[MCN] Revised Flathead NF Forest Plan Fails to Protect Wildlands, Fish and Wildlife

Matthew Koehler mattykoehler at gmail.com
Tue Dec 12 09:53:49 EST 2017

*Revised Flathead Forest Plan Fails to Protect Wildlands, Fish and Wildlife*

*Conservation Groups Review Pending Flathead Forest Plan*

*December 12, 2017*


Keith Hammer, Swan View Coalition, 406-755-1379 <(406)%20755-1379>,
keith at swanview.org

Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan, 406-886-2011 <(406)%20886-2011>
, arlene at wildswan.org

Kalispell, MT – Two conservation groups have reviewed a description of the
revised Flathead Forest Plan and found the Plan lacking in the protection
of wildlands, fish and wildlife. While a formal public release of the Plan
is still pending, Swan View Coalition and Friends of the Wild Swan reviewed
a description of it in the Biological Assessment the Forest sent the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service during recently completed consultation between
the two agencies.

“Unfortunately,” said Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer, “the agencies
have abandoned overwhelming public comment and science supporting the
Flathead’s current integrated road management plan. The current Forest Plan
Amendment 19 restores habitat for bull trout and grizzly bears by removing
damaging roads and their culverts.”

“The agencies are terminating the very programs they claim have helped
increase the grizzly bear population and are necessary to conserve bull
trout,” Hammer said. “The revised plan is an irresponsible rollback in
essential protections and reflects the political haste to remove Endangered
Species Act protections from the grizzly bear.”

“The revised Forest Plan removes key habitat parameters for streams and
riparian areas,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “It
also relaxes the current requirement to annually monitor culverts left on
closed roads to only monitoring them every six years. This all adds up to
less protection for fish and water quality.”

“The Flathead is proposing less wilderness than it found
wilderness-suitable and it is reducing protections for roadless areas,”
Montgomery added. “These areas provide secure habitat for wildlife and
cold, clean water for aquatic life and should be fully protected.”

The groups, along with WildEarth Guardians, put the two agencies on notice
in November that they would sue over attempts to relax culvert monitoring
requirements from annually to every sixth year. “It appears they’ve hastily
pasted the ill-conceived culvert plan into the Biological Assessment
without full consideration of the impacts,” Hammer said.


Following are some links to the Biological Assessment (BA) and other facts:

The 10/31/17 Biological Assessment of the Revised Plan can be found at:


A Description of the Preferred [Plan] Alternative - B Modified is on BA
pages 11-20.

BA page 17 describes how “the revised forest plan would replace the 1986
Flathead National Forest plan in its entirety, including but not limited to
A[mendment] 19, the Swan Valley Grizzly Bear Conservation Agreement, and
other Flathead National Forest plan direction related to grizzly bears.”

The BA pastes in the proposed 8-page Culvert Monitoring Plan between pages
285 and 286.

BA page 13 describes the 8 areas recommended for wilderness totaling
190,418 acres. This is 30% of the 644,847 acres the Flathead determined are
suitable for wilderness recommendation (see page 6 at
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3813568.pdf )

The overwhelming majority of public comments on the draft revised Flathead
Forest Plan asked for the retention of Amendment 19 road/grizzly management
and asked that all roadless wildlands be recommended for wilderness. This
is documented in the 11/30/16 press release at:


The 11/15/17 Notice of Intent to File Suit over the Culvert Monitoring Plan
is at: http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/2017_11_15_NOI_

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Flathead National
Forest told Swan View Coalition it would post its revised Forest Plan
Biological Assessment and FWS’s Biological Opinion on the Forest’s web site
by December 1. It later decided to send the documents via CD and U.S.
Postal Service to Swan View Coalition.

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