The cool, wet weather has really knocked things down. South of Glacier Park, the Essex evacuation order is cancelled and traffic on U.S. Highway 2 through the area is back to normal. Locally, the forest closure in the North Fork was lifted, as well as most of the closures in the Kootenai Forest. Trail Creek Road is open all the way through. Quite a few fire crews are demobilizing.
Here’s an overview of conditions throughout the region . . .
Cool, rainy conditions in the Fortine area were favorable enough on the Marston Fire that the fire management team and Flathead and Kootenai national forests have lifted most of the land closures in the Whitefish Range.
That team is managing several fires, including the one burning on and around Marston Mountain that has covered 7,000 acres.
Spokesman Tom Rhodes said the Flathead National Forest has rescinded all of its closures in the Glacier View Ranger District and most of the Kootenai-managed Ten Lakes area has reopened with the exception of Sinclair Creek Trail.
Rain and cooler weather has let fire crews make some progress against many area wildfires . . .
Substantial rainfall — at least by parched Northwest Montana standards — has dampened area wildfire activity.
The changing weather and slowing fire activity have allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in the Essex, Noxon and Libby areas.
On the 6,810-acre Northeast Kootenai Complex, which is almost entirely composed of the 6,700-acre Marston Fire east of Fortine, opportunistic firefighters were leaping at the chance to corral the blaze.
From an August 11, 2015 Glacier National Park press release . . .
As of Wednesday, August 12, campfires will not be allowed in the back country of Glacier National Park. Campfires will continue to be allowed only in designated sites in front country campgrounds.
Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “The park is experiencing extreme fire conditions and to help reduce the risk of fire, we are implementing fire restrictions for our back country campgrounds and recreation sites.” Mow continued, “The back country restrictions will help to protect public and employee safety, as well as protect park resources and facilities.”
Only liquid petroleum or LPG-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices will be allowed in back country campgrounds in Glacier National Park.
At this time, campfires are only allowed in park-provided metal or concrete fire rings located in front country campgrounds in Glacier National Park. These campgrounds include:
PLEASE NOTE: Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in effect for Northwest Montana. Stage I fire restrictions apply to campfires and smoking. During Stage I, “Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire” is prohibited unless noted in the exemptions. Exemptions include fires fueled solely by liquid petroleum or LPG, or other activities for which there is a permit or written authorization. In addition to the campfire restrictions, smoking is prohibited unless within an enclosed vehicle, building, or in an area three feet in diameter, that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. Stage 1 restrictions apply to:
* Flathead National Forest
* Kootenai National Forest
* Bob Marshall Wilderness Lands within the Flathead National Forest
* Glacier National Park
* Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
* U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
* MT-DNRC Northwestern Land Office
* Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 1
* Counties: Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, and Sanders
* Property within city limits in the area are EXEMPT from this order
The restrictions will remain in effect until there is a significant long-term change in fire danger.
The Thompson Fire in Glacier Park notwithstanding, Tuesday was a fiery day throughout Northwest Montana.
An early morning fire led Flathead National Forest officials to temporarily close Jewel Basin Road, which reopened Tuesday afternoon after crews put out the small, lightning-caused fire near Noisy Creek.
Spotted early in the morning north of the lower segment of the gravel road, the fire was stopped at a quarter of an acre after firefighters from the forest and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation crews hit it with a light helicopter and finished containment lines by Tuesday afternoon. There were no trail closures associated with the fire.
This a head-scratcher. There’s a problem in this corner of the state with “thrill kills” — of deer, mostly . . .
The statewide hotline for reporting poaching incidents is already on pace to surpass last year’s call total, reflecting a possible changing attitude among Montanans that is more disapproving of “thrill kills” and other illegal shootings of wildlife.
Yet the problem persists, particularly in Northwest Montana. Local wildlife enforcement officers have seen more poaching cases than usual for this time of year. More than eight deer have been found shot dead in the last few months, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 officials.
This week’s Hungry Horse News has a nice piece on the history of wolf recovery in Northwest Montana . . .
The revival of wolf populations in Northwest Montana likely had its genesis with a single pack just north of Glacier National Park.
A female wolf named Kishinena in British Columbia was caught and radio-collared in April 1979. She was the first radio-collared wolf in the Rocky Mountains as part of the Wolf Ecology Project headed up by Robert Ream, at the University of Montana.
While she spent most of her time in British Columbia roaming the North Fork drainage, Kishinena did wander into Glacier Park on occasion.
Probably not a big surprise to long-term residents, but it’s nice to have some recent numbers on the increased griz population. From yesterday’s Flathead Beacon . . .
The number of grizzly bears in Northwest Montana is on the rise, according to the National Park Service.
John Waller, wildlife biologist for Glacier National Park, said data being collected in the area of the northern continental divide – approximately 7 million acres between Missoula and the Canadian border – shows the bear population has risen by 3 percent annually since 2004, when there were 765 grizzly bears. Today the number is estimated to be about 950.