Thursday, September 15, 2011

15 minutes along the Rocky Mountain Front

Our friend Tony Bynum has been working with the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front in order to get legislation introduced that would protect the area from Swift Dam down to Rogers Pass.

Check out this fantastic slide show that Tony put together for the Coalition:


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Assualt on Elk: Part 2

This photo is of my wife fishing in the Scapegoat Wilderness. The Scapegoat was the first citizen-led Wilderness initiative in Montana. People stood up and said: It's wild. It's supposed to stay that way. It's a legacy of which to be proud. It's also a legacy that speaks to the ability of a diverse group of people to sit down and work out solutions to complex problems. H.R. 1581, on the other hand, eliminates those similarly grassroots-supported efforts, such as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

H.R. 1581 would undo the hard work and collaboration that brought about both the Idaho and Colorado Roadless Rules. Ultimately, HR 1581 is the exact opposite of its claim: It’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to land management in an effort to eliminate the voice of the hunter from these decisions.

Art Noonan, the former public lands staffer for Congressman Pat Williams, was burned in effigy in 1988 in a heated confrontation related to the last Montana wilderness bill to pass congress (it was vetoed by President Reagan and some say it was a gift to Conrad Burns). From then on, efforts to pass meaningful conservation bills in Montana has turned into smashmouth football.

The forces against conserving land have the power, money and clout to ensure that these debates rage on until the public becomes so sick and tired of the bickering, that they force dramatic action one way or another. In effect, we’ve witnessed a 25 year temper tantrum by those who refuse to acknowledge the necessity for administrative protections such as the Roadless Rule. It’s the same strategy a 4 year-old employs when he's told he can't have something that he desires.

But these attempts are not new. When we look back to the early history of conservation in America, we see the same fights that we are faced with today. One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt left his political party to advance an agenda of conservation. For one hundred years, hunters and anglers have been the vanguard when it comes to protecting these few remaining wild places. For over one hundred years, the same short-sighted, politically-motivated few are willing to place their selfish interests ahead of the good of the nation. Today, more than ever, we must continue the legacy that Theodore Roosevelt brought forth with the Bull Moose. We must stand resolute, as men and women who won’t back down in the face of adversity.

H.R. 1581 steals that legacy from us. It steals elk from the mountain.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Within the Womb of Time

By Jim Posewitz:

Tracking a deer or an elk across a snowy Montana landscape will on occasion result in meat in the freezer and at times antlers saved as reminders of the day. There may be times however when the serious and curious hunter may elect to follow the track in reverse. That person seeks to learn the secrets held by the trail seldom followed. It is the track that will reveal where the undisturbed animal fed, where it felt secure enough to bed, and how it chose to move through difficult terrain. Likewise, American hunters also have a backtrack, a trail through time that produced the wild things and places that now fill our lives. It was a trail that passed through some very hard times for wildlife, but ultimately led to one of the truly great conservation achievements of any civilization – ever. Finding that track is certain to not only enrich our current hunting experiences, but it will also stimulate us to embrace the conservation ethic of the hunters who delivered it to our time. The ultimate trophy would be adding your new and personal story to enrich the conservation legacy of the hunt. This computerized internet format for story telling and idea sharing is nothing more than stretching the circle of hunters that can gather around the fire.

When the first European explorers and hunters slipped into Montana in 1805 they found a wildlife resource that, “…for variety and abundance exceeded anything the eye of man had ever looked upon.” In eight short decades that abundance was reduced to a bone-yard. Writing in Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and Wilderness Hunter, Theodore Roosevelt, penned the following passage, “A ranchman who at the same time had made a journey of a thousand miles across Northern Montana, along the Milk River, told me that, to use his own expression, during the whole distance he was never out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live one.” The conservation ethic born in response to wildlife’s commercial slaughter in the late 19th century, has produced a wonderful new abundance. It occurred because wildlife in America is owned by no one and managed as a public trust for the benefit of everyone. The struggle was and is constant and through the years it has spawned a culture of conservation advocates among the hunters and anglers of America.

When early conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot battled for wildlife restoration, wild land protection, and forest conservation, they always included reference to future generations. The words used included “….for all Americans … including those still within the womb of time.” Well, we have emerged for that womb of time still carrying the conservation ethic born of those worst of times once endured by America’s wildlife. We have also savored the wildlife, fisheries, wild places, and open spaces those conservation pioneers embedded on our landscape. It is now our turn, our time in the sun, to pass this exceptional Montana conservation legacy forward to those still within the womb of time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Assault on Elk: Part 1

That photo is of a backcountry bull elk. It was taken by a friend of mine in a Roadless Area. Somewhere, deep in the timber, this buster is swelled up and running around trying to get as much tail as possible. He's what hunters dream about for 41 weeks out of the year.That Bull Elk is there because, long ago, Montanans made a pact to conserve and preserve the necessary habitats to ensure bulls like the one shown in the photograph, and roughly 130,000 of his kin, would always have a place to live.

Elk need big, unbroken tracts of land; land without roads, and without the constant pressure that humans bring. Elk have a windpipe the size of a human’s forearm for a reason - they move quickly, covering lots of ground in a short time. They get away from you and me and anything that makes them uncomfortable. It's why we need big areas away from roads and development. Roadless Areas are a big part of what allows Montanan's to hunt 11 weeks out of the year (archery and rifle general seasons) on a $20 tag.

In 2001, a huge step in elk conservation became the law of the land. The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was instituted by President Bill Clinton. The rule was instituted following one of the greatest debates this country has had concerning the value of wild country. Response to the Roadless Rule was historic. The rule received substantial public comment with 1.6 million people writing with 95% supporting the effort. Montanans wildly supported this proposed rule. At its heart, the Roadless Rule was simple: No more permanent roads in these areas. Keep what is left intact. Pay what for is essential, and decommission the rest. Solid, conservative and perfect for growing elk.

Now, there are some folks whom one could naturally assume have never set foot in wild country, and who apparently lack an understanding concerning the importance of maintaining habitat functionality in Montana. Maybe some folks don’t fully understand that deer, despite what your Yellowstone tour guide may have told you (he was pulling your leg, by the way), don't grow up to be elk. Folks who do fall for this are often the same as those who introduce bills like the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act , or H.R. 1581.

City folks, like Representative Kevin McCarthy, and, oddly enough, Montana's own Denny Rehberg, have brought a bill that does the exact opposite of what the Roadless rule did: H.R. 1581 will severely and negatively impact hunting opportunity in Montana, and across the West.

HR 1581 would eliminate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation rule as well as eliminate the administrative protections on critically important hunting grounds that are contained within Wilderness Study Areas.

Proponents claim the bill will lead to greater access by the public, economic development andand a host of other benefits.

Politically, the claim being made is that these areas have garnered neither wilderness designation nor a removal from consideration. On this, I completely agree. I would note, however, that there has been a concerted and forceful attempt to stall every piece of wilderness legislation in Montana since 1983. That is why there is a backlog; not for a lack of trying, but because some politicians wield public lands management like a battle axe.

All one has to do is look at the current hysteria over National Monuments, Wilderness bills, or the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It’s next to impossible to pass any forward-thinking legislation. Assault on the conservation movement is in full swing back east, and here on the home front. This is not an ideological discussion about the issues facing the day, it is an assault on elk and it’s an assault on elk hunters.

H.R. 1581 eliminates the most effective protection elk have when it comes to multiple use lands within the US Forest Service system. Real security habitat comes when elk can get away from roads, and find those dark holes to hide.

Many have claimed that H.R. 1581 “puts control of the Forests back in the hands of the locals.”

No. It puts it back in to the hands of special interests who have little time or use for the conservation of wildlife, or public lands.