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Return of wolves leads to aspen resurgence in Yellowstone

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Ecosystems need top-level predators to remain healthy. bberwyn photo.

Predator restoration stirs the ecosystem pot

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Long term ecological monitoring in Yellowstone National Park shows a surge in aspen growth following the restoration of wolves to the ecosystem, with overall shifts in landscape conditions not seen in more than a century.

A series of studies show the recovery of vegetation as elk numbers drop, a decline driven by the return of the region’s apex predators. Biologists long hypothesized that wolves keep elk populations in check and also affect their grazing habits. Continue reading

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Public Lands: National Park Service wins convictions in three separate drone-ban violations

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Drones may be a nuisance if they’re misused but they can also help scientists track wildlife. USGS Photo.

Will fines deter other would-bee drone pilots?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Park Service showed that its ban on drones has teeth. The federal government in three different cases won convictions against park visitors charged with violation restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles.

An Oregon man Oct. 2 pled guilty to the charge of violating a closure and was fined $1,000 plus court costs. He was charged after he flew his unmanned aircraft over the crowded Midway Geyser Basin and close to bison on August 19.

A Dutch visitor whose drone crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring in early August was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution, while another tourist from Germany in September pled guilty to charges arising from operating an unmanned aircraft which crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the West Thumb Marina back on July 18. Continue reading

Yellowstone NP launches lottery for snowmobile permits

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Snowmobilers can apply for a permit lottery to lead a non-commercial guided tour in the Yellowstone National Park this winter.

Slots for non-commercial guided tours up for grabs through early October

Staff Report

FRISCO — Strict limits on snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park mean access is by permit only, and those permits are now available via a lottery, with spots available for non-commercially guided snowmobile trip into Yellowstone National Park this winter. Applications can be submitted online at http://recreation.gov through October 3, 2014. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

Feds once again push grizzly bear de-listing

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Conservation groups say it’s too early

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal biologists last week said they expect to decide within a month whether they will remove grizzly bears in the northern Rockies from the endangered species list despite a recent study suggesting that populations may be declining.

Grizzlies were classified as a threatened species in 1975 and cooperative conservation efforts have help recover and stabilized some populations, but wildlife conservation groups say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to take grizzlies off the list is premature. Continue reading

Study shows link between grizzlies, berries and wolves

More proof that apex predators are critical to their ecosystems

ChrisServheenUSFWS

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem may be benefiting from the presence of wolves, according to a new study. Photo courtesy ChrisServheen/USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There’s no question that top predators have profound impacts on their ecosystems, but sometimes those relationships play out in unexpected ways. New research by scientists from Oregon State University and Washington State University has documented how the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is helping grizzly bears.

By studying what bears eat, and how wolves affect the behavior of other animals, the biologists found that the return of the wolves is helping to restore a key part of the diet of grizzly bears that has been missing for much of the past century — berries that help bears put on fat before going into hibernation. Continue reading

Montana Supreme Court ruling clears way to restore bison on Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Native American lands

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A buffalo grazing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Decision has cultural and economic benefits for tribal groups at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana Supreme Court ruling last week clears the way for the return of Brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison to Native American lands, where the animals are valued for their cultural, traditional and economic benefits.

The Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision following an appeal by two conservation groups, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation, represented by the public-interest environmental law firm Earthjustice.

The transfer of Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Native American lands was opposed by Citizens for Balanced Use, which voiced concerns that the bison might break free of enclosures and transmit Brucellosis to domesticated cattle. Continue reading

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