Author Archives: Bill Walker

Flathead National Forest announces new forest supervisor

Kurt Steele with wife Melissa and son Jack at USFS Fish Lake Campground in Idaho

Kurt Steele with wife Melissa and son Jack at USFS Fish Lake Campground in Idaho

Kurt Steele, Chip Weber’s replacement as forest supervisor takes over in mid-February.

From the press release . . .

Kurt Steele has been named forest supervisor for Flathead National Forest. He’s expected to begin work in mid-February. Steele has been the deputy forest supervisor for the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests for the past three years.

“I am very pleased to welcome Kurt to the Flathead National Forest,” said Regional Forester Leanne Marten. “Kurt is a proven leader who welcomes new voices and diverse perspectives, and has dedicated his career to public service.”

In addition to his current service as deputy forest supervisor, Steele has completed three recent temporary forest supervisor assignments on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Illinois. Prior to his current position on the Nez Perce-Clearwater, Steele served as a district ranger on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.

“I am tremendously honored to serve the public and forest employees as Flathead National Forest’s new supervisor,” said Steele. “I look forward to engaging with our partners, local businesses, and surrounding communities as we write the forest’s next chapter together. The Flathead Valley is an incredibly special place, and my family and I are excited about the opportunity to be able to settle in here and raise our family in this welcoming, community-oriented area.”

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Local environmental groups raise objections over bike paths in griz habitat

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. – Montana FWP

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Brian Peck are concerned that the Flathead Forest is not adequately evaluating the impact of establishing new trails . . .

Two local environmental groups have raised objections to a planned bike and pedestrian path network north of Columbia Falls in the lower Whitefish Range, claiming it could result in more conflicts with grizzly bears and displace other wildlife.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Many biologists, however, believe the population locally has recovered; while others disagree,

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Columbia Falls resident and wildlife consultant Brian Peck are all claiming the Forest Service should take a cumulative approach and create an Environmental Impact Statement that encompasses several other projects that add trails to the Whitefish Range and areas near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Read more . . .

Forest Service seeking public comment on Frozen Moose Project

The Forest Service has big plans for the upper North Fork. Some of the “Frozen Moose” activities may have minor trail impacts . . .

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - north half

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – north half

The Glacier View District of the Flathead National Forest is asking for public comment on the Frozen Moose Project. The project area is on National Forest System lands from Red Meadow Creek to the Canadian Border. The project proposes several types of management activities to reduce fuels in the wildland-urban interface, improve the resiliency of vegetative communities, improve aquatic ecosystems, and provide a mix of forest products. These proposed activities include 3,552 acres of commercial vegetation treatment, 4,630 acres of noncommercial vegetation treatments, road management activities, and other aquatic restoration activities.

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 - south half

Frozen Moose Proposed Action map 1 – south half

Maps of the proposed action, detailed descriptions of activities, and information on how to comment can be accessed at the project Web site: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57310. Hard copies of the proposed action documents are available by request or can be reviewed at the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Station (10 Hungry Horse Drive, Hungry Horse, MT, 59919). Please contact Sarah Canepa, project team leader, if you would like more information about the project at (406) 387-3800 or sarah.canepa@usda.gov.

Le Grizz donates proceeds to Flathead Special Olympics and North Fork Trails

Le Grizz donates to Flathead Special Olympics and North Fork Trails, Oct. 12, 2019

Le Grizz donates to Flathead Special Olympics and North Fork Trails, Oct. 12, 2019

The North Fork Trails Association is very grateful to the Polebridge Mercantile for its kind and generous donations from the Le Grizz race proceeds to both us and to the Flathead Special Olympics.

Here’s the press  release and a photo. (You may recognize the old guy on the right.) . . .

On Saturday, October 12th, 100 participants started and finished the Le Grizz Ultramarathon and Relay in Polebridge, Montana. The day was greeted with crispy cold temperatures and ended with a full moon and a visit from the local Grizzly Bear. The proceeds of the race were kindly donated by the Polebridge Mercantile to the Flathead Special Olympics and The North Fork Trails Association. The Special Olympics will use the $500 donation to attend their swimming competition in Butte in a few weeks. The NF Trails crew will use their $500 to continue to maintain trails in the North Fork for all users. It is only the second time in the 38 years Le Grizz has been happening that all racers finished. The Merc and Le Grizz staff thank all volunteers who helped as well as local residents for tolerating the crazy folks who ran this race.

Glacier Gateway Project seeks backing

Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway land acquisition

Map showing proposed Glacier Gateway Project land acquisition

In case you haven’t heard about it already, the Vital Ground Foundation and the US Forest Service are working on something called the “Glacier Gateway Project.”

They are proposing to acquire two properties totaling about 23 acres using Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). The parcels are along the section of the Polebridge Loop Road between the Polebridge Mercantile and the entrance to Glacier National Park. The acquisition would connect adjacent public lands managed by the Flathead National Forest along the designated Wild and Scenic corridor of the North Fork Flathead River.

The owners of both properties are willing sellers who wish to protect their lands from further development. (There are rumors that one potential buyer wanted to build an RV park.)

What’s the trails connection? The Pacific Northwest Trail runs along the Polebridge Loop Road after the trail emerges from Glacier Park. Sharing the road with motorized traffic, especially during tourist season, is less than ideal. Acquiring the Glacier Gateway parcels makes it easier for the Forest Service to achieve its eventual goal of a separate trail parallel to the road.

Here’s the deal: Vital Ground and the Forest Service are hoping to get individuals and organizations to send in letters of support for this proposal *by the end of the month.*

Want to read more? Here are the project documents:

Glacier Gateway Project Fact Sheet
Glacier Gateway Project Pictures
Glacier Gateway Project Sample Support Letter (Word format; also see note below)

NOTE: Even though the sample letter is addressed to Leanne Marten, the USFS Regional Forester, please send letters of support (by email preferably) to Mitch Doherty at the Vital Ground Foundation so that he can scan them and include them with the application submission. Here is Mitch’s contact information:

Mitch Doherty
Conservation Program Manager
Vital Ground Foundation
20 Fort Missoula Rd 59804-7202
Missoula, MT
(406) 549-8650
MDoherty@VitalGround.org

 

E-Bikes welcome on ‘motorized use’ Forest Service trails, roads only

Short version: The Forest Service has decided not to allow e-bikes in non-motorized areas. Here’s the meat of the official press release on the matter . . .

E-bikeMissoula, Mont. – Electric bicycles (e-bikes) have grown in popularity for both recreational use and hunting on public lands and are currently welcome on more than 52,000 miles of roads and 7,700 miles of trails throughout the Northern Region’s nine National Forests and Dakota Prairie Grasslands where motorized vehicle travel is authorized.

The Flathead National Forest currently has 1,427 miles of road and 226 miles of trails available for e-bike use.

The USDA Forest Service considers e-bikes as motorized vehicles and therefore does not allow their use on non-motorized National Forest System roads and trails.

The Service encourages e-bike riders to consult their local National Forest or Grassland’s Motor Vehicle Use Map to ensure they’re riding on an approved, motorized use road or trail, and to exercise caution when traveling among other motor vehicles.

Trail condition reports for September 17 posted

Fireweed below Nasukoin Lake, Aug 12, 2017 - W. K. Walker

Fireweed below Nasukoin Lake, Aug 12, 2017 – W. K. Walker

The September 17, 2019 Forest Service Trail Condition Reports for the Glacier View and Hungry Horse Ranger Districts have been posted to the website Trail Conditions page.

The lack of major wind events and below average snowfall last winter left trails in remarkably decent condition this year. So, trail crews are making really good progress.

These reports contain a fair amount of useful information. Besides trail conditions, they include trail numbers, their official names and end-to-end mileages. The reports may also list information on trail and area closures, especially during fire season.

Trail condition reports for September 10 posted

View East from Coal Ridge

View East from Coal Ridge

The September 10, 2019 Forest Service Trail Condition Reports for the Glacier View and Hungry Horse Ranger Districts have been posted to the website Trail Conditions page.

The lack of major wind events and below average snowfall last winter left trails in remarkably decent condition this year. So, trail crews are making really good progress.

These reports contain a fair amount of useful information. Besides trail conditions, they include trail numbers, their official names and end-to-end mileages. The reports may also list information on trail and area closures, especially during fire season.

Bear Fair on Saturday, Aug 24 at noon!

2019 Bear Fair PosterAs an answer to two Grizzly bear cubs being euthanized last fall, Polebridge is hosting a Bear Fair next Saturday, August 24th, from noon-3pm behind the Northern Lights Saloon. If persuasion of proximity to a delicious watering hole (and bakery) isn’t enough, there will be opportunities to practice your shot with inert bear spray cans, meet Karelian Bear Dogs, sample products for living with bears, enjoy presentations by a few local bear experts and games and prizes for the entire family! Join us in Polebridge, Saturday, August 24th from noon-3pm.

Trail condition reports for August 13 posted

Inuya Creek Trail No. 79, Flathead NF, July 23, 2018 - W. K. Walker

Inuya Creek Trail No. 79, Flathead NF, July 23, 2018 – W. K. Walker

The August 13, 2019 Forest Service Trail Condition Reports for the Glacier View and Hungry Horse Ranger Districts have been posted to the website Trail Conditions page.

The lack of major wind events and below average snowfall last winter left trails in remarkably decent condition this year. So, trail crews are making really good progress.

These reports contain a fair amount of useful information. Besides trail conditions, they include trail numbers, their official names and end-to-end mileages. The reports may also list information on trail and area closures, especially during fire season.

Please note that the fire danger is now “Very High”!

Smokey - Fire Danger Very High