Yellowstone grizzly meetings to focus on reducing conflict, mortality

Grizzly sow and cubs near Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park - Jim Pesco, NPS
Grizzly sow and cubs near Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park – Jim Pesco, NPS

Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this piece in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle . . .

Wildlife managers will talk this week about preventing run-ins between grizzly bears and humans, a discussion that comes after environmental groups pushed officials to reconsider a decade-old report that lined out measures meant to reduce those conflicts.

The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, meeting in Bozeman on Wednesday and Thursday, will consider grizzly bear death trends and the effectiveness of efforts to avoid people-grizzly conflicts that often end with bears being killed by government officials.

It will be the first time the panel of state and federal government officials from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana has met since a coalition of six environmental groups urged it to reconsider a 2009 report that included a few dozen recommendations to prevent those encounters.

Read more . . .

As public lands access funding dwindles, local communities pitch in

Several Types of Public Lands
Several 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.

As public lands management funding decreases, visitation continues to increase. NPR posted an interesting article about local efforts to deal with this issue . . .

Across the western U.S., towns surrounded by public lands are facing an increasing bind: They’re seeing a huge surge in visitors coming to play in the forests and mountains surrounding them, which is leading to an economic boom. But, at the same time, federal funding to manage these lands has been drying up.

“There are these dramatic increases in recreational uses of public lands, and at the same time dramatic declines in recreational budgets,” says Megan Lawson, a researcher at the Montana-based think tank Headwaters Economics.

A recent analysis [PDF; 15.8MB] by the group showed that visitation to U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land has risen by about 15 percent over the last decade, while budgets for programs that support recreation in those agencies has fallen by a similar amount.

Read more . . .

Op-ed: The Flathead Forest Plan a win for conservationists

Flathead National Forest
Flathead National Forest

Appearing in the Flathead Beacon yesterday, was a thoughtful op-ed by Chris Ryan and Kathleen McAllister in favor of the recently completed Flathead National Forest Plan, written by a couple of folks who should know quite a bit about it . . .

The U.S. Forest Service recently completed a new management plan for the Flathead National Forest (FNF) that will guide decisions on the forest for the next 20 to 30 years or more. The plan addresses a dizzying array of management issues – including municipal watersheds, wildlife habitat, protected lands, outdoor recreation, and much more – over 2.4 million acres that cover the Mission Mountains, the Swan Range, and the Whitefish Range.

Those of us in the conservation community have focused our attention on the places the FNF plan recommends for Wilderness designation. This recommendation means the Forest Service will protect these places until either Congress designates them as Wilderness or at least until the agency completes its next FNF plan.

The FNF plan represents a vast improvement over the previous plan, which recommended around 98,000 acres for Wilderness. The new plan recommends over 190,000 acres, nearly double the previous recommendation. That increase is worth celebrating.

The plan is by no means ideal for conservationists. Wilderness-worthy lands such as Bunker and Sullivan Creeks and low-elevation, critical habitat adjacent to the Mission Mountains Wilderness did not, unfortunately, receive the Forest Service’s Wilderness recommendation. The Jewel Basin recommended Wilderness was reduced in size under the new plan, a significant loss for a landscape that would have been designated Wilderness had Reagan not pocket vetoed the 1988 Montana Wilderness Bill.

Continue reading Op-ed: The Flathead Forest Plan a win for conservationists

It’s that time again: As bears awaken, the usual precautions are in order

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

Spring has sprung. The snow is melting. The birds are returning. The potholes are propagating. And the bears are coming out of hibernation . . .

They’re back.

Black bears tend to den at lower elevations than their grizzly cousins and have made appearances in the region on the cusp of April.

For example, black bears have been seen feeding on road-killed deer. Bear tracks also have been spotted on the road to Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Both black bears and grizzlies will be actively seeking food in the days and weeks to come after months of hibernation.

Read more . . .

The fate of our lakes

Flathead LakeThe Flathead Beacon did a nice follow-up on last week’s Montana Lakes Conference in Whitefish . . .

Scientists whose cutting-edge research on lakes spans the globe converged last week on the shore of Whitefish Lake for the inaugural Montana Lakes Conference, where they discussed a suite of emerging lake science and management issues, ranging from the threat of climate change on glacial retreat and invasive species to protecting the water quality and clarity of Flathead and Whitefish lakes.

“The reason that’s so important is because a lot of lakes are not so clean,” Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station, told conference attendees, highlighting the research projects his faculty of experts are employing to maintain lake quality.

Organized by the nonprofit Whitefish Lake Institute, the conference at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake brought together diverse panels of experts to explain the roles of research, resource management, education, local lake associations, and citizen science to address the myriad challenges bearing down on lakes and the communities that depend on them.

Read more . . .

Governor Bullock announces Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, calls for applicants

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPThis may be worth following up on. Here’s the official press release. (Also, the Missoulian has a good summary: Bullock to create citizen panel to discuss future management of grizzlies in Montana.) . . .


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced that he will establish a Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to help initiate a statewide discussion on grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. The Council will be selected through an application process that ends April 12th.

“The recovery of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems is a great conservation success. Still, official federal delisting has yet to come to fruition,” Bullock wrote in a memo to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Martha Williams.

“Legal uncertainty has created a void requiring our leadership,” Governor Bullock said. “As bears continue to expand in numbers and habitat, we must identify durable and inclusive strategies to address current issues and prepare for the future. This advisory council represents a key step toward Montana embracing the tremendous responsibility and opportunity of long-term Grizzly Bear recovery and management.

Montana is home, in whole or in part, to four grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE); the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE); the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem; and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. While grizzly bear numbers have surpassed recovery objectives in the GYE and NCDE, they have yet to reach recovery levels in the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are officially under the jurisdiction of the FWS, but much of the day-to-day management of bears in Montana is done by FWP in partnership and with oversight of the FWS. The FWS delisted the GYE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act in 2017, but a federal court decision last fall relisted the population. This delayed the delisting process for the NCDE and resulted in an appeal of the GYE decision by the State of Montana and others.

Grizzly bear populations continue to expand, in some cases into areas they have not occupied for decades. Management challenges and conflicts have increased. FWP, along with partner agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the FWS, work together to respond to conflicts as they occur. However, the situation has become increasingly complex as bears move into areas of Montana outside of existing recovery zones, such as the Big Hole Valley, Little Belt Mountains, and the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Developing strategies to ensure a timely and appropriate response to these conflicts and addressing the needs of communities and landowners most impacted in these areas are key priorities identified for the advisory council’s deliberations.

“We’re excited to work with this advisory council, and we see this as a great opportunity to find a way forward that reflects the values and needs of Montana as it relates to grizzly bear management,” FWP Director Williams said. “A council that is inclusive in its composition will allow for the balanced discussion we need to have.”

The Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will be tasked with considering broad strategic objectives, such as:

  • Maintaining and enhancing human safety;
  • Ensuring a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population;
  • Improving timely and effective response to conflicts involving grizzly bears;
  • Engaging all partners in grizzly-related outreach and conflict prevention; and
  • Improving intergovernmental, interagency, and tribal coordination.

The Council will focus on providing recommendations to the Governor’s Office, FWP, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission that are clear and actionable on how to move forward with grizzly bear management, conservation and recovery. It will consider several pressing issues including bear distribution, connectivity between ecosystems, conflict prevention, response protocols, outreach and education, and the role of hunting and necessary resources for long-term population sustainability.

Governor Bullock is looking for a broad cross-section of interests to serve on the Council, including livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts, conservation groups, hunters, community leaders, Tribal Nation representatives and outdoor industry professionals.

Council application information can be found online at http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/species/grizzlyBear/default.html.

Wild Rivers Film Tour comes to Whitefish on April 3

Wild Rivers Film Tour - art by Andrew Pollard
Wild Rivers Film Tour – art by Andrew Pollard

The Wild Rivers Film Tour comes to Casey’s in Whitefish on Wednesday, April 3. Doors open at 6:00pm; movies start at 7:00pm. Tickets are $12.

For more details, including where to obtain tickets, here’s the write-up sent around by Montanans for Healthy Rivers . . .


As Montana’s rivers begin to thaw out from record-setting cold temperatures this winter, river lovers of the Treasure State can add a little stoke to spring’s warmth with an inspiring collection of films presented in the 2019 Wild Rivers Film Tour.

Nine magnificent films carry the audience through 110 minutes of emotional and exhilarating cinema. The 2019 selections include: Testimony to Congress: In Defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Hallowed Waters – Legacy and Lifeblood of the Big Blackfoot, The Last Green Thread, Hank Patterson’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: Fact vs. Fictions, Glen Canyon Rediscovered, Grand Canyon Water, Shred for the South Fork, and Run Wild Run Free.

The Wild Rivers Film Tour promotes the next age of river conservation in Montana and advocates for the introduction of the Montana Headwaters Security Act. The Montana Headwaters Security Act proposes to use Wild & Scenic River designations to keep iconic rivers on public lands in Montana clean and free-flowing. The effort is supported by Montanans for Healthy Rivers – a coalition of businesses, private land owners, sportsmen and conservation groups.

All Showtimes: Doors 6:00pm   Films 7:00pm
 
Cost: $12. Tickets available at the door or in advance at http://greateryellowstone.org/tix
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/WildRiversFilmTour/
Presented by: American Rivers and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition

Biologist Diane Boyd does some wolf mythbusting

Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field
Biologist Diane Boyd with a tranquilized wolf in the field

Diane Boyd, large carnivore specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (and NFPA member), gave a well-received talk last week . . .

Wolves live in family groups. They don’t think twice about traveling long distances. They’re territorial. They make a lot of noise. And some have no qualms about capturing and killing their foes.

In other words, they’re a lot like humans.

Contrary to the host of conspiracy theories out there, wolves in Northwest Montana aren’t hybrids and they weren’t shipped in from points north. They came here on their own volition back in the late 1970s, stragglers from Canada that eventually made the North Fork of the Flathead in Glacier National Park home, biologist Diane Boyd said during a talk last week.

Read more . . .

Glaciers may ‘cling to the landscape’ or vanish

Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park's Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 - USGS supplied image
Satellite image showing how Glacier National Park’s Sperry Glacier ice field has shrunk from roughly 300 acres in 1966 to 215 acres in 2015 – USGS supplied image

The Missoulian reports on the first annual Montana Lakes Conference . . .

The inaugural Montana Lakes Conference began here Wednesday night with a mix of good news and bad news.

The good: It may still be possible to preserve half of the world’s remaining glacial ice.

The bad: If humanity remains on its current path of high carbon dioxide emissions, it can expect “large-scale “deglaciation” in coming decades, and a thicket of accompanying environmental and economic problems.

Read more . . .

Feds to ease land restrictions meant to protect sage grouse

Sage Grouse - BLM photo
Sage Grouse – BLM photo

Looks like the U.S. aims to ease the painstakingly developed oil and gas development regulations designed to protect sage grouse populations . . .

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other industries that were meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West, federal officials said Thursday.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes would protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that existing policies governing millions of acres of federal land were too restrictive.

Critics say the changes will lead to more disturbances of grouse habitat, undermining efforts to shore up the bird’s population.

Read more . . .