Two wildfires burn near Philipsburg, smoky haze in Big Sky from California

EBS STAFF

Two lightning-caused wildfires were burning approximately 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg, Montana, as of EBS press time July 19. The 374-acre Whetstone Ridge Fire and 69-acre Meyers Fire started in close proximity to one another in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and were detected July 14.

Three handcrews and two helicopters were working to contain the fires, with at least 100 personnel on the incidents, which were zero percent contained as of press time. The main safety concern the firefighters are facing is the significant number of snags and heavy logging slash in the area.

Warm and dry conditions, with 20 mph sustained winds, were expected to persist in the area through the end of the week.

The smoky haze visible over southwest Montana during the week of July 17 is the result of large fires burning in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, according to airnow.org, which tracks air quality throughout North America.

Sen. Tester secures hearing for Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act

OFFICE OF U.S. SEN. JON TESTER

Sen. Jon Tester has secured a hearing for his Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which according to the senator is intended to protect Montana’s outdoor economy and clean water near Yellowstone National Park.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining will hold a hearing on Tester’s bill Wednesday, July 26, at 8 a.m. mountain time.

“As visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park and spend their money at local businesses, they are greeted by breathtaking views, clean water and world class wildlife,” Tester said. “We need to keep the economy of this region strong for generations to come and this bill will ensure our kids and grandkids can experience the wonders of Montana’s outdoors at the doorstep of Yellowstone.”

Tester introduced the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act after local residents and businesses asked him to protect the region from large-scale mining operations.

Tester’s bill would permanently withdraw federal mineral rights on 30,000 acres of public land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest adjacent to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park, and would eliminate the ability for proposed mines to expand onto unclaimed public land.

USGS starts grizzly trapping operations in Hebgen Lake area

MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE & PARKS

As part of ongoing efforts required under the Endangered Species Act to monitor the population of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, the U.S. Geological Survey is informing the public that pre-baiting and scientific trapping operations are about to begin within the Hebgen Lake drainage basin.

Biologists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) will begin work in the area beginning July 15 and will continue through Aug. 31. Trapping operations can include a variety of activities, but all areas where work is being conducted will have major access points marked with warning signs.

Monitoring of grizzly bear distribution and other activities are vital to ongoing recovery of grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Biologists use food sources such as fresh road–killed deer and elk to attract bears, and potential trapping sites are baited with these carcasses. If biologists conclude that grizzly bears may be in the area, culvert traps or foot snares will be used to capture the bears. Once trapped, they’re handled in accordance with strict protocols developed by the IGBST.

Whenever bear trapping activities are being conducted for scientific purposes, the area around the site will be posted with warning signs to inform the public of the activities occurring. These signs are posted along the major access points to the trapping site. It’s important that the public heed these signs and do not venture into an area that has been posted.

For more information regarding grizzly bear trapping efforts call the IGBST hotline at (406) 994-6675

Gov. Bullock downplays presidential aspirations

By Bobby Caina Calvan Associated Press

HELENA (AP) – Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is downplaying his national political ambitions even as he sets up a committee that would pay for his travel to political events across the country.

During a meeting with reporters in his Montana Capitol office July 18, Bullock said he is seeking to add his voice to the national conversation on health care, public lands and a host of other issues. But he says any speculation about a presidential bid or a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 is premature.

He filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission on July 18 for a political action committee called Big Sky Values. Bullock says it will help raise money to fund non-official trips.

Bullock is among many Democrats testing potential presidential runs.

2017 Parks and Trails Gala brings total BSCO fundraising effort to $1 million

BIG SKY COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION

Big Sky Community Organization hosted their 10th annual Parks and Trails Gala fundraising event July 7 at the Big Sky Community Park. A sold out crowd of more than 200 individuals were in attendance to celebrate and show support for the community park and trail system. The event raised $185,000 for BSCO, pushing the cumulative amount of money raised at this event over the past 10 years to over $1 million.

BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe spoke at the event, saying, “The dollar amount raised is definitely impressive, but the work that has been done and the accomplishments within our small community is the true success story. Each of you here tonight are a part of Big Sky’s history and also the force for our future.”

BSCO operates a $1 million annual budget to support 83 acres of parkland, 19 miles of trails and several community recreation programs. Last year projects included securing 10 new private trail easements, adding 3 miles of trail, installing Big Sky’s second traffic light and expanding the Camp Big Sky program to meet the area’s growing youth population.

Future projects include building a 525-square-foot tree fort playground in Kircher Discovery Park, securing an additional 16 private trail easements for four new trail connections, and purchasing and developing an additional 7.5 acres of open space park land that the Beehive Basin trailhead sits upon.