Tour Description

Journey to the Flathead Indian Reservation and the majestic Mission Mountains to explore the intersection of traditional culture and natural resource management. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are at the forefront of asserting sovereignty rights over natural resources. Along the People's Highway (aka US 93), check out the ecologically friendly features, including a dramatic wildlife overpass and underpasses that protect extensive wildlife corridors. Stop at the National Bison Range to learn about disagreements over how much authority the tribes should have in managing bison. A swing through the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge may yield sightings of migrating waterfowl, including reintroduced trumpeter swans. Other topics may include water rights negotiations, Flathead Lake and native fire management. Depart at 7:30 a.m., lunch included, $30 fee; Drive time — 3.5 hours. Register Now

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Waterfowl in the Wetlands

Perhaps at no other site that we'll visit tomorrow will the area's hydrology — tied into water rights, irrigation uses, and restoration work — be as important as it is to the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. Like the bison range, the refuge lies in the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District. This pothole wetlands area is home to a variety of resident animals and migrating waterfowl. We should have some spotting scopes and have some good viewing opportunities this time of year.

One especially cool thing we'll be talking about is the Trumpeter Swan recovery efforts here, as part of the Rocky Mountain Population. Earlier this year when Joan and I were scouting the region, biologists reported that several dozen Trumpeter Swan hatchlings were counted. These are some pretty birds, so I hope we are lucky enough to spot some while we're there!

Of course, water is crucial to all life here. Following the Ninepipe stop, we'll see how the nearby wildlife corridor provides safe passage to other animals to access the wetlands.

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