North Fork Interlocal meeting, 1:00pm, July 8th at the hall!

Sondreson Hall by Gerry StearnsThe summer North Fork Interlocal Agreement meeting will be held, Wednesday, July 8 at Sondreson Hall. Start time is 1:00 p.m. This summer’s meeting is hosted by the North Fork Trails Association.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues, we’re shooting for a “lite” version of the Interlocal this summer…

  • There will be no lunch prior to the meeting. Feel free to bring your own drinks and snacks.
  • At this time, the hall occupancy limit is 50 people. Attendance at the past few summer Interlocals has been in the 80-90 range. Agencies should send only the minimum necessary staff. If appropriate, we can also accept written reports to be read aloud at the meeting (email them to me). North Fork residents and organizations should also consider ways to trim attendance.
  • Please wear a mask! If needed, we will have some disposable masks available at the hall (suggested donation $1).

Also, don’t forget the annual Firewise Day meeting in the morning, starting at 9:30 a.m.

The Interlocal Agreement provides for face-to-face contact with representatives of agencies whose policies and actions affect the North Fork. Interlocal Agreement meetings are held in the winter (in town) and summer (at Sondreson Hall). This is always a very interesting meeting, with reports from a range of government agencies and local organizations and often some quite vigorous discussion.

Glacier Park’s Polebridge entrance to reopen June 15, with restrictions

I received the following note from Jim Dahlstrom, the North Fork District Ranger, concerning the reopening of Glacier Park’s Polebridge entrance on Monday, June 15.

Jim will be available to answer questions about this issue at the NFLA general membership meeting, 8:00pm, Sunday, June 14 at Sondreson Hall. He is the first item on the agenda.

Please note that Sondreson Hall is operating under some COVID-19-related usage restrictions, including a 50-person maximum capacity limit. See “COVID-19: Sondreson Hall Use Restrictions and Guidelines” for details.

…I wanted to pass along some information for you to share at your upcoming meeting this Sunday, regarding Glacier National Park’s phased reopening plans.  I’m sure you’ve seen some of the info we have posted on our website, but to further explain specifically what we’ll be doing in the North Fork this summer (a press release will be going out tomorrow, but not including all of the information here):

  1.  The North Fork area will open on June 15th as a day use only area.  No overnight camping in the frontcountry campgrounds or backcountry.  Backcountry camping should be available about the last week in June, and I would expect we will open our frontcountry campgrounds shortly thereafter.  No fees will be collected, and this year we will have a strict limit to the number of vehicles allowed beyond the gate at one time in the North Fork.  We will start with 150 cars and see how congested that is, and may adjust down if we find that to be unmanageable.  We will allow a limited number of vehicles to form a queue, and when an appropriate number of vehicles leave the area, we will allow the requisite number of vehicles in.  Be aware that we have a total of about 100 parking places in the whole area, including Bowman, Kintla, and Logging Creek, and several small trailheads.  Over the past 3 years, we have averaged around 300-500 vehicles per day, with parking lots turning over about 2-3 times per day.
  2. The Ranger Station will not be open to the public.  This is an effort to attempt to reduce exposure to our employees.  Information and publications will be available outside and rangers will be stationed at both the window and outside on the lawn to answer questions.  The public restrooms at Polebridge will be open, and cleaned and disinfected 3x per day.  Vault toilets at the developed areas will get the same treatment 2x per day.  Water will be available at the campgrounds and sanitizing pumps in key locations.
  3. At 4:30 every day, the inbound gate at Polebridge will be closed and a sign placed indicating its hours as a day use only location.  Visitors in the North Fork after 4:30 will be allowed to exit at their leisure, but again, no overnight use is permitted.
  4. No boating on any North Fork lakes will be available initially.  The AIS inspection station in Apgar is currently the only one operating in the park (and only for non-motorized boating) due to reduced staffing and limited emergency response throughout the park.  I would expect that additional park waters will open incrementally as the season progresses.  At this time, we will not be able to issue any NF resident annual passes for boating as well, as it would complicate visitor perceptions.  NPS employees are not allowed to participate in recreational boating as well, except on Lake McDonald.

This is a lot of information to digest, so if anything is unclear please reach out to me. I’ll  be available by cell the rest of the weekend, and I am more than happy to come to the meeting to deliver this information in person.  Just say the word and I’ll be there.

COVID-19: Sondreson Hall Use Restrictions and Guidelines

Sondreson Hall by Gerry StearnsThe following restrictions, guidelines and notices apply to the use of Sondreson Hall under Montana’s “Phase 2” COVID-19 management plan:

The maximum number of people in the hall at any given time is 50. For a given event, up to 50 chairs will be set up, dispersed as widely as practical. If there are no empty seats available, please do not enter the hall until someone else leaves. If the event requires tables, they should be dispersed as widely as practical with no more than six individuals seated at each table.

No food sharing beyond family groups except under specific circumstances. The exception is when food is distributed in a serving line with the individuals handing out the food using appropriate protection (masks and gloves). It is strongly recommended that the people receiving the food be masked as well.

During clean-up after events, please follow the disinfection guidelines posted throughout the hall:

“Please use spray bottle solution to disinfect all surfaces, including tables, counters, the lectern, the stovetop, and the sink area. Also wipe down any chairs that were used during the event. Disposable gloves are provided. The solution contains bleach so be careful with your clothing. Thank you for helping us keep our members and guests safe.”

Hand sanitizer is available several places throughout the hall. Please use it as needed.

If needed, disposable masks are available at the hall. The suggested donation for a mask is $1.00, but do not hesitate to use a mask just because you don’t have a dollar handy.

(To view or download this document as a PDF, click here.)

First Aid/CPR/AED Course June 16

First Aid SignageREMINDER: Bob Lee will be giving his well-regarded First Aid/CPR/AED class in the North Fork again this spring. It is an all-day course, starting at 9:00am and wrapping up by 4:00pm. The date is Tuesday, June 16. The course will be held at Sondreson Hall. Cost should  be $45/person.

With a course size limit of 10 people, maintaining appropriate social distancing shouldn’t be a problem.

Contact Bill Walker, 406-407-2764 or to sign up for the course.

Note! Starting last year, the certification cards were distributed electronically. The folks sending the cards insist that every recipient have a unique email address. I.e., if you share an email address with someone else and you are both attending the course, one of you would need to pick up a second address. I can hand out temporary course email addresses if needed, just let me know.

(If something goes awry, the fallback date for the First Aid/CPR/AED Class is June 23rd. I doubt we’ll use it.)

Latest bear update from Tim Manley

Bear Travel Map - May 28-30Here’s the latest North Fork bear information from Tim Manley, Grizzly Bear Management Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. It was posted to Facebook on Sunday, May 31…

The subadult male I released at the border went immediately west to Fortine. He got into garbage and bird feeders. He was recaptured and killed.

The two females I released in Whale Creek.. also went west to the Fortine, Trego, and Stryker areas. They are hanging around a few residences and getting bird feeders and maybe garbage. No trapping effort for them right now.

The adult male that was from Helmville and released in Coal Creek is now over southeast of Babb outside of Glacier Park. He was photographed near Trail Creek following the scraggly female. He then went into BC northeast of Starvation Peak. He was photographed at a rub tree with a remote camera by BC grizzly bear researchers. That was on May 28th. In the last two days he traveled 48 miles… into Alberta, east of Waterton Lake and then south and was last known to be on the Blackfeet Reservation southeast of Babb.

I attached a map so you can see his travels from May 28th to May 30th.

They rarely stay where we release them…

Latest bear update from Tim Manley

Momma grizzly and her cubsHere’s the latest North Fork bear information from Tim Manley, Grizzly Bear Management Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. It was posted to Facebook on Saturday, May 9 at about 7am…

Bear update… good morning. Sorry for the long post… I just wanted to provide an update on bears. We will put out a press release but that might take several days.

Two days ago we captured three 3-year old grizzly bears along the NW edge of Swan Lk. This spring they had been bouncing around between Ferndale and Woods Bay. Our first reports were from last year when they were eating grass in yards. They were also in the fruit orchards and were seen at Yellow Bay and Finley Point along Flathead Lake.

A couple of weeks ago we got reports of them getting into unsecured garbage at Woods Bay. They also got bird seed and hummingbird feeders on porches. After several days of trapping we captured them.

My thought was to release them up Spotted Bear River. Due to snow on the roads we weren’t able to go down the reservoir or get to a release site up the Middle Fork.

After consulting with the FS and USFWS we decided to release them in the North Fork. Yesterday we released the two females (173 lbs and 222 lbs) in the Whale Cr drainage. We released the male (241 lbs) at the BC border. All three bears are wearing GPS collars. They haven’t been aggressive at all but definitely are used to being near residences. If they show up at your place, make them leave by safely yelling, banging pots and pans or any of the other approved methods that was in the recent NFLA newsletter.

Also yesterday, in the Blackfoot Valley, Wildlife Services captured two subadult male grizzly bears at a site where a calf had been killed. The first bear was released in Glacier Park at Logan Creek. The second male was released in Coal Cr up the North Fork last night by Jamie Jonkel with MT FWP out of Missoula. Both bears are also wearing GPS collars.

Snow conditions have really reduced our ability to access other relocation sites.

After I got back to the valley, the FS contacted me about a grizzly bear that had fed on and buried a deer carcass in the Big Cr Campground. I was able to contact Jonkel and he picked up the remains of the deer. The decision was made to have people move out of the campground for the weekend and close the gate. The bear will have a couple of nights to return and realize the deer carcass is gone and then move on.

The bear (Oattie) that used to spend time in the field south of Polebridge the last few years is currently 10 miles north of the border.

Lastly, I have not had any more recent reports of the single grizzly that had been observed on the Polebridge Bench.

I didn’t want to wait for the press release to notify you of our activities. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Here’s a video of the male being released at the border:

[Update on May 11] Just a quick update. I won’t be updating all the bears movements but I wanted to let you know generally where they are since being released. The subadult male we released at the border is now near Review Mountain. The two females we released in Whale Cr are near Center Mtn. and are still together. The male that Jonkel released in Coal Creek is now in Big Creek. Oattie is now 12 miles north in BC.


An update from the North Fork Patrol

Here’s the latest activity report from the North Fork Patrol, courtesy of Mark Heaphy . . .

All 126 properties were checked at least once and 618 miles were logged.

There were a few places that had downed trees, dented vent stacks, unlocked doors and a damaged screen (due to a bear). All owners were notified.

Expanded touring & guiding on the North Fork: summary of routes, maps, dates and ‘service days’

Flathead National Forest

For those of you interested in more information about the Forest Service special use permits being considered for touring and guiding in the North Fork, Rob Davies passed along a very useful “summary of the routes, maps, dates, and service days that folks asked about at the meeting last Tuesday night.“ (Note that Rob must be working some long hours. I got his email a little after 930pm yesterday evening.)

Read the document here (PDF format)