MTPR

Flathead National Forest

Truck carrying timber
Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

The state and the U.S. Forest Service plan to ramp up a program on Montana’s national forests that uses timber sales with restoration components to fund non-commercial conservation work. The amount of timber currently being cut under the program could grow four times over the next year. The timber industry sees that as a much-needed boon.

Swan Lake Ranger Station.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber announced Monday that he will retire in 2020, ending his 30-year career with the U.S. Forest Service.

Weber began his decades-long career with the Forest Service working on an ecology crew in southwest Oregon. He eventually went on to be a resource specialist on the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana and held two district ranger positions in Southeast Alaska and again in Oregon.

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

Consistently wet weather this month and the expected snowstorm this weekend are dampening fire managers’ hopes for large prescribed burns in the Flathead Valley this fall. Managers may have to wait until next season for some projects.

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.

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