Posts tagged: Montana
PUBLIC ACCESS — A landowner’s claims that he can keep the public out of a portion of the Ruby River don’t hold water, the state Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision upholding Montana’s stream-access laws, the Associated Press reports.
The 5-2 decision favored the group Public Lands Access Association Inc. in its legal dispute with James Cox Kennedy, who owns about 10 miles along the river in Madison County.
The group said Kennedy built fences along county roads and bridges next to his land that prevented the public from using rights of way to reach the Ruby River.
Kennedy argued that the state’s 1985 Stream Access Law allowing access to streams within the high-water mark and a 2009 law allowing access from bridges are an “unconstitutional taking of his vested property rights.”
Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press.
WINTER SPORTS — While much of the West suffers for lack of snow, Montana is flush with powder.
An AP news story today notes that the state has an above-normal snowpack already this year — good news for river runners planning their spring.
But for now, it's the industry adding a big exclamation mark to the mountain snow conditions with a media release, including the powder-hound photos above, all snapped in the past 10 days.
“Big Sky Country is enjoying some of the best ski conditions in the lower 48!,” Montana Tourism points out.
“The rest of MT's 15 ski areas have enjoyed consistent storm cycles since October. With more pow on the way — we're in a meteorological heaven,” said Molly Ambrogi-Yanson, Tourism spokeswoman.
HUNTING — In what’s being called a “bold” move, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission gave initial approval Thursday to convert all but a few mule deer tags to antlered only, which would prohibit taking does in light of what appears to be a rapidly dwindling population, according to the Helena Independent Record.
In addition, the commission is proposing to eliminate almost all of the “B” licenses for mule deer statewide and for white-tailed deer in most of regions 4, 5 and 6; these licenses allow people to harvest more than one deer of the same species. About 30,000 B licenses were issued last year at a cost of $10 for residents and $75 for nonresidents.
The moves are supported by a wide range of hunting organizations, whose representatives noted that their members are seeing anywhere from a 60 to 90 percent drop in the number of deer on the landscape. It’s something commission members said they’ve also noticed.
Read on for more details.
WINTER SPORTS — The expansion of Big Sky Resort in Montana is BIG news in every way.
The resort's owners purchased neighboring resorts, Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks in August, and debuted the transformed mega resort — now the largest in the country — during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The acquisitions make Big Sky the big boy on the U.S. alpine skiing and snowboarding scene,” says Brett French of the Billings Gazette. “The combination means more than 30 lifts, 4,350 vertical feet of drop and 5,750 total acres for riders to roam. In comparison, the other big dog — the tony Vail Mountain Resort in Colorado — has about 5,300 acres and 3,450 vertical feet.”
The new Big Sky is treating skiers to the longest vertical run in the lower 48 states.
Read on for details from the Gazette story:
Updated 11-26-13 at 9 a.m. with correction from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
WILDLIFE — Just in time for Thanksgiving! Montana's online permitting system to legally take possession of road-killed big game goes operational today.
A new state law allows people to salvage deer, elk, antelope and moose killed on roadsides.
According to reporter Rob Chaney of the Missoulian, anyone wanting to claim one of those game animals they find dead can fill out the online permit within 24 hours. State law enforcement officers will also have permits available if called to the site of an animal-vehicle collision. The permits are free.
The move could offer a lot of extra protein to Montana dinner tables albeit at the expense of beetles, ravens, eagles, coyotes and other critters in nature's clean-up crew. The Missoulian reports:
But Washington is not one of them. It's illegal to pick up roadkill without a permit in Washington.
Read on for more details about the Montana law and salvage permit system:
PREDATORS — Am I shocked that a wolf hunter has shot someone's pet near a popular Montana-Idaho winter recreation area? Yes.
Am I surprised? No.
And the Missoula County sheriff’s office is just throwing up its hands, saying there's nothing it can do as it ends its investigation into the fatal shooting of a malamute on Lolo Pass by a hunter who apparently mistook it for a wolf.
According to the story moved by the Associated Press, Layne Spence of Missoula said he was skiing with his three dogs on a quiet logging road near Lee Creek Campground Sunday afternoon when he heard a shot and saw his dog, Little Dave, fall down with a leg injury.
About 15 to 20 yards away, Spence said he saw a man wearing camouflage and carrying a gun.
“I started screaming ‘Stop, stop,’ and the man kept shooting,” Spence, 48, said. The dog was struck in the neck and died.
“My dog is lying there, dead and I shouted ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy said, ‘I thought it was a wolf.’ ”
Spence said the hunter asked if there was anything he could do, but Spence said he was so distraught he told the man to leave.
When Spence returned to town he filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.
The Missoulian reports the agency passed the case over to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.
“There is no criminal activity here, and this is out of our jurisdiction,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said on Monday. “We don’t have any witnesses and we’re not investigating the situation any further.”
Spokespersons for both FWP and the Forest Service had said Monday morning that they believed the case would be a criminal matter.
“This doesn’t have to happen,” Spence said. “Not every big dog is a wolf. These are pets, they all had their collars and lights on, they were all with me the entire time.”
He wondered what would have happened if he had a child on a sled or if a bullet ricocheted.
“There are other people who use the woods besides hunters this time of year,” Spence said.
The U.S. Forest Service maintains the Lee Creek campground for non-motorized winter use. Lolo National Forest recreation manager Al Hilshey said the area is popular with cross-country skiers who like to bring their dogs.
LESSONS FROM THE TRAGEDY
- Hunters must be extra alert when hunting in areas such as Lolo Pass, where other people routinely recreate, and they should be accountable for their actions.
- Dog owners must be aware that hunters can legally target wolves in Montana and Idaho. Dogs — especially malamutes and other dogs that resemble wolves in any color ranging from white to black — should be wearing large fluorescent orange collars and even vests when recreating in areas where hunters could be out.
HUNTING — Sportmen hoping to hunt big-game in Montana need to start plannning, now.
Deadlines are coming up in March, May and June to apply for permits and special licenses, according to the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks:
March 15 — deadline to apply for 2013 buck deer and bull elk hunting permits. Successful applicants will receive their permits in April.
May 1 — deadline to apply for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison licenses.
June 1 — deadline to apply for antlerless Deer B, Elk B, and all antelope licenses. Cow elk hunting opportunities are available as “Elk B” licenses; and doe hunting opportunities are available as “Deer B” licenses.
Applications for the May 1 and June 1 deadlines will be available in mid-March.
Montana’s eight-page application packet contains all the information hunters need to apply for special big-game hunts.
PREDATORS — With Montana's wolf season coming to a close this evening, hunters and trappers have reported killing 223 wolves during the state’s third season and the first that allowed trapping.
That's an increase of 53 over last season's total.
The general rifle wolf season began Oct. 20; trapping opened Dec. 15. Both seasons will be closed Friday.
IDAHO, which allows hunters to shoot up to five wolves and trap up to five wolves, is in the middle of its second annual hunting season. Hunters and trappers have taken a combined 245 wolves so far in the 2012-2013 seasons (169 by hunters, 76 by trappers). The current season closes March 31.
PREDATORS — A wolf management bill that was fast-tacked through the Montana Legislature was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Steve Bullock.
Bullock said the law will allow hunters to purchase up to three wolf licenses and lowers the price of a nonresident wolf license from $350 to $50. He said the measure also will strengthen state wildlife officials’ efforts to manage Montana’s recovered and growing wolf population.
See the story in the Missoulian.
HUNTING — About 30 Montana farmers and rangers say they won't allow public hunting on their land in protest of the state's purchase of a ranch along the Milk River.
Last month, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission OK’d the purchase of 2,992 acres of the Milk River Ranch from Aageson Grain and Cattle for $4.7 million. The agency says the land has great wildlife values, 10 miles of river shoreline, huge areas of intact native prairie and is an important wildlife corridor.
But the landowners have a lot of gripes, from the price paid to simple anger over the government owning land.
PREDATORS — While the war on wolves continues, mountain lions haven't been fasting.
At midpoint of a three-year study of elk in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists were surprised to learn the role mountain lions have played in elk deaths, and they have begun a yearlong study of the big cats in the valley to learn more about that population. — Ravalli Republic
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Of course there are ups and downs, but overall this isn't a bad time to be among the critters.
Most of Montana's suite of wildlife species are doing better than they were 50 years ago. The reasons for the resurgence are mixed, with federal protection of some species playing a part, protection of habitat another. — Billings Gazette
WILDLIFE — I go home to my hunting roots in Montana every year at this time, and the photo below (click continue reading) by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson illustrates one of the reasons why.
A photo I made from my annual Montana hunting trip, above, illustrates several more reasons.
Read on for a few biological pointers on why the pronghorn (also called antelope) is so special.
FISH HABITAT — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a proposal to install a series of log jams consisting of native green and aged woody debris along a portion of lower Fish Creek in Mineral County.
Fish Creek, which begins at the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains, flows under I-90 and into the Clark Fork River near Superior.
The proposed project is a cooperative effort between FWP, Trout Unlimited and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
If approved, the project is projected to be completed later this summer and would improve habitat for native fish, restore natural stream processes and likely enhance the quality of fishing in the area.
A draft environmental assessment has been prepared for this proposal, and FWP is accepting public comment through Aug. 3.
Info: Region 2 FWP office in Missoula, (406) 542-5540; or email email@example.com.
FISHING — While rivers in the Spokane-to-Missoula region are still flowing somewhat higher that normal and reasonably cool, waters — and fish — farther east are feeling the heat of a drought.
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks today advised anglers on three central Montana rivers that all fishing would close daily from 2 p.m. to midnight until conditions improve.
The “hoot-owl” closures, effective Friday, July 27, are issued for:
FWP's drought policy provides for angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. Water temperatures have exceeded 73 degrees on the Sun River for 17 days and for 14 days on the Dearborn River. The Smith River's water temperature has exceeded 73 degrees for the past seven days.
The preferred water temperature for rainbow and brown trout is about 55-57 degrees. Temperatures of 77 degrees or more can be lethal to trout.
Read on for more details.
FISHING – Everybody with a yen to go fishing benefits from a Fathers Day gift from the Montana legislature.
For the second year, Montanan is celebrating Father's Day by waiving the fishing license requirements on June 16 and 17.
All other fishing regulations apply.
WILDLIFE – Planning for long-term management of bison at a wildlife species – which may include hunting down the road — will kick off Monday, May 14, in Missoula with a public meeting organized by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m at the Holiday Inn, Downtown at the Park, 200 S. Pattee.
Putting bison back on more of the Montana landscape would restore the last existing link to the wildlife mix at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
But landowners in particular are wary.
Issues already identified include, the risk of bison spreading disease to domestic livestock, competition between bison and other wildlife, competition between bison and livestock for rangeland, damage to fencing, public safety, and the legal classification and status of bison in Montana.
RIVER RUNNING — Applications for permits to float Montana's popular Smith River this spring and summer are available starting today.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will accept applications for permits to float the Smith River State Park and River Corridor through Feb. 15, and Smith River Super Permit lottery chances will also be available starting today, with chances sold through March 15.
Here's a more detailed story on the applications from The Billings Gazette.
Here's a link on floating the Smith River from the Montana FWP website.
Here are photos and the story I wrote after floating and fishing the river — an experience that should be on every floater-flyfisher's bucket list.
PREDATORS — Idaho is using trappers and helicopter gunners to try to get wolf numbers down.
In Montana, with wolf-harvest goals looking as though they could go unmet, a hunting group is offering a legal version of a bounty as an incentive to get hunters out to fill more wolf tags.
The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is offering $100 and an annual membership for photographs of wolves killed in any open wolf hunting district between Dec. 19 and the Feb. 15 end of the season, or until a quota is filled.
Read the story from the Ravali Republic.
PUBLIC LANDS — Montana is considering the sale of 7,280 acres of its lands in northeastern Montana’s Daniels County, 49 tracts ranging from 5 to 360 acres, according to the Billings Gazette.
“Over the years, landowners and others in Daniels County have urged the Department (of Natural Resources and Conservation) to initiate sale of lands due to the large amount of state land in the western half of the county,” Hoyt Richards, Glasgow Unit manager for the DNRC’s Trust Land Management Division, wrote in an email.
Roughly half of western Daniels County is in state ownership, designated as a large block of blue lands on maps. The state land piled up in Daniels County by a quirk of fate. When the federal government granted states every section 16 and 36 in each township to be held in trust for educational purposes, areas such as national parks and reservations were excluded.
Read on for more of the story by Gazette Outdoors reporter Brett French.