray Wolf - Adam Messer-Montana FWP
Gray Wolf – Adam Messer, Montana FWP

So far, the number of wolves taken this hunting season  is about the same, but the distribution of kills has changed somewhat . . .

With almost two months remaining, this season’s wolf harvest is on par with past seasons in Montana, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said last week.

But it’s where the wolves are being killed that’s raised concerns. In wolf management unit 313, which borders Yellowstone National Park, 16 wolves have been killed as of Friday and three more in wolf management unit 316, which also borders the Park, bringing the total to 19 wolf deaths along the Park’s border…

…Closer to home, the first wolves up the North Fork of the Flathead have been killed as well. To date, three wolves have been killed in wolf management unit 110, according to FWP reports…

Read more . . .

Flathead Forest ‘travel plan’ changes likely to reduce mountain biking, adjust snowmobile opportunities

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is beginning the process of bringing its travel plan into alignment with the overall 2018 forest plan . . .

The Flathead National Forest has released a two-pronged proposed action that looks to update where snowmobiles and other over the snow motorized vehicles can run in the future, as well as mechanized uses like bicycles and game carts.

The changes come under the 2018 Forest plan, as it has about 190,400 acres of recommended wilderness. Under the plan, some trails could be closed that were once open to mechanical uses like bicycles, because the trails are now in recommended wilderness.

The bulk of those trails — about 82 miles, are in the Tuchuk-Whale Creek areas of the North Fork.

“Specifically, within the 190,403 acres of recommended wilderness areas, about 96 miles of trail currently allow mechanized transport and about 383 acres currently allow over-snow motorized use. There are no open motorized trails or roads or designated over-snow motorized travel routes in these recommended wilderness areas,” the proposed action notes.

Read more . . .

Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

Here is a well-reasoned op-ed that recently appeared in the Helena Independent Record opposing grizzly bear delisting due to problems with Montana’s current wildlife management  regime. You’ll see some familiar entries in the 35-name signature block, including NFPA Board of Directors member Diane Boyd.

(Bonus: the Char-Kosta News, official news publication of the Flathead Indian Reservation, has a lengthy discussion of the underlying background issues.)


Grizzly bear on log - Ken Peaco, NPS

We are 35 state, federal, and Tribal wildlife professionals who have worked together for more than 40 years to help recover and manage grizzly bears, wolves, and other wildlife in Montana. We did this by building science and fact-based management policies and plans with public input while carefully balancing the needs of bears and other wildlife with the needs of the people who live, work, and recreate in Montana.

We believed in and promoted the eventual delisting of recovered grizzlies and wolves and turning them over to state management. We believed that the wildlife professionals in Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) would be good stewards who would continue to carefully manage grizzly bears and wolves using science and facts after recovery and delisting.

All this changed in 2021 when a new legislative majority and a like-minded governor took office. Science-based wildlife management in Montana was replaced by anti-predator hysteria fueled by misinformation and emotion. Professional wildlife management by FWP biologists was replaced by partisan political intervention that overturned decades of sound wildlife policy.

Continue reading Op-ed: We cannot support delisting Montana grizzly bears unless state laws are changed

‘Grizzlies and Us’ series worth the read

Grizzly Bear - Montana FWP
Grizzly Bear – Montana FWP

Wow! Lee Enterprises, owner of a number of newspapers in this part of the country, including the Missoulian, recently wrapped up their “Grizzlies and Us” project, a ten-part series consisting of some 22 individual articles examining “…the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans…”

Highly recommended reading . . .

Bear thoughts

Flannery Coats Bio PhotoNFPA President Flannery Coats has an excellent op-ed in the Hungry Horse News . . .

Most people who live up the North Fork call themselves “North Forkers.” You’ll know a North Forker when you meet one. At meetings outside of the North Fork, introductions usually go “my name is so and so and I’m a North Forker.” This is meant to imply a few things. For starters, an aptitude for self-sufficiency. For some of us, though, it’s more of an attitude with a willingness to learn. Another, the affliction of joy when things don’t go according to plan 80% of the time. In the shed that usually means a zip tie to the rescue while in the kitchen it’s more like what’s in the pantry is what’s on the menu. Being a North Forker also implies a code of living. Living with bears. Living with each other, although many will joke about which one makes a better neighbor. In true North Forker fashion, the place has a unique history of what living with bears looks like. At backcountry cabins you’ll see 2-foot long nails spiked through the heavy log doors, an old school ranger “bear proofing” their cache. Back in the ‘90s downtown Polebridge was full of Karelian bear dogs, the first of many special touches grizzly bear management specialist, Tim Manley, gave in his career with FWP. The years following he taught landowners to secure attractants and bear proof places like garages where food and garbage is stored until a town run is imperative. Thanks to those educational opportunities the North Fork is now a model of how people and bears can coexist given the right tools, although this fall would indicate that education is imperative after improper food and garbage storage by a few new landowners led to the death of four grizzlies.

This brings us to the recent announcement 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, opening up possible hunting opportunities in areas surrounding Glacier. As a former Glacier Park Ranger and seasoned local business owner, I have seen that the experience visitors want most is the chance to see a grizzly in the wild. Protected. Secondly, the grizzly bear population in Montana consists of two very separated “islands.” One in Yellowstone and one in Glacier and there is no evidence of intermingling yet which, in my opinion, is necessary to achieve “recovery” of a threatened species. According to USFWS, grizzly bears currently inhabit just 6% of their historic range. The North Fork is a decent chunk. To be a North Forker is to live with grizzlies while cutting firewood or fixing the snowblower, always remembering that the remote corner of the ecosystem spanning the Rocky Mountains you get to call home, too. As fellow North Forker Doug Chadwick says in his new book, “Four Fifths a Grizzly”: Do unto your ecosystems as you would have them do unto you. Up here, that means neighbors caroling on a full moon night. Happy Holidays to all!