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We have a chance to finally protect the Gallatin Wilderness by including the original Hyalite-Buffalo Horn-Porcupine-Wilderness Study Area and other WSA(s) in the Custer Gallatin Forest Revision Plan. Read what long-time advocate of wilderness, George Wuerthner, has to say on this effort. A quote from his writing is below.
"Since 1977, 155,000 acres in Gallatins have been given partial protection via Hyalite-Buffalo Horn-Porcupine-Wilderness Study Area (HBHP) in the Montana Wilderness Study Act S. 393 legislation.
The HBHP is about two-thirds the size of Montana’s vaunted Scapegoat Wilderness Area—155,000 acres versus 239,936 acres. With the Custer-Gallatin National Forest Plan Revision, there is an opportunity to permanently protect this critical landscape under the auspices of the Wilderness Act. It is an opportunity made manifest by hard work that went into a series of land swaps in the 1990s that traded out checkerboarded lands given to the railroad in the 19th-century in exchange for other tracts, some of which were heavily logged."
There are others, even those who purportedly work on behalf of conservation efforts, who seem not to realize the critical nature of full-scale protection for the Gallatin Range. We need all on board. Read George's writing below in the Mountain Journal. The article is too lengthy to print all of it here so click on this link and inform yourself of the true facts of this work.
In the May 18th edition of the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), George Wuerthner had a great article on how temporary roads constructed for timber harvesting can have more damage than the Forest Service and proponents of such activities claim.
For that discussion we urge you to turn your attention to the link above.
A Message about Wildfires:
By Chad Hanson and Mike Garrity September 26 at 9:26 AM
Chad Hanson is a research ecologist with the John Muir Project and is co-editor and co-author of “The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix.” Mike Garrity is executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
The American West is burning, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) tells us in his recent Post op-ed. He and officials in the Trump administration have described Western forest fires as catastrophes, promoting congressional action ostensibly to save our National Forests from fire by allowing widespread commercial logging on public lands. This, they claim, will reduce forest density and the fuel for wildfires.
But this position is out of step with current science and is based on several myths promoted by commercial interests.
The first myth is the notion that fire destroys our forests and that we currently have an unnatural excess of fire. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a broad consensus among scientists that we have considerably less fire of all intensities in our Western U.S. forests compared with natural, historical levels, when lightning-caused fires burned without humans trying to put them out.
There is an equally strong consensus among scientists that fire is essential to maintain ecologically healthy forests and native biodiversity. This includes large fires and patches of intense fire, which create an abundance of biologically essential standing dead trees (known as snags) and naturally stimulate regeneration of vigorous new stands of forest. These areas of “snag forest habitat” are ecological treasures, not catastrophes, and many native wildlife species, such as the rare black-backed woodpecker, depend on this habitat to survive.
Fire or drought kills trees, which attracts native beetle species that depend on dead or dying trees. Woodpeckers eat the larvae of the beetles and then create nest cavities in the dead trees, because snags are softer than live trees. The male woodpecker creates two or three nest cavities each year, and the female picks the one she likes the best, which creates homes for dozens of other forest wildlife species that need cavities to survive but cannot create their own, such as bluebirds, chickadees, chipmunks, flying squirrels and many others.
More than 260 scientists wrote to Congress in 2015 opposing legislative proposals that would weaken environmental laws and increase logging on National Forests under the guise of curbing wildfires, noting that snag forests are “quite simply some of the best wildlife habitat in forests.”
That brings us to myth No. 2: that eliminating or weakening environmental laws — and increasing logging — will somehow curb or halt forest fires. In 2016, in the largest analysis ever on this question, scientists found that forests with the fewest environmental protections and the most logging had the highest — not the lowest — levels of fire intensity. Logging removes relatively noncombustible tree trunks and leaves behind flammable “slash debris,” consisting of kindling-like branches and treetops.
This is closely related to myth No. 3: that dead trees, usually removed during logging projects, increase fire intensity in our forests. A comprehensive study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences thoroughly debunked this notion by showing that outbreaks of pine beetles, which can create patches of snag forest habitat, didn’t lead to more intense fires in the area. A more recent study found that forests with high levels of snags actually burn less intensely. This is because flames spread primarily through pine needles and small twigs, which fall to the ground and soon decay into soil shortly after trees die.
Finally, myth No. 4: that we can stop weather-driven forest fires. We can no more suppress forest fires during extreme fire weather than we can stand on a ridgetop and fight the wind. It is hubris and folly to even try. Fires slow and stop when the weather changes. It makes far more sense to focus our resources on protecting rural homes and other structures from fire by creating “defensible space” of about 100 feet between houses and forests. This allows fire to serve its essential ecological role while keeping it away from our communities.
Lawmakers in Congress are promoting legislation based on the mythology of catastrophic wildfires that would largely eliminate environmental analysis and public participation for logging projects in our National Forests. This would include removing all or most trees in both mature forests and in ecologically vital post-wildfire habitats — all of which is cynically packaged as “fuel reduction” measures.
The logging industry’s political allies have fully embraced the deceptive “catastrophic wildfire” narrative to promote this giveaway of our National Forests to timber corporations. But this narrative is a scientifically bankrupt smoke screen for rampant commercial logging on our public lands. The American people should not fall for it.
Custer/Gallatin National Forest
Renounces Concern for Imperiled Species
In developing a new long-range plan, the Custer/Gallatin National Forest is using the Forest Service 2012 planning rules for the first time. This has produced a serious decline in Forest Service recognition of and support for rare and declining species on the Custer/Gallatin Forest.
The current Forest plan recognizes a 2011 list of sensitive species identified across Region 1 of the Service. The new plan will replace these species with a list of “species of conservation concern” on the Forest.
Currently, Custer/Gallatin recognizes 29 vertebrate wildlife as sensitive species, affording them enhanced concern in management decisions. Of these, 27 are on the Custer Forest; 14 are on the Gallatin Forest. (Twelve occur on both Forests.) The draft Forest plan proposes replacing these with only 2 species – sage grouse and white-tailed prairie dog.
Threats to wildlife, including extinctions, extirpations, fragmented populations and degrading genomes, have been increasing for decades. Thus, the declining focus on imperiled wildlife, from 29 species to 2, seems absurd. Moreover, the draft plan states, as a desired future condition for the Custer/Gallatin: “A complete suite of native species is present, with sufficient numbers and distribution to be adaptable to changing conditions for long-term persistence.”
The Custer/Gallatin analyzed 91 vertebrate species for possible listing as species of conservation concern. However, ultimate decisions come from the Regional Forester. Apparently, the Forest suggested 6 species for listing – the 2 cited above and 4 that were rejected by the Regional Forester. These 4 are western toad, arctic grayling, westslope cutthroat and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. In a brief meeting with the Regional Forester, Gallatin Wildlife was unable to ask for an explanation of these rejections.
The Forest list of analyzed species failed to include 2 species from the current list of sensitive species – greater prairie-chicken and wolverine. Other notable omissions were moose and swift fox.
Much of the decline in Forest Service emphasis upon imperiled wildlife stems from the “new” 2012 planning rules. New rules require that concern for population viability must be “substantial”. Species that are suspected, but not clearly known to be perennially present on a Forest are not allowed for listing as “of concern”. (Note that this rejects special concern for native species that have been extirpated from the Forest.) The rules allow the Regional Forester to reject listing if a species is present on only a small fraction of the Forest – and missing from most of its native Forest range. Lastly, species may not be listed as of conservation concern if evidence about the species presence, abundance, trends or distribution is considered “insufficient”.
Having limited local information on rare species is common. The Forest Service rule indicates that the Service is more willing to risk loss of a native species than to risk an erroneous, but conservative, conclusion that a species is imperiled. Nineteen species were cited as having insufficient information in the Custer/Gallatin analysis. Sixteen of these were not identified as “secure”, but were not listed as of concern.
Notably rejected as being of conservation concern are bison (absent from almost all its large native range on the Forest) and bighorn sheep (persisting in small, somewhat isolated herds that, according to much available science, are not adequate for maintaining genetic quality and long-term persistence).
The Forest Service contends that the abandoned category of sensitive species is similar to the new category of species of conservation concern. It seems similarity is quite limited when the Custer/Gallatin goes abruptly from 29 sensitive species to only 2 species of conservation concern.
The real danger lies in the implication that, of all the vertebrate wildlife on the Custer/Gallatin, so many species are not of conservation concern. While the inadequate list of species of concern may diminish Forest Service support for imperiled species, the implication is also misleading to the public.
Clearly, the application of the 2012 planning rule by the Forest and Regional Forester is a step away from wildlife conservation on our National Forest.
Jim Bailey, Belgrade April 12, 2019
GWA's Support for
One of GWA's goals is to establish corridors for wildlife, avenues of travel if you will where species can move and roam as there ancestors did before the European settlers arrived on the scene. For many of those species, they need to have that ability to move, to find food, for protection and to escape from predation. It is in their genes and their social behavior patterns to do so. Man has taken much of that ability away from them through habitat intrusion, building of roads, domestice livestock grazing, etc, etc. Learn more on what you can do to help in this cause by reading below and getting involved with the Gallatin Wildlife Association.
This video below was shown at the 2020 Bozeman Wild and Scenic Film Festival. It is about the idea, the construction and application of human ingenuity of how mankind can repair the damage done to wildlife and their pathways of mobility. Please watch and learn more.
GWA would like to thank Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage (MSWP) and Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC) for providing these videos on wildlife crossings. GWA has long been a proponent of furthering wildlife connectivity and stories such as these in Nevada and Washington are examples of what could be done here in Montana. We would like to see more attention given to these success stories and to that effort, GWA is a proud member of MSWP. For the reason of habitat and corridor fragmentation, wildlife is being prevented from reaching their normal range and habitat. The Wildland Urban Interface is taking its toll on wildlife and because of that it is magnifying the need for big ideas.
One of Our (GWA) Goals: A Wildlife Crossing over I-90 at Bozeman Pass
Help us work toward that end!
We view one of our most pressing needs is to help facilitate a wildlife crossing over I-90 at or near the vicinity of Bozeman Pass between Bozeman and Livingston. We would like to protect the existing use of a wildlife corridor that is present; perhaps allowing this to become a permeable barrier (rather than an impermeable barrier) to wildlife. That terminology of a permeable barrier is key to use when we write our comments on the Custer Gallatin National Forest Revision Plan. The existing Gallatin-Bridger Connectivity Corridor is one and is part of the totality of wildlife corridors which exists between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
One of the highlights of the MSWP summit in December 2018 was the presentation of a 30 min film on the history and construction of the project near Snoqualimie Pass in Washington State. That film can be found on YouTube but we also will present that here for you to view. This will provide a better understanding of what has to be done, the scope of the work, time tables, etc. The video is below.