Crown of the Continent E-Notes, Issue 1

Page 1

Crown Continent of the

The University of Montana

E – N ot e s fa l l 2 0 0 9 , N o. 1

Flathead Lake


n March 1, 1812, David Thompson, famed explorer and fur trader, crested a hill near presentday Polson. “we alighted on the E-Magazine Highlights top of A Bare Knowl, commanding a very Crown Issues, Research extensive view of the lake and country far around,” Thompson wrote when he saw an immense, crystalclear lake stretching north toward glistening white mountain tops. Dense conifer forests dominated the shoreline on both sides of this wide body of water. On the east, the slopes rose quickly, culminating in jagged snow-covered peaks thousands of feet above the valley floor. Today, these heights are called the Mission Mountains. The gentle rises he noted above the west side of the lake are the Salish Mountains. Thompson was the first white man to view a site that still holds today’s travelers in awe: Flathead Lake. The blue waters of this sparkling western Montana gem fill a huge

basin scoured out by a massive glacier that inched down the Rocky Mountain Trench from Canada about 40,000 years ago. About 12,000 years ago, the ice reached its maximum southern advance, dumping all matters of rubble and creating, just south of today’s Polson, what is known in geo-speak as a terminal moraine. At first sight, the ridge looks like a natural barrier holding back Flathead Lake. However, the moraine doesn’t dam the lake. In the southwest corner of the basin, glacial melt water broke through mud and sand to reach solid bedrock, then eroded a narrow gorge through the hard rock. An overlook of the passageway

The Crown of the Continent—what some call “The Backbone of the World”—serves as a living laboratory for climate change, a stage for urban-wildland interface issues and a tapestry of human and geographic history. The Crown of the Continent Initiative at the University of Montana launched a biannual electronic magazine that, like this newsletter, helps to shed light on and bring information, stories and photos from this incredible ecosystem. Look for the next issue this winter. To access the E-Magazine, go online to http:// and click on the cover under publications. For more information on the initiative or to request an electronic copy of the E-Magazine and subsequent issues and newsletters, e-mail These publications are brought to you free of charge, but we appreciate your donations. Please see the next page for how to help.

Continued on PAGE 4 PAGE 1: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1


Coming Home By James P. Foley, UM Executive Vice President


aving spent many years away from Montana, where I was born and raised, to work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., I think of the Crown of the Continent e-publications as an adaptable memoir for those who experience northwest Montana, Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. The pictures in the E-Magazine and E-Notes don’t so much tell the stories as evoke them. Instead of relating memories, they conjure them up. The Crown of the Continent is everyone’s place, and, hopefully, there is a picture and a story for everyone. There is an almost palpable energy growing out of these e-publications—it also demonstrates that the Crown of the Continent will thrive for many generations EriK Steinbakken to come. For many, the Crown and Montana hold cherished names and places which will continue to take on meaning for more people. Most importantly, the Crown changes, but the familiar feelings it brings remain. In the Crown of the Continent, one can feel most comfortable with oneself. It’s a place to begin and grow from. I see Mt. Brown and still feel the fatigue, aches and pains from the 8.5-mile grueling hike to the lookout with my longtime friend Randy Harrison. There—in the serenity of the park—we would pick berries, talk about fishing and rehash our time spent there. When we returned, footsore from up and down the mountain we of course would announce that it was be time for a swim in the cold waters of Lake McDonald—which would take our breath away during the first plunge. The Crown evokes memories of an August Congressional recess many years ago when Montana’s Sen. B.K. Wheeler and U.S. Sen. Tom Walsh sat on the shores of Lake McDonald. With streams gurgling below and the stars overhead, Walsh said, “Burt, we are so fortunate no king in the world could have anything better than this.” I was fortunate, more fortunate than my mother and father, who were from Butte and Anaconda, to have the luxury of a lifelong connection to the Crown of the Continent. But that’s enough of my memories and impressions—turn the pages and you will find your own.

We’d Like Your Help Donations large and small—$5, $10, $25 or more—are needed as we grow our efforts to bring you “The Crown” in a variety of ways and formats: Symposia, such as the one we recently held in Kalispell, book projects, newsletters, regular issues of this E-Magazine, etc. Your contributions also will enable us to get students “into the field” in Crown areas, offer courses for them and the general public, support student research projects, and provide you and other interested parties with accessible and high-quality information about our wonderful and fascinating Crown. Donations are tax-deductible and should be sent to: The University of Montana Foundation, P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807

Please make checks payable to the UM Foundation with a notation to be directed to the “Crown of the Continent initiative.” You also may donate online at https://safe. montana/fundraiser/?s=6070. Select your desired gift amount, designate it to the College of Arts & Sciences and note that your gift should go to the “Crown of the Continent Initiative” on the “Additional Comments/Instructions Regarding Your Gift” page. Thank you.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA CROWN OF THE CONTINENT INITIATIVE Department of Geography – Old Journalism Building The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812


George M. Dennison President Royce C. Engstrom Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs James P. Foley Executive Vice President Dan Dwyer Vice President for Research & Development Christopher Comer Dean, College of Arts and Sciences © The University of Montana PAGE 2:

Faculty and students from many University of Montana departments contribute to the Crown of the Continent Initiative’s overall efforts, including this publication.


Rick Graetz – Initiative Co-Director, Geography faculty Jerry Fetz – Initiative Co-Director, Professor, Dean Emeritus, Coll. of Arts & Sciences Keith Graham – Art Director, School of Journalism faculty Ashley Zuelke – Designer and Copy Editor, Journalism and Political Science Student Joe Veltkamp – Web Designer, Economics and Media Arts Student, Spectral Fusion Susie Graetz – Editorial Consultant, International Programs

Any use or reproduction of this work requires permission of the directors of the Crown of the Continent Initiative. Published by The University of Montana Press.

from the directors

First E-Notes Offers Crown News, Events for Fall By Jerry Fetz and Rick Graetz Welcome to the first issue of what we are calling the Crown of the Continent E-Notes. As we indicated in the first issue of the Crown of the Continent EMagazine that launched last spring, it is our intention at the University of Montana’s Crown Initiative to publish electronically two issues each of the magazine and Notes each year. We have been very pleased by the positive response and comments we have received from many of you about the first magazine issue. Although these E-Notes are meant to serve a somewhat different purpose, we hope that you will find them useful and informative as well. In this first issue we focus some of our attention on one of the many “gems” in the Crown, Flathead Lake. You will find a few photos of this marvelous lake and the mountains that surround it, a “state of the lake” report from Jack Stanford, director of UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, as well as a short description of how the lake came into being and has changed in the past century. With this issue, we will also attempt to let you know what kinds of events, exhibits and opportunities are in the works to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of Glacier National Park and suggest how you can find out about more of what is scheduled by GNP and

tile. We thank the Missoulian for the latter article, which we have reprinted here. You will see information about upcoming events in and about the Crown, many of which are sponsored by our partners in this Crown of the Continent Initiative. On page 9 you will see the entire schedule for Flathead Valley Community College’s 2009 Crown of the Continent Lecture Series that begins Sept. 15. Finally, we will strive to let you hear directly from our partners, such as the story in this issue about the National Park Association/National Geographic Crown of the Continent Map MISTAKIS INSTITUTE Project. In the next issue, we will focus more its many partners and supporters. on the work our partners in Canada. You will also notice in this first issue Once again, we thank you for your that we are featuring an article about a interest, comments, suggestions and, research project that focuses on the efeven, your financial support. We hope fects of irrigation in the Flathead River you have lots of opportunities to enBasin, as well as one about the recent joy the Crown directly as we enter the change in ownership of an “institution” colorful fall season. in the Crown, the Polebridge Mercan-

By the numbers: The Nature Conservancy in the crown — Conservation Buyers Properties include all of the former Plum Acres (Est.)

70,779 in 76 Conservation Easements 14,331 in Preserve Properties 194,734 in 21 Conservation Buyer Properties 20,142 in 10 Assists 66,328 in 45 Co-op Properties 320 in 2 Deed Restrictions

366,634 total acres of protected land

Creek land in the Blackfoot Community Project and Montana Legacy Project. Some have been sold to private parties with easements on them. Of those The Nature Conservancy still owns, some will go to government or private parties restricted by conservation easements held by either governmental or non-governmental organizations. — Assists are properties in which TNC has helped place under easements to be held by other entities. — Co-op Properties are areas TNC owned at one time, but have subsequently been sold to various government agencies and conservation buyers.

* Areas include the Blackfoot, Rocky Mountain Front, Swan, North Fork of the Flathead and Montana Legacy Project Land. PAGE 3: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1

Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, at sunset. Continued from FRONT PAGE

of the Flathead River and Kerr Dam now clearly displays the gorge and the soft sediments above it. Present-day Flathead Lake fills a basin that was a lingering mass of the glacier while it melted. Geologists surmise that lobe of ice survived while the rest of the glacier melted because it was insulated beneath a large accumulation of broken rock and soil from landslides that dropped onto the ice in numerous places during the glacier’s passage south through British Columbia. Melting ice filled most of the Flathead Valley floor with deposits of sand and gravel. Meanwhile, water running off the glacial remnant beneath its earthy cover carried sediment from the ice elsewhere. When the last of the glacier finally melted, the place left unfilled by sediment became Flathead Lake. In 1939, at the end of the Depression Era, Kerr Dam was built in the gorge that carried the overflow of the lake. This 204-foot-high concrete structure PAGE 4

generates hydroelectricity and controls the lake’s water level. In winter, when water is released, the lake sits at its predam pool and is kept at this stage to contain spring runoff. By late May, Flathead Lake reaches its maximums—370 feet in its deepest place and 2,893 feet in elevation. This, the largest body of freshwater west of the nation’s heartland, now stretches north and south for 27 miles and averages seven miles in width,15.5 miles at its widest point. Its 187 miles of shoreline—on its main lake and islands —are washed by water collected from mountain snows, lakes and springs that feed the three forks of the Flathead River before they empty into the lake. The beauty of the place attracted white settlers, and by the 1880s estimates had the scattered population of the Flathead Valley at 2,000 people. From 1885 to 1930, steamboats carrying passengers and freight plied the waters of the grand lake, as it was difficult to negotiate the irregular shores. The steamers traveled back and forth

Rick and susie graetz

from Demersville (four miles south of Kalispell on the Flathead River, and now only a memory) to Polson. A one-way trip took three to four hours. Traveling the shores in the days before roads could be an adventure and stories abound. A road of sorts along the west shore came along in the 1880s. It lead from Polson to the north end but was steep and hazardous, so much so that reports say wagons had to be lowered downslope by ropes. Completion of the roads along the shores eventually ended the steamboat business. Compared to other parts of Montana, towns along the lake came late. Polson was the first settlement. In 1880, it went by the name Lambert’s Landing, after Harry Lambert who had opened a store there. After the site started growing, and an actual town was established, it was named for David Polson, a rancher who lived in the Mission Valley to the south. The post office there was opened in 1898. Somers, founded in 1901 as a mill


Glacier National Park Celebrates 100 Years


n May 11, 1910, Glacier Na-

tional Park was signed into law as our nation’s tenth national park by President Taft. Today, the park is working with a team of volunteers to help plan and implement a community-based Centennial Program. As we move into the park’s second century our focus is to celebrate the rich history of preservation, inspire personal connections and partnerships, and engage future stewards. With neighboring communities and partners, the park will provide a diverse range of centennial opportunities—from educational programs and commemorative events to legacy projects. Everyone directly involved with the centennial has a personal story of why Glacier National Park is important

to them. It is our hope that park friends and neighbors will personally recognize the centennial as well. Many cultures and people share the story of Glacier National Park’s past, present and future. Deeply-rooted personal connections characterize this exceptional story. The park’s centennial provides all Americans and world citizens a chance to find an increased understanding of and dedication to the rich history and preservation of this pristine treasure. Glacier National Park is truly the crown of the continent—a place where residents and visitors alike may create cherished memories. We look forward to Pete Thomas sharing the story of this landscape during the coming months. “Goat’s-Eye View from Mt. Siyeh”

UPCOMING CENTENNIAL EVENTS Sept.15-Oct. 6, 2009 Crown of the Continent Lecture Series Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, MT

Nov. 5, 2009-February 2011 Glacier Centennial Exhibit Montana Historical Society Museum, Helena, MT

Dec. 31, 2009 Centennial New Years’ Eve Celebration Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

For more information, go to or call Kass Hardy, centennial coordinator, at 406-888-7971. town, served as a central point for large logging operations until about 1948 when the Somers Lumber Company closed. Bigfork was platted in 1901 by Everit Sliter, and named because the Swan River, a fork of the Flathead River, flows into the lake at this point. In October 1891, the formation of the Flathead Reservation (formerly the Jocko Reservation) brought together the area’s original Indian populations as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The southern half of Flathead Lake is part of the reservation. Say “the Flathead” and sweet cherries come to mind. Their delicate white blossoms in May signify spring as much as their green branches laden with rubyred fruit do summer. The micro-climate of this part of the valley is conducive to the cherries’ growth. More moderate weather than the rest of Montana and few rapid temperature changes protect

the crop. As spring comes to the state, killing frosts are common. But along the shore, water heats slowly and retards the arrival of spring, thus ensuring the cherry blossoms will not bud too early and be claimed by frost. Warmer water in the fall, after summer heating, shelters the trees from an early freeze that would destroy them. Wildhorse Island, rising 850 feet above the water in the Big Arm area, is Flathead’s most prominent landmark. Only a few wild horses still roam this Montana State Park—a herd of bighorn sheep (80-90 in number) is now the main wildlife species. Eagles, owls, geese and osprey also spend time on the island. Aside from Wildhorse, five other state parks and several fishing access points are found along the perimeter of the lake. In 1899 Morton Elrod, a scientist and accomplished photographer, es-

tablished The University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station in Big Fork. In1908 it was moved to its present location at Yellow Bay on the lake’s east side. A National Wildlife Refuge graces Flathead’s north shore. Placid water in the morning and whitecaps in the afternoon is a common situation on the lake. Storms capable of destroying docks and boats are not uncommon. Boaters going out in the open need to know the weather forecast and pay heed to lake wind warnings. Sailors find plenty of natural power to propel their boats on the big lake. Sightings of the legendary Flathead Lake Monster have been the source of folk tales for more than 100 years. Some try to explain the strange wakes moving slowly along the water with no boat in sight as being caused by a giant sturgeon. But then, who knows?

PAGE 5: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1


National Geographic, Local Partners Map Stories of the Crown By Steve Thompson Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association

What’s special about your place in the Crown of the Continent? And, what are people doing to keep it that way? Those are the questions posed to the public by a diverse alliance of communities, businesses, conservation groups, tribes and local governments in the Alberta, British Columbia and Montana reaches of the Crown. The result: A unique type of community-based map developed in partnership with National Geographic Society. The partners were unified around the concept of geotourism, defined as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.” The community mapping process was led by the Glacier office of the National Parks Conservation Association. The Crown of the Continent Geotourism MapGuide was completed in March 2008 along with the webbased companion, The partnership that created the map and Web site is the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council. Following completion of the MapGuide, council members agreed to maintain the partnership to advance the project’s long-term goals of economic development, regional communications and stewardship. The council aims to engage and inspire communities and visitors to celebrate, enjoy and take care of this special place. “The Crown of the Continent is one of the most intact natural ecosystems in the temperate zones of the world,” said Jonathan Tourtellot of National Geographic Society, senior editor of the Crown of the Continent MapGuide. “It’s also a place with a rich cultural heritage: Sovereign first nations still occupy the same territory after thousands of years, alongside loggers, ranchers, miners and, more recently, an influx of new residents who have brought far-flung business ventures and incomes. This map tells the stories tied to this very special landscape.” PAGE 6

Company Widens Gold Search above Glacier National Park Expanded gold exploration north of Glacier National Park has Montana interests worried about downstream environmental and economic impacts. “The mining company has apparently made a business decision that investment in the Canadian Flathead may bear fruit for them,” said Will Hammerquist of the National Parks Conservation Association. Hammerquist called the gold exploration another example of industrial land use that fails to recognize the area’s importance. The mining zone about 10 miles north of the Montana border drains south into the North Fork Flathead River. That waterway forms the western edge of Glacier Park before reaching Flathead Lake. For decades, a transboundary clash has centered on coal mining proposals, often pulling both federal governments into the fray. In early August, Max Resource Corp. announced it will double its area of gold exploration, potentially by drilling samples on the western banks of the river. Plans call for exploration investment of more than $1 million by June 2013. The area is part of a protected “reserve” created in 2004 in response to a controversial coal mining proposal. The British Columbia officials said the region was too politically and environmentally sensitive for mining operations. Leonard MacMillan, spokesman for Max Resource, said he was unaware of the site’s controversy, and stressed the potential gold prospects in the area. His company has discovered apparently rich ore, he said, “and we think we have an angle on where to do some work.” The work—“shallow drilling to determine the size and direction of mineralization”—will be done on a lease held by Eastfield Resources, where company leadership is well aware of the land’s history of international dispute. But Eastfield President Bill Martin said the biggest resistance has been to coal bed methane development, because of the vast amounts of wastewater discharged. A gold mine, he said,

Montana Senators Push for Transboundary Agreement

Salazar Suggests Protections for Glacier Within Year Near the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in mid-August he would like some type of designation protecting Glacier National Park and the Flathead Basin from upstream natural resource development in place by next year. “Where we have to aim is for an international covenant between the United States and Canada that will protect the Flathead water basin,” Salazar said, flanked by Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester. “I will be working closely with Senator Baucus and Senator Tester to try to figure out the next steps, and it will include conversations that we will have with the Canadian government and my counterparts in Canada,” Salazar added. “How exactly we will move forward—that is still to be determined. But I would hope that that pathway leads us to some greater sense of protection by the time we get to the centennial of Glacier National Park.” The visit occurred as attention to potential environmental threats to Glacier Park and the Flathead Basin are—once again—ramping up. In June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee approved a resolution designating that an international team of researchers travel in September to the Flathead Valley and British Columbia to assess whether a proposed coal mine and coal-bed methane drilling operation above the park necessitate declaring Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park “in danger,” due to environmental degradation. A new mining project surfaced shortly afterward. Salazar noted the economic benefits of Glacier Park as well as touted the roughly $40 million in stimulus dollars allocated to the park. But he also noted the difficulty of resolving decades-long disputes between Montana and British Columbia over proposed Canadian mining projects. B.C. officials, however, have long contended that they have a right to develop their natural resources responsibly, and that critics of such development simply want to establish a new national park in the Canadian Flathead, which could restrict activities like hunting and snowmobiling. Baucus and Tester said that for too long state officials opposed upstream development projects as they rose up—a tactic Baucus compared to the “Whack-a-Mole” carnival game. The time has come, Baucus said, to take a more offensive approach to reach some sort of long-term agreement with Canada. In the meantime, however, Baucus hopes mining projects, like the new gold mine proposed by Max Resource Corp., will succumb to public pressure once it grows clear how deeply opposition to such projects runs in Montana.

does not involve the same water pollutants, and so “doesn’t have to be looked at in the same way.” But looked at it surely will be. Hammerquist says the mountain being explored—Trachyte Ridge— is clearly visible from Glacier National Park, and even as far south as Polebridge. As gold exploration moves closer to the river, he said, downstream concerns grow increasingly acute. In addition, biologists now worry about industrial operations fragmenting habitat used by transboundary wildlife, including wolves, elk and grizzly bears that live part of the year in

Glacier Park and part in the Canadian Flathead. Glacier and its Canadian neighbor, Waterton Lakes National Park, are designated a World Heritage Site, and in July a United Nations committee asked the two countries to submit a “conservation report” on the disputed region. UNESCO officials also asked Canada to forestall any mining activity pending environmental review, and promised a scientific site visit by an international delegation. Stories by Michael Jamison of the Missoulian

PAGE 7: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1

Clean and Clear, but Warmer The State of Flathead Lake 2009 By Jack Stanford Director, Flathead Lake Biological Station

Researchers at the Flathead Lake Biological Station have produced periodic reports that describe water quality in the big lake back to 1899. The older studies describe Flathead as it was before Kerr Dam and other human-caused influences such as flow regulation, lakeshore erosion, pollution from sewage treatment plants and diffuse inputs from urban and agricultural lands began to change water quality. Starting in 1977, water quality data have been collected routinely by Bonnie Ellis and Jim Craft, Flathead Lake Biological Station scientists. At least 15 times a year, Craft and Ellis are out on the lake in the station’s

research vessel, Jessie B, collecting water samples for laboratory analyses. They obtain profiles of temperature, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, conductivity, light penetration, water clarity and other measures with sophisticated electronic sensors that are lowered through the water column from the boat. The Flathead Lake water quality database is one of the longest and most-detailed for large lakes worldwide. These data have allowed Ellis and her colleagues to describe the longterm trends in water quality that are coherent with the expanding population and changing land uses in the Flathead Basin. Her studies provide a basis for minimizing pollution and maintaining clear, clean water in

one of the jewels of the Crown of the Continent. With help from Daniel Goodman, an environmental statistician at Montana State University, Ellis recently reanalyzed all the Flathead Lake data, including all of the fisheries monitoring data collected by biologists working for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The analysis shows that water quality gradually declined as the human footprint in the Flathead Basin increased. However, the biggest change in the lake was not due to pollution, but was clearly and directly related to the introduction of various fish species during the early years and a mysid (“opossum”) shrimp species in early 1980s.

rick and susie graetz

Above: Flathead Lake has not frozen over since 1988, which can be seen in this view from Somers. Opposite: Cherry blossoms. PAGE 8

The native fish community, notably have become a popular sport fishery nutrient supply increases. Ellis’ analybull and cutthroat trout, have almost in Flathead Lake. Ironically, bull and ses show that nitrogen inputs have completely disappeared from Flathead cutthroat trout populations are robust steadily increased over the last decade. Lake. The food web has changed due to in the South Fork of the Flathead River Managers and the public must be the shrimp and interactions between because Hungry Horse Dam blocked vigilant and proactive to preserve the native and non-native fishes have been immigration of non-native species and healthy state of Flathead Lake water strongly negative, especially with quality. We have adequate laws the case of lake trout that reproto protect water quality if the duce in the lake. Juvenile lake trout statutes are enforced. Nonethefeed effectively on the abundant less, conversion of ag lands to shrimp, allowing for more adult urban and commercial uses in fish than was possible in the prethe Flathead Valley is gradually mysid period. Hybridization with increasing the spreading inputs non-native brook and rainbow of pollution to the Flathead Rivtrout also is contributing to naer and the lake. Gravel mining tive fish decline. along the Flathead River is reducOn the other hand, water qualing the resiliency of the alluvial ity in Flathead Lake—measured aquifer to reduce pollutant loads. in terms of water clarity, algae Encroachment of human uses into production and deep water oxyriparian buffer zones along the Flathead Lake Biological Station gen content, among other key river and lake increases every variables—remains remarkably year, reducing natural trapping For more information, go to good given the large number of of nitrogen and phosphorus that people living around the lake and increase algae production in the in the Kalispell Valley. lake. Plans for giant strip mines In fact, Flathead Lake remains among the reservoir provides an adequate to remove coal in the Canadian North the cleanest of the world’s large lakes rearing habitat. Fork of the Flathead River are still movowing to two key attributes. First, the Perhaps our native fishes can be ing forward in spite of repeated demFlathead River dominates the water preserved there in the long term but onstration that negative effects will flux through the lake and its water is preventing introductions via bait extend to Flathead Lake and the Glaclean, clear and cold because it comes buckets or illegal planting will be prob- cier-Waterton International Peace Park mostly from Glacier National Park and lematic for managers. Likewise, new and World Heritage Site. the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. introductions into Flathead Lake are a Continuing the Biological Station Second, water quality management real threat. Zebra mussels and walleye monitoring program is essential to in the lake basin is very good overall. are likely candidates—and a great deal keep track of changes in water quality All of the urban centers have good more effort than currently exists will be and to stimulate proper management sewage collection and treatment required to prevent another bad intro- responses. The monitoring program facilities. Kalispell’s is among the best duction, if it has not already occurred. costs $200,000 per year for the full in the USA. Flathead Lake in 2009 is clean and suite of variables and sites that should Best management practices on forest clear. Nothing unusual has occurred so be routinely sampled. Flathead Lake lands are well established and monit- far this year in the monitoring record. water quality monitoring by the Bioored basin-wide. But, agricultural It does appear that the lake is get- logical Station is funded by legislative activities are poorly monitored and ting warmer year by year, however. In- appropriation and Environmental Prosome of the ground-water monitoring deed, the volume of the warm upper tection Agency clean water dollars that wells have high nitrate, pesticide and layers in the lake during has increased are passed through the Department of herbicide concentrations. substantially since 1990. The lake has Environmental Quality. Unfortunately, Not much can be done about not frozen over since 1988 and per- the monitoring program currently is the food web changes that Ellis and sistence of ice in the bays is declining. running on a bare-bones budget becolleagues have documented. Bull Summer surface temperatures rou- cause the department has been untrout likely cannot hang on in the face tinely exceed 21˚C (70˚F), too warm for able to maintain their share. Private of the burgeoning lake trout popula- cold-adapted cutthroat trout to grow, contributions to the monitoring tion that has spread from Flathead thus compounding the food web prob- program may be made at www.umt. Lake to all the big lakes in Glacier Na- lem that has pushed cutthroat to the edu/flbs. tional Park where bulls and cuts once brink of extinction. Moreover, polluAfter all, what’s more important than were abundant. Moreover, lake trout tion algae thrive in warm water as the Flathead Lake?

Monitoring Program

PAGE 9: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1

Human Dimensions of Irrigation in the Flathead River Basin By Joel Brown

Combines in a wheat field near Pablo, Mont. Late spring signals the start of an annual rite of passage for water molecules in the Crown of the Continent. Slowly, as the winter snowpack starts to melt, the water it holds begins to move in an endless trek known as the hydrologic cycle. Runoff flows into high mountain gullies and collects in swollen creeks and rivers. To the farmers and ranchers along the western flank of the Crown, spring runoff from the winter snowpack also signifies the beginning of irrigation season. The western edge of the Crown of the Continent, stretching from Whitefish to the Jocko Valley, is dotted with more than a thousand farms and ranches that depend on irrigation water to survive. More than 90 percent of water consumption in the Flathead River basin is used for irrigation. This year, the Geography Department at the University of Montana began conducting a study to explore how water policy and perceptions of drought and water availability affect water management in the basin. The project, headed by professors David Shively and Sarah Halvorson, PAGE 10

rick graetz

is being done in conjunction with the Inland Northwest Research Alliance’s Water Resource Consortium. The consortium aims to foster a holistic understanding of water resources in the Intermountain West. Water policy in the Flathead River basin is complex, and initial findings have uncovered a diverse range of issues that irrigators face. Irrigation in the basin primarily occurs in two locations. An area north of Flathead Lake, in the Stillwater and Flathead River drainages, contains a mix of irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture. In 2007, the USDA Census of Agriculture reported that Flathead County, where this northern agricultural area lies, consists of more than 250,000 acres, more than half of which are irrigated. One issue irrigators face in this region is the rising cost in the time and money they must spend on water rights permitting and processing. Permit applications to change points of diversion can take more than a year to process and be expensive, as consultants are usually hired to prove the legitimacy of existing water rights and show that a

change in diversion will not harm other water-right holders. While the permitting process is meant to protect water-users, it often creates an unfamiliar and unappetizing procedure that irrigators, who traditionally manage water with handshakes rather than expensive consultants, are not thrilled about. In addition, irrigators also must handle rising electricity infrastructure installation costs, making the installation of new pumps a costly venture. Utility companies in the 1990s underpriced power-line and transformerinstallation costs, counting on large returns because of rapid development in the Kalispell and Whitefish areas. When these returns were not as substantial as hoped, companies raised prices to recoup costs. The second major location of irrigated agriculture in the Flathead River basin sits south of Flathead Lake. Separated only by the length of the lake (30 miles), this basin area holds a much different set of water policy issues than its northern counterpart. This area stretches the entirety of the Mission Valley, spilling over to the south into the Jocko Valley. To the west, agriculture extends into the Moiese Valley and the Camas area. The Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP) irrigates almost this entire agricultural swath. The FIP is the largest irrigation project in the state and among all 16 projects run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In total, it serves more than 128,000 acres of land. Its size and variety of water sources also makes it one of the most hydrologically complex projects in the U.S. The FIP stores water in 15 different reservoirs and delivers it through thousands of miles of canals, ditches and laterals. While the delivery of water within the project is physically complex, issues surrounding its management may be even more complicated. Irrigators on the project struggle with what they see as major inefficiencies in its management. One irrigator mentioned that project employees only work Monday through

Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This kind of schedule is not conducive to farming, as irrigators cannot easily get their water turned on and off when desired to maximize water-use efficiency. Other issues center on the bureaucratic management style that the BIA, as a federal agency, must adhere to. Irrigators have noted that it takes excessively long to fill vacant jobs due to hiring procedures that may take more than six months to complete. Additionally, this spring an order of pesticides used to clean out moss-clogged canals has been delayed for months due to BIA ordering procedures. Despite these perceived inefficiencies in project management, some irrigators note that the problem does not lie specifically with the FIP management team, but with the management policies that the project, under the BIA, must adhere to. In response to perceived inefficiencies, irrigators have long wanted to transfer management of the irrigation project away from the BIA and into the hands of non-tribal irrigators who are represented by the Flathead Joint Board of Control. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, however, have traditionally rejected this as an option due to its movement of resources to a non-tribal entity. For many years this conflict has brewed animosity between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the board. Both of these groups, however, started working toward transferring control from the BIA to a cooperative management entity that represents both parties’ interests. Concurrently, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes also are negotiating with the state to finally quantify the tribal water rights in the basin. These decisions carry great weight and could strongly alter water policy and the management of water in the Flathead River basin. The basin is home to a number of diverse and challenging water-management issues. The UM Geography Department’s research will continue to explore how water policy there evolves and affects water management. As an interconnected hydrologic system, the future of water resources in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem will depend on human needs and water management decisions made in the Flathead River basin.

2009 Crown of the Continent Lecture Series Flathead Valley Community College All lectures are free af charge in Arts and Technology Building Room 139.

Sept.15, 7 p.m. “First Peoples, Two Countries, Three Voices: 10,000 Years of Human History in the Crown of the Continent” A conversation with leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Salish-Pend Oreille, and the Kootenai/Ktnuxa nations.

Speakers: Salish Elder Tony Incashola, Director of the Committee, Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture; Kootenai Member Dr. Vernon Finley, Instructor, Salish-Kootenai College; Piikani-Blackfoot Elder Reg Crowshoe, Executive Director of the Oldman River Cultural Center. Moderator: Steve Thompson, Project Coordinator, National Geographic Crown of the Continent Geotourism Mapguide.

Sept. 22, 7 p.m. “The Crown Region: Setting the Stage” An overview to establish the broader geographical elements that help define the Crown of the Continent. Speaker: Dr. Jim Byrne, Chairman, Geography Department., University of Lethbridge.

Sept. 29, 7 p.m. “Defining the Ecology of the Crown of the Continent” A review of the characteristics that distinguish the Crown of the Continent from neighboring and global ecosystems, including flora and fauna.

Presenter: Dr. Chris Servheen, Adjunct Research Associate Professor of Wildlife Conservation, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, University of Montana.

Oct. 6, 7 p.m. “Seeing Across the Rockies: Reaching for Montana 1787-1812.” An exploration of the period of contact and the relationship between Lewis & Clark, David Thompson, and Thomas Jefferson. Thompson’s map of the 1820s integrated with Lewis & Clark’s map provided the first accurate map of the Crown region. Presenter: Jack Nesbit, author, Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson across Western North America. Sept. 26, Field Trip “Along the Buffalo Cow Trail: History & Ecology of the Trans-boundary North Fork” A hike in the Canadian Flathead to Hornet Lookout on the Kishenehn Trail. Follow in the footsteps of the First People on the 10,000 year old trail. Transportation provided. Bring sack lunch, water, snacks, comfortable shoes and passport. Moderate hiking ability required. Leaders: Dr. Lex Blood, Retired Geology Instructor, Flathead Valley Community College & Steve Thompson, Project Coordinator, National Geographic Crown of the Continent Geotourism Mapguide.

$65 per person. Space limited; advanced registration required. Call 406-756-3832 to register for the field trip and for more information. PAGE 11: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1

Where Their Heart Is

A young couple takes the reins of a North Fork institution By Michael Jamison of the Missoulian


an Kaufman has long lived in the cozy rooms upstairs, where freshbaked smells have soaked the warm walls. But now, he’s moving out. The saloonkeeper next door might put him up for the summer, in a hut out back, or a tent, or maybe even a treehouse. He’s in the barn, for now. Kaufman’s in the barn because he and wife Deb have sold the Polebridge Mercantile—their rooms with the views, their gateway to Glacier—to a starry-eyed young couple from Missoula. “We have no idea what we’re doing,” admits 25-year-old Stuart Reiswig, “but we’re doing it with confidence.” What he’s doing, with partner Flannery Coats, is pioneering a lifestyle that just happens to come with a business, an off-the-grid enterprise at the heart of Montana’s last outpost. Polebridge is located just short of the Canadian border, on the stunning western edge of Glacier National Park, in the remote North Fork Flathead River Valley, home to more endangered species than people. It’s a wilderness widespot on a rough road where the rattling throb of washboards is interrupted only by random jolts of sharp stone. There’s no pavement here, no phone, certainly no cellular service. Never mind living here, or making a living here—just getting here is adventure enough for most. “You have to be an idealist to choose Polebridge,” said Oliver Meister, who owns the hostel up the road. “That’s what it takes—a certain idealism. And a certain ignorance, too, so you don’t know quite what you’re getting into.” Meister reckons the newcomers have just what it takes. So does Heather Dana, that saloonkeeper next door. Together, they make up the rest of Polebridge’s commercial district. Stuart and Flannery, Dana said, “are more than a natural fit for this place. They’re a supernatural fit.”


Because they’re thinking of community, and also of long mountain hikes. They’re thinking of preserving the heritage, while bringing in solar panels. They’re eyeing the old homestead hops, and thinking of microbrew. The Polebridge Mercantile stands stiff and square against ragged peaks, bright red on bottomless blue sky, the dream of an earlier idealist who looked to carve a lifestyle among lions and eagles and bears. Bill Adair built the place in 1914, four years after Glacier Park became a park. He fished, drank and grew great big cabbages while his wife ran the hardscrabble storefront. Adair’s hops grow up the saloon wall.

“You don’t choose this place. It chooses you.” —Dan Kaufman Dan Kaufman doesn’t know much about hops, but he sure knows his huckleberry bearclaws. A baker by trade, Kaufman and wife Deb bought the place back in 1994, and since have turned it into an institution. It’s known as home to the park’s wilds, of course, and home to the North Fork Flathead River and dog sled races and summer music festivals. But mostly, the Merc is known as home to the bakery, and to the delicious smells that have warmed the rooms upstairs. “We had a guy in here this morning,” Reiswig said, “who drove 650 miles out of his way for one of the breakfast sandwiches.” The fellow was in Minot, N.D., on his way to West Virginia, and figured - since he was so close - that he’d just drive on out to Polebridge for a muffin and then fly east from the Flathead. “Dan and Deb really turned that place into a real business,” Meister said. “It’s a destination, now. An icon.” The Kaufmans, however, give all the credit to the spirit of the store itself.

“I totally believe the Merc has a life of its own,” Deb said. “We just excited its life a little bit. It was asleep when we got here—the spirit of Polebridge was asleep in the Merc.” It’s a feisty spirit, they said, a demanding and sometimes arbitrary spirit. “But those are all rather ingratiating qualities,” Dan said, “because I’ve always wanted to live by my wits.” The store, he said, chooses people, and not the other way around. Some actually cried when they saw the For Sale sign in the window. Reiswig and Coats weren’t looking for a business. They just wanted to find a place to get married, somewhere up around Glacier. “But everything was so expensive,” Flannery said. So they took a detour, pulled into Polebridge on a sunny October afternoon when the larch were golden, the peaks dusted white and the sky the color of a deep mountain lake. “We just fell in love with the place,” she said. Stuart had been here before, had seen the sign in the window. Wouldn’t it be cool if it were still for sale? It was, of course. “We suddenly had a purpose,” Flannery said. “Let’s just buy this place and get married here.” Never mind the fact that they’d never run a business. Never mind that they’d never lived like this, so far off the grid. Never mind the 950,000 other problems presented by the asking price. “You don’t choose this place,” Dan said. “It chooses you.” Stuart and Flannery had met in college, over in Oregon, had hooked up again while working with street kids in Ecuador. Later, they’d landed in Missoula, were considering medical school in Cuba, were working at the Poverello and at WORD. Last year, they’d patched the gaps with food stamps. But with a bit of luck, a little tenacity, a business class or two, all that idealism, and a hint of help from family, the couple pitched a low-ball offer to the Kaufmans. And to their unending surprise (delight? dismay?), Dan and Deb accepted. There had been other offers, of course, some for more money. But Stu-

Deb and Dan Kaufman, left and center, recently sold “The Merc” to Stuart Reiswig and Flannery Coats. art and Flannery just fit. They didn’t want to create a snowmobile rental hub, a golf course, a heli-skiing operation, or a four-star resort. “We just want to sustain the momentum that Dan and Deb have built,” Reiswig said. They hope to remain a community center, and a grocer of last resort, and an all-purpose old-school mercantile where you can buy organic wine and chain saw oil, power steering fluid and goat’s milk soap, bug dope and wool socks and Spam. They even want to bring the Post Office back to town. Flannery’s apprenticed to Dan in the bakery—he’s staying the summer, in the barn, to teach her the ropes—and if Stuart gets that brewery brewing they’ll have the town’s first-ever “drunken donuts.” Flannery calls Polebridge a “leap of faith,” and it’s a two-way leap—because in a place with only a couple dozen wintertime residents, you need everyone and everyone needs you. There are, of course, politics in the extreme, opinions distilled by an iso-

lation that, ironically, forces you ever closer to your neighbors. Polebridgers fight about land use, and about endangered species, and about whether to pave that godawful road. “But we all love this place,” Flannery said. “The place is our common denominator.” She and Stuart are bringing new ideas, notions about sustainability and the economics of wildland conservation, but they’re also clinging fast to the know-how of old-timers. “Everyone,” Reiswig said, “cares so much about the North Fork. We want to be a part of the community, to serve everyone who lives up here. The people up here are the livelihood. We have to be there for them.” Just as Dan and Deb Kaufman have been these past 15 years. Deb’s heading back to Idaho, but Dan’s going to stick around for a while, helping the new owners. The Merc, he said, “has a hold on me. I think it’s as much a matter of it letting go of me as it is of me letting go of it.” You get the idea that when the Kauf-


mans finally do move on, they’ll leave important parts of themselves behind. There are no words of wisdom to fill that gap, although everyone, it seems, has some welcoming advice for the newcomers. Get out and play, Meister says, because work, work, work is not what Polebridge is about. Have some fun, Heather warns, and don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Make a good list, Dan advises, before you trek to town. And never, ever, come back from town, Deb warns, without toilet paper. “They could’ve done something else, but instead they did their heart thing,” Dan said, and he was talking about Stuart and Flannery but could just as easily have been referring to himself and Deb. “It may not be mentally sound, but it is a path with heart.” Deb laughs, and seems to let go a bit, and sees a bit of her younger self reflected in this young couple. “I think,” she concludes, “they’re going to be just fine.”

PAGE13:13: Crownof of theContinent ContinentE-Notes, E-Notes, NO. PAGE Crown the NO. 11

Jewel Basin A Crown of the Continent Gem

Aptly named, Jewel Basin is perched high in the northern Swan Range, southeast of Kalispell and just above Hungry Horse Reservoir. This 15,349-acre mountain landscape holds 27 alpine lakes and is crisscrossed by 35 miles of trails. Jewel Basin is designated as a hiking area— no motorized vehicles, bicycles or horses are allowed. Fishing for cutthroat trout in the basin is excellent. On the west side, Jewel Basin may be accessed from the Big Fork area and may be reached by following Highway 83 to the Echo Lake Road turnoff, and then north to Jewel Basin Road. The road climbs to a parking zone, Camp Misery, where several trails begin. Another western access point is from Foothill Road to Krause Creek, or Forest Road 5390 on most maps. On the east side, trails leave from the west shore of Hungry Horse Lake. Examine the Flathead National Forest map or a Jewel Basin hiking area map sold by the U.S. Forest Service for this access point. Information can be obtained by calling the ranger station in Hungry Horse at 406-387-3800, the Swan Lake Ranger Station in Bigfork at 406-8377500, or the Flathead National Forest office in Kalispell at 406-758-5200. One of the highlights of hiking in Jewel Basin is to climb the highest summit, Mount Aeneas, at 7,528 feet. Though low by Montana standards, it’s the highest summit around and the views are superb. In the west, one can see much of the Upper Flathead Valley, including a significant portion of Flathead Lake. To the north and northeast, the peaks of Glacier tower on the horizon. To the east and southeast, Hungry Horse Lake and the Great Bear Wilderness segments of PAGE 14

27 lakes 35 miles of trails

tony dumay Left: Twin Lakes, a popular Jewel Basin trek. Above: A young Mountain goat plays on one of the basins many trails.

the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex come into view. Basic hiking rules in Jewel Basin limit party size to 12 people. Outfitting and guiding are prohibited. Also, dogs must remain on a leash at all times, or the owner will be cited. A favorite trip for those of us involved in the Crown Initiative at The University of Montana is to leave the trailhead at Camp Misery, then follow the trail to the Noisy Face (an avalanche slide area) and Twin Lakes. Just above Twin Lakes and beyond the face, the path crosses through a gap and crest of the Swan Range. Twin Lakes is approximately a 2-mile hike in. From the overview of the lake, the trail goes south on the east side of the crest for about 1.5 miles to the Picnic Lakes. After that, a little more than a mile’s climb puts one on the summit of Mount Aeneas. To return, follow the trail back to the

Picnic Lakes to a switchback that heads west and 2 miles downhill to Camp Misery. (You’ll need the map for this.) This trip is easily done in a day, but camping in areas where it is allowed (see maps and trailhead signs) makes the trek even more enjoyable. It is not necessary to get a permit for camping within Jewel Basin, but in finding a tent site, it is best to get away from the trails, wet meadows, lakes and streams. The basin is quite fragile. As this area is close to Kalispell and other towns in the Flathead Valley, summer weekends become crowded and cars fill the small parking lot. Weekday use is best for those who favor fewer people and more solitude. The Jewel Basin area accumulates huge amounts of snow in winter, especially on the east side of the crest. Hikers may encounter snow banks into July. Winter access is somewhat limited, but it’s a rewarding place to backcountry ski. Paying close attention to avalanche conditions is a must. Avoid Noisy Face in winter. It would be best to talk to the folks at the Swan Lake Ranger Station in Bigfork before attempting any winter treks in Jewel Basin. —Story by Rick and Susie Graetz

Montana Project Examines Climate Change Effects By Ann Carlson Climate Associate, The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society recently expanded the scope of its climate change program to include an new project that focuses on Montana, with an emphasis on the Crown of the Continent. Ongoing work includes a partnership with University of Montana ecology and forestry professor Steve Running, one of the nation’s leading experts on climate change and a shared recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on this subject. Running is currently developing a highprecision model of climatology that will help predict precipitation and temperature changes during the next 100 years in the northern Rockies. This will then be used to model future vegetation shifts, and predict reservoir storage and energy output for seven major streams in Montana. Jason Leppi, a UM master’s student, is working with Running on the project. During the past year, Leppi has carefully summarized 50 years of August stream flow data from sites in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. After statistical analyses showed significant losses in stream flow over time, Leppi

conducted additional studies that large landscape conservation and provided evidence that lower stream restoration to protect vital watersheds, flows are a direct result of climate and allowing wildlife species to adapt change in the region. to dramatic changes in their environIn addition to Running’s and Leppi’s ment. In the northern Rockies region, continuing work, the new project will the Crown of the Continent is expected compile reports from scientific lit- to play an essential role in these proerature on a range of climate change cesses over the next century, and the effects in the northern Rockies and new project will highlight the ways in Crown of the Continent. Priority topics which this is expected to occur. include changes in snowpack, the freFor more information, e-mail Anne quency and severity of forest fires, the Carlson at The Wilderness Society at status of trout fisheries, effects on key wildlife species, pine-bark beetle outbreaks, and the spread of invasive weeds. Information from the project will be available through a series of factsheets and via a new interactive Web site, expected to be up next year. Major themes of the project are the importance of Rick and susie graetz The Blackfoot River Valley.

Contributors Jack A. Stanford is an ecology professor and Director of UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station. He is most noted for his long-term studies of the Flathead River-Lake ecosystem in Montana and British Columbia. In June 2004 he received the Award of Excellence of the North American Benthological Society, the leading professional society in the world concerned with river ecosystems. Jerry Fetz is a native Northwesterner, having grown up and lived in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and, since 1970, Montana. He retired in December 2008 as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UM, where he had served as a professor (German studies and humanities) and administrator (chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and dean of the Davidson Honors College) for 39 years. Though retired, he continues to teach part-time and is involved with this Crown of the Continent Initiative. Rick Graetz is a member of the University’s geography faculty as well as co-director of the Crown Initiative and the UM Press. He is the founder of Montana Magazine and American Geographic Publishing. Susie Graetz is a researcher and visiting scholar in the University’s Central/Southwest Asia Program. Together the couple has authored and published

numerous books and papers on Montana, regions of the USA, and titles for countries in Asia and the West Indies. They also write a syndicated newspaper column titled “This Is Montana.” Steve Thompson is the editor of and the coordinator and destination editor for the National Geographic Crown of the Continent Geotourism MapGuide project. He works for the National Parks Conservation Association in Whitefish. Joel Brown is a graduate student in the Department of Geography at the University of Montana. His research interests include water policy and irrigation in the American West. Joel’s graduate research is being funded through a grant provided by the Inland Northwest Research Alliance, a water resources consortium. UM Geography professors David Shively and Sarah Halvorson wrote the grant request. Michael Jamison has reported on the Flathead region for the Missoulian since 1997. Ann Carlson is an associate of the Bozeman-based Wilderness Society who works on climate change issues. PAGE 15: Crown of the Continent E-Notes, NO. 1

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.