The New York Times put together a spectacular interactive presentation on the effect of climate change on Yellowstone Park. In our own back yard, Glacier Park is undergoing similar changes. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .
On a recent fall afternoon in the Lamar Valley, visitors watched a wolf pack lope along a thinly forested riverbank, ten or so black and gray figures shadowy against the snow. A little farther along the road, a herd of bison swung their great heads as they rooted for food in the sagebrush steppe, their deep rumbles clear in the quiet, cold air.
In the United States, Yellowstone National Park is the only place bison and wolves can be seen in great numbers. Because of the park, these animals survive. Yellowstone was crucial to bringing back bison, reintroducing gray wolves, and restoring trumpeter swans, elk, and grizzly bears — all five species driven toward extinction found refuge here.
But the Yellowstone of charismatic megafauna and of stunning geysers that four million visitors a year travel to see is changing before the eyes of those who know it best. Researchers who have spent years studying, managing, and exploring its roughly 3,400 square miles say that soon the landscape may look dramatically different.
Glacier Park superintendent Jeff Mow discussed climate change challenges during a recent presentation at Flathead Community College . . .
On Sept. 20, Glacier National Park’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun road closed on both sides for very different reasons.
On the west side, the road was closed due to the proximity of the Sprague Fire that already had been burning for more than a month and had gutted one of the park’s most prized structures — the Sperry Chalet’s dormitory.
Coming from the east, smoke and heat weren’t the worry. Instead, officials were forced to close the road because of the snow and ice that had made its annual chilly appearance.
NFPA President Debo Powers had this op-ed published in the Hungry Horse News recently…
I was too busy working as a volunteer fire lookout this summer to immediately respond to the outrageous and opportunistic comments made by Senator Daines, Congressman Gianforte, Secretary Zinke, and Secretary Perdue at the Lolo Fire. To use a time when many Montanans were evacuating their homes, firefighters were risking their lives, and all of us were tired of breathing smoke to start a “blame game” and push a political agenda was insensitive and unethical.
This has been one of the hottest, driest summers we’ve ever had and everything wanted to burn … whether it was grassland or former timber plots or old growth forest … everything wanted to burn. And given a spark, it did just that.
Land managers have been working diligently for a decade on thinning and fire mitigation projects on public lands that are adjacent to private land. These projects have been very helpful, but in a drought like this one, nothing will stop wildfire. Our leaders need to, not only be supportive of land management projects, but also be looking for solutions to the bigger, more complex, problem.
The fact is that our fire seasons are longer, drier, and hotter than ever before. Ninety-seven percent of our scientists say that this is the result of our over-consumption of fossil fuels which produce more greenhouse gases than the natural world can handle. The planet is getting hotter at a faster rate than can be explained by natural cycles. We are now seeing the results in horrific fire seasons. Rather than playing the unproductive “blame game,” real leaders should be working together, pushing for real solutions to address this complicated problem, like renewable energy and decreasing the use of fossil fuels.
Here’s a little bit different take on the cutthroat trout report mentioned here a couple of days ago . . .
Unlike dogs, trout don’t make healthy mutts.
Don’t expect hybrid vigor when rainbow trout interbreed with cutthroats in Montana’s high mountain streams. Despite the rainbow’s success as the most widely distributed game fish in the world, and the cutthroat’s remarkable ability to thrive through wildfires and landslides, their co-mingled offspring tend to be too dumb to live long.
That fact leaps out of analysis on one of the largest genetic data sets anywhere of Rocky Mountain cutthroat trout at the University of Montana’s Conservation Genetics Lab. In a recently published paper, the researchers looked at what happened to native trout after decades of artificial stocking in lakes and rivers.
NPR has an article about the problems faced by westslope cutthroat trout in the this corner of the country . . .
There’s an unplanned experiment going on in the northern Rocky Mountains. What’s happening is that spring is arriving earlier, and it’s generally warmer and drier than usual. And that’s messing with some of the fish that live there.
The fish is the iconic cutthroat trout. It’s a native North American fish that thrives in cold, small streams. Explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame was among the first European-Americans to catch this spangly, spotted fish. He used deer spleen as bait.
It’s relative rarity now makes it a favorite for catch-and-release anglers. But biologists have now found that it’s in danger. The much more common rainbow trout is invading cutthroat streams and mating with the native fish. Ecologist Clint Muhlfeld says that creates hybrids.
Better late than never: The fight over wolverine protection made it into the New York Times . . .
Because it depends on heavy spring snowpack to excavate dens and safely raise its young near the top of mountain peaks high in the northern Rockies, the wolverine is on the front lines of battles over the effects of climate change.
There is less snow in the Rockies these days, and researchers forecast that in the coming decades, the wolverines in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming may disappear with the snowpack. Only about 300 of the animals are in the lower 48 states. In 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service refused to list the animal for endangered species protection, calling the science inconclusive.
The debate over protection for the reclusive animal, the largest in the weasel family, has been going on for about 20 years, and it was revived this week by a federal court ruling here in Montana.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got dragged into court over their wolverine policy and got chewed out by the judge . . .
The Obama administration brushed over the threat that climate change poses to the snow-loving wolverine when it denied protections for the elusive predator also known as the “mountain devil,” a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to act as quickly as possible to protect the species as it becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. Wolverines need deep mountain snows to den, and scientists warn that such habitat will shrink as the planet heats up.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the views of many of its own scientists in 2014 when it said the effects of climate change on wolverines remained ambiguous.
Rising water temperatures and general problems with access to clean, fast running water are affecting trout populations globally . . .
Temperature-sensitive trout thrive in water that is cold, clear and abundant – not exactly groundbreaking news. But a recent study tracking the relationship between warming climes and the adverse effects on global trout populations is the first to establish a scientific connection.
A team of researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey – including two researchers based at Glacier National Park – found that climate directly and consistently influences trout populations worldwide, and published their finding recently in the international quarterly journal “Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.”
In the study, titled “Impacts of Climatic Variation on Trout: A Global Synthesis and Path Forward,” lead author Ryan Kovach and his colleagues provide the first global synthesis of trout responses to climate change over time. Despite the economic, cultural, and ecological value of trout, Kovach said long-term data comparing the health of trout populations to changes in streamflow and water temperature are surprisingly limited.
A report from Debo Powers, NFPA President, on last Monday’s community climate solutions project meeting . . .
On Monday, concerned citizens met at the Whitefish City Hall to explore a possible community climate solutions project. A diverse group of thirty-four stakeholders attended the meeting which included people working on fire and water issues, tourism and recreation, economic development/ Chambers of Commerce, high schools, local food and renewable energy. Four members of the North Fork Preservation Association attended the meeting in a packed conference room.
Steve Thompson spoke about what other Montana communities are doing to understand and adapt to climate change. One of the questions that Steve asked the group was whether this project should be for just Whitefish or for the entire North Valley, including Columbia Falls and the North Fork. The meeting featured two guest speakers from Missoula: Chase Jones from the City of Missoula and Amy Cilimburg from the Missoula Community Foundation who spoke about the new Climate Smart Missoula project. This exemplary project is focused on reducing Missoula’s carbon footprint, promoting energy conservation and renewable energy, and pursuing climate-smart economic opportunities.
Immediately following this meeting, the Whitefish City Council met for a more formal work session. In April 24, 2014, the city council set a goal of developing a climate solutions plan and this was the council’s first detailed conversation about the possibilities.
Over at the Flathead Beacon, Tristan Scott posted an article on a recently released report by the National Wildlife Federation . . .
Montana’s hunters and anglers have as much vested in the Paris climate negotiations as the state’s abundant suite of wildlife, according to research compiled by the National Wildlife Federation, which recently released a report detailing what’s at stake culturally, ecologically and economically if a solution is not forthcoming.
As 150 world leaders at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference hash out a binding agreement for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, scientists studying moose, cutthroat trout, mountain goats, and other wild animals in Montana are sounding the alarm about climate impacts in the Treasure State.
The National Wildlife Federation’s report is entitled “Game Changers: Climate Impacts to America’s Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife Heritage,” and outlines the historic role of hunters and anglers in conservation and the many ways in which the changing climate is affecting hunting and fishing opportunities and the state’s robust outdoor economy.