MTPR

Flathead National Forest

Fire Management Officer Keith Van Broke oversees the start of a 2017 prescribed burn to clear dry, dead brush from an area logged three years previous.
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

After a tame fire season, the Flathead National Forest hopes to spark a number of prescribed burns in the coming weeks, but rain could limit how much work fire managers get done.

Glacier Loon Project Decision Notice April 2018
USDA

A multi-year court battle over the Glacier Loon timber sale in the Swan Valley will continue. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is now asking the lower court to decide whether the project needs to be reassessed under different regulations protecting grizzly bears. 

The Flathead National Forest is now taking comments on how it should manage the three forks of the Flathead River.
U.S. Forest Service

The Flathead National Forest is now taking comments on how it should manage the three forks of the Flathead River. The plan, expected early next year, could implement user restrictions to protect fish, wildlife and the user experience.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday it is taking scoping comments that will help shape the new management plan.

"Good Neighbor Authority" allows states and tribes to help the Forest Service with projects on national forest land. The Taylor Hellroaring project near Whitefish is one such project.
U.S. Forest Service

Public comment ends this week on a Forest Service project near Whitefish which proposes to use so-called “good neighbor authority” to collaborate with the State of Montana. It’s a new approach that could mark a shift in which parties get a say in managing national forests.

Map showing the area between estimated occupied grizzly bear range in the NCDE to the north and the GYE to the south.
Lisa Landenburger, USGS - Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. Public domain. Source: Peck et al. 2017.

Don’t expect the federal government to propose removing grizzly bears in Northwest Montana from the endangered species list anytime soon, officials say.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Hilary Cooley says it’s complicated trying to prove in court that the grizzly population is recovered.

The Flathead Forest’s new forest plan was signed in December.
Flathead National Forest

Two conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit this week, challenging the 2018 Flathead Forest Plan.

WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project say the 10 to 15 year management plan for the 2.4 million acre forest decreases habitat protections for wildlife, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout.
 

Grizzly bear.
(PD)

Two Montana-based environmental groups Monday announced they’re preparing to sue the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the recently enacted Flathead National Forest Plan.

Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan say the new management plan violates the Endangered Species Act by increasing road building in sensitive habitat for grizzly bears and bull trout. They plan to file their lawsuit if the agencies don’t act within the next 60 days.

Courtesy Flathead National Forest

Revisions to the plan that dictates land, recreation and wildlife management on the 2.4 million acre Flathead National Forest have now gone into effect. Interest groups are split on what the plan means for the forest’s future.

The 2018 Flathead National Forest Plan was signed on December 27 during the partial federal government shutdown. It went into effect last Saturday following a mandatory 30-day waiting period.

A snow bike sits on a cornice near the crest of Spring Slide Mountain in the Swan Range where bikers triggered an avalanche Jan. 5, 2019.
flatheadavalanche.org

The Flathead National Forest is investigating an avalanche involving motorized snow bikes that happened on Jan. 5. The bikers may have been in an area closed to over-snow vehicles.

Keith Hammer is the chair of the Swan View Coalition in the Flathead Valley. Hammer heard about the avalanche on Spring Slide Mountain and recognized the area.

Despite the government shutdown, U.S. Forest Service supervisors last week signed a new management plan for the Flathead National Forest, along with amendments that standardize grizzly bear management for the Lolo, Kootenai and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests.

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