Its springtime in Montana and that means folks will be preforming stupid human tricks right and left for the next few months. Let's hope they don't hurt critters, themselves, first responders, or, I suppose, themselves, in the process. Here's my column.
There's no excuse for animal cruelty. Sorry, please excuse the abbreviated profanity in the headline. If you follow this link to Todd Wilkinson's powerful article in Mountain Journal, however, you'll likely be just as outraged. And that's especially so if you follow the links in the story to videos of snow machine riders in Wyoming (apparently) running down coyotes just for kicks. In the Equality State a snow machine is a legal method of take, at least for coyotes and other predators.
Hunters need to develop new language to differentiate ourselves from people who practice animal cruelty. We believe in ethical, fair chase hunting. The Boone and Crockett Club has a fair chase statement here, and that statement links to a longer essay. It's worth a read. And here's a link to stories about Jim Posewitz, Montana's dean of hunting ethics.
Hunters are an ever-decreasing minority in modern, urban America. But that non-hunting majority may ultimately decide the fate of hunters. If we're perceived to be just like those sadists on snow machines we won't be a minority for long.
We'll no longer exist.
Texas energy billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks are selling some of their Montana properties, but not the N Bar Ranch which was at the center of a controversial attempted land exchange involving the Durfee Hills and property north of the Missouri River. That land controls access to thousands of acres in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
The Durfee Hills is a 2,700-acre parcel that is surrounded by the N Bar Ranch. Despite it's landlocked nature, the Hills are a popular elk hunting destination. Hunters fly in and out to hunt.
The brothers rank second in the state of Montana in private acres owned, behind onlyWeyerhaeuser/Plum Creek Timber.
It's become a semi-annual tradition: The Montana legislature assembles for it's biennial session, Montanans turn out to demand protection for public lands.
I will be traveling, and maybe getting a chance or two to chase birds, until the New Year. As a result, there won't be much action on this page for a few weeks. So I'll leave you with this wonderful holiday image from Rob Koelling, a former colleague of mine in Powell, Wyoming. Rob is an amazing wildlife photographer, and is known in some corners of the West as the Crane Whisperer. Thanks for letting me share your photo, Rob.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Gov. Steve Bullock won his dispute with Attorney General Tim Fox over who makes the call on FWP easement purchases. The Supreme Court overturned Fox's opinion that the State Land Board gets final say.
This Congress has been mostly about minimizing damage, but our representatives can still do something worthwhile by reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
It's hard to have much faith in the lame-duck congress, but there's still hope our soon-to-be-departed representatives might do something useful, such as passing a reauthorization bill for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, on their way out the door.
Effective, useful legislating. I realize that's a big haul. My fingers are crossed.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was conceived on a float trip on the Middle Fork Flathead River in the 1950s. Thanks in part to the Act, the Middle Fork remains wild, and scenic.