Moncrief retires drilling lease in Badger-Two Medicine; one more to go

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Well, now. This is good news. Moncrief Oil relinquished their drilling lease in the The Badger-Two Medicine region Tuesday, leaving only one, stubborn holdout: Solonex . . .

Leaders of the Blackfeet Nation on Tuesday celebrated another victory in their mission to furnish permanent protections on the sacred Badger-Two Medicine area after Moncrief Oil relinquished an energy lease spanning more than 7,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front.

With the announcement of the relinquishment of Moncrief’s lease, there remains only one oil and gas leaseholder in the Badger Two Medicine area, Solenex LLC. The company’s 6,200-acre lease was cancelled by the government in 2016, but reinstated in 2018 after the D.C. District Court ruled in favor of Solenex. The case is currently in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Still, the news on Tuesday prompted an outpouring of gratitude from members of the Blackfeet Nation, for whom the Badger-Two Medicine carries deep historical and cultural significance, as well as from conservation groups intent on preserving the area’s ecological heritage.

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Bear Fair on Saturday, Aug 24 at noon!

2019 Bear Fair PosterAs an answer to two Grizzly bear cubs being euthanized last fall, Polebridge is hosting a Bear Fair next Saturday, August 24th, from noon-3pm behind the Northern Lights Saloon. If persuasion of proximity to a delicious watering hole (and bakery) isn’t enough, there will be opportunities to practice your shot with inert bear spray cans, meet Karelian Bear Dogs, sample products for living with bears, enjoy presentations by a few local bear experts and games and prizes for the entire family! Join us in Polebridge, Saturday, August 24th from noon-3pm.

The ‘Crown’ just got bigger

A researcher heads into Glacier National Park's backcountry - NPS, Melissa Sladek
A researcher heads into Glacier National Park’s backcountry – NPS, Melissa Sladek

This is pretty interesting. The “Crown of the Continent” just expanded a bit, due principally to the efforts of Rick Graetz and some of his students. Many of you will remember Rick for bringing one of his geography classes through the North Fork on an annual basis . . .

The 13 million-acre Crown of the Continent officially just grew by 496,164 acres, the equivalent of 775 square miles.

The Crown has embraced the wildest and largest intact ecosystem in Alberta and the United States, running from the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, since its unofficial inception in the early 1900s. But to Rick Graetz, a University of Montana geography department lecturer and longtime outdoor enthusiast, the lines drawn on the map didn’t take into account what he was seeing on the ground south of Highway 200.

So in 2014, he enlisted the aid of graduate geography students to truth-check his theory. And this week, now that Verena Henner’s mapping project, Katie Shank’s study on biological diversity and wildlife corridors, and Josh Hoerner’s look at topographical maps and GPS readings are finished, Graetz announced their findings.

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Trump administration makes major changes to endangered species protections

Grizzly Bear - Thomas Lefebvre, via Unsplash
Wait! What?

Rising up like the creature from the black lagoon . . .

In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation’s premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.

Republican lawmakers and industry groups celebrated the revisions, some of the broadest changes in the way the act is applied in its nearly 50-year history.

They come at a moment of crisis for many of the world’s plant and animal species. As many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction — many within decades — according to a recent U.N. report. Wildlife groups and Democratic lawmakers, pointing to that document, are promising to challenge the new rules in Congress and in court. “Now is the time to strengthen the ESA, not cripple it,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on a press call.

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Scoping document released for the Comprehensive River Management Plan

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

I just got this note from Rob Davies, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger . . .

The Proposed Action for the River Plan is out today. [In the press release below,] you will see the link to the Flathead NF web page where you can locate the July 2019 Draft Proposed Action (50 pages).

Also public meetings are now set for Tue Aug 13th, and Tue August 20th, Flathead Community College, 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

If you could please pass this on to the home owners association and others in the North Fork on your email list who you know are interested. This info will also be distributed in all the next editions of the local papers.

And here is the official press release . . .

Flathead Wild and Scenic River: Scoping for the Comprehensive River Management Plan

Kalispell, MT, July 31, 2019- The Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, is beginning the scoping process for the Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the Flathead Wild and Scenic River.

The proposed action document discusses potential management direction and information on the desired conditions for the Flathead River segments. The public is asked to pay particular attention to how the desired condition statements as well as the proposed monitoring indicators, thresholds and triggers protect and preserve Outstanding Remarkable Value’s for the three forks of the Flathead River system presently and into the future. This is the foundation of the CRMP and will inform management actions and inform how the user capacity process will be done. More information on the Flathead Wild & Scenic River Comprehensive River Management Plan can be found at:

The proposed action can also be accessed at the Flathead National Forest NEPA page (Flathead Comprehensive River Management Plan):

Continue reading Scoping document released for the Comprehensive River Management Plan

Conservation groups cry foul in Pendley case

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

Oh, boy. A property rights lawyer with  significant connections to Solonex just got appointed as Deputy Director of Policy and Programs for the Bureau of Land Management, We’re talking a major, let the fox guard the henhouse, conflict of interest in the ongoing lawsuit over oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine . . .

An attorney for an oil company that is suing the federal government to drill for oil and gas in the Badger-Two Medicine region just south of Glacier National Park was recently named Deputy Director of Policy and Programs for the Bureau of Land Management, drawing charges that there’s a clear conflict of interest in the case.

William Perry Pendley, was a longtime attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents the Solonex Corp.

As of 2018, Pendley was listed as the attorney of record for Solonex, though the Foundation’s website no longer lists him as an attorney with the organization and his BLM profile makes no mention that he long argued cases for the Foundation.

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Conservation groups score a win in Montanore mining lawsuit

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

Conservationists scored a win in the ongoing battle over mining development on the edge of the Cabinet Wilderness . . .

Montana illegally re-issued a water pollution discharge permit in 2004 for the proposed Montanore copper and silver mine under the Cabinet Mountains, according to a legal ruling that environmental groups are calling “a big win” in the fight to prohibit development of the controversial mine in northwestern Montana.

In her July 24 ruling, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley wrote that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) re-issuance of the discharge permit to Hecla Mining Company and its subsidiary Montanore Minerals Corp. was based in part “on arbitrary and capricious decisions,” and violates the federal Clean Water Act and the Montana Water Quality Act. She vacated the permit, and remanded the matter to DEQ for further action consistent with her decision.

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Bullock names Grizzly Bear Advisory Council members

Grizzly bear and cub
Grizzly bear and cub along the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park, May 29, 2019 – Frank Van Manen, USGS

Gov. Steve Bullock has named the members of the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council. A number of conservation groups have seats at the table, as well as timber, tribal and ranching representatives. Chuck Roady, of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber, is the only local resident on the board . . .

Gov. Steve Bullock today announced that he has appointed 18 Montana citizens to the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to facilitate a statewide discussion on long-term grizzly bear management and conservation. Bullock also issued an executive order to guide the council’s deliberations.

The council represents a broad group of interests, Bullock claimed. But it does not have an actual grizzly bear biologist on the panel, but there are seven members that are livestock producers or tied to livestock.

Bears traveling east have caused concern among ranchers, as they eat livestock and can ruin crops.

“I’m grateful for the incredibly strong interest from Montanans across the state who offered to serve on this council, speaking both to the timeliness of this discussion and the passion for grizzly bears that Montanans share,” Bullock said. “I look forward to this diverse council working together to find balanced ways to conserve bears and meet the needs of Montanans and our state.”

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It’s grizzly moth-munching season again

Cutworm moths have arrived in the high country, along with the bears that eat them . . .

The dinner bell is ringing high in the Mission Mountains, and grizzly bears are heeding the call.

Every year in July, cutworm moths migrate from the plains toward the alpine highlands of the Mission Mountains, where the moths feed on late-blooming alpine wildflowers. Grizzly bears follow. The moths provide grizzlies with the highest source of protein available – even higher than feeding on deer.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have closed about 10,000 acres in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness to let the grizzlies feed without human interruption.

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