Published quarterly by the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club
1. A Coal-Free Future is in Our Hands
2. Spring Wildflower Hike Trip Report
3. Little McCormick Creek Watershed Restoration
4. Climate Call to Action!
5. The Great Burn Roadless Area
6. Celebrate and Protect The Great Burn!
7. Mark Your Calendars!
8. Club Officers & Staff
9. Montana Chapter Leaders 2009
9. Newsletter Information
by Brad Hash
Every five years, the eight members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC) gather together to hammer out a plan to keep Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington surging in electricity. As well as ensuring the region of an adequate, economical, efficient and reliable power supply, the council is additionally tasked with protecting, mitigating, and enhancing fish and wildlife affected by the Columbia River Basin hydroelectric system.
Born of the Northwest Power Act passed during the Carter administration, the NWPCC is comprised of a full time staff headquartered in Portland and two governor-appointed council members from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. While the act directs the NWPCC to draft a plan to meet the electrical needs of the Northwest at the lowest possible cost it also must give highest priority to cost-effective conservation to meet future demand for power. Following energy conservation measures, development of renewable energy must be given next highest priority—above fossil fuel generating resources—as long as such renewables are deemed cost-effective. The third leg of the stool is to provide for and encourage wide public participation in the power plan approval process.
While the council directly oversees Bonneville Power Administration, it has indirect but palpable influence over the region’s large utilities such as Northwestern Energy, Puget Sound Energy, Avista Corporation, and Idaho Power. Both these investor-owned utilities and state public service commissions frequently rely and base decisions on analyses and figures from the council’s power plans.
Historically, the council has wrestled to balance salmon recovery and dam removal while implementing energy efficiency and providing guidance on the development of renewable energy. However, with salmon recovery efforts making solid headway, the NWPCC staff began modeling the effects of climate change as both regional temperatures and drought conditions were steadily on the rise. In the Fifth Power Plan released in 2005, the council adopted staff recommendations for no new coal-fired power plants in the region. But preventing new coal power alone is no remedy for climate change. So the staff began analyzing energy models based on reducing the region’s CO2 footprint and climate change was identified as a major theme in the upcoming Sixth Power Plan.
On September 3rd, 2009, the Sixth Power Plan was drafted, and the public comment period is underway. As we applaud the NWPCC staff and council for its diligent effort in drafting this plan, we now must roll up our sleeves and get down to business.
The public comment period is our best opportunity to ensure that the final plan, to be completed in December, will unequivocally address reducing CO2 emissions caused by coal-fired power plants and show that the future of the Northwest’s energy system can be driven by clean sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and conservation. The NWPCC staff has shown in its modeling that we can be completely coal-free by 2020 and that impending carbon emissions costs can significantly impact the future of the world’s largest single source emitter of CO2—coal. We need to let the NWPCC know that we support a plan that weans the region off coal power, integrates renewable energy sources, and sets a high bar for energy efficiency.
This is your chance to participate in developing a power plan that can set the standard for the region, and perhaps the nation. The NWPCC is holding public hearings across the Northwest, including Montana’s only hearing in Missoula. Please join us on Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 7 to 9 pm at the Doubletree Edgewater Hotel (Bitterroot conference room) on the corner of Front and Madison streets. We will provide talking points at the event and materials for submitting your comments.
For more information or to get involved contact Brad Hash at 549-1142 or brad.hash(at)sierraclub.org.
Illustrated by Adrienne Hopkins
by Adrienne Hopkins
This year provided the floral abundance the snow stole last year. Oceans of ubiquitous beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) sent up honey-scented yellow clouds at the slightest touch and left pollen kisses on the passerby. Flower tops sometimes lay in wilted puddles where deer had spat them (sound familiar, gardeners?). While our trail never provides much in the way of fauna, it is always plentiful with evidence of their presence—this year in the form of wolf, coyote & elk scat. Elk seemed to be doing a better job of keeping the trails open than people. One hiker (Hawk) also found a monopedal Sasquatch track.
We had a Benjamin Button-like feeling of going back in time as we gained elevation and the beargrass became tight young buds again and the shooting stars (Dodecatheon) of early spring appeared. Mid-hike we were rewarded with mountain views while wading in floral seas of color. While we were mired in our annual alder (Alnus) jam, John, our navigator, decided that next year the Packer Meadow hike would be on a shorter and less arduous trail. So much for the piquancy of mild uncertainty. Wes served as our gentlemanly Trailbreaker. Then we found ourselves in an unclear clearcut and John extemporized on the drainage's railroad and Plum Creek's "checkerboard" history. Wes hauled a quartz boulder all the way down the mountain.
Along the trail we spotted dwarf water leaf (Hydrophyllum capitatum), horsetail ferns (Equisetum), buttercups (Ranunculus), camas (Camassia quamash), purple and yellow violets (Viola), Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), mountain bluebells (Mertensia ciliata), Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), coral bells (Heuchera), lupine (Lupinus), a vast array of native beard tongues (Penstemon), heart-leaved arnica (Arnica cordifolia), kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), asters, western coralroot (Corallorhiza mertensiana), bigleaf avens (Geum macrophyllum), pinedrops (Pterospora andromeda), cow pen daisy (Verbesina encelioides), arrow-leaf balsalmroot (Balsalmorhiza sagittata), western sweet vetch (Hedysarum occidentale), Rocky Mountain heather (Phyllodoce), elk thistles (Cirsium scariosum), larkspur (Delphinium), globe flower (Trollius), mountain death camas (Zigadenus venomous), Lilliputian blue-eyed marys (Collinsia), and male and female western meadow rues (Thalictrum occidentale). Marjorie kept giving me the Dylan Thomasian pleasure of repeating the word “pipsissiwa”(Chimaphila umbellata), a plant both harmonic and cute.
Arlene made use of the blood-coagulating properties of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) when she scratched her leg. The weedy dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), chickweed (Cerastium), oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), and that floral virus: spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) remained unusable.
Little white flowers are my taxonomic weak point. As soon as this was discovered I was teased mercilessly about them. “And what would this particularly nondescript tiny thing be?” Hmm. Interesting white flowering plants we saw included: false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa), false hellebore (Veratrum), valerian (Valeriana), bedstraw (Galium boreale), western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), western bistort (Polygonum bistortoides), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), pussytoes (Antennaria media), bunch berry (Cornus canadensis), elegant cat’s ears (Calochortus elegans), strawberries (Fragaria), spirea, fringe cups (Tellima grand flora), and wake robins (Trillium).
Getting my revenge, I alerted the hikers that there would be a test at the end of the hike. I gave them two minutes to identify as many flowers as they could remember having seen on the way, with the reward being a chance to win a potted native plant from my nursery. While Dave and Renee put in valiant efforts, and Hawk came up with the entertaining category of “Eatable Plants”, Marjorie came in second, winning a pearly everlasting plant and Arlene beat everyone, winning a flowering bitterroot.
To find out more about participating in Montana Chapter Sierra Club outings, or if you’d like to share your favorite wild places by leading a hike or canoe trip in your region, please contact the Outings Coordinator, John Wolverton at: yodelingdog(at)hotmail.com.
Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited volunteers pose atop erosion control mats they used at Little McCormick Creek.
On July 25th and September 26th (National Public Lands Day), Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited volunteers worked on the Little McCormick Creek Restoration Project, northwest of Missoula. Little McCormick Creek, a tributary of Ninemile Creek and an important westslope cutthroat trout stream, was extensively mined for gold in the early and late 1900s, causing significant damage to the streambanks and water quality. Planting several thousand willows, dogwood, alder and other plants will help stabilize the streambank, reduce water temperature and provide habitat for fish, birds and other animals. The project area is managed by the Lolo National Forest.
The projects desired outcomes are to restore and protect fisheries habitat to better protect trout from the affects of climate change and to reduce climatic and non-climatic stressors. The project will restore 1000’ of stream and will benefit trout in a variety of ways:
- Enhance riparian shade
- Decrease water temperature
- Reduce sediments
- Increase perennial flow
- Create flood plain
- Control weeds
The project also helps to create partnerships and provides opportunity for volunteer engagement.
To get involved in future restoration projects, contact Hunter-Angler Program staffer, Bob Clark in the Missoula field office.
We need our members, volunteers and supporters to help Pass a Strong Climate & Energy Bill This Fall!
Senators Baucus and Tester are getting hundreds of calls from climate change deniers and industry supporters (the result of an organized and well-funded effort). Montanans need to call Senators Baucus and Tester and tell them that we want clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency incentives, and infrastructure upgrades that will wean our nation off foreign oil, create jobs in America, and reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in the process. We need a strong and comprehensive energy bill passed out of the U.S. Senate this Fall!
This is still one of the President’s top priorities and this is a priority of the American public as well (63% of Americans support clean energy legislation according to Benenson Strategy Group poll, September 1, 2009).
We need a bill that includes the following provisions:
- A sunset provision that requires coal plants to control carbon emissions or shut down when the reach a certain age,
- A modification provision that requires coal plants to control greenhouse gases if they make any modifications that would lead to increased emissions, and
- Restoration of the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide, which was stripped in the House version of the bill.
We particularly want to prevent efforts to eliminate or erode the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act.
Both Congressional and EPA action are essential to cutting global warming pollution and moving to a clean energy economy. Congress will set the overall framework for action, and EPA will implement it, in coordination with other key agencies. Congressional action and administrative action go hand-in-hand.
There are two things that you can do today to help ensure a healthy planet for future generations; 1) Call Senator Baucus and Tester AND 2) Submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
1) Contact Your Senators Today!
Senator Max Baucus: (202) 224-2651, or e-mail comments at:
Senator Jon Tester: (202) 224-2644, or e-mail comments at:
If you are a rural electric co-op member please let them know "I am a co-op member!" (http://www.mtco-ops.com/Member_Coops/index.html)
Senator Max Baucus:
511 Hart Senate Ofc. Bldg./Washington DC 20510/(202) 224-2651/fx(202) 224-9412
222 N 32nd St, Ste 100/Billings MT 59101/657-6790/fx 406-657-6793
32 E Babcock, Ste. 114/Bozeman MT 59715/586-6104/fx 406-587-9177
125 W Granite, Ste. 100/Butte MT 59701/782-8700
113 3rd Street N/Great Falls MT 59401/761-1574
30 W 14th St, Ste 206/Helena MT 59601/449-5480
8 3rd St E/Kalispell MT 59901/756-1150
1821 S Ave W, Ste 203/Missoula MT 59801/329-3123/fx 406-728-7610
Senator Jon Tester:
204 Russell Senate Ofc. Bldg./Washington DC 20510/(202) 224-2644/fx (202) 224-8594
222 N 32nd St, Ste 101/Billings MT 59101/252-0550/fx 406-252-7768
211 Haggerty Ln/Bozeman MT 59715 /586-4450/fx 406-586-7647
125 W Granite, Ste 200/Butte MT 59701/723-3277/fx 406-782-4717
321 1st Ave N/Great Falls MT 59401/452-9585
208 N Montana Ave, Ste 202/Helena MT 59601/449-5401/fx 406-449-5462
1845 Hwy 93 S, Ste 210/Kalispell MT 59901/257-3360/fx 406-257-3974
116 W Front St / Missoula MT 59802/728-3003/fx 406-728-2193
2) Write a letter to the editor and send it to your local newspaper! Letters must be less than 300 words and contain the writer’s name, address and telephone number (phone numbers are for verification, not publication). Please send us a copy for our files.
Missoula Independent, editor(at)missoulanews.com
Ravalli Republic, editor(at)ravallirepublic.com
Helena Independent Record, irstaff(at)helenair.com (200 word limit)
Bozeman Chronicle, citydesk(at)dailychronicle.com
Billings Gazette, speakup(at)billingsgazette.com
Great Falls Tribune, tribletters(at)greatfallstribune.com (250 word limit)
Fireweed quickly colonizes a recently burned area of the Great Burn.
The Great Burn Roadless Area occupies approximately 100,000 acres of the Lolo National Forest in Montana (250,000 total acres Montana/Idaho). It is a vast expanse of wild country along the Montana/Idaho border west of Missoula, Montana in the northern Bitterroot Mountains. This primeval landscape burned heavily in the Great Fire of 1910 leaving charred snags, grassy slopes, and expanses of sub-alpine tundra-like meadows. High cirques, impressive stands of mountain hemlock, and dozens of clear lakes also adorn the high country. While not as high and "craggy" as the main Bitterroot Range to the south, the area is biologically-rich. Spared by the great fire are magical pockets of ancient western red cedar—some individuals over 500 years old—carpeted underfoot with mossy beds of sword and maidenhair ferns. Wind-swept peaks like Rhodes and Crater rise to nearly 8,000 ft., and an abundance of moisture nurtures the area. The Great Burn is a critical biological link between the massive Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness complex to the south and the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem to the north. Full protection of this interstate wildland is essential to ensure quality hunting and fishing for future generations.
Due to abundant wild habitat and clean water, big-game hunting and fishing are the most popular recreation activities. Backpacking has become more and more popular. Spectacular scenery and a good system of uncrowded trails lure hikers. Hikers can enjoy 40 miles of the splendid Bitterroot divide without encountering a road. Horse packing & day rides, berry and mushroom picking, and outdoor photography are additional activities gaining popularity. In winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities up the west fork of Fish creek via Clearwater crossing trailhead.
Elk and Fisheries
Elk are an important socio-economic component of Montana's culture and economy. At one time, the Clearwater Basin elk population in Idaho was one of the largest herds in the country. This was, in part, due to the large fires that occurred in the basin through 1934. Elk summer range is a key feature of the Great Burn, nicely complementing winter range in places like Cach Creek and the Burdette Creek roadless area (which is specifically identified and managed for this purpose).
Fisheries: Fish Creek receives 2,000 angler days a year (an angler day is one person fishing for at least 4 hours.) The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) conducted a survey of the lakes in the Great Burn between 2004 and 2006 which included bull trout counts and genetic testing on cutthroat trout. As a result a comprehensive fisheries management plan is in place for the area.
The entire Great Burn has been identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as critical habitat for bull trout, a threatened species under the endangered Species Act. Fish Creek is:
- Primary drainage for bull trout spawning and rearing in Middle Clark Fork River
- Stronghold for westslope cutthroat trout
- Important source of trout recruitment for Clark Fork River Fishery
- Fish Creek main stem is a popular trout fishery
Hikers enjoying a magical grove of ancient western red-cedar trees on a July outing up the west fork of Fish Creek in the Great Burn Roadless Area. Some of the Cedar trees here, are over 500 years old!
Love to hike, hunt or fish in the Great Burn? Join the Sierra Club and local experts as they share their experiences, expertise and love for this special place. You too will want to protect the Great Burn after this evening!
Beverly Dupree, Policy & Field Studies Director, Great Burn Study Group
Vicki Edwards, Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Lad Knotek, Fisheries Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Bob Clark, Associate Regional Representative, Sierra Club
Where: Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins ave., Missoula
When: Thursday, October 8th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public
Social hour and appetizers will follow the event!
To RSVP to this event or for more information, contact Sierra Club’s Missoula field office at 549-1142 or e-mail at bob.clark(at)sierraclub.org
Thursday October 8th
The Great Burn: Panel Discussion and Social Hour (Missoula)
More info in item #6
Tuesday October 13th:
Speak out for clean energy!
Attend and submit your comments at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council public hearing. Help set the course for a clean energy future for Montana and the Northwest. At Missoula Doubletree Hotel, Bitterroot Room, 7-9pm. (See article #1 for more information).
210 N. Higgins Ave., Ste. 222
Missoula, MT 59802
PO Box 9283
Missoula, MT 59807
Main Line: (406)549-1142
Line 2: (406)549-0732
Paul Shively, Senior Regional Rep., paul.shively(at)sierraclub.org
Bob Clark, Associate Regional Rep., bob.clark(at)sierraclub.org
Brad Hash, Associate Regional Rep., brad.hash(at)sierraclub.org
2401 Montana Ave, Suite 5
Billings MT 59101
Mike Scott, Associate Regional Rep., mike.scott(at)sierraclub.org
222 East Main St., Ste. 303
Bozeman, MT 59715
Monica Fella, Associate Regional Rep., monica.fella(at)sierraclub.org
Larry Evans, Bruce Hunner, Jonathan Matthews, Jay Mennenga, Jerry Nichols (Chair), Raina Phillips (Secretary), Jeff van den Noort (Vice-Chair), John Wolverton
Conservation/Litigation, Jerry Nichols
CCL Delegate, John Wolverton, Jonathan Matthews (alternate)
Election, Larry Evans
Energy, Jonathan Matthews
Finance, Jeff van den Noort
Treasurer, Gia Randano
Fundraising, Bruce Hunner
Membership, Raina Phillips
Montana Smart Growth, Bruce Hunner
Newsletter, John Wolverton (chair), Rebecca Richter (editor)
Nominating, Larry Evans
Outings Coordinator, John Wolverton
Political, Johnathan Matthews
Website Manager, Jeff van den Noort
Please send your letters, articles, photographs, illustrations and advertisements to:
OR mail to:
Rebecca Richter/PO Box 3766/Missoula, MT 59806
The Montana Sierran reserves the right to edit or reject submissions at its discretion.
Submissions must include first and last name with city/town (and state, if outside of Montana). Please include your phone number and email address so we may contact you.
Send digital photographs at 300ppi in .jpg format. Including a caption and credit is always appreciated.
Deadlines for content submission are March 21, June 21, September 21, and December 15.
Please contact me at (406)546-9658 if you have questions. Advertisers please contact Paula Goldberg regarding billing arrangements: heypaula(at)blackfoot.net.
-Rebecca Richter, Editor