Dam malfunction drains Madison

A malfunction at Hebgen Lake Dam has dewatered a reach of the upper Madison River, arguably the greatest of Montana's blue ribbon trout streams.

Streamer evangelist and Slide Inn owner Kelly Galloup alerted Montana media and supplied photos of the nearly dry river bed. Galloup's concern is the fate of brown trout eggs, nestled in stream gravel. If they dry out or freeze, the river could lose a year class these prime streamer targets.

Protect the Blackfoot

In this Washington Post column, John Maclean, son of "A River Runs Through It," author Norman Maclean, urges Montana Sen. Steve Daines to stop blocking wilderness protection for headwater streams of the Big Blackfoot River.

When Maclean's novella was turned into a film by director Robert Redford in the early 1990s, the Blackfoot was considered too degraded to be used for filming river scenes. Decades of habitat worked have returned the river to its former glory, however. The wilderness effort would protect streams that fill the Blackfoot with cold, clean water, protecting the river from the ravages of late summer heat.

In exchange for protecting these streams, Daines wants to remove protection for wild lands elsewhere in Montana. Maclean says conservation isn't a zero-sum game, and Daines is holding popular legislation hostage.

FWP wants input on Marias River conservation easement

FWP officials want to hear from the public on the Chip Creek Conservation Easement, a 24,000 acre project to protect grasslands and riparian areas along the Marias River north of Loma. The project would also create public access on more than 10,000 acres of these restored grasslands. The area supports a variety of game birds and deer, as well as two sage grouse leks.

FWP wildlife biologist Ryan Rauscher said that if approved, the Chip Creek Conservation Easement will be one of the largest additions to Montana's conservation easement program in recent memory.

Privatizing wildlife

Bull elk

Elk in the crosshairs, though not necessarily the crosshairs of rifle scopes aimed by your average Joe Montana hunter. A new governor and FWP Fish and Wildlife Commission are making it easier for landowners to get elk tags to hunt their own property, but are also making it harder for the public to get access to the same large herds that congregate where public hunting isn't allowed.

For FWP, managing elk/landowner conflicts just got more difficult as well.

As usual, nice reporting by Brett French at the Billings Gazette.

And so it begins …

The Feds are under fire for killing eight pups in the Timberline wolf pack that lives in Boise and Idaho counties. The pack was "adopted" by students at Timberline High School in Boise in 2003, and those students have been monitoring the wanderings of the pack ever since.

The story does not give any details about recent problems with the pack that may have warranted killing the pups, other than to say biologists considered the pack to more likely "to relocate" if the pups were dead.

Of course the killing of eight pups in a pack adopted by high school students will only strengthen efforts to get the Feds back involved in wolf management now that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have all adopted regulations that foster the indiscriminate killing of the animals in those states.

Rather than reexamining their controversial and unpopular wolf slaughter policies, look for political leaders in these states to instead pass laws prohibiting schools from adopting wolf packs.