Saturday Apr. 19, 2014
A blog focused on the outdoors
Life in the Ourdoors of MontanaLife in the Ourdoors of Montana

Dave Schmid will take over as the U.S. Forest Service's new deputy regional forester for the Northern Region, the agency announced Friday.

Regional Forester Faye Krueger said Schmid will report to his new position April 21.

Schmid comes to the region from the Forest Service’s Southern Region based in Atlanta, where he served as the director of biological and physical resources. He has been with the agency since 1982.

“I am excited to add Dave to my staff here in the Region,” Krueger stated. “Dave brings a wide range of experience and leadership to this position that will help us succeed in the Region-wide challenges we face as an agency.”

Schmid started with the agency in the Alaska Region as fisheries and watershed program leader on the Chugach National Forest, southeast of Anchorage. He relocated to the Tongass NF as a district ranger for the Thorne Bay Ranger District on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, and also worked as the district ranger of the Beartooth Ranger District on the Custer NF in south-central Montana. He served as the National Fisheries Program Leader in the agency’s Washington, D.C. office prior to assuming his role in Atlanta.

His fisheries background and key program direction with the agency’s Southern Region make Schmid a valuable asset to the Northern Region here. The world-class fishing streams and complex nature of many of the ecosystems here are key focus areas for the agency and our many partners and collaborative groups. Schmid’s appointment gives the agency greater potential to improve resource planning and fisheries management programs for these vital natural resource concerns.

“I’m very excited to come back to Montana in this position,” Schmid said. “I look forward to applying my leadership and program management experience to the issues and needs across the Northern Region.”

The Forest Service’s Northern Region is responsible for some 25 million acres of national forest system lands across northern Idaho, Montana, and North and South Dakota.

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FRESNO, Calif. — Advocates for the gray wolf in California will have to wait 90 days before learning if the animal will be listed as endangered, a state board decided Wednesday. Ranchers and state wildlife officials oppose granting the species legal protections.

The five members of the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to delay a decision so they can gather more public comments on protecting the species, which is showing signs of a comeback after being killed off in the 1920s.

State wildlife officials say they don't support the listing because wolves haven't roamed in California for decades and there's no scientific basis to consider them endangered.

Wolves have been absent from California, so researchers have no way of measuring threats or the viability of the animal in the state, said Eric Loft, chief of wildlife programs for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Yet, the animal is iconic of the western landscape and California could easily become the home to functioning wolf packs within a decade, said Chuck Bonham, director of the wildlife agency.

He said he supports wolf conservation efforts but not listing it as endangered.

"You may hear we actually hate wolves," he said, maintaining that wasn't true. "We're committed to the long-term prospect of the wolf."

Advocates' renewed interest in protecting the species started in 2011, when a lone wolf from Oregon — called OR-7 — was tracked crossing into California. The decision to list it or not has been under review for the last year.

The commission gathered in Ventura and heard from more than 60 members of the public, most of them in support of wolves but others in opposition.

Kirk Wilbur of the California Cattlemen's Association, which is fighting wolf protections, said the state's endangered species act is designed to help species at risk of going extinct. The wolf is experiencing the reverse, he said.

"The species is not at risk of disappearing in the state of California," he said. "It is, rather, reappearing."

Mike Williams, a cattle rancher in Ventura County, said wolves cause high stress on cattle, increase illness and weight loss, and kill valuable livestock.

"Wolves are beautiful animals," he said. "But they're also vicious, brutal and efficient killing machines and a threat to people, livestock and pets."

The action in California stands in sharp contrast to the approach taken by other Western states that have successfully reintroduced the wolf to the point they are allowing hunts to reduce their numbers.

Nationally, wolves were near extinction not long ago. They were reintroduced with federal protections in the 1980s and '90s.

Wolves now occupy large parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes.

Federal protections have ended in those two regions, and there is a pending proposal to lift protections across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.

Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity led the effort to protect California's wolves.

She accused state wildlife officials of violating state law by attempting to keep wolves off the California endangered species list.

"The wolf should be on the list," Weiss said. "And it should stay on the list."

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Montana State Parks is hosting a noxious weed discussion at Lone Pine State Park on Saturday, April 26 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Having trouble controlling or even identifying noxious weeds on your property? Then, join the group at Lone Pine State Park for the “Wanted: Montana’s Noxious Weeds” workshop presented by the Flathead County Weeds Department. After an introduction on noxious weeds, identification and control measures, the group will discuss specific issues you may be having, and different control options. This free and informative workshop will leave residents prepared for the fight against noxious weeds.

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The state's department in charge of managing and maintaining public parks is preparing to launch a year-long process addressing challenges related to resources and system capacity and gaining insight on the public’s interests in services and recreation needs.

Montana State Parks is inviting the public to participate in focus groups as part of a strategic planning process. There will be eight focus groups around the state starting April 21 through May 1. A public meeting will be held in Kalispell at 4 p.m., April 28, at Lone Pine State Park, 300 Lone Pine Rd. The other groups will meet in Glasgow, Glendive, Billings, Lolo, Whitehall, Helena and Ulm.

The strategic planning process will take a year to complete and will result in an updated vision for the Montana State Parks’ system and recreation programs for the next decade. There will be a public comment process on the draft strategic plan, later this year.

The most recent strategic plan was created in 1998.

The public meetings will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the current status of the state parks system and provide feedback on challenges and opportunities, including: what makes a state park significant?; what services are needed for the future?; and how does the state parks’ system sustain adequate resources to handle demands?

Each focus group will last about three hours and refreshments will be provided. The public is encouraged to RSVP by calling the Montana State Parks Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

RELATED: State Parks Agency Drafts New Vision

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A Bozeman man's 3-minute video of hundreds of elk hopping a fence and crossing a road east of Bozeman — and the perseverance of one straggler to keep up with the group — is an online hit.

"I was very surprised," Austin Stonnell, 19, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "I mean, it's a video about elk."

Stonnell was coming home from work when he spotted the herd of elk in a field where there are usually cows, he said.

"I quickly got into my house, grabbed my camera and came back," he said.

Hundreds of animals cleared the fence and continued on into a snowy field within the first minute, but the final elk makes several unsuccessful efforts to hop over and walk through the fence.

The straggler walks up and down the fence line and finally backs up and gets a running start before clearing the barrier and joining the herd, including three that appeared to stay back and wait.

Stonnell said he posted the video on Facebook and when it got 15 "likes" he thought: "might as well put it on YouTube." He uploaded his video titled "Massive herd of elk in Montana" on March 27. It had more than 1.3 million hits by Wednesday.

Stonnell said some of the comments questioned why he didn't do something to help the last elk.

"I tried thinking of a way to help it, but there's not much you can do," Stonnell said. "I didn't want to get clobbered."

Some questioned whether the video was real.

Stonnell said the herd is typically visible from his house.

"I made a second video because the elk came back," he said.

Stonnell is from Camano Island, Wash., and is living in Bozeman to gain residency so he can pursue a chemical engineering degree at Montana State University.

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BOISE, Idaho — Three environmental groups plan to file a federal lawsuit against Idaho if state officials don't address incidental trapping of federally protected Canada lynx.

The groups sent a letter Monday to Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter as well as Idaho Department of Fish Game officials contending the state is violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing recreational trapping that inadvertently ensnares lynx.

Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Clearwater say the state needs an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recreational trapping to continue. The state has 60 days to respond.

The groups said an increase in the popularity of trapping, with nearly 2,000 licenses issued in 2012-2013, is part of the reason an incidental take permit is needed. The area in question extends north from central Idaho to the border with Canada, as well as parts of eastern Idaho.

The groups said it will be up to state and federal agencies to determine the exact area, and what type of trapping would require an incidental take permit. In the letter, the groups cite "trapping for bobcats, coyotes, wolves, and other species within lynx habitat."

"Lynx already face threats to their habitat from climate change and declining snowpack," said Travis Bruner of Western Watersheds Project. "So the state and federal agencies in charge of protecting them should make every effort they can."

Mike Keckler, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency couldn't comment specifically on pending litigation.

Canada lynx, a rarely seen predator that feeds primarily on snowshoe hares, are a threatened species believed to number in the hundreds in the continental U.S. It's unclear how many are in Idaho.

An incidental take permit would only be issued if officials determine it's needed, and that occasionally catching a lynx wouldn't harm the overall population.

In the last two years in Idaho, three lynx have been caught in traps intended for bobcats. One was killed after the trapper mistook it for a bobcat, and the two others were released.

In January 2012, a Canada lynx was caught in a foot-hold trap in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the first confirmed lynx in the area in two decades. It was released.

A second lynx caught in Boundary County less than a year later was killed when a trapper mistook it for a bobcat. The trapper paid $385 in fines and restitution after reporting what happened, Keckler said. The lynx was mounted and is used in northern Idaho to help trappers and hunters learn how to identify them.

"As part of our trapper education course we go over this stuff with our trappers," Keckler said. "We go over it and we expect them to be familiar with it."

In January, a female lynx was caught in the Cabinet Mountain range in Idaho. A state biologist tranquilized the lynx and put a radio collar on it before it was released. Keckler said biologists continue to monitor the lynx's movements.

"The important thing is for anyone who accidentally captures a lynx to notify Fish and Game immediately," he said.

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The Flathead National Forest is seeking people interested in serving the Flathead County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).

Applications must be submitted to the Flathead National Forest Supervisor’s Office by May 31. Applications are available from the Flathead National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, or by calling 758-5252.

The Resource Advisory Committee consists of 15 members, each appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture for a four-year term. Members serve without compensation. Of the 15 members, five members represent each of three categories established by Congress to provide balanced and broad representation. There are also three alternate or replacement members for each category. The categories include:

Category A- Organized labor, non-timber forest product harvester group, developed outdoor recreation, off-highway vehicle use or commercial recreation, energy and mineral development, commercial or recreational fishing, commercial timber, and Federal grazing permittee or other land-use permittee or non-industrial private forest land owner.

Category B- Nationally, regionally or locally recognized environmental organizations, dispersed recreation, archaeology and history, nationally or regionally recognized wild horse or burro interests, and wildlife or hunting organizations or watershed associations.

Category C- State, county or local elected officials, American Indian Tribes, school officials or teachers and the public-at-large.

The committee reviews and recommends projects for funding that will benefit National Forest System lands within Flathead County. The Flathead County Resource Advisory Committee was chartered in 2001 by the US Department of Agriculture under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and is authorized with the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 and reauthorizations in 2012 and 2013.

For more information about the Flathead County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) contact Wade Muehlhof, Public Affairs Officer with the Flathead National Forest at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 406-758-5252.

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Pine Grove Pond, a family fishing pond and access area, will open to the general public for the season on Saturday, April 12. The pond and access, located near Rose Crossing on the outskirts of Kalispell, is a favorite spot for fishing and "Hooked on Fishing" classes.

“This continues to be a great gift to anglers in the Flathead and beyond, and we are thankful Robin Street and his family for donating such a wonderful place for family fishing,” Deleray stated.

Anglers 14 years of age and younger may keep one trout daily. For anglers 15 and older, it is catch-and-release for trout. All Montana fishing license requirements apply to anglers fishing Pine Grove Pond.

The access is in good shape and good numbers of trout have been stocked in the pond, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff.

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