MTPR

U.S. Forest Service

An unmaned aerial vehicle, also known as a drone. File photo.
(PD)

The drone pilot allegedly responsible for temporarily shutting down aerial firefighting operations on the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake Wednesday is now the subject of a federal investigation.

The U.S. Forest Service is working in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Justice to determine if charges are warranted.

Saskatchewan's CL215, or "super scooper," is decontaminated of potential invasive species after fighting the Bridge Coulee Fire on the east side of the continental divide.
Nicky Ouellet

Montana faces twin threats this summer: On land, crews are battling some of the biggest and most destructive fires in the country. In the water, officials are staving off the spread of invasive mussels that could cause millions of dollars of damage to hydropower dams and irrigation lines. These threats come together for wildland firefighters, who often use equipment that travels across the country and has the potential to carry invasive hitchhikers with it. But firefighters are tackling the potential contamination head on.

Montana's Flathead Valley from above.
Nicky Ouellet

From above, the northern Flathead Valley is a patchwork of yellow fields of canola, green tracts of grains and wandering curves of cerulean rivers. Heavily forested mountains erupt from the valley floor, some of them still scared by clear cut logging from decades ago.

"This area obviously has got multi-uses," says Bruce Gordon, a pilot for EcoFlight, a nonprofit based in Colorado that uses flyovers in small aircraft to advocate for protecting wildlands.

He’s in Whitefish this week to fly western governors over northwest Montana, to give them a visual as they talk this week about land management.

Tanker 10 on fire duty.
Courtesy Neptune Aviation/Dan Stijovich

Neptune Aviation’s red-tailed Tanker 10 flew hundreds of firefighting missions all over the United States. Tuesday it embarked on its final mission: being placed at the entrance of the Missoula International Airport to greet incoming passengers.

Neptune CEO Ron Hooper says it’s an honor to have that twin-propeller aircraft in such a prominent place:

"We're not going to roll over every time someone says 'boo' about us wanting to harvest timber to make a healthy forest," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a agriculture summit in Great Falls, MT July 1, 2017.
Eric Whitney

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Great Falls Thursday for an “agriculture summit” hosted by Senator Steve Daines. Perdue promised big changes at the U.S. Forest Service, which his department oversees. 

Ski lift. File photo.
(PD)

The U.S. Forest Service has approved an expansion to Lookout Pass ski area. The expansion roughly doubles the size of the permit area. The ski area plans to add about 100 acres of new ski terrain, install two new chair lifts and upgrade an existing chairlift.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
PD

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Congress this week that American farmers are facing plenty of challenges and deep uncertainty.

“Our farm economy is down by about a 50-percent drop in net income from where it was in 2013 as you all were contemplating the ’14 Farm Bill" Perdue says. "We’ve got several members who – particularly younger farmers – have levered up in this situation where their revenue is not supporting their debt structure and they’re in some dire straits.” 

A firefighter on the Bierny Creek Fire near Lakeside, MT.
Patrick Record/Inciweb

Larry Anderson arrived early for a meeting last Friday morning at the Flathead National Forest supervisor’s office in Kalispell. It was unseasonably sunny and warm outside, but he’d spend the next three hours listening to presentations in a conference room because of something that happened last summer.

Job seekers with the U.S. Forest Service got a bit of good news today: the agency has been cleared to hire seasonal temporaries.

Seasonal temporaries could be considered the "face of the Forest Service" — they're trail maintenance workers, engineers, backcountry rangers, says Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northwest Region of the Forest Service.

Beauty of the Big Sky, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
U.S. Forest Service

A tree from northwest Montana will grace the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington next Christmas. The U.S. Forest Service has been supplying the capitol with trees for decades. Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northern Region of the Forest Service, says this year, the Kootenai National Forest has the honor.

Leaders of the state and federal agencies involved in managing grizzly bears are meeting in Missoula Tuesday and Wednesday.
(PD)

Leaders of the state and federal agencies involved in managing grizzly bears are meeting in Missoula Tuesday and Wednesday.

Members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) convene twice a year to coordinate policy, planning, management and research in the states where grizzlies live. Their goal is to recover local populations so that eventually the bears can be moved off of the endangered species list.

Meetings this week address revisions and amendments to a few of Montana's National Forest plans.
Flathead National Forest

Wilderness advocates say they’re “really excited” at the number of public comments supporting wilderness and wildlife habitat in Flathead National Forest.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Corin Cates-Carney

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior visited Montana Monday to announce a plan blocking mining on public lands just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park: Is It Really Wild?

Nov 10, 2016
© Michael Nichols/National Geographic Yellowstone National Park. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River from Artist Point.

The May 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine is devoted entirely to America's first national park: Yellowstone. It's more than just a park. It's a place where, 140 years ago, we began to negotiate a peace treaty with the wild.  David Quammen tells the story of the park in a four-part essay. He is the only author to write the entire narrative for an entire issue of National Geographic Magazine.

Yellowstone National Park: America’s Wild Idea. These stories and pictures of Yellowstone National Park's animals will surprise you.

*This map represents the preferred route of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. The route is subject to change due to trail closures and re-routing.
Pacific Northwest Trail Association http://www.pnt.org/maps/

The citizen council that advises the Forest Service on the new Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail will meet in Whitefish Wednesday and Thursday. The council will make recommendations to the U.S. Forest Service on the long-term comprehensive management of the trail, including its purposes, trail uses and marking along the trail.

Two Medicine River, in the Badger-Two Medicine area.
Courtesy Gene Sentz

The Blackfeet tribal government says it plans to release buffalo onto national forest land as “free roaming wildlife.” The Council made that official proclamation Thursday.

At a campground in northwestern Montana, 30 people are groggily gearing up for a day of mushroom picking.

Most are here because they want an excuse to get outside and taste some of Montana's more exotic wild mushrooms. But others, like Matt Zaitz from Kansas, are here to turn a profit.

"It's not easy work," Zaitz says. "It's tough."

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney

A job at the lumber mills in Columbia Falls was supposed to be the kind of job you’d have forever. But forever came to an end last Friday, when the Weyerhaeuser Company sawed its last logs at its lumber and plywood mills in the industrial heart of the Flathead Valley. The mills had been open since the late 1940s.

Hotshot teams from around Montana gathered to pay tribute to Justin Beebe on Saturday, August 20, 2016
Mara Silvers

Beneath a giant American Flag, a dozen green hotshot crew carriers from around Montana sat with their lights flashing outside Ogren Stadium in Missoula on Saturday morning to honor Justin Beebe.

Beebe was a Lolo Hotshot who died fighting the Strawberry Fire in Nevada last Saturday. He is the only U.S. Forest Service firefighter to die in the line of duty this year.

 A crew member from Ronan and Associates climbs a whitebark pine tree to collect cones at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Nicky Ouellet

Whitebark pine is a species on the brink of endangerment. If whitebark go, several species of wildlife, including grizzly bears, will lose a significant food source. But researchers are slowly piecing together how to harness the tree’s natural defenses to preserve it.

Conservationists threw a party Saturday to celebrate permanent land protections in the Haskill Basin watershed east of Whitefish.

An arial view of the Pole and Fine fires burning southwest of Ennis.
Beaverhad-Deerlodge National Forest

Fire officials say they expect the thousand-acre Observation fire southwest of Hamilton to continue spreading, because the fire is moving west into “rugged, inaccessible terrain.” There’s a public meeting about the fire tonight at 7:00 at the community center in Darby.

 

 The Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service has a new director of Fire, Aviation and Air.

Ralph Rau will oversee fire management programs spanning 25 million acres of forests and grasslands in Montana, northern Idaho, North Dakota and part of South Dakota.

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney

Wednesday’s announcement that Weyerhaeuser will close its Columbia Falls lumber and plywood mills, along with its administrative offices, brought an avalanche of reaction -- none of it good.

Flathead National Forest to update forest plan, seeks public input
Nicky Ouellet

The forest in the Flathead is about to see some big changes – or not. It all depends on how proposed changes to the Flathead’s National Forest Plan shake out.

The candidates for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House today both sought to make news out of their positions on control of federal public lands.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-NC-2)

The candidates for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House today both sought to make news out of their positions on control of federal public lands.

Mike DeGrosky is Montana's Fire and Aviation Bureau Chief.
John Owens/BLM

Montana may be in for a "typical" fire season, but officials say that’s not the same thing as an "easy" fire season. Montana’s Fire and Aviation chief for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says most signs point to a “normal” fire season this year.

Arial view of the Elk Creek Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, April 11, 2016.
Inciweb

The Elk Hill fire, which started early Saturday morning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, has burned more than 1,000 acres in the Circle Creek area. The U.S. Forest Service’s Kathy Bushnell says the 1,000 acre fire is unusually large for this time of year.

The candidates for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House today both sought to make news out of their positions on control of federal public lands.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-NC-2)

Environmentalists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over the agency’s approval of the Montanore Mine near Libby. The lawsuit filed Friday says the government’s authorization for the mine in the Cabinet Mountains could drain surrounding waterways and harm a species of trout protected under federal law.

A logging proposal just north of Whitefish seems to have widespread local backing. It’s also raised a few quality-of-life related concerns.

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