Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council to visit Libby Feb. 26, 27

By Mati Bishop


The Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is meeting in Libby on Feb. 26 and 27 to further the development of their mission and hear the unique concerns of Lincoln County residents regarding grizzly bear recovery.

Part of the agenda is to hear concerns specific to the Cabinet Yaak Valley Ecosystem.  The council has encouraged residents to make their voice heard at the meetings and they have created a special extended session for public input from 5 until 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at the Ponderosa Room of City Hall.

“Recently, every single timber sale, mine and commercial attempt of development in the Kootenai National Forest has been appealed on the basis of grizzly bear and bull trout concerns,” said State Senator Mike Cuffe who represents District 1 which includes all of Lincoln County.

Cuffe supports having grizzly bear removed from the federal endangered species protection  across the state of Montana, but he admits that the current national delisting efforts will have little immediate impact on Lincoln County. Instead they focus on the Greater Yellowstone and North Continental Divide ecosystems where grizzly bear populations have attained recovery goals.

“The grizzly bear population has recovered and it is time to celebrate the success of the Endangered Species Act. It did its job,” said Cuffe.

“The first job is to get the grizzly de-listed in Greater Yellowstone and the North Continental Divide ecosystems, then we can take a closer look at the Cabinet Yaak Ecosystem,” he said.

In 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear from the endangered species, citing indicating that population recovery and sustainability. In 2018, a district judge returned protection to the Greater Yellowstone grizzly in an action that Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte called “judicial activism.”

Gianforte has called for grizzly bears to be removed from endangered species act protections across all of Montana, and Cuffe believes that people misunderstand what will happen when the grizzly is de-listed.

“It (de-listing) doesn’t mean that all grizzly regulation goes away,” Cuffe said. “People will be surprised to see how many regulations are in place to keep the population above the endangered level.”

Grizzly Bear Advisory Council member Robyn King, of the Yaak Valley Forest Council is quick to point out that de-listing is not part of the discussion for the council. Those decisions are made at the national level.

“It’s important that we sit in each of the communities to hear the specific concerns of the residents,” King said. “Then we take those concerns back to the objectives given to the council by the governor and use them to help develop the 35,000 foot view of the issue for the entire state.”

The council is made up of 18 members from a wide variety of backgrounds and one of the challenges they face is understanding the wide scope of grizzly bear management issues and developing effective recommendations to address those issues at the state level.

“One thing that all of the members of the council agree on is that we want to see a healthy and sustainable grizzly bear population across the entire state of Montana,” she said.

Senator Cuffe indicated that there is a group within his constituents who would like to see the designation and population management of the Cabinet Yaak ecosystem grizzlies reconsidered.

The Northern Continental Divide and Cabinet Yaak ecosystems are divided by Lake Koocanusa, which Cuffe points out is a roughly 90 mile man made boundary preventing grizzlies from migrating between the two areas. His concern is that the Cabinet Yaak ecosystem has been developed not as a natural ecosystem, but with man-made influence that will produce skewed expectations and results.


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Libby school board meeting: superintendent resigns, Asa Wood not sold yet 

By Tracy McNew


The Libby School District #4 Board of Trustees held their regular monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 10 at the KW Maki Theatre at the district’s Central Administration Building.

No statements from the audience were made, and numerous  sets of minutes were approved from January including committee meetings and strategic planning.

Reports made included one on budget and finances, a student representative reported on recent activities, and reports were made by the schools principals, and the superintendent focused on academics, activities and building and grounds issues.

There are currently just under 1,200 students in the district and the budget is just under $9 million with an additional $1.4 million federal fund/grant budget.

I-Ready test results were reviewed with the board noting that positive trends continue this school year in both reading and math. School activities, sports, and educational events were briefly presented along with academic opportunities and achievements. Outstanding students were also recognized.

Superintendent, Craig Barringer, clarified that the Asa Wood building has not been sold but that plans are underway to make the building obsolete by moving organizations out of it and finding them appropriate new spaces. A walkthrough of the building is planned for Friday, Feb. 28, and the interested party, American Covenant Senior Housing Foundation, is still interested in purchasing the property either in its entirety or possibly only part of it. An appraisal of the Asa Wood has already been done, and it is anticipated that  by mid to late March, the district will know if they will be able to sell it.

A potential School Resource Officer (SRO) was also discussed. Flathead Electric has again offered a grant that would help fund the SRO position and the topic will be up for vote again in May. A mill levy would provide the additional funds needed to develop and sustain a SRO program for Libby Schools. The advantages of a SRO program were briefly discussed.


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Libby Chamber offers new visitor’s guide

By Brian Baxter


As the Ktunaxa Peoples drums along the Kootenai River spread news of happenings in past times, the new face of the Libby Chamber of Commerce is sharing community messages.

The Deer Robe People, as they were sometimes called had hide war drums and hand drums. They played and sang with indigenous musical patterns, penetrating quality of voice, and the spiritual feel of the Kootenai.

Today, the Chamber is getting the positive word out in an exuberant manner, with a combination of friendly, smiling individuals, the printed word, and an array of modern high tech applications and methods. On March 1, the new Libby Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Guide will be out in printed and electronic form.

The descriptions of our area are down to earth, and indeed can invoke a spiritual feel in many. The Libby Chamber believes the pioneering courage that settled in this area is still alive today. And along with the purpose of the advancement of civic, commercial, and industrial interests of the business communities of Troy, Libby, and Yaak, recently comes a boldness and sparkle of high spirited folks working together.

General Manager, Myranda Cravens, has both the smile and upbeat vibes that are encouraging. Cravens has been with us at the Chamber since 2017. She speaks highly of the Board of Directors which includes Liz Whalen as President, Amber Pacheco Holm as Vice President, with Alyssa Ramirez in the Treasurer position, and Bruce Vincent as Secretary. There are three members of the Board which include Leroy Thom, Jamie Paulson, and Kim Peck. Cathy Spencer is a valuable and versatile volunteer.

The board, the staff, the members, and the whole of the community are alive together with new hopes for our beautiful area. New ideas in the long journey of shifting, at least to some degree, from a resource base utilization economy to an outdoor recreation and tourism foundation economy seem to be popping up all around us. Perhaps creating a golden opportunity of a unique symbiosis that benefits all residents and visitors alike.

An example is that a well managed sivicultural treatment of a timber stand, provides forestry, logging, milling, and hauling jobs for many. At the same time, while opening the tree canopy to growth of woody shrubs that feed deer, elk, and moose in winter. Both local and visiting hunters will hunt that area to harvest game, and some will stay in our area during their trip. In summer, local and visiting hikers will make their way through that hillside on their way up to the high country, some staying in the locale for the hiking and particular events.

On a recent visit to Kootenai country, a couple from Spokane, Wash. in their late forties were here to attend an outdoor education program on private land. They spent a three day weekend snowshoeing and searching for animal tracks and sign, doing some winter birding, dined at our restaurants, stayed in local motels, cross country skied up on Flower Creek, imbibed at our beer pubs, and viewed a movie at the Dome Theatre. They got most of their information about our town and cool things to do during a visit to the Libby Chamber while talking with Cravens.

The Libby Chamber of Commerce has acquired a whole new look and energy in the last few years.

“Over the past few years, since I started in 2017, the Chamber continues to grow in membership, visitor tracking, and even in the amount of community projects we’ve been able to take on and be part of,” Cravens told The Montanian.

Specifically, she said, “we had an 18% increase in Chamber membership and a 26% increase in visitor tracking.”

During 2019, the Chamber also introduced the first Community Conversations event where members were given the opportunity to present to the community.


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