NFPA board member Frank Vitale got some air time in a piece by KFBB-TV about Augusta’s role as a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness . . .
It’s a gem that has helped put Augusta on the map, but it’s technically not even in town. And it’s not so much a gem… as 1.5 million acres of pristine public lands. We’re talking about the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the huge impact it’s had not only on Augusta, but on this entire state.
Augusta, Montana is known for many things. One of the most significant, though, is it’s location. As the trailhead to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Augusta attracts people from all over the world who are here to experience one of the most unique things Montana has to offer… public lands.
“If you leave this country, particularly the Rocky Mountain West, you’ll see there’s not a lot of public land. People are starving to be outdoors and to recreate,” says Montana Packer Frank Vitale.
This is significant. The Forest Service has chosen the replacement for long-time Spotted Bear District Ranger Deb Mucklow. Among other duties, this ranger oversees more than one million acres within the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
From the press release . . .
With the retirement of long-time District Ranger Deb Mucklow earlier this year, the Flathead National Forest is pleased to announce the selection and appointment of Scott Snelson as the new Spotted Bear District Ranger. Snelson will start his tenure on December 10, 2017.
“Snelson brings a wealth of leadership, knowledge and skills to the Forest,” stated Forest Supervisor, Chip Weber. “His background is a wonderful fit for this diverse and complex district.”
Snelson serves as the Deputy Forest Supervisor, for the 3.4 million -acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Dillon, Montana.
Before moving to Dillon, Snelson was the District Ranger for the Laurentian District of the Superior National Forest in the Arrowhead Region of Northern Minnesota. As District Ranger on the Superior he oversaw the 400,000 -acre District, which was actively engaged in large scale vegetation management and restoration programs. Scott is an avid believer in collaboration, and helped catalyze the formation of the Laurentian Divide Collaborative to help guide management on the three west zone districts of the Forest.
Snelson moved to the Superior NF from the White River NF of Colorado where he served as District Ranger for the Aspen and Sopris Districts. There he oversaw a complex mix of wilderness, restoration, vegetation management, mining, gas and oil permitting and several high profile ski hill operations for one of the Nation’s most visited Districts.
He also served as the Forest Staff Officer for Fish, Wildlife, Watershed and Soils and Subsistence on the Tongass National Forest. In this capacity, he oversaw programs for the Nation’s largest National Forest, guiding resource protection and restoration for the 17 million acre temperate rainforest.
Snelson spent 16 years in Montana where he earned both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Montana State University in Biological Sciences. Early in his career he worked as a US Forest Service trail crew foreman in the Bob Marshal Wilderness, out of Spotted Bear and Big Prairie, and as a fire fighter.
Snelson’s wife Heidi is a Montana native, having grown up the daughter of a District Ranger in Northwest Montana. Heidi is an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast and served special needs children as a para-professional with the Sitka School District as well as working as a botany technician for the Forest Service in Colorado. The couple has two adult daughters, the oldest is a Forestry graduate from the University of Montana in Missoula, and the youngest currently works in Virginia City for the Montana Heritage Commission.
“Thankfully, we’ve had some great leaders step up and fill in as the acting Spotted Bear District Ranger,” said Weber. “Seth Carbonari, the Spotted Bear Fire Management Officer just finished a four month detail and Gordon Ash, from the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest will be filling in for the next few months until Scott arrives.”
The Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project is back in play in the U.S. Senate, but getting to that point was not at all an easy or comfortable task . . .
Smoke Elser agreed to share his favorite place in the world with his least-favorite pastime, and it nearly broke his heart.
“I will support what we’ve done,” Elser said. “I’m the only one who voted against it. But everyone else agreed. And I want Grizzly Basin. I want that Monture drainage. So I had to compromise. But I’m not going to compromise anymore.”
What the dean of Montana’s horse-packing heritage did was concede to a deal that unified an unprecedented coalition of supporters around an expansion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. In return for endorsing full federal protection of 80,000 acres, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and two Montana mountain biking groups laid claim to about 3,800 acres for future cycling trails. That’s next to a proposed 2,200-acre recreation management area designated for snowmobile use.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Wednesday announced legislation that would add 79,000 acres of public land to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex while expanding access to snowmobilers and mountain bikers and boosting forest restoration projects with timber harvest.
The Democratic senator introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act in Seeley Lake at Rich’s Montana Guest Ranch, adjacent to the 1.5 million-acre wilderness area, surrounded by outfitters and wilderness advocates.
The act would expand the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area to include Grizzly Basin and the Swan Front, the Scapegoat Wilderness Area to include the North Fork of the Blackfoot and Monture Creek, and the Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas to include the West Fork of the Clearwater.
The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, a coalition of loggers, ranchers, outfitters, recreationists and others that formed a decade ago to find collaborative solutions for public land uses in the Seeley Lake and Ovando area, crafted the proposal that became Tester’s legislation.
Members of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project are still working to get the wilderness components of their 2008 agreement implemented . . .
It seems odd to stand beside Seeley Lake, looking at the mountains that border the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and not actually see the wilderness.
The border of that 1.6-million-acre, federally protected backcountry runs along the crest of the Swan Range. The western face of those mountains, where all the trailheads start, has no special status.
That makes sense from a scenic standpoint. The Seeley-Swan Valley lacks the churning peaks and glittering lakes that glorify the Bob Marshall and Mission Mountains wildernesses on either side. From the air, the state Highway 83 corridor offers no contest to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is 60% contained and continues to burn with its existing perimeter. According to the InciWeb site, “Suppression efforts will continue on the north and east edges of the fire.”
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is now 60% contained, with further progress expected today.
Some 45 people are assigned to the effort. Three helicopters are making water drops. A Type 2 team started work yesterday.
According to the InciWeb site, “Fire personnel will remain working on the north edge in the heavier dead and down fuel (within the 2005 fire’s burned area), while the Type-2 fire crew will move to the east-side of the fire today, after making progress yesterday on the south edge.”
Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Fifty people (up from 30 yesterday) are tied up with the effort so far. Three helicopters are making water drops. A Type 2 team is going in today.
The fire is still uncontained, although it doesn’t appear to be spreading significantly.
In general, not much has changed since our previous post, except for the increased number of folks on the ground.
Personnel from the Lewis and Clarke National forest are busy suppressing the Elk Hill Fire, a 1000-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Thirty people are tied up with the effort so far, as well as three helicopters. (Update: There are no significant changes as of April 11 at 10am.)
The Elk Hill fire appears to have been started by a warming or campfire, but is under investigation.
Currently the fire is actively burning near lower North Fork Sun River, southeast of the Forest Service cabin on Cabin Creek, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Ranger District. The Elk Hill Fire is burning in grass, and in downfall within the perimeter of a wildfire from 2005, moving into stands of mature Douglas fir. Although the weather is warm, this fire is primarily fuels-driven with potential for continued rapid spread.
The most active part of the fire is along Circle Creek in/around the 2005 fire area, because of the dead and down fuels within that area.
Fire personnel are continuing suppression efforts where it is safe to do so; and focus structure protection of the Forest Service Cabin Creek cabin. Three helicopters–one Type 1 and two Type-2–are assisting the on-the-ground efforts, as needed.
UPDATED TRAILS CLOSURES:
–North Fork Sun River Trail #201 from jct. w/#268 north to jct. w/#231.1 (northwest of Cabin Creek Cabin).
–Circle Creek Trail #231 from jct. w/#201 north to #231.1 and southeast to jct. w/#208.
–Cabin Creek Admin. Connector #231.1 closed in it’s entirety.
–Circle Creek Connector #268.1 closed in it’s entirety.