Between June and December of last year, pollers from Gallup called some 30,000 Americans and asked them what they thought of the state where they lived. And guess what? Montanans responded more positively than the residents of any other state.
Those interviewed were asked if their state was “the best possible state to live in,” “one of the best possible states to live in,” “as good as any to live in” or “the worst possible state to live in.” Essentially zero percent of Montanans considered Montana the worst possible state to live in, while some 77 percent considered the Treasure State to be the best or among the best states. Compare that to, say, Illinois, where a full quarter of respondents said their state was the worst and only 19 percent considered it among the best.
Alaska came in a close second in the poll, with a preponderance of relatively remote, cold and unpopulated states—Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Minnesota—rounding out the top ten and indicating that what people want is to be far away from their fellow man, no matter how much cold they have to endure in order to maintain that distance.
While Gallup notes that “a greater standard of living, higher trust in state government and less resentment toward the amount they pay in state taxes” are also important factors in state pride, the venerable polling agency points to a less likely source for Americans’ happiness: proximity to Canada. “In fact,” the report declares, “the two states most highly rated by their residents—Montana and Alaska—are among not only the nation's coldest states but also both border Canada.” With this new data potentially confirming the infectiousness of Canadian contentment, the mystery of why so many people keep moving to Arizona (where a mere 41% of respondents considered their state among the best) only deepens.
Study finds widespread groundwater pollution on Montana reservation
The U.S. Geological Survey began studying the aquifer underlying the Fort Peck Reservation in 1989, and in 1997, a plume of briny water found in the aquifer was tied to the East Poplar Oil Field in the southeastern quadrant of the reservation, which is still producing, and the latest study estimated the contamination at 15 to 37 billion gallons spread across 17.9 square miles.
Billings Gazette; April 25
Philanthropic groups step in to help on national park projects
As federal budgets shrink, the backlog on projects in the United States' national park system grows, but in Yosemite National Park and others, philanthropic groups are stepping in with funding to get things done.
New York Times; April 25
In 2013, New Belgium Brewing, the Fort Collins, Colo.-based purveyor of libations like Fat Tire and Ranger, whipped up exactly 792,292 barrels of beer. Considering each barrel is capable of filling somewhere in the range of 60 six-packs, that production made for plenty of happy drinkers (including, on more than one occasion, yours truly). But New Belgium also satisfied non-human consumers, too, by selling 64 million pounds of “spent grain” — the ingredients left behind after the brewing process — to beef and dairy farmers, who feed the porridge-like substance to their cows.
“For hundreds of years, brewers have had this great symbiosis with farmers,” says Bryan Simpson, New Belgium’s director of media relations. “It’s a very elegant system.”
While many operations give away their used grains, selling the stuff can be a lucrative sideline: Spent grain goes for about $50 per ton nationwide, and total annual sales add up to around $160 million (most of it to the big boys, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors). Now, though, brewers claim this centuries-old harmony is threatened by new Food and Drug Administration rules that could make it harder for beer-makers to sell or donate their spent grain as cattle feed.
As winter fades to bright green spring in northwest Montana, three men are hitting the pavement in the towns of Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls, shaking hands at local businesses and visiting Rotary Clubs like politicians on the campaign trail. The comparison isn’t far off: the men are the new faces of Glacier National Park, and they’re eager to build relationships with the surrounding communities.
Among them are new park superintendent Jeff Mow and the CEO of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, Mark Preiss, who’s arrived with a plan to triple his organization’s annual giving. The most-discussed newcomer, however, is Xanterra, the giant concessionaire owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz. Last fall, the National Park Service ended a long-standing relationship with former concessionaire Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI) — which has been part of Glacier since the park’s inception in 1910 — and granted Xanterra a 16-year contract to operate Glacier’s lodges, dining establishments and fleet of red busses.
Critics of the decision dismiss Xanterra’s arrival as a Walmart-esque takeover — another example of a national corporation monopolizing its industry and giving a local business the boot. But though Xanterra’s presence in town hasn’t been without controversy (and its first season hasn’t yet begun), the company has thus far proven a good neighbor. The third member of the trio is former GPI employee Marc Ducharme, who’s been hired to manage Xanterra’s operations in the park. Other GPI employees have also been put into high-ranking positions. And with GPI maintaining a presence at several private lodges, the new deal may ultimately mean more jobs for the region.
Montana FWP to consider smaller-scale bison plan
On Wednesday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener told the Associated Press that the state's plan to restore wild bison may start with a pilot project of 50 to 100 animals, rather than the earlier proposal of 1,000 bison to restore the wild bison.
Billings Gazette (AP); April 24
Group files lawsuit to reclassify grizzlies in Montana's Yaak area
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a lawsuit in federal court in Montana seeking reclassification of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears in northwestern Montana from threatened to endangered.
Flathead Beacon (AP); April 24
Railroad bottleneck delays delivery of Montana, Wyoming coal
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said coal reserves are at 6-year lows, and coal companies said delays in shipping coal caused by congestion on railways is to blame for the low reserves.
Billings Gazette; April 22
Utah conference focuses on states' rights to federal lands
Last week, legislators from Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Utah met to discuss avenues to transfer federal lands to states' control.
Deseret News; April 19
Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): If for some inexplicable reason you are not simmering with new ideas about how you could drum up more money, I don't know what to tell you—except that maybe your mother lied to you about exactly when you were born. The astrological omens are virtually unequivocal: If you are a true Aries, you are now being invited, teased, and even tugged to increase your cash flow and bolster your financial know-how. If you can't ferret out at least one opportunity to get richer quicker, you might really be a Pisces or Taurus. And my name is Jay Z.
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): You remind me of a garden plot that has recently been plowed and rained on. Now the sun is out. The air is warm. Your dirt is wet and fertile. The feeling is a bit unsettled because the stuff that was below ground got churned up to the top. Instead of a flat surface, you've got furrows. But the overall mood is expectant. Blithe magic is in the air. Soon it will be time to grow new life. Oh, but just one thing is missing: The seeds have yet to be sewn. That's going to happen very soon. Right?
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Here's an excerpt from "Celestial Music," a poem by Louise Gluck: "I'm like the child who buries / her head in the pillow / so as not to see, the child who tells herself / that light causes sadness." One of your main assignments in the coming weeks, Gemini, is not to be like that child. It's true that gazing at what the light reveals may shatter an illusion or two, but the illumination you will be blessed with will ultimately be more valuable than gold.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): Would you like to forge new alliances and expand your web of connections and get more of the support you need to fulfill your dreams? You are entering the Season of Networking, so now would indeed be an excellent time to gather clues on how best to accomplish all that good stuff. To get you started in your quest, here's advice from Dale Carnegie: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Does Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt run faster than any person alive? As far as we know, yes. He holds three world records and has won six Olympic gold medals. Even when he's a bit off his game, he's the best. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, he set the all-time mark for the 100-meter race—9.69 seconds—despite the fact that one of his shoelaces was untied and he slowed down to celebrate before reaching the finish line. Like you, Bolt is a Leo. I'm making him both your role model and your anti-role model for the foreseeable future. You have the power to achieve something approaching his levels of excellence in your own field—especially if you double-check to make sure your shoelace is never untied and especially if you don't celebrate victory before it's won.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): In his unpublished book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig coins new words that convey experiences our language has not previously accounted for. One that may apply to you sometime soon is "trumspringa," which he defines as "the temptation to step off your career track and become a shepherd in the mountains, following your flock between pastures with a sheepdog and a rifle, watching storms at dusk from the doorway of a small cabin." To be overtaken by trumspringa doesn't necessarily mean you will literally run away and be a shepherd. In fact, giving yourself the luxury of considering such wild possibilities may be a healing release that allows you to be at peace with the life you are actually living.
The night in April 2011 when a nearly 500,000-pound Imperial Oil megaload knocked out power to some 1,300 Idaho residents, activist Linwood Laughy got a call from a volunteer monitor down in Orofino. Highway 12 had subsequently been shutdown, temporarily stalling the megaload’s trek up the Clearwater-Lochsa corridor. Laughy’s response was brief: “Yes!”
The call was an emotional moment that never made it into media accounts of the incident. And it’s a prime example of the dramatic backstories sprinkled throughout Boise journalist Steve Bunk’s new book Goliath Staggered: How the People of Highway 12 Conquered Big Oil. Those stories serve to bolster a chronological unspooling of the events that have unfolded in Idaho and Montana since Imperial Oil first began eyeing Highway 12 as an industrial corridor in late 2008. Goliath Staggered serves not as a heady environmentalist tome as much as a day-by-day collection of what locals have come to know as the megaload saga.
“The machinations of big oil and the government are actually pretty intriguing,” Bunk says. “What they’ll do to get what they want, it’s kind of dismaying.”
Bunk launched the project early last year with the intent of focusing on a few key characters in the battle over Highway 12. Laughy and Borg Hendrickson were obvious choices in Idaho, having founded the initial opposition effort there. Hendrickson says the book is “like reading a live history.”
The backstories of other players in Missoula proved a compelling addition as well, Bunk says. For example, few who followed the megaload issue in newspapers knew that attorney Robert Gentry was diagnosed with brain cancer in the middle of his fight to stop Imperial Oil in 2011—a story documented in detail in Goliath Staggered.
A federal court ruling issued last year has given Highway 12 a temporary reprieve, but the megaload story is far from over. The U.S. Forest Service must now conduct a study to determine the potential impacts of megaload traffic to the Clearwater-Lochsa corridor. Hendrickson says she “wouldn’t want people to feel the book is a conclusion of any kind.”
Bunk is also fully aware that Goliath Staggered comes not at the end of the saga but, perhaps, somewhere in the middle. He hopes the book can serve as an inspiring template for activist efforts elsewhere and illustrate that what matters is “people forcing change.”
“The title is Goliath Staggered, not ‘Goliath Fell,’” he says. “I think there’s no doubt that even though they won the battle, the war isn’t over. But it’s important to celebrate these victories.”
Steve Bunk will read from Goliath Staggered: How the People of Highway 12 Conquered Big Oil at Fact and Fiction tonight, April 22, at 7 p.m.
What you’re doing: Breakfast at Draught Works means not waiting until afternoon to sip on some brewskis. Finally. From 10 a.m. to noon on April 27 you can indulge in breakfast foods and a weird, magical assortment of breakfast-inspired beers. The event kicks off Missoula Craft Beer Week, which concludes May 5.
What you’re drinking: The brewers have transformed several of their regular beers into breakfast delights. The Grinder Coffee Stout becomes a cask-conditioned latte beer. The Scepterhead IPA turns into a Bloody Beer with all the accoutrements of a Bloody Mary. The cream ale transforms to strawberry crepe, the Shadowcaster Amber Ale into cinnamon raisin and the Hefeweisen into a mimosa. “This is a great opportunity for us to experiment,” says marketing manager Ana Pederson. Real coffee from Black Coffee Roasting Company is also available in bottomless portions.
What you’re eating: To go with the theme, Baker’s Dozen has made piles of maple donuts adorned with large strips of bacon. You can also get biscuits and gravy courtesy of Burns Street Bistro, plus all-you-can-eat sausage and bacon just in case your meat levels dip too low.
How to make it happen: This is the second year for Bacon ’n’ Beer Breakfast, and last year’s event sold out fast. Tickets are $35 in advance at Draught Works (406-541-1592). It includes gratuity and gets you food and four breakfast beers of your choice, plus a commemorative mug. Eats are only served until noon, when the brewery opens back up to the public, but if you don’t want to drink all your beers at once, you can come back any time during the day to cash in on the beverages.
How to get there: Draught Works, 915 Toole Ave., near Summer Sun Brew Supply. Learn more about Missoula Craft Beer Week at missoulabeerweek.com.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Quick's "Camp Sleepover" appears every Tuesday online, and can be seen in the Indy's printed pages every Thursday.
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