Fish and Wildlife Commission approves 10 fisheries projects in Montana

EBS STAFF

Montana’s Future Fisheries Improvement Program was funded for another cycle by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission in August. This program, which is maintained in part by general fishing license dollars, was established in 1996 to support fish restoration and habitat improvement work.

Ten projects received funding, amounting to $286,000 that will be used to improve Montana fisheries. This year’s funding was matched by more than $1.4 million from outside sources.

In the Bozeman area, the Mulherin Creek instream flow lease was renewed in Park County. The lease on Mulherin, which is a tributary to the Yellowstone River, has existed for 20 years.

“[The lease renewal] keeps water in the stream for one of the most important tributaries for spawning cutthroat trout,” said future fisheries coordinator Michelle McGree. “Without that water available … we wouldn’t have as many cutthroat coming back into the Yellowstone River.”

Work was also funded on North Fork Spanish Creek in Madison County. Working with Turner Enterprises and the Forest Service, McGree said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will continue with the installation of a barrier in the tributary to prevent nonnative trout from traveling upstream into Yellowstone cutthroat trout habitat.

Additionally, a barrier was financed on Wall Creek, which flows into the Madison River. This stream has been found to support 95-percent genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout and, similar to Spanish Creek, the barrier will protect native fish from downstream nonnatives.

Other projects will include fence installations to restrict cattle from streams, removal of undersized culverts to allow fish passage, moving roads away from waterways, and increasing flow to streams, among others.

New strategy announced for improving national forest conditions

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service announced on Aug. 16 a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics.

Specifically, a new report titled “Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based Investment Strategy” outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.

Both federal and private managers of forest land face a range of urgent challenges, among them catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds, and epidemics of forest insects and disease.

The conditions fueling these circumstances are not improving. Of particular concern are longer fire seasons, the increasing size and severity of wildfires, and the expanding risk to communities, natural resources and firefighters.

“The challenges before us require a new approach,” said Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen. “This year, Congress has given us new opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include mitigating wildfire risks. We will use all the tools available to us to reduce hazardous fuels, including mechanical treatments, prescribed fire and unplanned fire in the right place at the right time.”

A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. Additionally, the report emphasizes the agency’s commitment to a risk-based response to wildfire due to the rising rates of firefighter fatalities in recent decades.

Visit fs.fed.us to view the complete report.

Winter transit service to remain unchanged

District receives county funding

EBS STAFF

On Aug. 17, the Gallatin County Commissioners voted to provide $50,000 to support Skyline bus service for fiscal year 2019. Last year Gallatin County provided $73,500.

Big Sky Transportation District Coordinator David Kack received word Aug. 20 that Madison County approved $80,000 in funding for Skyline in fiscal year 2019, the same amount it provided for fiscal year 2018.

Kack said the transportation district was asking for $100,000 from each county.

“While the $50,000 [from Gallatin County] is half of what we were asking for, it is better than nothing,” wrote Kack in an email to EBS.

“We were hoping to be able to add one or two roundtrips between Bozeman and Big Sky with the additional funding from each county,” he wrote. “However, with what was provided, we will likely have the same amount of service as last year, although we may make a few tweaks to the schedule [in terms of] stops and times.”

Kack reported that local ridership increased 9.6 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018; and ridership on the Link Express service between Big Sky and Bozeman was up 3.3 percent for the same time period.

“We know that the demand keeps increasing, both for service within Big Sky, and between Big Sky and Bozeman,” Kack said. “We are exploring options to find funding, so our service can try and meet the demand.”

Forest Service symposium explains science of forest planning

CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

Just over half-way through revising the forest plan, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is hosting the Science of National Forest Planning Symposium at Big Sky Resort on Friday, Sept. 14, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Forest Plan Revision is a complex and lengthy undertaking and we live in a special area within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Virginia Kelly, the forest plan revision team leader.

“As a forest, we are deep into working on the draft plan, and science is a critical component to that,” she added. “Our aim is to highlight a portion of the topics we saw public interest in and provide an opportunity for deeper learning and understanding about the science that is being used.”

Ten speakers will provide an overview and a deeper dive into respective topics, such as implementation of the planning rule, ecological integrity, setting the vision in a changing climate, fire as part of the ecosystem, the importance of riparian areas, and connectivity for all species. A panel discussion with five of the speakers will wrap up the symposium.

The speakers carry a wide variety of expertise and experiences, from holding positions on the Forest Service’s National Advisory Committee, to positions with nationally-known nonprofits, to roles as research scientists.

This event will follow the 14th Biennial Science Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Sept. 11-13 in Big Sky.

A virtual option is available for those unable to attend the Forest Service Symposium in person. Visit usfs.adobeconnect.com/cgpm-500/ to tune in the morning of the event. Live streaming is anticipated on the Custer Gallatin National Forest facebook page as well.

Visit fs.usda.gov/custergallatin to learn more.