Fire danger moves to moderate on Flathead area public lands

From the official interagency press release…

One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire

July 14, 2020, Kalispell, MT – Flathead area fire managers moved the fire danger rating to moderate today as fuels continue to dry out this week into next.

The danger rating is elevated for the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, the DNRC Swan Unit, Stillwater Unit, and Kalispell Unit, and other local state lands. As a whole, Flathead County is also at a moderate fire danger.

Moderate fire danger means that all fine dead fuels like dried grasses ignite readily, and fires start easily. Campfires are likely to escape, and no debris burning is permitted this time because the area has entered fire season. Fires spread rapidly. Moderate intensity burning may develop on slopes or in concentrations of fine fuels. Under moderate fire danger, fires may take more time or resources to suppress.

Residents and visitors alike need to be especially vigilant this fire season and firefighters appreciate the public taking extra care with prevention. Check trailer chains so that they are not dragging and throwing sparks into roadside grasses. Become familiar with the campfire regulations wherever you are camping this summer. Never leave a campfire unattended and always extinguish it before leaving.

For information on how to prepare for wildfire season, contact the Community Preparedness Specialist for the Kalispell Unit of the DNRC at 406-751-2270.

Frozen Moose Project begins second round of public comment; online meeting July 16

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest, Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District, has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for the Frozen Moose Project.

Project documents, including the environmental assessment and maps, can be accessed at the project Web site under the “Analysis” tab: www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57310.

They will be hosting a virtual public meeting on Thursday, July 16, 2020, from 6:00-7:00 pm. The purpose of the public meeting is to share information with the public about the environmental assessment and to answer questions about the Frozen Moose Project. (See the “Frozen Moose Environmental Assessment Cover Letter” below for details on joining the meeting.)

More information about the project, including how to submit a comment, and connection information for the virtual meeting can be found on the project Website.

Questions or comments about the Frozen Moose Project should be submitted to comments-northern-flathead-hungry-horse-glacier-view@usda.gov.

Associated documents…

Press Release – “North Fork fuels reduction, timber, and restoration project seeks second round of public comment”

Frozen Moose Environmental Assessment Cover Letter

 

Status of Special Use Permits in the North Fork

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

Here’s an excerpt from a note Rob Davies, Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger, sent around yesterday (July 2) concerning the issuance of special use permits in the North Fork. This is not quite officially final information, but it is unlikely to change in any meaningful way. The full email text is available here: https://www.gravel.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Special-Use-Permits-in-the-North-Fork-Email-July-2-2020.pdf

NW Adventures, ATV Guiding,   I have decided to not issue a permit in the North Fork based on comments received during scoping.   This company will still be permitted and operate on the West side of the Whitefish divide with one exception, they will be allowed to take clients to Red Meadow Lake and depart back to the West.  They will not be allowed to travel beyond Red Meadow Lake and they will not be able to take clients to Red Meadow Lake on weekends or Holidays.    Due to the COVID situation they are not expected to have as many clients as they were hoping for in their proposal.

Whitefish Shuttles.    Van tours and livery service to several trail heads, short hikes and bike tour in the North Fork will be permitted.  They expect much reduced numbers of clients and trips due to the COVID situation.

Cycling House, Bicycling tours cancelled due to COVID.

Adventure Cycling, Bicycle tours, cancelled due to COVID.

Spotted Dog Cycles:   Bicycle tours cancelled due to COVID.

Two of the five permits that were proposed in The North Fork will be issued this year, and they are only valid for 1 season.  The proponents would have to reapply if they wish to operate next year.

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.

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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 wkwalker@nvdi.com 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.)