The ‘bad actor’ law and common sense

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Hecla Mining wants to dig a couple of mines along the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Montana wants reimbursed for cleaning up an old mess first. This excellent Flathead Beacon op-ed by Jim Nash lays out the situation very clearly . . .

When Webb Scott Brown of the Chamber of Commerce attacks Montana’s enforcement of a state law that protects taxpayers from shouldering the cleanup bill for mining companies, it’s clearly time to impose an old-fashioned smell test. In weaving together his argument, he got many of his facts wrong.

I live in the community where Phillips Baker’s company proposes to mine. And as the retired owner of a sawmill and wood products company I know the challenges of creating jobs and making a livelihood in rural Montana. I also understand the obligations businesses and their leaders must take on when they seek the privilege of developing our state’s natural resources.

From my perspective, the bad actor law is common sense. It simply says that mining companies and their top executives don’t get another shot at our state’s natural resources if they walked out on their cleanup obligations in the past — unless they’re prepared to pay back the state for cleanup work the public had to do in the company’s place.

Read more . . .

Montana FWP to set grizzly population targets

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 good overview, with useful links,  of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.

On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.

In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.

Read more . . .

FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs - NPS photo, Tim Rains
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs – NPS photo, Tim Rains

Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.

“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”

Continue reading FWP proposes rule outlining grizzly bear population objectives in NCDE

Record grizzly roadkill

A grizzly bear female and two of its cubs died in a car collision on July 27 about three miles south of Ronan, Montana - CSKT Wildlife Dept
A grizzly bear female and two of its cubs died in a car collision on July 27 about three miles south of Ronan, Montana – CSKT Wildlife Dept

This well-researched article by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian uses bear roadkill along US93 as a starting point to make a broader examination of grizzly mortality . . .

The dictionary defines “mortality” as both death and loss. For grizzly bears along the Northern Continental Divide, both definitions came into play last month when the ecosystem recorded five grizzly mortalities, although only four bears died. And because two of the deaths were adult females of breeding age, the loss could have longer term consequences.

On July 24, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks workers found a dead sow grizzly near the southern end of Hungry Horse Reservoir in the Spotted Bear Ranger District. The 16-year-old female had a radio collar that was sending out a mortality signal, indicating it had stopped moving. The carcass was too decomposed to immediately reveal the cause of death.

Three days later, the driver of a car on Highway 93 ran into a sow grizzly and two of her cubs about three miles south of Ronan. The bear family apparently came out of the barrow pit and tried to cross the highway together about 11 p.m. All three bears died at the scene. The driver and one passenger were injured and the car had to be towed away.

Read more . . .

‘Wildfire Information’ page updated

Flathead Hotshot on the Marston Fireline, Aug 23, 2015
Flathead Hotshot on the Marston Fireline, Aug 23, 2015

As is usual this time of year, our “Wildfire Information” page has gotten a few updates. We’ve fixed up several broken links and added one new website, Wildfire Today.

The “Wildfire Information” page is a collection of wildland fire information links, including prescribed burns, applicable to the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests and Glacier National Park. There’s also a group of links for Canadian wildfire information.

And remember . . .

TO REPORT A WILDLAND FIRE – CALL (406) 758-5260 OR CALL 911

Gianforte says he will meet with conservation groups about WSAs

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

Note from NFPA President:

Despite what the article below says, neither NFPA nor any other Montana conservation group that I am in contact with has been contacted by Gianforte to set up a meeting to talk about WSAs. In fact, many of our fellow conservation groups are being attacked for our strong stands on this issue. This shows how effective the conservation community has been in influencing public opinion on this issue. According to a recent poll conducted by a partnership of Democratic and Republican pollsters, 87% of Montanans say conservation issues are important considerations in their voting decisions. We will keep up the good work!

Furthermore, we must change the language in this debate from “unlocking” or “releasing” WSAs to “removing protection from” WSAs or “losing” these potential wilderness areas forever. Please call Gianforte’s office at 202/225-3211 to express opposition to H.R. 5148 and H.R. 5149.

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte said Thursday he’ll personally meet with people across Montana — including conservationists — who want a say in the controversial issue about unlocking federal Wilderness Study Areas for multiple uses such as motorized recreation, mining or logging.

“We’ll be meeting more broadly with all the concerned parties,” Gianforte told the Chronicle’s editorial board. “Because we got to hear everybody.”

Gianforte has been criticized by some environmental groups for not taking their input on the issue. The congressman said that’s what he’ll be doing throughout August.

Read more . . .

Hecla Mining, in legal fight over Montana “bad actor” ruling, halts cleanup work at Troy mine

Hecla Mining, the company trying to get approval for two mines on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, is playing hard ball with the State of Montana over its CEO’s “bad actor” rating . . .

An Idaho mining company is halting reclamation work at a closed silver and copper mine in northwest Montana amid a legal fight with state regulators over cleanup expenses at other sites.

Hecla Mining Co. manager Doug Stiles said Tuesday the cleanup of the Troy Mine west of Libby has been suspended indefinitely.

Stiles says the company is evaluating potential legal risks of continuing work at the site after the Montana Department of Environmental Quality sued Hecla CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. last month.

Read more . . .

Mine on edge of Cabinet Wilderness inches closer to USFS approval

Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby
Southern Cabinet Mountains, as seen from Swede Mountain, near Libby

Hecla Mining inches closer to Forest Service approval of their proposed Rock Creek Mine on the edge of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

Meanwhile, Montana has a bone to pick with Hecla CEO Phillips Baker Jr. over past shenanigans in the state . . .

Federal officials proposed approval of the first phase of a silver and copper mine beneath a northwestern Montana wilderness area amid a legal fight between state officials and the company behind the project, officials said Wednesday.

A final decision is expected in coming weeks on the Rock Creek Mine near Noxon after the Kootenai National Forest released a lengthy environmental study of the proposal, forest spokesman Willie Sykes said

Idaho-based Hecla Mining Co. would initially mine on 20 acres, to determine the feasibility of a full-scale mine that would cover almost 500 acres.

Read more . . .

Ellen Horowitz: Tours, writing, children’s books show love for Glacier Park

What I Saw in Glacier - cover
What I Saw in Glacier – cover

Long-time NFPA member and stalwart Ellen Horowitz continues to receive awards and praise for her writing and teaching . . .

With sparkling blue eyes, a contagious smile, and boundless enthusiasm, Ellen Horowitz’s passion is sharing the details of Glacier National Park through hands-on tours, as well as her writing, including her prize-winning children’s book, “What I Saw in Glacier: A Kid’s Guide to the National Park,” published by Riverbend Publishing in Helena.

“What I Saw in Glacier,” is a beautiful and information-packed guide geared towards children answering many of their questions, as well as a good number of the ones their parents might have, when they visit the park.

Because of Horowitz’s intrinsic talent in bringing these topics alive, she earned first place for it in the Children’s Book category in the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s Excellence in Craft (EIC) contest in June 2018.

Read more . . .

Conservationist draws Wyoming grizzly bear tag

 

Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs - NPS photo, Tim Rains
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs – NPS photo, Tim Rains

As mentioned several days ago, a number of conservationists put in for Wyoming grizzly bear hunting tags, with no intention of hunting a griz using anything more lethal than a camera. The effort has paid off in at least one case so far . . .

A famous and fiery critic of grizzly bear hunting who’s made a career photographing the big bruins will have a chance to partake in Wyoming’s first hunt for the species in 44 years.

That person is Images of Nature wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen, who beat very long odds, drawing No. 8 on an issuance list that will allow up to 10 grizzly hunters into the field starting Sept. 15. Mangelsen learned of the results Thursday morning, when he took a call from his friend and assistant Sue Cedarholm.

“When Sue told me that I got No. 8, I about fell off my chair,” he said. “I just thought, ‘How can that be possible?’”

Read more . . .