The end of winter can’t come too soon

It's been a long, hard winter in Montana, but with a little ingenuity we'll get through it. In my latest column for the Flathead Beacon, I share my hope that spring will slowly give way to summer, unlike in 2017 when it got so hot so early we had one of the worst fire seasons in Montana history.

Unless you're on the Blackfeet Nation, however, the snow and cold is probably just an inconvenience.  Heart Butte and Browning have been hammered in recent weeks.

Montana bearish on griz hunting, for now

Montana will hold off on grizzly hunting, at least for now. That's a good decision, but as the bears recover, conflicts will become more frequent.  We ought to prepare for the reaction when something bad happens. Bears aren't wolves and when the victim of an attack is human rather than livestock, the blowback will be fierce.

My latest column about the future of grizzly bears and the inevitable hunting season in Montana's future.

In Montana, both GOP and Dems support conservation

The Eighth Annual Conservation in the West Survey by Colorado College shows that Montanans, regardless of political party, describe themselves as conservationists and consider open space and outdoor recreation an asset for the Treasure State.

The results aren’t much of a surprise. Montana may be the ultimate poverty-with-a-view state. But that commonality is something we can urge the leadership of both parties in Montana to embrace. In my latest column I suggest we make taking care of our public lands, and protecting our access to them, a priority for leaders of both parties.

It’s not that simple, of course. How a fly fishing guide defines conservation may differ from how a rancher defines it. That’s OK. We can’t and shouldn’t expect everyone to agree on every issue, but we should be able to agree to be respectful and work toward compromise whenever possible.

Elk herd rebounds

My latest "Out of Bounds" column discusses some interesting developments from the wolf/elk war front in Montana. There's the news that the Northern Yellowstone elk herd is up 42 percent in 2018 as compared to the 2017. It's unlikely the herd nearly doubled in just a year. More likely, biologists speculate, the count just missed some animals last year. Still, the numbers are encouraging for a herd that is still less than half the size in was before wolves were reintroduced in 1998.

Just days before the elk numbers were released, news broke that a striking coal black wolf was killed by a hunter near Joliet, not too far from Yellowstone's northeast corner. The wolf is probably the same one that had been filmed wandering near a road in the region a few days before that. Wolf numbers in Montana are stable, or declining slightly, probably a result of hunter success and aggressive management of problem packs.