Well, now. The North Fork Watershed Protection Act just passed the U.S. House this afternoon . . .
The House of Representatives passed the North Fork Watershed Protection Act by voice vote on Tuesday afternoon, passing the issue back to the Senate for final approval.
Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told his colleagues the bill was the first landscape protection act in nearly 30 years to get support from the whole state congressional delegation. Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, both Democrats, have also pushed it on their side of the Capitol.
“Sen. Max Baucus began working on this bill since his very first year in Congress, in 1974,” Daines said of the state’s former senior senator, who retired in February. “I’m proud to be part of the effort to get it done and across the finish line.”
Read more . . .
Further reading: North Fork Watershed Protection Act Passes U.S. House (Flathead Beacon)
The latest bull trout redd count is in line with recent years, but still well below what it should be . . .
State biologists found 500 bull trout spawning sites in the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River this fall, indicating about 1,500 trout made the migration from Flathead Lake.
That’s not as good as the early 1980s before bull trout populations in Flathead Lake started to crash, but much better than the 1990s after federal authorities designated the fish a threatened species, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley.
“We’ve done this count for 33 years,” Fraley said. “It gives us an idea how the bull trout spawners are doing. We’re about 57 percent of what we were in 1980, but well above the lows of the mid-’90s. That’s encouraging to us.”
However, federal officials monitoring bull trout recovery in Flathead Lake say the annual number doesn’t tell the whole story.
Read more . . .
A new Wild and Scenic River management plan for portions of the Flathead River, including the North Fork, is in the works . . .
One of the most noticeable changes in the North Fork Flathead River drainage can be found on the river — at its put-in and take-out sites for floaters — and it is a change that is in part driving an effort to develop a new Wild and Scenic River management plan…
Vehicles loaded with rafts, kayaks and canoes are now a far more common sight than they were in 1980, when the current river management plan was developed. That came on the heels of portions of the North, South and Middle forks of the Flathead River being designated as Wild and Scenic rivers in 1976.
“It’s pretty old,” Hungry Horse-Glacier View District Ranger Rob Davies said of the river management plan. “We’re not saying it’s bad. There are elements that are very good in that plan. We don’t want to throw it out and start from scratch. We want to figure out what needs to change, what elements of that plan need fixing.”
Read more . . .
The Daily Inter Lake has a fairly lengthy article on some recent events, both local and international, keeping the North Fork in the news. It’s a good read . . .
For all its remoteness, its small population and its tiny village capital of Polebridge, the North Fork Flathead River drainage has recently been the center of a lot of attention.
And it will continue to be, with Congress currently considering legislation tied directly to the drainage and with Flathead National Forest officials embarking on planning efforts that will affect federal lands west of Glacier National Park…
Meanwhile, the Flathead National Forest officially kicked off its latest forest plan revision process on Wednesday with a meeting that attracted nearly 40 people to discuss an assessment process that is now required under forest planning rules. Assessment involves evaluating existing information about ecological, economic, and social conditions and trends on the forest. The following day, there was a forest planning field trip to the North Fork that attracted about 35 people, reflecting high interest in that portion of the Flathead Forest…
Read more . . .
North Forker Doug Chadwick has an excellent article on the National Geographic web site discussing Sen. Max Baucus’ decades-long efforts to protect the North Fork Flathead watershed and the reasons behind this work . . .
Daybreak on August 8 found me on a bank of the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana, among the mixed tracks of deer, otters, and grizzly bears, marveling, as I have a thousand times before, at the near-magical transparency of these waters.
The bottom stones stood out as if on display under glass. Decades ago, my wife and I built a cabin nearby.
Across the river on the east bank, in Glacier National Park, the campers were stirring in their tents and the first cars were snaking up the Going to the Sun Road. But I was headed west that day, into the Whitefish Range, to see a man about the future of this valley.
Read more . . .
Another problem griz got a free ride to the North Fork earlier this week . . .
A 4-year-old male grizzly bear has been captured near the lower Marias River and relocated west of Glacier National Park after a family reported lambs and a calf had been killed.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks grizzly bear manager Mike Madel tells the Great Falls Tribune that a family reported last Friday that a couple of lambs had been killed and the next day they found a dead calf. Officials confirmed a grizzly killed the animals.
The 440-pound bear was captured Sunday. Because it had not been captured before, a radio collar was placed on the bear and it was released near the North Fork of the Flathead River.
Continue reading . . .
Your friendly web-slinger was away on an extended road trip, so we’re playing catch-up. Here’s the first clutch of articles about significant events over the past couple of weeks . . .
Elk River poisoned by coal mining – Dr. Ric Hauer of the Flathead Lake Biological Station of the University of Montana issued a March 2, 2013 study comparing water quality in the Elk and neighbouring Flathead River Basins. Commissioned by Glacier National Park, the study found nitrogen levels at 1,000 times the background rate, sulphate levels at 40-50 times the background rate and selenium levels at 7-10 times background rate (p.2). The researchers tested above and below mines and used the pristine water quality of the nearby Flathead River to determine background levels and ascertain what aquatic life would normally be present in the Elk River were it not so polluted. Continue reading . . .
FWP: Montana’s wolf population drops 4 percent – At least 625 wolves inhabited Montana at the end of 2012, a 4 percent population drop compared to a 15 percent increase the year before, according to state wildlife managers. The minimum wolf count is the number of wolves actually verified by FWP wolf specialists. The latest population estimate came while Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks comples the federally required annual wolf conservation and management report. The report is expected to be available online by April 12. Continue reading . . .
Agency to target fish in five creeks – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will continue efforts to suppress rainbow trout and hybrid trout populations in the upper Flathead River system. Region One Supervisor Jim Satterfield signed a finding of no significant impact for the work Monday. That basically approves plans to continue removing hybrids and rainbows from the mouths and channels of Abbot, Sekokini, Rabe, Ivy and Third creeks in the main stem Flathead and North Flathead rivers. Continue reading . . .
(UPDATED) According to the Daily Inter Lake, an 80-year-old Kalispell man drowned yesterday afternoon when his one-person pontoon boat flipped over on the North Fork near the Glacier Rim access point. A second individual, who was accompanying the victim in another one-man boat that also capsized, was discovered safe on shore about a half-mile upstream.
See the article in the Daily Inter Lake for further details . . .
The title pretty much covers it. Larry has a few bones to pick with the Forest Service’s river facilities . . .
Last week’s column mentioned concerns that at least some recreationists have regarding Forest Service management of the North Fork River. River launch sites at the international border and at Ford Ranger Station were rebuilt last summer, and both have some problems. In both cases, the boat slides are too narrow and too far apart, making launching very difficult for some inflatables.
Forest Service representatives admitted having multiple complaints, and they intend to make changes. Possible solution is to simply add a third slide between the two already in place to make it possible to slide a boat down lengthwise instead of sideways.
Continue reading . . .
The current unseasonably warm weather will get snowpack runoff moving at a faster pace. Some Northwest Montana rivers and streams could approach flood stage by midweek. Locally, the North Fork Flathead River is forecast to get within half a foot of flood stage at the Canadian border by Wednesday, lasting through the end of the week. See the Flood Information page for links to further information.