Cleaning up their mess

It seems the new FWP commission made a hash of things changing hunting and fishing regs on the fly this winter, according to a story by Missoula Currant reporter Laura Lundquist. Already, the commission has had to reverse Kokanee salmon limits on Georgetown Lake approve just in March.

FWP is also dealing with a snafu caused by a new computer system that eliminated many hunter's applications for second- and third-choice permits when they applied for first choice only permits. FWP director Hank Worsech is increasing permits in some districts in an effort to make things right.

Bitterroot’s HD 270 exempt from single district rules for permit holders

While the FWP Commission was rewriting rules for hunting districts across the state, some more restrictive for hunters, one change opened things up in HD 270 in the Bitterroot's east fork. Ravalli Republic editor Perry Backus outlines the changes in this report.

Hunters still need to draw an unlimited bull tag to hunt the district, but now they will be able to hunt other districts earlier in the season, before the weather chases elk out of the Big Hole Valley to the east.

Up until now, HD 270 was the only district in the state that required hunters to obtain an “unlimited” bull elk permit to hunt there. To obtain the “unlimited” permit, hunters give up their opportunity to put in for a more coveted elk permit elsewhere in the state.

New Region 2 Commissioner, Jana Waller, made the motion to exempt HD 270 based on feed back she received from hunters.

“Unit 270 is a unique unit in terms of elk and geography,” Waller said Monday. “Originally a general unit, it was changed years back due to the bull to cow ratios dipping too low when early weather drives the elk into 270. For biological reasons it was changed to an unlimited-style tag.”

That gives hunters an option when milder weather allows elk to linger in the Big Hole.

It takes winter weather to drive elk over the Big Hole divide into the East Fork of the Bitterroot. Because of that, hunters with an HD 270 permit like the freedom to be able to hunt other general elk hunting districts in the state earlier in the season.

Governor sues AG on easement dispute

Gov. Steve Bullock challenged the legal opinion of Tim Fox, the state's attorney general, regarding conservation easements. Bullock took his case to the Montana Supreme Court, arguing that State Land Board approval isn't needed for conservation easements. Fox's opinion that Land Board approval is required, which he issued last week after Bullock Ok'd the 15,000-acre Horse Creek Conservation Easement in eastern Montana last week, has the force of law unless the court overturns it.

Hall of Famer Dale Burk

A nice feature from the Ravalli Republic about the nomination of Stevensville's Dale Burk to the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame. Burk was a long-time reporter and writer in western Montana and is now a book publisher with his Stoneydale Press.

Female grizzly euthanized after fall on Going-to-the-Sun Road

Bear suffered significant traumatic injury and was partially paralyzed

 Glacier National Park press release

West Glacier – On July 15 at approximately 11:30 p.m., rangers discovered a partially paralyzed grizzly bear that had apparently fallen about 20 feet onto the road near Rim Rock, one mile west of Logan Pass.

The bear had sustained severe traumatic injuries. Rangers, after consulting with the park’s wildlife biologist, euthanized the bear. 

On Sunday, July 15, the National Park Service conducted a necropsy and found significant trauma to its thoracic vertebrae, broken ribs, and a dislocated hip. The non-lactating female bear was estimated to be 5-7 years old and appeared to be in otherwise good health. Rangers initially thought the bear had been hit by a car, but evidence at the scene showed that the bear had slipped off an overhanging precipice and landed on its back in the road. 

Park officials notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required since the grizzly bear is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and informed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of the incident. 

There are an estimated 300 grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. Numerous state and federal agencies have worked together to manage and recover the grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, including Glacier National Park. 

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem encompasses about 9,600 square miles of northwestern Montana, and includes Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests (Flathead, Helena, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark and Lolo), Bureau of Land Management lands, and a significant amount of state and private lands.

Beacon top weekly in Montana

The Flathead Beacon, the newspaper where my outdoors column runs, once again was named Montana’s best weekly newspaper. Frankly, the Beacon is the best newspaper, full stop, in the Treasure State, and one of the best in the Rocky Mountain region. Congrats to my colleagues back in Kalispell, who do a great job each week.

“Out of Bounds,” my weekly contribution, was earned first place in the “Sports and Outdoors Column” category. Here’s a link to the winning piece.