Wildlife Advocates for Southwestern Montana
"First, Some Good News" -
Park Service, US Forest Service propose new analysis of Yellowstone National Park bison management
Justin Post — Enterprise Staff Writer
In what some are calling a “historic” decision, the federal government is proposing to reevaluate how it manages Yellowstone National Park bison.
The National Park Service has decided to prepare a new National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, analysis of bison management in the park. The U.S. Forest Service plans to participate in the process, according to court documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Billings.
The decision comes after lawsuits were filed in recent years challenging the agencies’ management of wild bison.
Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter filed two separate lawsuits against the feds, both seeking changes to the management of Yellowstone bison.
Beattie Gulch resident Bonnie Lynn, who is named in the lawsuit filed by Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter, has argued that the annual bison hunt on a quarter-mile-square area is dangerous for residents, hunters and visitors.
Washington, D.C., Attorney Jared S. Pettinato, who represents Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter, and Lynn applauded the agencies’ decision to reevaluate bison management.
“We think it’s long overdue,” Pettinato said. “Other environmental groups have been asking for this for years and decades without success. We see this as a win-win for everybody.”
A new analysis of bison management could translate to a boon for American Indian tribes, bison, bison advocates and area residents, with the possibility for expanding bison range onto additional public land, he said.
“Native American hunters can also benefit because they may see an expansion of land where they can exercise their treaty rights to hunt bison and may have more bison transferred directly to tribal land,” a Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter news release said. “Beattie Gulch neighbors hope to see the concentrated slaughter there end as bison populations grow and other opportunities for bison hunting open up on state, tribal, and federal land.”
Pettinato said in a phone interview Wednesday that residents in the Beattie Gulch area are hopeful that an evaluation of bison management in and out of the park will change how bison are hunted as they leave the park in search of food at lower elevations.
“For the neighbors, we expect that the agencies will not authorize the hunt like this again,” he said.
Neighbors argued the agencies created a “concentrated slaughter that puts too many hunters and bison” on federal land at Beattie Gulch while Cottonwood claimed in its lawsuit that new studies show that bison should be allowed to move on a larger area of state and federal land outside of Yellowstone, and that the park can sustain a larger population of the beasts.
“Since 1992, six other environmental groups have brought lawsuits challenging the agencies’ Yellowstone bison management, but the court dismissed every single lawsuit,” the Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter release said.
“This victory ensures the agencies will generate a new environmental impact statement or environmental assessment under NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) that almost certainly will change how the Forest Service, the Park Service, and the state of Montana manage our treasured United States’ national mammal.”
Lynn, the Beattie Gulch resident, told The Livingston Enterprise she’s pleased the agencies have decided to reevaluate bison management, but says the work is not yet done.
“I am grateful that I could be a voice for the animals who cannot speak,” she said in a statement.
In its brief filed with the court, the National Park Service says that in preparing an additional NEPA analysis for bison management it will consider a range of alternative options for managing bison in Yellowstone, and any major changes since the 2000 adoption of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, or IBMP, among other issues.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly outlined plans for a new analysis for managing park bison in an affidavit filed with Tuesday’s National Park Service brief.
Sholly said in the document that since the IBMP was signed in 2000, the park has completed compliance and planning efforts, including a bison quarantine plan and the remote vaccination program to reduce brucellosis in park bison. Sholly added that the National Park Service will initiate the NEPA analysis for managing bison in its jurisdiction.
“This NEPA analysis will incorporate new information and changed circumstances, describe adaptive management adjustments to the IBMP since 2000, and evaluate the efforts of alternative approaches for managing bison,” Sholly’s affidavit states. “The appropriate NEPA process will be followed, including preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, if necessary.”
He added that the agency would “engage other agencies with jurisdiction by law or special expertise in bison management” during the process.
The goals and scope of this new process are dependent on the interests of IBMP partners and positions, which he said vary widely.
“Alternative elements will include, but are not limited to, different bison population ranges, options for managing bison inside the park, and actions for dealing with brucellosis in bison,” Sholly wrote.
The analysis, he wrote, will also study the impacts of bison management outside of the park while pointing out that the National Park Service has no jurisdiction over the tolerance for bison outside of Yellowstone or for state or tribal bison hunts.
With the filing, Pettinato said the agencies are asking the judge to dismiss the pending court challenge of Yellowstone bison management and to give the agencies time to prepare a new NEPA analysis. This, he said, would give the public and plaintiffs an opportunity to weigh in on the future of bison management and challenge, if they choose, any final decision.
That process would likely take a couple years, he said, and the agencies are seeking to maintain the status quo for bison management in the meantime, which means the annual bison hunt would continue at Beattie Gulch.
Pettinato said not everyone agrees with maintaining the status quo, however.
“We want them to shut the hunt down in the meantime — we think that’s the right thing,” he said. “If you haven’t done the environmental analysis that you say the law requires, then you don’t have the authority to manage the hunt in this way.”
Meanwhile, the National Park Service and Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter on Tuesday filed a joint motion essentially seeking a 30-day pause in the case while the parties try to resolve their disagreements.
One major issue the parties will seek to resolve is disagreement over whether the bison hunt should move forward while future bison management is being analyzed, Pettinato said.
The court has not yet ruled on the latest filings in the case.
Note to Membership: June 25, 2020
GWA is proud to announce
our first active Facebook page!
It has been a long-time coming, but that day has arrived. The link is here!
This couldn't have come at a better time. With the event of Covid-19, we all have to search out better ways to get our name and word out to the general public. Hopefully this achievement will help in that effort. We will tie both entities together, but this website will obviously hold the bulk of news and information. This may be more helpful than ever as Covid-19 cases in Montana are on the rise. Even though restrictions and stay at home order have been lifted across the state, GWA has not resumed our biweekly board meetings in the public arena and the rise of Covid-19 cases makes that possibility more unlikely in the near future. Please be aware we are monitoring the situation closely. All public meetings due to the outbreak of Covid-19 will be curtailed until we feel our board and members can meet safely. We also depend upon the full opening of our familar meeting locations.
This does not mean, however, that we are not still working on behalf of wildlife. Look at the list below for proof of that. If there are any concerns or issues you have, we can communicate via email, text or phone. Also please refer to this website. This is still the best way to keep informed of our activities.
We will notify you when our world gets back to normal, however, it might be said, we will be looking at a new normal. In the mean time for those of you who are willing and able, use our new Facebook Page for advance news and information. Peace to all and be safe. Thank you.
Road Densities: How Many Roads are Enough?
Take a good hard look at the map above and get your bearings. It is not hard to distinguish the boundaries and lands of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as well as wilderness areas of Lee Metcalf, the Absaroka-Beartooth and those wilderness areas of the Wind River Range. This says it all. If you want to preserve lands or provide corridors for wildlife to migrate northward to re-establish that connectivity, there are hardly any lands left that haven't already been crisscrossed with roads. The more roads increasing that road density, the more it succumbs wildlife to an island-like existence trapped by a sea of roads. This is why we are fighting so hard to protect the lands as they are from becoming totally impassible for wildlife. Man has this insatiable appetite to devour land up for his own personal gain or conquest that it leaves little left for other species. This is the challenge before us. If it weren't for our historical preservationist from setting our National Parks and Wilderness Areas aside, these roadless areas would look like the rest of the surrounding lands.
We Are Quickly Dismantling Our Wildlife Habitat!
What you see below are two maps showcasing roads along the Bridger Range and the Gallatin Front. Two recent court cases: the North Bridger Forest Health Project and the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Fuels Reduction Project contain a combination of works such as logging, thinning, burning, and road construction. GWA opposes these projects based upon a better science and a common sense. The stated rationale for these two projects is to provide fire protection to the watershed and to protect infrastructure in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). We see this as an excuse for more logging and thinning in order to “get the cut out”. That is the sense of GWA and we believe these type of projects will do more harm than good when it comes to fire prevention.
The rationale for our opposition is contained within and throughout this website, but primarily it is based upon the science that wildfires are affected by current drought and dry conditions rather than by whether a forest is logged or not. Old growth forests which are contained in areas of the maps below help sequester carbon which helps fight climate change. So why are we willing to hamper a solution to one of the more environmental and consequential issues of the day?
What these projects will do is hinder the ability of wildlife to reach any connectivity to the north from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). It will fragment wildlife habitat even more than it already is, increase the likelihood of invasive species, dry out the forests that remain, and eliminate biodiversity. Not to mention, logging reduces the likelihood of carbon sequestration from the GYE.
As one reviews these two maps, we hope to show that roads have already crisscrossed the area to the degree that wildlife already have a huge disadvantage in trying migrate into areas for food, security, and escape. How many roads are to many? We say we have reached that point.
GWA contends the obvious, we do not need more roads. Habitat fragmentation is reaching the critical point along the Bridger Range and Gallatin Front.
GWA would like to refer interested parties to a research article entitled "Rapid growth of the US wildland-urban interface raises wildfire risk" published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) March 27, 2018. The authors are listed here.
Volker C. Radeloff, David P. Helmers, H. Anu Kramer, Miranda H. Mockrin, Patricia M. Alexandre, Avi Bar-Massada, Van Butsic, Todd J. Hawbaker, Sebastian Martinuzzi, Alexandra D. Sypard, and Susan I. Stewart.
It states on the article this and so much other good material.
"The wildland-urban interface (WUI), defined as the area where houses are in or near wildland vegetation, is the area where wildfires pose the greatest risk to people due to the proximity of flamable vegetation1. Wildlfires frequently burn houses in the WUI2,3, and are most difficult to fight there. Furthermore, the WUI is where people often ignite wildfires4, and the vast majority of fires are human caused5. While fires are an integral part of the many ecosystems and the Earth syste as a whole6, humans have changed fire regimes globally7 and throughout the United States5, and climate change will increase fire frequency in the future including in the WUI8."
References: References below are from the article itself used in its preparation and we give all credit to these authors and those listed above and the PNAS.
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2. , , , , () . Int J Wildland Fire :–.
3. () . Proc Natl Acad Sci USA :–., , ,
4. , () . Ecol Appl :–.
5. , () . Proc Natl Acad Sci USA :–
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7. , () . J Biogeogr :–.
8. , () . Proc Natl Acad Sci USA :–.
The Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project:
Do Citizens of Gallatin County
really know what is at stake?
The Forest Service and the City of Bozeman signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2005 "to establish a framework for cooperation between the parties to maintain (in the long term) a high quality, predictable water supply for Bozeman through cooperative efforts in part by implementing sustainable land management practices." Those are the exact words as stated in this link:
What is the Stated Purpose?
According to the MOU, there is this.
"The principal purpose of this project is to reduce the risk of severe and extensive wildfire on National Forest System lands within the Bozeman Municipal Watershed and thereby reduce the risk to life and property in and adjacent to the project area. More specifically, the purpose and need for the project is described below:"
Why we are opposed?
We all know there are other ways, ecological friendly ways to maintain forest health. Anyone who reads this website knows, we don't support logging or thinning as a best practice for forest health management. This is an old and outworn practice that has not served the U.S. public lands well.
Here is a map showcasing the lands that are at risk.
Why is timber harvesting the wrong approach?
According to a letter signed by over 600 scientists,
"Clearcutting and other even aged silvercultural practices and timber road construction have caused widespread forest ecosystem fragmentation and degradation. The result is species extinction, soil erosion, flooding, destabilizing climate change, the loss of ecological processes, declining water quality, diminishing commercial and sport fisheries, and recently mudslides in Oregon which killed American citizens."
This statement was from the letter to Congress itself signed by:
Dr. Peter Raven
Jane Goodall, C.B.E., Ph.D.
Edward O. Wilson, Ph. D.
This letter can be found here at: https://www.saveamericasforests.org/resources/Scientists.htm
What you can do?
For more information, please refer to these links:
2020: Already a Busy Year:
As we begin the 7th month of year 2020, it has obviously not been the year many of us would have thought.
Besides the obvious news stories of the day, threats upon our wildlife and environment are coming at us at a faster pace than ever before. And this seems to be even more true in the advent of COVID-19. Why do you suppose that is? Do you ever get tired of playing defense? We do. To state the obvious, we are in challenging times as we enter into this new year, even more so than we would have originally predicted. For those involved in the environmental community, that is an understatement. But that doesn’t mean we are helpless or hopeless. Consistency, unity, advocacy and passion are necessary to combat the overwhelming threats that seem to be imposed upon our wildlife and their habitat today. It is much easier to fight the good fight with the help of others striving for the same cause, whether you are with an organization or as an individual, we invite you to join the Gallatin Wildlife Association (GWA).
What We've Done So Far?
1. Signed on to comments along with Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter, and Western Watersheds Project concerning the Wyoming Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan draft proposal 2019/2020 as sponsored by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
2. Signed on to comments along with Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter to Wyoming Game and Fish Department urging them to phase out elk feeding grounds in northwestern Wyoming.
3. Provided Amicus Brief on behalf of GWA against the proposed timber sale as part of the North Bridger Forest Health Project.
4. Sent letters to and visited the offices of Senator Daines and Tester urging them to reconsider the public land give-away of the National Bison Range in Moiese, Montana. This National Wildlife Refuge is being transferred into the dead of night to tribal lands of the CSKT. GWA is against this sale as we believe it sets bad precedent not to mention the loss of public bison, the science and the infrastructure that has been bought and paid for by the U.S. Government. Submitted Op-Ed letter to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle newspaper on the subject to try and inform the public.
5. Heavily involved and completed in the sponsoring of the 6th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival.
6. Submitted comments on NEPA changes as proposed by the Trump Adminstration.
7. GWA along with Montana Rivers and Cottonwood Environmental Law Firm filed a complaint in District Court against the Department of Environmental Quality to protect the Gallatin River from unwanted pollution from proposed discharge of treated waste water from the Big Sky community.
8.Have agreed with several other NGO(s) to bring suit against the Forest Service to curtail the bad precedent of the elk feeding grounds in Wyoming. Action soon to be coming.
9. Written comments on the Montana's Climate Solution Plan as drafted by the Climate Solution Council originated by Governor Steve Bullock.
10. Submitted comments on BLM's effort to weaken grazing regulations on public land.
11. GWA originated a sign-on letter addressed to the U.S. Forest Service (Regional Offices) to not participate with the state of Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game to violate Federal Law in the management of the Gray Wolf in wilderness areas within the state.
12. GWA, eleven other conservation groups, and Footloose Montana along with two community leaders signed on to a letter requesting the Director and Commission of Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks to suspend all trapping on public lands during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
13. GWA held their first ever "virtual" board and membership meeting on April 21, 2020 at 9:00am due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many topics were discussed and it was felt that this medium (Zoom) held great promise for future meetings.
14. On May 8, 2020, submitted comments to the Governor's Grizzly Bear Advisory Council over the idea of proposed hunting of grizzly bears as part of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks statewide's management plan on public land.
15. GWA submitted comments written by Dr. Jim Bailey to the Centers of Disease Control and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on the subject of removal of Brucella abortus from the select agent bioterror list. Comments submitted May 12, 2020.
16. GWA cosigned a letter along with several other NGOs sponsored by Western Watershed urging the U.S. Congress to include stimulus funding for protection of wildlife and public lands on May 12, 2020.
17. On May 30, GWA submitted original comments to the Montana Dept. of Transportation on the U.S. Hwy 191 Project Study, a study researching resources from Four Corners to the Junction of Beaver Creek Rd at Hwy 191 just south of Big Sky, MT. This highway cuts through prime wildlife habitat resulting in severe animal/vehicle collisions each year. If you would like to comment, here is the link.
18. In June, GWA is glad to announce the realization we have our first active Facebook page. See details above.
19. GWA signed on to a letter with other NGOs for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to release all correspondence they have had with the Governor's Grizzly Bear Advisory Council (GGBAC). We believe that there has been some attempted influence to get the GGBAC to adopt a proposal for grizzly bear hunting.
20. During the first week of July, GWA is going to send a letter to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs requesting them to remove provisions relating to the National Bison Range. GWA and the Blue Goose Alliance and many other groups do not believe that federal lands and their corresponding native wildlife should be negotiated away simply as a real estate deal or as cash to bail out a state's economic woes.
And it is only the 2nd of July as I update this. This is not all. The work continues on. I could ramble on, but time, space and your attention, probably say “no”. But let me leave you with a couple of questions. What kind of forest system do we want? What kind of world do we want? We at the Gallatin Wildlife Association, say we want one that protects the “wild” in wildlife. If you agree, again please join us.
Clint Nagel, President
Gallatin Wildlife Association
What Are We Working on Now?
While many of us are waiting on the final word from the Custer Gallatin National Forest concerning the Final Revised Forest Plan, there is still work to do. In relation to that, there is the Bozeman Municipal Watershed fuels reduction project. For more information, please see above.
COVID-19 and other diseases, Man’s insatiable
appetite to screw with Nature: A Commentary
“This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. In this view, the protein particles E, S, and M, also located on the outer surface of the particle, have all been labeled as well. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019(COVID -19).” Picture and statement from CDC website.
Surely we remember the old saying, the old cliché if you will: “We are our own worst enemy.” It has never been more timely to say that than now. After all, it seems fitting since we are in the midst of this horrific nightmare of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mankind has been a purveyor of sickness and disease (human and animal) ever since the beginning of time. If some think that is too harsh a statement, so be it, but it is true today with this pandemic. None of this had to happen, and even though the root cause of this disease outbreak may not be completely known or fully understood, the evidence does suggest this virus spread from the “wet markets” existing in the Wuhan area of China.
We bring this up because it is very relatable to how man has treated the world about him with little or no reverence, like his/her special playground. All we have to say is look how man has treated our forests, our wildlife and their habitat, the air, water and our atmosphere. We have decimated or interfered with the many natural processes that make this planet worth inhabiting.
For more read, use this link. http://www.gallatinwildlife.org/home/covid-19-and-other-diseases/
CDC global map showcasing the outbreak of the coronavirus around the world as of 12pm ET, April 27, 2020.
This article now published in the Bozone on line edition: https://bozone.com/category/bozone/
Seeking Protection for the Gallatin:
GWA continues to do the work that many organizations refuse to do. The case of the Gallatin River is a prime example. We are "Seeking Protection" as was stated in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's headline on Feb. 21, 2020. For your convenience, that link is provided here.
The Problem and the Solution:
If you prefer to learn more on this huge concern, and you should, please click on the link below. We're trying to get the Gallatin River protected and listed as an "Outstanding Resource Water" (ORW). Potential wastewater discharge from Big Sky with all of its known and unknown contaminants threaten that quality of water. It has been a long slog, but a fight we believe worth the effort. We have to ask ourselves, how much deterioation of water quality do we want in the Gallatin River? There are some groups who seem to state, they are willing to compromise some of that quality away. Our question, how do you do that? Why would you do that?
Sign the Petition:
We are asking anyone and everyone who is interested to protect the Gallatin River to sign the petition through Change.Org.
Designate the Gallatin River as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW)
As you look at these pictures, how much contamination do you want to see on the Gallatin?
Be READY, We just got word that the Custer Gallatin National Revised Forest Plan will be released this early summer!
We Need to be Heard!
To View GWA's previous comments on the Custer Gallatin National Forest Revised Forest Plan, look here.
1. The Link To GWA's Original Comments Can Be Found Here:
2. GWA Comments - Addendum to CGNF Draft Revised Forest Plan:
3. GWA Comments on Moose - Addendum to CGNF Draft Revised Forest Plan: