Development plan breaks consensus on grizzlies

 

The pact worked out last year between Plum Creek Timber Co. in Montana's Swan Valley and some federal and state agencies looked like a good deal for both bears and loggers.

Then this May, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund served notice it will file suit to negate the agreement. What's changed is Plum Creek's announcement that it might sell some of its land in the area to developers.

The idea was to protect four corridors of grizzly habitat linking the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the Mission Mountain Wilderness. Only about 10 bears survive in the Missions, and biologists say they must be able to intermingle with the Bob Marshall bears to avoid extinction. The corridors were chosen because bears need to cross the valley without running into too many humans.

The pact also calls for coordinating timber harvests between the Forest Service and Plum Creek, reducing road access, and not logging on 369,299 acres. Seven 50-square-mile areas would also be closed to human activity in the valley each year; four others would still be open.

But opposition groups, including the Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, and Alliance for the Wild Rockies, say any proposed land sales, timber cuts or related road building violate the Endangered Species Act. They want the pact replaced by practices based on the best scientific data for grizzly bears, not the convenience of loggers.

Friends' spokeswoman Arlene Montgomery says the plan was flawed from the beginning. "The agreement doesn't really protect permanent corridors and doesn't limit road density," she says. "There are no corridors specifically earmarked as roadless."

The proposed land sales came to light when a January newspaper article said Plum Creek planned to sell 150,000 acres of its holdings in the state, some of them in the Swan Valley. Montgomery says, "We suspected there would be sales after they hired a developer from Seattle to look over their lands." Housing development in the valley has already blocked many historical corridors used by the bears.

Dale Harms, assistant field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont., says his agency did not know of the proposed sales while negotiating the pact. "Plum Creek says it's studying four areas in the Swan for potential sales and they haven't made any decisions," he says. "Until we know the specifics, we don't know what impact it will have." He insists the compact still allows the isolated Mission bears to cross into the Bob Marshall with relatively little danger. No matter what corridors the grizzlies choose, however, all must cross State Highway 82.

Plum Creek says it remains committed to the conservation agreement whether any land sales go through or not. Spokeswoman Kris Backes says only about 2,500 acres is being considered for sale in the Swan, most of it lake and creek front property. "All sales will be consistent with the agreement," she says. "Some of the options would include selling the land to conservation buyers or making land exchanges."

Plum Creek has good reason to pacify the environmental group. If the compact is dissolved, resulting land-use restrictions enacted under the Endangered Species Act could be more restrictive for the timber company.

For more information, contact Doug Honnold at the SCLDF office in Bozeman, Mont., 406/586-9699; Jerry Sorensen at Plum Creek Timber Co. in Columbia Falls, Mont., 406/892-6479; or Keith Hammer at Swan Valley Coalition, 406/755-1379.

Mark Matthews reports from Missoula, Montana.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a development professional to coordinate the organization's individual giving program. The position description is available at http://greateryellowstone.org/careers Please email a letter...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. At least 8-10 years of experience...
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER AND BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring for two positions. We seek a Communications Manager to execute inspiring and impactful communications...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Volunteers Wilderness Volunteers (WV), a 24-year leader in preserving our nation's wildlands, is seeking a motivated person with deep outdoor interests to guide our...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • FISHERIES BIOLOGIST
    Under the direct supervision of the Director of Shoshone-Paiute Tribe's Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in coordination with the Tribal Programs Administrator and the Tribal Chairman,...
  • REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NORTHERN ROCKIES, PRAIRIES & PACIFIC REGION
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • STEWARDSHIP MANAGER
    STEWARDSHIP MANAGER Job Vacancy and Description Posted June 2, 2021: Open until filled The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit, regional land trust...
  • KSJD - MORNING EDITION HOST/REPORTER
    KSJD is seeking a host/reporter. Please see for www.ksjd.org for more information. EEO compliant.
  • ON THE EDGE OF CEDAR MESA/BEARS EARS
    Quiet, comfy house for rent in Bluff, Utah. Walk to San Juan River. Bike or hike to many nearby ruins and rock art sites. Beautiful...
  • CARPENTER AND LABORER WANTED.
    Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rain forest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg meadows,...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Title: Project Manager Reports To: Program Director Salary Range: Negotiable; starting at $60,000 Location: Bend, OR The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Project Manager to...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Deschutes River Conservancy seeks a Program Director to join our dynamic team in restoring streamflow and improving water quality in the Deschutes Basin. WHO...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - TWISPWORKS
    Established healthy nonprofit in the Methow Valley of Washington state, TwispWorks is hiring the next Executive Director. Terrific opportunity to strive for our mission to...
  • BOARD DIRECTOR
    Help us achieve our mission of promoting excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship, science and education to ensure the life-sustaining benefits of wilderness....
  • TEMPORARY FULL-TIME RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking to immediately fill a Temporary Full-Time employment position as Ranch Operations Assistant for Facilities, Equipment, Land, and...
  • RANCH OPERATIONS ASSISTANT
    Twin Willows Ranch in Ocate, NM is seeking an individual to fill the Regular Full-Time position of Resident Operations Assistant for Technology, Hospitality, Gardening, and...
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Conservation Project Manager Position Description Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO THE GOOD NEIGHBOR AGREEMENT
    Northern Plains Resource Council seeks an independent contractor to implement the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) between local communities and the Sibanye-Stillwater Mining Company in Montana....