FWP taking initiative to restore the historic biodiversity found in central Montana

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Photo by Eric Clewis. An American marten searches for bait at a camera station in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This station was set up as part of an effort to map occupancy and distribution of this species on the landscape.

MWF is strongly supportive of the proposed reintroduction of American martens (M. americana or M. caurina) to the Little Belts Mountains of central Montana. With the previous extirpation of this species from island mountain ranges across the west, it is imperative that we take the necessary actions to restore martens to their
historic range. This action directly follows the objective to “increase species diversity and facilitate marten range expansion back into the mountains of central Montana” as stated by the Fish & Wildlife Commission in 2014.

As stated in the draft environmental assessment (EA), there is significant quality marten habitat found throughout the Little Belt Mountains as well as adjacent mountain ranges. However, this species is notoriously poor at dispersing across unsuitable habitat, and therefore it is unlikely natural recolonization will occur. Thankfully there is a precedent for success in translocation and reintroduction attempts, such as this effort, as seen in other successful marten reintroductions in similar mountain ranges. We at MWF would like to thank
Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP) for following the examples set in similar reintroductions across the west when developing the procedures in this draft EA.

MWF commends FWP for taking the initiative to restore the historic biodiversity found in central Montana. Thank you for the opportunity to comment and voice support for this project. If you have any questions, please contact Eric Clewis, our Western Montana Field Coordinator, at (832) 444-6976 or eclewis@mtwf.org.

Lewistown Resource Management Plan Threatens Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, and Sporting Traditions

Today the Bureau of Land Management announced it had finalized the Lewistown Resource Management Plan (RMP) that will prioritize oil and gas speculation over all other uses and threaten wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and sporting traditions in Montana. The Lewistown plan encompasses 651,200 surface acres and 1.2 million acres of subsurface acres. The new plan, which will govern how the land will be managed for the next 20 years, would allow oil and gas leasing on 95% of the Lewistown area, which contains some of the finest hunting grounds in the world. 

“The Bureau of Land Management has reversed years of collaborative, on-the-ground work by conservationists, ranchers, hunters, anglers, and community leaders to protect important wildlife habitat and world-class hunting areas in the Lewistown area,” said Alec Underwood, federal conservation campaigns director at the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Today’s decision shows that this administration has chosen to ignore the concerns of public land users and the protections necessary to ensure the health and vitality of these lands for generations to come. Instead, the administration has left the vast majority of these lands open to speculative oil and gas leasing.”

“This is another example of why William Perry Pendley is unfit to lead the agency that manages more than 245 million acres of public land. Pendley, who has long believed that public lands should be sold off, has rejected what Montanans have asked for and is now advocating to hand them over to oil and gas companies at below-market prices,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “These are lands that belong to all Americans. It is not balanced use to prioritize 95% of these lands for oil and gas interests.” 

For years, the Montana Wildlife Federation has worked with numerous stakeholders in Montana to draft Lewistown management plans, which would protect habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn and other wildlife and would maintain the world-renowned big game hunting which supports local communities across the region. In 2015, hunting for elk alone generated more than $3.8 million dollars in consumer spending which benefited the local economy.

Today’s press release from the Bureau of Land Management also announced it had also finalized the Missoula Resource Management Plan. That plan increases grazing and timber harvest and strips protections for areas of critical environmental concern.

Senator Jon Tester Introduces Legislation That Protects Cultural and Public Access

It is with great excitement that we announce the introduction of legislation by Senator Jon Tester, calling for the permanent protection of the Badger-Two Medicine as a Cultural Heritage Area.

As you know, the Badger is one of the wildest, most wildlife-rich regions of the continental United States and is the only part of the Rocky Mountain Front that hasn’t been

legislatively protected. The Badger provides hunters and anglers with a truly wild, backcountry experience. The watersheds provide critical habitat for native trout, and for time immemorial, hunters have been coming to the region to pursue elk, mountain goat, and moose. The next generation should have the same opportunity hunters and anglers of the past have had to experience this special place. 

The permanent protection proposal for the Badger is an important step toward ensuring that traditional land-uses are protected. The Cultural Heritage Area designation will: 

  1. Protect and enhance public access, wildlife, and habitat. Hunting and angling opportunities will remain unchanged.
  2. Celebrate and safeguard cultural and traditional uses of the area and guarantee Blackfeet’s existing treaty rights will be honored.
  3. Establish a formal Tribal consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, allowing the Blackfeet Nation to contribute to future management decisions.
  4. Create a diverse citizen advisory group made up of tribal and non-tribal stakeholders, to help the U.S. Forest Service develop long-term management guidelines for the area.
  5. Provide job opportunities to conduct trail maintenance and other contracted forest work.
  6. Continue non-commercial timber harvest for forest health, wildfire response, and private property protection.
  7. Preservation of headwater streams that are an important source of clean water for agricultural operations and communities both on and off the reservation.

Not only is this proposal the right thing to do, but it also ensures continued economic growth in Montana, where hunters and anglers contribute more than $1 billion annually to the state economy. It is time to ensure a future of certainty for the Blackfeet, this treasured landscape, and hunters, and anglers from all walks of life who care deeply for the Badger. While some places may change, hunters and anglers agree that some places are too special to be compromised.

Thanks for all you do for conservation, hunting, and fishing. You now have a unique and historic opportunity to help protect the Badger-Two Medicine forever, preserving hunting and angling traditions and opportunities for unborn generations. To lend your support, visit  www.protectthebadger.org and take action today! If you have any questions, contact MWF Program and Partnership Director, Marcus Strange, at mstrange@mtwf.org

East Crazies Need Collaborative Voices Now

A proposal for a land trade on the east side of the Crazy Mountains in the Custer Gallatin National Forest has the potential to block up public lands and improve public access to them. But there’s a lot of hard work and important safeguards that need to be in place to make this trade a net benefit for the public.

The proposal would trade 3,614 acres of National Forest land on the east side of the Crazies for 5,205 acres of private land that is owned by several different people. It would consolidate a large block of land into public ownership between Sweetgrass Creek and Big Timber Canyon while adding a new 21-mile loop trail for hiking, horseback riding and hunting and fishing throughout the Range.

MWF’s interest in the proposal has several aims. They include to protect the important wildlife habitat in the Crazies, improve public access in the area, and to ensure that there is a robust public process to gauge support for the project. And MWF doesn’t see this as the end of working to improve wildlife habitat, access, and recreational opportunity there, but rather the beginning.

To those ends, MWF’s support for the project is contingent on multiple conditions. They include putting conservation easements on all public lands that are exchanged; giving the public or a land trust a first right of refusal should any of those lands come up for sale, and ensuring that the boundary of the National Forest does not shrink.

We also will not support anything that affects the ongoing lawsuit over access on the road and trail from Sweetgrass Creek. And finally, we requested that the trade be conducted through the administrative process, rather than legislation through Congress. That’s to ensure the trade gets a healthy public debate.

MWF encourages all who are interested in the future of wildlife and access in the Crazies to attend upcoming town hall meetings: Thursday, July 23rd in Big Timber at the American Legion; Thursday, July 30th in Bozeman at the Masonic Lodge; and Thursday, August 6th in Big Sky at Wilson Hotel.  All meetings run from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and will follow strict Covid-19 public health guidelines.  We also encourage you to submit comments here before August 7thhttps://www.crazymountainproject.com/public-feedback

See our letter on the proposed East Side Proposal here.

 

By MWF Conservation Director Nick Gevock.

Conservation Legend Poz Devoted Life to “the Democracy of the Wild”

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Jim Posewitz sits and talks with Randy Newberg and fisheries biologist Mike Duncan during the filming of The Dam That Never was | A Conservation Story of the Yellowstone River. Jim was a key advocate who helped stop the dam. © Dale Evans

We all knew him as “Poz,” and for more than six decades he was a leading voice for wildlife conservation, ethical hunting, and the protection of Montana’s rivers. Today we can look at the undammed Yellowstone River, the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, and the abundance of wild lands and wildlife we all love and thank Jim Posewitz as one of the key leaders for his tireless conservation efforts.

He committed his life to protect what he called “the democracy of the wild” so that everyone – regardless of social status or income – could enjoy public wildlife.

Posewitz, 85, moved on in July to be with the son he lost years ago for “one final hunt through the stellar chaos of the cosmos,” as he wrote. His loss was crushing to his hundreds of friends who for decades saw Poz as among the grandfathers of conservation, and who kept working toward those efforts until his final days.
Those who knew him well also recount that he was committed to passing this conservation legacy on to future generations, and inspiring others to take up the fight. He was a passionate hunter who was deeply rooted in the tradition of the hunter/conservationist, said Chris Marchion, MWF board member, and past president.

“Jim was the guy who described this notion that hunters were the greatest conservationists,” he said.
Poz lived a remarkable life, one that is known for his immense contributions to wildlife conservation but also full of other interests and pursuits. But his passion, more than anything, was wildlife conservation and ensuring that future generations had an abundance of wildlife to enjoy.

His book “Beyond Fair Chase” has more than 1 million copies in print, and is a staple in youth hunter education programs around the country. And he wrote numerous other books as well, detailing the decades of conservation work that began with a court case laying out that wildlife was a public resource, to be managed for the public.

His accomplishments were so numerous, and among them was encouraging the next generation to take up the fight and work to protect wild lands, waters and wildlife.

“Poz always told me, ‘I’m glad to see you’re still raising hell,’” said J.W. Westman, MWF board member. “He was just one of those people if you cared about things, you knew enough to listen to.”

Nick Gevock serves as conservation director for MWF.

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