Wilderness Speaker Series: The underwater world of fish, March 6

South Fork of the Flathead River - John Ruth
South Fork of the Flathead River – John Ruth

A reminder from the Montana Wilderness Association about the next presentation in the Wilderness Speaker Series . . .

Join us as we welcome fisheries experts Jim Vashro, Leo Rosenthal, and Matt Boyer to discuss Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ efforts to preserve the integrity of the world-class, pristine fisheries in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

You’ll also be able to catch our newly-released short film Hallowed Waters, a tribute to the Blackfoot and Clearwater river watersheds that stand to be protected by the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

Wednesday, March 6th
7 – 8:15 p.m.
Flathead Valley Community College
Arts and Technology Building Room 135
777 Grandview Drive, Kalispell

Fish population and creel estimates were first established in the Bob in the 1980s and now, with nearly 40 years of data, biologists and land managers are more equipped than ever to make educated decisions about the preservation of sensitive species including Bull Trout and West Slope Cutthroat Trout. 

Focusing on the South Fork of the Flathead watershed, our speakers will also discuss the threats that native fisheries face, including invasive species and stream bank erosion.

The Wilderness Speaker Series is presented by MWA, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, and Northwest Montana Forest Fire Lookout Association.

A permit to float the upper North Fork?

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

Well, maybe . . .

The Flathead National Forest is eyeing the prospect of the possibility of a permit system or other crowd controls for the scenic section of the North Fork of the Flathead River. The scenic section, as defined under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, runs from the border with Canada to the Camas Bridge.

The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Park Service, are working on a comprehensive river management plan for the three forks of the Flathead River. Some 219 miles of the river system are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. But as more and more people come to the Flathead Valley, the rivers are becoming more crowded.

Glacier National Park over the past three summers has seen more than or just under 3 million people each year.

Read more . . .

Bitterroot grizzly management taking flak from both sides

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP, nicely backlit - Ken Pekoc, YNP
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone NP, nicely backlit – Ken Pekoc, YNP

Here’s a well-researched article by the Missoulian’s Rob Chaney on grizzly management in the “Bearless Bitterroot” . . .

Despite having virtually no grizzly bears and no time to think about them, Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Chuck Mark faces a lot of criticism for how he handles grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot Mountains.

“I’ve got some people here who think, given my connection to forest plan revision, that my role as chairman of the Bitterroot Ecosystem (grizzly recovery) Subcommittee is a conflict of interest,” Mark said. “And there were other folks that piped in, asking what should we be doing with bears showing up outside recovery areas.”

Mark and eight others serve on the Bitterroot Subcommittee, which includes six national forests, the Nez Perce Tribe, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which also includes the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, state wildlife agencies, and other stakeholders in the grizzly recovery effort.

Read more . . .

Natural Resources Management Act clears House, heads to Trump

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

The Natural Resources Management Act made it through the Senate a couple of weeks ago. Now, it has passed the House and is headed to the President for signature . . .

In the unlikely event you tuned into C-SPAN’s live stream on Feb. 26, you saw a bipartisan conga line of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives making a pitch for public lands.

For stakeholders on both sides of the political aisle, it was a refreshing sight, particularly given the polarized political climate that too often overshadows popular pieces of legislation with gridlock and ingrained party differences.

But that didn’t happen this week when, in passing the largest conservation legislation in a decade, an oft-divided House furnished the public lands package with bipartisan support. In doing so, lawmakers sent a message to their constituents that protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers is good for the environment and for the economy.

Read more . . .

Predicting how forests in the western US will respond to changing climate

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Here’s an interesting research paper on predicting western forest response to climate change . . .

On the mountain slopes of the western United States, climate can play a major role in determining which tree communities will thrive in the harshest conditions, according to new work from Carnegie’s Leander Anderegg and University of Washington’s Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.

Their findings, published in Ecology Letters, are an important step in understanding how forest growth will respond to a climate altered by human activity.

As researchers try to anticipate how climate change will affect forest ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence how forest habitats change over time — including both environmental conditions and competition for resources. One of the oldest ecological principles asserts that competition between trees will constrain growth under mild conditions and climate will constrain growth under harsh conditions.

Read more . . .Read more . . .

Senate passes public lands bill, including permanent authorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

The U.S. Senate passed a significant new public lands bill . . .

The Senate passed an omnibus public lands bill on a vote of 92-8 on Tuesday, allowing permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and blocking a proposed gold mine on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.

“Everybody is crying,” said Chico Hot Springs owner Colin Davis, who led a coalition of 400 Paradise Valley businesses supporting the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. “It’s been a long couple years.”

Davis was on a conference call with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, as the vote tally was coming down Tuesday afternoon. Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte also backed the Yellowstone Gateway and LWCF measures.

Read more . . .

Groups intend to sue Flathead over forest plan

Bull Trout
Bull Trout

As expected, the new Flathead Forest Plan is drawing fire from some groups. An article by Chris Peterson of the Hungry Horse News does a good job of explaining the background and events leading up to a pending lawsuit . . .

Two environmental groups announced Monday that they have filed a 60-day notice of an intent to file a lawsuit against the Flathead National Forest over its new Forest plan, claiming it violates the Endangered Species Act.

The notice of intent does not come as a surprise — the two groups have previously maintained that new plan doesn’t do enough to secure grizzly bear and bull trout habitat.

They claim the new plan, just days old, is worse than the old 1986 plan because it no longer adheres to a provision in the old plan called Amendment 19. Under Amendment 19 of the previous plan, open road densities across the forest were trimmed substantially. Roads, quite literally, were purposely destroyed by the Forest Service, making them impassable to motorized use.

Read more . . .

Montana needs more people to manage grizzlies, wolves

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

Here’s an interesting peek behind the curtain at the problems Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks faces in covering a large state with a fairly small staff . . .

Management of grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, bison and wildlife diseases require more manpower in Montana.

That’s the case Ken McDonald, Wildlife Division administrator for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, made Tuesday. McDonald’s presentation to the Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation in Helena was one of many hearings that FWP’s proposed 2020-21 budget will face . . .

Read more . . .

Wolf population in Washington likely larger than estimates

Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf

Looks like the wolf population in Washington State may be doing better then anyone thought . . .

The number of wolves in Washington state is likely much higher than previously thought, according to a University of Washington researcher who spent two years studying the animals using scat-sniffing dogs.

Samuel Wasser said his dogs detected 95 wolves in one area of Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, in the rural northeast corner of the state, during the 2016-17 season. That approached the total number of wolves wildlife officials estimated for the entire state.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife a year ago estimated Washington had a minimum of 122 wolves, grouped in at least 22 packs, and 14 successful breeding pairs.

Read more . . .

Flathead Forest Plan and grizzly bear amendments go into effect

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

The new Flathead Forest Plan, as well as the associated grizzly bear management amendments, went into effect late last year. Here, delayed by the recent government shutdown, is the official press release announcing them . . .

Flathead National Forest Releases Signed Record of Decisions for the Forest Land Management Plan and NCDE Forest Plan Amendments

Kalispell, MT., February 1, 2019 – After four years of collaborative effort and public input, the Flathead National Forest has released a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Forest’s Land Management Plan (Forest Plan) and associated final environmental impact statement (FEIS). A separate ROD was signed and released for the amendments to the Helena, Lewis and Clark, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests’ land management plans that incorporate the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear habitat management direction as forest plan direction (NCDE amendments).

“We greatly appreciate the commitment of interested participants who’ve provided important contributions toward the development of the land management plan through their participation in the planning process,” Forest Supervisor Chip Weber said. “We look forward to working with our partners and public in the years ahead in utilizing the vision in this land management plan to reach strategic objectives.”

The 2018 Forest Plan replaces the 1986 Plan, updating the long-term strategic vision for managing the Forest’s 2.4 million acres of lands in northwest Montana. The Forest Plan is the second in the nation to implement the Forest Service’s 2012 Land Management Planning Rule (36 CFR 219), which facilitates goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in promoting sound land stewardship in partnership with communities.

“We were glad to be part of a robust collaborative process that included a wide range of stakeholders willing to work hard to find space for everyone in our National Forests,” stated Paul McKenzie, the Lands & Resource Manager for F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company. “We feel the collaborative proposal to the USFS was given good consideration in the Forest Planning process. Many elements of the proposal are reflected in the management plan for the North Fork Area. It just goes to show that working together produces better results than working against each other.”

Amy Robinson, Conservation Director for the Montana Wilderness Association added, “The Montana Wilderness Association thanks the Forest Service for including many of the collaborative recommendations the Whitefish Range Partnership offered regarding timber harvest, recreation, and weed management. We are particularly pleased the Forest Service is recommending 80,000 acres of new Wilderness in the northern Whitefish Range. This recommendation will help secure and enhance critical habitat for grizzly bears, lynx, and other wildlife that make this corner of Montana so unique.”

The Notice of Plan Approval was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2018. The Forest Plan went into effect 30 days after publication and the NCDE amendments went into effect upon publication of the Notice of Plan Approval on December 27, 2018. The Notice of Plan Approval, signed ROD, Forest Plan, and FEIS are available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/fpr. The signed ROD for the NCDE amendments, are available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/gbamend.