Following an updated assessment by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the 2018 Flathead Forest management plan. . .
An appeals court has decided that the Flathead National Forest management plan adequately addresses endangered species, now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated its assessment of the plan.
On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals filed a five-page memorandum in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreeing with federal district court Judge Donald Molloy that the Flathead National Forest properly considered public challenges to its 2018 Management Plan so the plan can stand.
“Therefore, the Forest Service did not ignore any adverse impact of the (final environmental impact statement on grizzly bears and bull trout) and took ‘the requisite hard look’ at the environmental consequences of its actions, regardless whether Swan View agrees with its scientific conclusion,” the three-judge panel wrote.
Kurt Steele, Flathead National Forest Supervisor has moved to a position with Region 1 Forest Headquarters. In the meantime, Deputy Flathead Forest Supervisor Tami McKenzie is holding the fort . . .
Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele has accepted a new position at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region headquarters in Missoula, capping a three-and-a-half-year stint overseeing 2.4 million forested acres in northwest Montana that in the past year had become beset in controversy.
According to an agency spokesperson, Steele “was offered and accepted” a new post as deputy director at the regional office that involves “environmental planning,” although the details of the position are still being worked out.
“I think it’s just a lateral move to a position at the regional office level,” Dan Hottle, the federal agency’s northern region public information officer, said Friday afternoon, when details about the transition were still scant. “It’s a new role and he will work closely with the regional leadership team on a number of different projects across the region as deputy director. His start date is still being negotiated right now.”
Flathead National Forest is developing a Travel Plan and comments are due by Tuesday, February 22. It’s important for them to hear from people that there should be no motorized or mechanized transportation in the Recommended Wilderness in the northern Whitefish Range.These northern areas should be managed just like Wilderness.
Please write a short message to that effect and make sure to communicate your personal connection to the Whitefish Range.
The Flathead National Forest is beginning the process of bringing its travel plan into alignment with the overall 2018 forest plan . . .
The Flathead National Forest has released a two-pronged proposed action that looks to update where snowmobiles and other over the snow motorized vehicles can run in the future, as well as mechanized uses like bicycles and game carts.
The changes come under the 2018 Forest plan, as it has about 190,400 acres of recommended wilderness. Under the plan, some trails could be closed that were once open to mechanical uses like bicycles, because the trails are now in recommended wilderness.
The bulk of those trails — about 82 miles, are in the Tuchuk-Whale Creek areas of the North Fork.
“Specifically, within the 190,403 acres of recommended wilderness areas, about 96 miles of trail currently allow mechanized transport and about 383 acres currently allow over-snow motorized use. There are no open motorized trails or roads or designated over-snow motorized travel routes in these recommended wilderness areas,” the proposed action notes.
Heads up! It is Forest Service special use permit time again. Some of you may recall the kerfuffle over this last year, particularly when it came to guided ATV tours. There are a few more requests this year. There is a May 12 deadline for responses.
Here is an extract from a very useful note sent by Rob Davies, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger, that provides more focus on the projects affecting the North Fork . . .
This is a fairly large list of proposals for this summer. We are at the start of an open public comment period. Comment period closes May 12th. No decisions have been made at this point and we are seeking comments and concerns. This is being released to the local media today. Maps and descriptions have been posted on our web site.
The proposed Recreation Events and proposed guiding that would affect the North Fork area are:
Adventure Cycling Tours
Bike Adventure Bike tours
Pancake Ride bicycle event
Spotted Dog Guided bike tours
Snow Bike Nation (e-bikes)
Other than potential e-bike guiding on open FS motorized roads, and van shuttles (Whitefish Shuttle) delivering people to trail heads or just providing van tours, there are no motorized activities proposed such as UTV/ATV guiding in the North Fork.
Thank you for your interest and please respond through the official process outlined on our web site if you have concerns.
Kurt Steele, Chip Weber’s replacement as forest supervisor takes over in mid-February.
From the press release . . .
Kurt Steele has been named forest supervisor for Flathead National Forest. He’s expected to begin work in mid-February. Steele has been the deputy forest supervisor for the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests for the past three years.
“I am very pleased to welcome Kurt to the Flathead National Forest,” said Regional Forester Leanne Marten. “Kurt is a proven leader who welcomes new voices and diverse perspectives, and has dedicated his career to public service.”
In addition to his current service as deputy forest supervisor, Steele has completed three recent temporary forest supervisor assignments on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. Prior to his current position on the Nez Perce-Clearwater, Steele served as a district ranger on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.
“I am tremendously honored to serve the public and forest employees as Flathead National Forest’s new supervisor,” said Steele. “I look forward to engaging with our partners, local businesses, and surrounding communities as we write the forest’s next chapter together. The Flathead Valley is an incredibly special place, and my family and I are excited about the opportunity to be able to settle in here and raise our family in this welcoming, community-oriented area.”
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.
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.