Conservation groups wanting better protection for fish and wildlife in the Northern Rockies filed Objections to the revised Flathead Forest Plan and Amendments to four other Forest Plans in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The plan revision and amendments are intended to pave the way for delisting of threatened grizzly bear in the NCDE, which would remove their Endangered Species Act protection.
The groups launched a letter writing campaign in 2016. This resulted in 98% of the 33,744 comments the Forest Service received on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement calling for protection of all remaining roadless lands as wilderness and continuation of the road decommissioning program that agencies credit with improving grizzly bear security and helping restore critical bull trout watersheds.
The revised Flathead Forest Plan instead abandons its road decommissioning program and recommends for wilderness designation only 30% of the areas it found suitable for wilderness. The Kootenai, Lolo, Lewis and Clark, and Helena Forest Plans would similarly be amended to abandon road removal as a primary means to restore fish and wildlife habitat that has been damaged.
The groups rallied around the principles of the Citizen reVision alternative Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan asked the Forest Service to include in its DEIS. The DEIS included some of these principles in its Alternative C, which it then assigned the highest marks for maintaining water quality and wildlife habitat connectivity. The FEIS and revised Flathead Forest Plan, however, select Alternative B-modified even though it is assigned "the highest risk of impact to aquatic species" and "is likely to adversely affect" already threatened grizzly bear, bull trout, and Canada lynx!
The Objections were due at Forest Service Region One headquarters in Missoula on February 12. The Region now has ten days to "publish a notice of all objections in the applicable newspaper of record and post the notice online." The Region's responses to the Objections are due within 90 days, unless it grants itself extensions.
Below are links to some of the Objections filed by groups supporting the principles of the Citizen reVision:
Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force, Wilderness Watch, WildWest Institute, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Rattlesnake, Friends of the Clearwater, Independent Consultant Mike Bader Objection.
Click here for a Missoulian article on the 74 Objections filed.
Click here for Montana Public Radio coverage of the 74 Objections filed.
Click here for a Missoula Independent article on Objections filed.
The 3,000 pages of FEIS, Forest Plan and Forest Plan amendments can be found here.
UPDATE: Swan View Coalition testified on behalf of 15 other groups and organizations at a July 7, 2016 Grizzly Bear Habitat Workshop in Missoula, MT. We submitted more comments in January 2018 when FWS asked for comments, this time on its Draft Supplement to include HBRC in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.
Click here for our 1/3/18 comments.
Click here for our 1/23/18 comments.
All you need to say is that you want grizzly bear recovery based on the promised security of grizzly bear habitat and key bear foods - and that you want FWS to abandon its current plan to instead reduce grizzly bear security in the face of growing human populations and impacts.
Remember, while the grizzly bear population in the entire Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem was estimated to be 765 bears in 2004 and has hopefully increased by a couple hundred bears since then, the human population of Flathead County alone grew by 1,800 people in 2014 and is estimated to reach 100,000 by 2018!
Click here to read Swan View's testimony or to help fine-tune your email to FWS.
Click here to watch NBC's coverage of the workshop.
Click here to read the Missoulian newspaper article about the workshop.
Click here to watch KPAX coverage of the workshop.
Click here (then scroll down) to view a list of links to the 26 documents attached to Swan View Coalition's testimony.
If you commented, signed our petition or form letter in 2015 or 2016 on the draft Flathead Forest Plan in favor of more Wilderness and a non-motorized Krause Basin, you have until February 12 to express your disappointment with the final Forest Plan and ask for changes!
This alert will make it easy for you.
The final Plan would designate and promote Krause Basin as a Focused Recreation Area and mark the old system of ATV trails on-the-ground, in violation of past promises to instead ban motorized use of the old trail system.
While the final Plan recommends a bit more wilderness than the draft (0.4% more) it shrinks the size of the Jewel Basin proposed wilderness by 3,500 acres to allow mountain bikes. It also blasts a biking corridor smack through the middle of its meager Bunker Creek proposed addition to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Thanks to folks like you, 98% of the 34,000 public comments the Flathead received asked for all roadless lands to be recommended for Wilderness and for the continued implementation of Forest Plan Amendment 19, which would remove 520 miles of road and close more trails to motorized use, including in Krause Basin, to provide better security for wildlife.
It is important you take a few minutes to file an Objection because it is obvious the Flathead is swayed by industrial-strength logging and industrial-strength "wreckreation." Only 30% of wilderness-suitable lands are recommended for Wilderness. Forest Plan standards to reduce logging roads and motorized trails in order to protect fish, wildlife and quiet recreation are abandoned!
Click here and/or scroll down for more information and step-by-step instructions on how to find your comments and file your Objection!
The Flathead National Forest dumped 3,000 pages of documents on the public over the holidays and Fish and Wildlife Service piled more on - all intended to strip Endangered Species Act and other protections from Glacier- and Yellowstone-area grizzly bears!
So we are under federal deadlines in January and February to file formal objections to the revised Flathead Forest Plan (pictured at right), other Forest Plan amendments and FWS's delisting efforts.
Please DONATE NOW to support our work. We are working overtime and have contracted a wildlife consultant to help!
Click here for a Missoulian article about the "Document Dump" and various deadlines for public involvement.
We'll send out an alert in early January about how you can be involved.
Meanwhile, you can visit the Flathead Forest Planning web page to learn more about the planning documents and the Objection process.
Thank you for your support in 2017 and don't forget to have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Swan View Coalition wishes you a Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
May you find yourself among family, friends and beautiful surroundings!
Maybe you'll find yourself skiing the Swan Range's Infinity Ridge.
Maybe you'll travel to a distant city to be with loved ones.
Wherever you are, know that the Swan Range is there, bringing comfort and well-being to all!
Swan View Coalition has issued a critical review of the Biological Assessment of the final revised Flathead Forest Plan, along with Friends of the Wild Swan.
The groups find the Plan wholly inadequate in its protection of fish, wildlife and wildlands. Their review is based on the Flathead's Biological Assessment of the pending revised Flathead Forest Plan.
The Assessment was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act along with other Biological Assessments and Biological Opinions written for recently completed consultations with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding impacts to threatened grizzly bear, bull trout and lynx.
The Flathead had promised to post the Assessments and Opinions on its Forest Planning web site by December 1, but instead provided them to Swan View Coalition on CD. The Flathead had hoped to release its revised Forest Plan in November and is now hoping to do so in December.
The Flathead is also responsible for writing and releasing Forest Plan grizzly bear amendments for the other four Forests in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, reducing protections for grizzly bear in all five Plans as Fish and Wildlife Service plans to remove (delist) the NCDE grizzly bear from Endangered Species Act protections in 2018.
UPDATE: The Flathead did release its revised Forest Plan and NCDE amendments on December 14, 2017, posting them, the BAs and the BiOps on its Forest Planning page.
Click here for the groups' 12/12/17 press release, which secured us coverage in the following news:
Click here for the 12/15/17 Daily Inter Lake news article.
Click here for the 12/16/17 Flathead Beacon news article.
Click here for the 12/16/17 Missoulian news article.
Click here for the 12/14/17 MTPR radio story.
Click here for the Flathead's Biological Assessment of its revised Forest Plan.
Click here for FWS's Biological Opinion on the revised Flathead Forest Plan.
Click here for the Biological Assessment of the Four-Forest Grizzly Bear Plan Amendments.
Click here for FWS's Biological Opinion on the Four-Forest Grizzly Bear Plan Amendments.
Our Holidays Newsletter looks at recognizing and protecting nature's gifts, rather than simply imposing our will on the world!
Please check out our newsletter and DONATE NOW to support our work and help us raise $15,000 to meet our year-end budget!
Below is our newsletter's table of contents. Click here to view or download it as a pdf.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter and will join others in supporting our work!
Fish, wildlife and people are counting on us - and you!
Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice, Happy New Year - and THANK YOU!
Nokio Creek culvert blowout - Flathead NF photo.
Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and WildEarth Guardians put the Flathead National Forest on notice they will file suit over logging road impacts to bull trout.
Below is the press release with links to the Notice of Intent to File Suit and Keith Hammer's "Roads to Ruin" report providing photos and background on the failure of the Flathead NF to adequately inspect and maintain its logging roads and culverts.
Click here for the resulting KAJ-TV coverage using photos like the one above.
Click here for the resulting Daily Inter Lake news article by Patrick Reilly.
Click here to read our rebuttal to the Flathead Forest Supervisor's claim that there are no "impaired" watersheds on his Forest due to proactive management.
Click here for the resulting Missoulian news article by Perry Backus.
Failures in Road Management Place Bull Trout at Risk
Conservation Groups Send Notice of Intent to File Suit to Flathead National Forest
November 16, 2017
Kalispell, MT – Yesterday three conservation groups warned the Forest Service of their intent to file suit under the Endangered Species Act in order to protect threatened bull trout and its critical habitat. The Forest Service’s inadequate management and monitoring of logging roads on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana threatens to degrade bull trout streams by increasing the risk of culvert failure, leading to road washouts that smother streams in road sediment, destroy fish eggs and prevent young fish from growing.
The notice letter outlines the Forest Service’s failure to comply with numerous biological opinions written by the Fish and Wildlife Service during the past fifteen years. These biological opinions directed the Forest Service to remove stream-aligned culverts from closed logging roads—or, alternatively, to monitor them annually to insure they do not plug. Plugged culverts are prone to fail over time due to accumulation of dirt and debris in the small openings. A plugged culvert is likely to blow out during a rain or snowmelt event, depositing sediment into bull trout streams.
Though the Forest Service has largely failed to follow either of the Fish and Wildlife Service directives, records show it is aware that far more culverts are failing or are at high risk of failing than initially thought, and that failing roads and culverts put the bull trout and its habitat in peril.
In addition to its history of inadequate road management, the Forest Service proposed to relax culvert monitoring from annual monitoring to monitoring once every six years. Best science and a history of culvert failures on the Flathead and other national forests do not support such a move: culverts can plug and blow out in a single season if not inspected and cleaned.
Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer has spent the last couple of years requesting the Flathead’s annual culvert monitoring reports. “The Flathead has failed pretty much across the board to conduct annual culvert monitoring,” he said. “The monitoring it has done shows that up to two-thirds of the culverts inspected are at high risk of failure. Rather than dedicate the funding and staff to do the inspections and either fix or remove the culverts, the Flathead is looking to eliminate the requirement for annual inspections.”
“Our native fish require cold, clean water to spawn and rear,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “Unmaintained culverts are like ticking time bombs in our streams; when they plug up and blow out they dump tons of sediment into spawning gravels, impacting reproduction and growth of fish. By ignoring the required monitoring the Flathead is endangering our water quality and fish habitat.”
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service rejects the Forest Service’s attempt to move the goal posts by abandoning annual culvert inspections,” said Marla Fox of WildEarth Guardians. “Rewarding poor performance with lower expectations would set a horrible precedent for other forests to bypass legally required protections that the Service determined necessary for bull trout survival and recovery.”
The notice letter cites to agency documents showing that agency assumptions that only 10-15% of culverts were at high risk of failing were replaced with findings of 35-40% and as high as 67% of culverts at high risk of failing. Notice, page 14.
The letter also cites to documents acknowledging 22 culverts had failed on the roads that had been inspected and that more failures were expected. Notice at 12-13.