Tag Archives: Steve Gniadek

Steve Gniadek: Public Must Demand Accountability by BNSF

Grizzly bears, gaping mawsNFPA member Steve Gniadek had a letter published in the Flathead Beacon today calling out the BNSF Railway for not fulfilling its promises to help reduce train-caused grizzly bear deaths . . .

Thanks to Tristan Scott for shining a spotlight on continuing train-caused grizzly bear mortalities (Flathead Beacon, Oct. 4, 2023). The late Dr. Charles Jonkel first raised the alarm in the 1980s when he learned that grain spills were attracting grizzlies that were subsequently killed on the tracks. In the early ‘90s I represented Glacier National Park on a working group that resulted in the establishment of the Great Northern Environmental Stewardship Area (GNESA), with the goal of reducing the risk to grizzlies and other wildlife. BNSF provided funding for a state bear management position, and other mitigation measures. There seemed to be progress with the development of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). So, I was shocked and disappointed to learn there has been little recent progress, and that BNSF has not committed to funding the measures identified over 20 years ago. The HCP is long overdue, and BNSF needs to make a permanent funding commitment to mitigate the impacts from train traffic. Some have argued that BNSF is foot-dragging until the grizzly is delisted and protective provisions are no longer required. Chuck Jonkel used to speak about the million-dollar grizzly, that each bear was worth that much to the state (in tourism revenue and iconic status). Even with an expanded population since the 1980s, the per bear value is probably well more than a million today. Regardless of ESA protections, grizzly bears are a significant natural, cultural and spiritual resource, part of our identity as Montanans. The public must demand accountability by BNSF and a commitment to minimize mortality and the management of a healthy and sustainable population of grizzly bears and other wildlife.

Steve Gniadek
Columbia Falls

Montana’s wolves not ‘transplants’

Steve Gniadek recently submitted the following letter to the Flathead Beacon . . .

The article on the proposed wolf management stamp (Beacon, Aug 20) was succinct and generally accurate.  However, one important omission contributed to what I referred to in my comments at the hearing as a raging ignorance among some segments of the public.  The article states correctly that “wolves were introduced back into Yellowstone National Park and the central Idaho wilderness in 1995 and 1996 . . .”.   By omitting the fact that wolves naturally recolonized Northwest Montana, readers may conclude that wolves in this area are from those reintroductions.  In reality, after an absence of 50 years, wolves from Canadian populations began expanding into Northwest Montana more than 30 years ago.  They were not relocated here.

Right before the 2010 election I attended a forum on wolves at Flathead Valley Community College sponsored by Montanans for Multiple Use.  A biologist from the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department was scheduled to appear on the panel, but was prohibited from participating due to legal wrangling over the wolf hunt.  Thus, there was no one on the panel who could provide an objective view of wolf biology and management, and ignorance ran rampant.  Panelists and audience members repeatedly complained that wolves were transplanted to Montana by the feds, ignoring the fact that wolves in our area came in on their own and were not transplanted.  This was only one of numerous distortions bandied about at the forum.

Present at the forum were most if not all the local Republican candidates, who tried to outdo one another in their support for the misinformation dispensed by the crowd.  In a democracy, we should expect our political representatives to help educate their constituents rather than reinforce ignorance and prejudice.  We should expect the same from our media sources.

Steve Gniadek