Wildlife Advocates for Southwestern Montana
A Letter from the President: The Year 2020
November 24, 2020
Dear Fellow Wildlife Advocates:
As we come to the close of another year, 2020 has perhaps been one of the most challenging ones in our memory. Covid-19 has certainly taken its toll on the human spirit as well as our ability to feel productive in our role of wildlife advocacy. And yet as we say that, the Gallatin Wildlife Association has perhaps been as engaged as we’ve ever been working on a whole host of issues affecting wildlife and their habitat. Organizationally, we made enhancements such as: our first introductory video, our first active Facebook page, a new logo and a new mission statement. We are making progress.
We ask that you peruse GWA’s website for a complete list of actions taken during the year.
There’s too many actions to proclaim here. Recently we’ve completed our involvement in the Custer Gallatin National Forest Objection Process, a 2020 Revised Forest Service Plan which could help determine the future of wildlife and their habitat on our local Forest Service lands. GWA’s future actions over the implementation of that plan remains to be seen. First, we wait for the final decision. But we’re also concerned with Bozeman’s backyard issues over wildlife habitat (please review recent articles and Op-Ed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle). But it doesn’t stop there. Again, our website can be a source to preview some of those upcoming issues. Note the picture below as an example of local concerns.
But as we enter a new year, the threats to wildlife and their habitat won’t cease even with a change of administrations (federal or state). In fact, we expect more threats to take place on the state level. We will need help. Covid-19 has perhaps taken away our only source of fundraising. Potential litigation costs money, publishing and advertisements to engage the public for action costs money, hosting civic minded events costs money. But we are also in need of help in terms of labor and other support. The old saying “that many hands make light work” is never more true than right now, especially when you participate in an all-volunteer organization such as GWA.
In order to meet that need, we need to remind you, now is the time to renew your membership for the upcoming year. And for those of you who are not yet members, perhaps you will consider becoming a member. It is only $20.00/year for general membership and $10.00/year for seniors or students. But membership costs aren’t enough to make us fiscally viable. To do the work which needs to be done, additional contributions will be even more appreciated. Directions to give are located below.
In that regard, we deeply request you be mindful of GWA in your last-minute gift giving.
1. This Dec. 1 is Giving Tuesday.
We respectively request that you make a donation for wildlife.
Gallatin Wildlife Association
P.O. Box 5317, Bozeman, MT 59717
We’re trying to earn your trust and respect as we move forward. But more importantly we want to earn your willingness to help us protect wildlife and fisheries and their respective habitat. There is certainly much to do and we can only be as effective as you make us out to be. Help us be that voice for the voiceless. We certainly want to see your face at any of our programs and functions as Covid-19 permits. We are asking for you to keep in touch with us. Don’t hesitate to communicate with us, your ideas and concerns.
So for now, have a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. And oh yeah, please stay safe.
Clinton Nagel, President
Gallatin Wildlife Association
As Bozeman’s growth policy nears completion, environmental groups
Southward creeping development has some Bozeman residents concerned that new development will cut off important wildlife corridors and that the new structures will not fit in with the character of the neighborhood. For example this area, north of Goldenstein Lane and east of South 19th Avenue, that has been zoned for industrial development.
City commissioners on Tuesday will vote on Bozeman’s growth policy, which will guide how the city will expand and develop for the next two decades.
With Bozeman’s population projected to increase by nearly 27,000 people by 2045, the plan will be the founding principles for zoning, annexation and development decisions. The growth policy was revised with comments from commissioners at previous meetings to include a section addressing a question many residents have on their minds: Should Bozeman continue to grow, or should the city limit growth?
The short answer, according to the revised community plan, is the city could take actions to constrain growth of Bozeman itself by not annexing more property or not expanding the reach of city utilities like water and sewer.
But, the plan says, that is unlikely to stop people from moving to the area. Growth would still happen, but without influence from the city.
With many treating the population increase as an inevitability, local environmental groups are concerned with how the city will manage the growth while also protecting the environment.
“As people rush to our area, especially with this pandemic, to accommodate this burdensome economy we tend to put away the things that are going to sustain us, the reason people came here,” said Loreene Reid, with the Sacajawea Audubon Society. “We need really hard decisions on accommodating people to live here and making sure it is a sustainable place to live.”
Reid said she is concerned with the impact development has on wetlands and floodplains in and around Bozeman.
Development in recent decades, Sacajawea Audubon president Chris Nixon said, has already filled in “an enormous amount” of floodplains.
“There’s precious little left that we haven’t already impacted,” Nixon said.
Nixon and others said they support most of the plan’s goals, which include prioritizing resiliency, the natural environment, parks and open lands, accessibility and mobility. What worries them is whether the city commission and others in the community are ready to put actions behind words, said Forrest Rowland, also with the Audubon Society.
Rowland said he is concerned that the rate at which Bozeman is growing — the city is expected to break 50,000 in population in the 2020 census — is too fast to keep up with.
“It’d be nice to be able to go at a pace where things that can’t be undone are done responsibly,” Rowland said.
Though the plan emphasizes infill, it acknowledges “compact outward growth” as a part of the city’s growth.
A future land use map included with the policy extends beyond the current city borders to cover more than 70 square miles, indicating which land uses the city would like to see on specific parcels, should they be redeveloped.
The map’s extent — reaching close to the national forest and other open and forested lands near the city — has raised concern for some. Community development manager Chris Saunders emphasized that the map isn’t a projection of land the city is demanding be annexed into the city and developed, but rather is a future-looking map that may never be realized.
“We have no expectations that all of that is going to fill in in 20 years. It may never fill in,” Saunders said.
Representatives from the Sierra Club, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and other environmental groups sent public comment to the city commission in the spring criticizing the draft growth policy for not including any language on limiting human-wildlife conflicts.
Jennifer Sherry, with the National Resources Defense Council, signed the letter. While Sherry said the plan does a good job of recognizing that the natural environment is a big draw to Bozeman, more thought needs to be given to how the city’s growth can be concentrated to leave space for wildlife.
Prevention planning is key, Sherry said.
“I think a lot of people recognize that we are in this critical moment of unprecedented change, and if we don’t plan really carefully for it then we will extinguish the natural character of this area,” Sherry said.
Commissioner Jennifer Madgic — who served on the planning board while it was shaping the community plan, said there is a “conservation bent” to the document. Infill is part of that, Madgic said, but doesn’t come without consequences. Recent, dense development downtown, for example, impacted neighbors.
“You have to do it right in a way that doesn’t unfairly burden an existing system or an existing neighborhood,” Madgic said. “Density can be a good thing but you have to be really thoughtful about how you add it.”
City commissioners will also discuss the draft climate action plan Tuesday, which shares some goals with the growth policy.
Bozeman sustainability program manager Natalie Meyer said the climate team, which helped put together the action plan, wanted to promote active modes of transportation to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
That includes expanding and shoring up the city’s trail system, officials said, but the plan also pushes for compact neighborhoods that include nearby, small-scale commercial development. Having shops within walking distance increases pedestrian access, but Madgic said neighborhoods where cars are less necessary have widespread impacts.
“When we design and live in compact neighborhoods, there’s more room to protect the things we care about, like watersheds, wildlife habitat, garden space, and (agricultural) land,” Madgic said.
Though density is encouraged, Commissioner Michael Wallner said the growth cycle will likely continue both upward and outward, and it will be imperative for the city to recognize the impacts of its growth and work to minimize their footprint.
“In the near future, we will have to make tough public policy decisions to limit the negative impacts growth is having in the Gallatin Valley,” Wallner said.
The city will have to work with local governments, nonprofits and others to preserve open space, Wallner said.
A few people critiqued what they see as a lack of specifics related to the plan. Clint Nagel, president of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, said he is concerned about the potential that growth will interfere with existing wildlife habitat, particularly winter range for elk south of Bozeman.
Nagel said he’d like to see more planning to preserve both wildlife corridors that extend north from the Gallatin Range into the Continental Divide ecosystem and open space between forest and city limits.
The plan does identify and preserve wildlife corridors as a goal, but Nagel said he wants more details.
“We need more words than just to say we’re for wildlife connectivity. We’d like to see how that would be implemented and where that would be implemented,” Nagel said.
Madgic and others emphasized more steps are needed to realize the goals of the plan, like regulations and other tools.
Saunders said without regulations, the plan is useless.
“These plans are critical to say, this is what we’re trying to achieve. But if we don’t take steps forward for implementation, then they just stay on the shelf,” Saunders said. “The plans are important but they are definitely not the end of the process.”
City government reporter
Nora Shelly covers city government for the Chronicle.
Along the same subject matter, GWA had placed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, this Op-Ed on Nov. 19, 2020.
Friends, this is a serious problem within our urban/wild interface and it will not get any better until all facets of our community come together and have a dialogue over the best ways to protect wildlife in our own backyard. GWA is ready, are you?
The following Letter to the Editor was placed in the Bozeman's Newspaper the Daily Chronicle on November 11, 2020.
Tester’s plan to protect rivers deserves support
I want to thank Sen. Jon Tester for sponsoring the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act that will designate 336 miles on 17 separate segments of Montana’s finest waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers. As a fisherman, former river ranger, and someone who loves sitting beside free-flowing streams, I can attest that this legislation is both timely, needed, and a welcome proposal. The Wild and Scenic River Acts prohibits degradation of streams and rivers by dams, flood plain development and water diversions. The Montana Headwaters Legacy Act is one way to give back to our rivers and ensures that our aquatic ecosystems, and the wildlife/fisheries that depend on clean water, will continue to be part of Montana’s wild heritage into the future. The legislation includes such iconic Montana waters found on the Gallatin Custer National Forest as the Gallatin River, West Boulder River, Boulder River, the Upper Yellowstone River (Yankee Jim Canyon), two portions of the Madison River, Stillwater and West Fork Stillwater Rivers, Hyalite Creek, Taylor Fork, Bear Creek (by Jardine) Hellroaring Creek, Slough Creek, and Rock Creek and its tributaries by Red Lodge. Rivers found on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest included in the legislation are the Smith River and one of its main tributary Tenderfoot Creek. Groups like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and American Rivers deserve credit for compiling and advocating for these streams. Free-flowing rivers are part of Montana’s patrimony. Tester’s Montana Headwaters Legacy Act legislation deserves our full support.
or Forest Destruction?
GWA would like to share a youtube video with you, one that was shared with us by the Gallatin Yellowstone Wilderness Association. It is a subject matter that really addresses the premise behind much of what and why we believe the way we do. We ask that you view this video and recognize that new science is just beginning to emerge, a new science that helps us understand the intracies of how our forests works. Much we knew before, but much we didn't. Climate change has forced our hand to understand what is at play when it comes to the delicate network contained within our forests. This is video basically challenges the notion that we need to clearcut, log and thin our forests in order to fight climate change, a premise pushed by certain land-use management agencies and those who want to exploit the resource. We say there is a better way.
2020: It isn't getting any easier!
We've just entered into the 11th month of year 2020.
Many of us are probably saying to ourselves, this year can't end fast enough. But we probably shouldn't say that for as my mom used to say to me when I was a kid, "You don't want to wish your life away".
The obvious news stories of the day, threats upon our wildlife and environment are coming at us at a faster pace, faster 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 travel through time into this year of 2020. 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. On July 4th, GWA sent 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.
21. On July 23, GWA provided spoken comments to the Governor's Grizzly Bear Advisory Council concerning the future policy on Grizzly Bear Management in the state. Then on August 11, GWA provide further, more detailed comments on the final draft of that plan.
22. We put together a position letter to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on July 27 to eliminate trapping within the urban interface and/or other recreational areas in Montana as a result of increased demand extending from Covid-19.
23. GWA provided extensive Objection comments to the Forest Service on the 2020 Final Forest Plan for the Custer Gallatin National Forest on August 5. GWA Objected on three (3) counts: Species of Conservation Concern, Wilderness and Land Allocations, and Climate Change and Forest Health. As of Oct. 16, we learned that our Objections have been accepted by the Forest Service. Now we wait for the discussion period with the FS of the 17-19th of November.
24. On August 23, we finalized our comments on the Hwy 191 Corridor Study Project within the Gallatin Canyon.
25. On August 27, we presented a letter to the State of Montana urging them protect the Congress designated WSAs as they currently exist. Their wilderness status needs to be maintained until the proper debate and discussion by the public has taken place. There should be no action taken by others to circumvent the traditional process.
26. GWA provided the Custer Gallatin National Forest with extensive comments on the proposed South Plateau Landscape Area Treatment Project on September 15.
27. GWA has submitted comments for the Montana Forest Action Plan, dated Oct. 21, 2020, a state-wide action mandated by Governor Bullock's Executive Order.
28. GWA have been in active conversations and discussions with three recent issues pertaining to wildlife connectivity and habitat in and around Bozeman, MT since the end of October till the middle of November.
29. We submitted comments to MFWP on the potential sale of a conservation easement near the Missouri River Breaks National Monument near Denton, MT.
What Are We Working on Now?
It is the middle of November and we are nearing the end of our comments on the Bozeman City Community Plan 2020. Along with this we are still working on comments and discussions over the DNRC and the potential procurement by GVLT to purchase private land. In addition to this, many of us are now looking toward this upcoming objections to the Forest Service. They've been accepted and now we will participate in hearings next week, the 17th - 19th of November. But there is more always more to do, more to come. This reminds me of Sen. Ted's Kennedy's speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1980.
"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dreams shall never die."
We have to remember, such as it is in the work of environmental protection. The work continues on, the cause surely endures, and we must have hope for we are not just doing this for ourselves, but for other inhabitants of the world. 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 world do you want? Empty and stark where biodiversity and biological integrity are a thing of the past, or a world full of wonderment and amazement where we can coexist with other lifeforms who have as much purpose here as we do. 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