Friday, September 21, 2018

Proposed Grizzly Bear Population Objectives Administrative Rule Out for Public Comment; Public hearing scheduled in Missoula September 26

A proposed administrative rule that would provide a regulatory framework for grizzly bear population objectives in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) is out for public comment through Friday, Oct. 26.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is holding hearings on the proposed rule in several communities this month, and the Missoula hearing is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26, 6:30pm, at the Holiday Inn Downtown (200 S. Pattee St.). FWP staff will answer questions and take public comment on the content of the proposed rule.

The rule pertains to the NCDE, which is one of six recovery areas for grizzly bears in the lower-48 states and would codify NCDE population objectives outlined in the conservation strategy recently completed and found at igbconline.org.

Upcoming Public Hearings:

Sept. 26 – Missoula, Holiday Inn Downtown, 200 S. Pattee St., 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 27 – Kalispell, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive, 6:30 p.m.

Comments can be submitted during the hearings and also online at fwp.mt.gov under “proposed grizzly bear ARM Rule.” Or by mail to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, FWP, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018.



Jeff
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National Park Service releases Yellowstone Vital Signs Report

Yellowstone National Park and the National Park Service’s Greater Yellowstone Inventory and Monitoring Network have released The State of Yellowstone Vital Signs and Select Park Resources, 2017. Vital signs highlighted in the 60-page report include the status of animal species like bison and grizzly bears, ecosystem-altering forces like climate and fire, and much more. Park and network staff compiled the report with input from park researchers.

“We are pleased to release this report to inform park staff and the public about the status and trends of our resources, and to provide updates on monitoring activities and management actions related to those resources,” said Yellowstone Center for Resources Chief Jennifer Carpenter.

“This report integrates up-to-date information on park resources from many sources, including the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring program,” added Greater Yellowstone Network Program Manager Kristin Legg. “Partnerships within the parks and with collaborators are critical to ensuring long-term conservation of America’s national treasures.”

Download the report at go.nps.gov/yellvitalsigns or www.nps.gov/im/gryn/recent-publications.htm. Yellowstone previously published Vital Signs reports in 2008, 2011, and 2013.



Jeff
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

West Side of Going-to-the-Sun Reopens to Private Vehicles

The Going-to-the-Sun Road has reopened to private vehicle travel between Apgar and Logan Pass. It is now possible to drive the entire length of the road.

The west side of the road was closed on August 12 when the Howe Ridge Fire grew significantly, burning structures and threatening the road corridor.

Drivers will not be able to stop along the road between Lake McDonald Lodge and the Avalanche Creek developed area. Avalanche is open for day use recreation, including day use areas, restrooms, the Trail of the Cedars, and the Avalanche Lake Trail. Flattop Trail and The Loop Trail are also reopening.

Winter weather has begun in some areas of the park. Intermittent snow has fallen at Logan Pass. While most trails remain open, visitors should come prepared for changing conditions and pack extra layers in the event that they encounter cold conditions as they travel throughout the park.

Access to Logan Pass will close on or before the third Monday in October for the winter season, weather conditions dependent. This year, that date is October 15th, meaning that October 14th is the last day to drive the entire length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

A culvert project near the Apgar area is scheduled to begin on October 15th, which will necessitate a temporary road closure at the foot of Lake McDonald from October 15-19 before the road reopens to Avalanche, as is customary for the fall season.



Jeff
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fire Danger has Increased to Very High: Exceptionally Dry Conditions Exist in Grand Teton

The fire danger rating has been elevated to very high for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, and remaining portions of the Teton Interagency Dispatch area.

The area has seen exceptionally dry conditions since the last appreciable rain in late August, and fuel conditions are at their driest of the season. In addition, several days of red flag warnings have elevated local fire conditions. A red flag warning is issued by the National Weather Service when relative humidity is expected to be at or below 15% and strong gusty winds are anticipated, and conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread. Red flag warnings have been issued for the Teton Interagency and surrounding areas each day since late last week. Under these conditions, local residents and visitors alike should practice heightened fire safety at all times.

When the fire danger is very high, fires can start easily from both human-caused and natural causes and, immediately after ignition, spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity. Small fires can quickly become large fires and be difficult to control. They often become longer-lasting fires, exhibiting extreme fire behavior and requiring more personnel and resources. When determining fire danger, fire managers use several indicators such as the moisture content of grasses, shrubs, and trees; projected weather conditions including temperatures and possible wind events; the ability of fire to spread after ignition; and availability of firefighting resources across the country.

Over the past several days, multiple fires have started on the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. The two largest fires are the Roosevelt Fire on the Big Piney District and the Marten Creek Fire on the Greys River District, both located on the national forest. Additional fires are burning in Grand Teton National Park and the Blackrock and Pinedale Districts of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. For current information and media releases on any fires in the area, check the Teton Interagency Fire website at tetonfires.com.

At this time of the season, fire resources are stretched thin as employees finish their seasons and crews are released for the year. Many visitors and recreationists may drop their guard as nights get colder and fires season seems to wane. As hunting season picks up in the area, it is especially important to extinguish warming fires and campfires before leaving the area. Ensure all campfires are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving your site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended. The fine for an abandoned campfire is $225, but campers can also be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.

To report a fire or smoke in the immediate area, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630.



Jeff
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Going-to-the-Sun Road Temporary Road Closure at Apgar Scheduled this Fall for Culvert Project

A new culvert construction project is scheduled for this fall along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, four miles up Lake McDonald. Fire conditions permitting, the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be temporarily closed from Apgar Loop Road at the foot of Lake McDonald to Avalanche from October 15-19, 2018. Access to Apgar Village and the Apgar Visitor Center will still be available during the week. The closure is timed to coincide with the third Monday of October, the day the Going-to-the-Sun Road typically closes in the alpine section for the winter.

Hiker-biker access between October 15 and 19 is not anticipated. Administrative and local resident traffic will be permitted from 7:00 am-7:30 am, from 3:30 pm-4:00 pm, and after 6:00 pm daily during construction.

Last year the park undertook a significant culvert replacement initiative at the same location, successfully installing two large culverts. However, drainage is not behaving as anticipated, and the park is installing a third large culvert to continue to address this frequent flooding issue on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

On October 20, access to Avalanche will once again reopen, fire conditions permitting, and will remain open until the gate closes at Lake McDonald Lodge for the winter on or before December 15. Hiker-biker access will resume above the Avalanche gate on October 20. Standard hiker-biker restrictions will be in place as road winterizing procedures begin to ensure pedestrian and work crew safety.

October 14 will be the last day that visitors are able to drive to Logan Pass from both the east and west side as the park road crew begins to winterize the road, including removing log barriers to protect them from avalanche hazards, removing directional signs, and installing snow poles.

This project is a part of the larger rehabilitation efforts along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in partnership with the Federal Highways Administration. Other road rehabilitation projects underway in 2018 include slump improvements on the Many Glacier Road, road grading/gravel replacement on Bowman Lake Road, and Avalanche Campground Road, which will be closed for approximately two weeks beginning September 17 for repairs, fire conditions permitting.

In the fall, construction on the roads in front of the Many Glacier Hotel and the upper parking lot will begin. This is part of the larger rehabilitation project for the section of the Many Glacier Road from Babb, MT, to the park boundary, and from the Many Glacier entrance station into the Many Glacier Valley.

The St. Mary Entrance Station will also undergo additional changes this fall and into the spring following its construction last year to extend the building height for oversized vehicles. No significant traffic delays are expected with that work.

Looking ahead to 2019, the park expects to undertake a significant routine pavement preservation project. Pavement preservation lays layers of a protective coating over the road, extending the life of the pavement substantially. The preservation work includes the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road, Chief Mountain Road, a portion of the Camas Road, Apgar Village Loop, and other minor areas. The work requires dry and moderately warm conditions to cure. The park expects some Going-to-the-Sun Road closures related to this work. Further details about pavement preservation in 2019 will be released this winter.

The park will also repair portions of the Inside North Fork Road. The Anaconda area in need of substantial repair will not be addressed within the scope of this more minor repair. However, construction will occur at “Lover’s Leap” and Logging Creek. When completed, visitors will be able to drive the Inside North Fork Road to just north of Anaconda Creek from the Polebridge Entrance, and the Dutch Creek Trailhead from the Fish Creek Entrance. Note that the Inside North Fork Road is not the main “North Fork Road” that provides access to Polebridge and other neighboring communities.

Funding dependent, sections of Camas Road may also undergo rehabilitation. Additional details will be available in 2019 if this project is scheduled.

Current information about park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services can be found by visiting Glacier National Park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/glac/ or by calling park headquarters at 406-888-7800.

Please note that as of the writing of this press release, the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road has been temporarily closed due to Howe Ridge Fire activity adjacent to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.



Jeff
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interagency Firefighters Respond to Leigh Canyon Fire in Grand Teton National Park

Teton Interagency firefighters responded to the Leigh Canyon Fire Saturday afternoon after reports of smoke in the area. Fire management staff are monitoring the fire and assessing management options for the long term management of the fire. The fire is located about one mile above Leigh Canyon from the west side of Leigh Lake at about 7,600 feet in elevation in Grand Teton National Park. As of Saturday evening, the size of the fire is estimated to be around three and a half acres with some spotting of downed logs in avalanche debris which caused smoke to be visible from the roads. The fire cause is unknown.

The Leigh Canyon Fire is being closely monitored by both ground and aerial resources. The fire is in a remote area and priority is firefighter and public safety. Monitoring of the fire will continue overnight.

Grand Teton National Park has evacuated three Leigh Lake backcountry campsites including 16, 14A, and 14B on the west shore of Leigh Lake. Backcountry permits are not being issued for the CMC camp on Mount Moran, campsites near Leigh Lake, Bearpaw Lake and Trapper Lake, Bearpaw Bay, and Little Grassy Island as a precautionary measure. Campers and hikers using Paintbrush Canyon and to southern Leigh Lake should be alert and prepared to modify their plans if fire behavior changes.

Grand Teton National Park was under Red Flag warning until 7 p.m. today due to high winds and low humidity. Tomorrow, lighter winds, slightly cooler temperatures, and more humidity is expected.

Fire plays a vital role in the ecosystem reducing fuel loads, allowing future fires to not grow as rapidly. Fire management objectives include firefighter and public safety, park, and forest infrastructure; while monitoring the fire as it fulfills its natural role on the landscape. Management strategies will adjust to changing conditions.



Jeff
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Grizzly Bear Killed in Train Collision Near West Glacier

A male grizzly bear was killed in a train collision earlier this week on the railroad tracks near West Glacier.

The 2-year-old bear was wearing a GPS radio collar, which notified Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks of the animal’s location near Nyack Flats. The collision occurred on the evening of Sept. 10, 2018. FWP personnel retrieved the carcass the next morning and confirmed the cause of death through a necropsy. FWP notified BNSF Railway and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bear was originally captured and fitted with a radio collar at the end of May east of Bigfork and it was translocated to the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

So far this year, 33 grizzly bear mortalities have been identified in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem due to a variety of circumstances, including management action, collisions, and augmentation. Bears are classified as mortalities if they die, are taken to an accredited zoo or research facility if possible, or euthanized. One-to-two bears are annually targeted for relocation to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem as part of an augmentation program.

The NCDE is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. The NCDE is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.

FWP maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives that are designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE. This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population for a variety of circumstances, and notifying the public.

Right now bears are actively seeking food sources before the winter denning season, and residents are urged to reduce or secure attractants. FWP Region 1 has recently seen an uptick in reports of bears approaching food sources, such as fruit trees and garbage.

More safety information is available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.



Jeff
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