A recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court settled an objection brought by landowners and multiple-use groups against Fish, Wildlife and Park’s transfer last year of bison from a government facility to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The court determined that the transfer was, in fact, legally done. More significantly though, the court’s decision clarified a central question in the bison issue: When bison are captured and placed into a Quarantine Feasibility Study facility, they can no longer be considered wildlife.
In the opinion supporting the court’s unanimous decision, Chief Justice Mike McGrath zeroed in on the legal definition of “wild bison,” pointing out that when wild bison have been “reduced to captivity,” they no longer fit that definition. To McGrath, this issue was fundamental to the case because the law at the center of the dispute only applied to wild bison.
It may seem like a minor distinction, but McGrath’s important clarification is very welcome news to Montana landowners concerned about proposals to establish wild, free-roaming bison herds in Montana.
The fact that Yellowstone Park bison that have been captured and placed in quarantine are no longer considered wildlife means that some entity is responsible for them. If they stray from the property they’re supposed to be on, it’s clear that property owner is responsible for bringing them back. Equally important, that property owner is liable for any damage those animals may have caused.
The opposite is true for animals classified as wildlife. Property owners who have their land damaged by wild bison would have no legal recourse to seek compensation for that damage. And it’s unclear who might be responsible for removing wild bison from property that they are not supposed to be on.
Montana law also specifically prohibits placing on public land domestic animals that have been exposed to dangerous diseases, like brucellosis. Because Yellowstone Park bison that have been placed into quarantine lose their classification as wildlife, it appears likely this same law would apply to them as well, which reduces the risk that livestock and wildlife might come into contact with brucellosis.
The court’s decision was a win for both sides. FWP may resume transfers of quarantined Yellowstone Park bison to Montana to Indian tribes or private entities that establish Quarantine Feasibility Study facilities. As long as the animals transferred are not considered wildlife, and as long as the property owner receiving those animals agrees to take responsibility for them, then Montana landowners have nothing to object about.
For landowners, the decision settles the biggest ambiguity in the bison debate, and provides important protection against the threat of wild, free-roaming bison herds.
This is likely not the last chapter in the dispute over bison—out-of-state environmental groups with very deep pockets have made it their mission to impose a wild bison herd in eastern Montana, with little care to what it would do to Montana agriculture. But the court’s decision is an important step forward for those of us in the middle who are attempting to find real solutions to protect property rights, prevent the spread of brucellosis and bring better management to Yellowstone Park’s bison herd.
United Property Owners of Montana
I think war should always be included in environmental discussions. It should be included as a cause of environmental destruction and extinction of animals. The physical suffering is obvious. The main contribution war has to a polluted, unhealthy earth is the distraction of so much creative energy that at this time could be used for a better purpose.
Earth Day kind of speaks to less violence against our beautiful planet, but not very much about how violence toward each other correlates to our environmental troubles. I have been thinking a World Peace Day might help.
Editor’s note: The United Nations recognizes Sept. 21 at the International Day of Peace, sometimes known as World Peace Day.
The story on beer drinking in the Bitterroot is one of the most irresponsible pieces of journalism I have read in a long time (see “Bottoms up” in the annual Explorer special section). Biking and drinking is dangerous enough, but then you blew off the bartenders good advice about the bike path (which is awesome), then you get back to your car and having drunk enough to be legally intoxicated you drive the killer stretch of road. Additionally, you make the ride seem like a great accomplishment, but it is really a lovely 20 cruise for anybody who bikes at all regularly. I think the breweries are awesome, but a designated driver is necessary if you drive the trip, let alone bike it.
I believe each one of us has the moral obligation to leave this place in as good or better shape than we found it for our kids and grandkids. That responsibility also means making sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed regardless of whom he or she loves. We're at a decisive moment in our history as Americans because we have the opportunity to achieve that equality.
For many, LGBT Pride Month is a time to reflect on the values of equality and independence. Especially the values we hold dear from the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These principles are the cornerstone of our great nation, and are what make it the envy of the world.
During Pride Month, it's appropriate to consider the ways we're working to make Montana and our nation a more just society where all can pursue happiness as they see fit, regardless of whom they choose as a partner.
While it seems that not many folks are working together in Congress, I'm proud that we passed a strong Violence Against Women Act this year. The Violence Against Women Act provides $4 million to support 50 Montana programs. And, for the first time ever, it provides protections for our LGBT community. It's time we recognize that LGBT survivors deserve equal access to these important resources.
In Montana, we believe in personal freedom. We believe the government shouldn't interfere in the people's private business. That's why I agreed to co-sponsor efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. There are more than 1,000 rights and obligations the federal government grants to married couples that same-sex couples are denied. It's time to end marriage discrimination, which is why I supported overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Simply put: The federal government should not be interfering in the personal decision of who an adult chooses as a partner.
When it comes to the workplace, it is unacceptable for anyone to be fired simply because of their sexual orientation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will help protect workers from this type of discrimination and I look forward to moving forward on this legislation in the Senate as soon as possible.
Members of the LGBT community are our neighbors, brothers, sisters and friends. They are community leaders who bring the kind of diversity to our nation that makes it strong.
We all have a role in making sure that Pride Month is not just something we check off on the calendar. "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" for all Americans is what we are called to strive for every day of the year.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus
In modern America, cancer is the plague. But a far worse plague is greed.
Insidiously, greed is engendering malignancy in politics and government while, simultaneously, denaturing the Natural World. It's corrupting this republic of ours and, similarly, it's corrupting the well-being and viability of Planet Earth's eons-old but rather fragile "sufficiencies" (which are increasingly rendered insufficient by greed's idiocies and ruinousness).
Obviously, we must begin to identify and repudiate greed's most egregious and sociopathic exponents, and insist that human intelligence replace human greed as the determinant of what "rules us" as a species. If we fail in that undertaking, do we not risk becoming heirs to a catastrophic outcome that absurdly contradicts our notable achievements and our higher human promise?
Who are the greedy? And should their idiocy and incorrigibility be allowed to condemn all of us to despotism, environmental collapse and existential despair?
Human greed is implicitly at odds with a fundamental, intrinsic generosity in the universe, and should not be obeyed when it presumes to assert its preposterous, misbegotten "authority."
I recently had the opportunity to get involved with the Citizens Climate Lobby and have been exposed to many articles and videos about global warming and climate change. An article in The Guardian from May 16 by Dana Nuccitelli talked about a recent study showing that 97 percent of climate experts agree humans cause global warming. When people know scientists agree on human-caused global warming, they are more likely to support government action to curb these greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s extremely important to get educated on the issues around climate change, as we need to act now. Less than 50 percent of Americans know that scientists now agree on human-caused global warming.
Here in Montana, global warming is causing ranchers to sell off part of their herds because the grass is not there for them to eat and getting hay is very expensive. Trying to raft down the Gallatin or Madison is not as enjoyable as it use to be. Last time I went rafting, our raft kept hitting the bottom and I would have to get out and navigate the kids until we got to an area with a little more water. Water temperature is increasing, stressing the trout in our rivers, shortening fly-fishing season. Global warming is happening, and it’s affecting this beautiful state we live in and the livelihood of river guides, outfitters and even the ski resorts.
Billions of dollars are and will be spent to fight our fires. As reported by KBZK news on May 23, since 1999 over $1.1 billion has been spent battling wildfires just in Montana. We can expect a warmer and dryer June and July, which means our July-August fire season will be worse.
It is time to work at reducing the carbon emissions. We need a revenue-neutral carbon tax giving money back to each household. By doing this, it protects the low and middle class, holds the fossil fuel suppliers accountable for the damage they are doing and allows the free market to move towards clean energy.
Instead of spending billions putting out fires, we should be investing in jobs for solar, wind energy and other types of clean energy like earthship houses. Imagine putting people to work retrofitting houses and businesses for solar energy? Putting people to work and reducing our carbon footprint. Even China is getting on board to put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
We the people are the biggest contributors to global warming and climate changes. We cannot continue to consume at our current rate, the planet cannot sustain this type of growth and consumption. May 9 marked 400 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere for the first time in 3 million years.
A person may feel frozen because the task ahead is so overwhelming and they don’t know where to start. Start by calling Sen. Baucus, Sen. Tester and Rep. Daines and ask them to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax, a solution backed by conservatives like former Secretary of State George Shultz. In Bozeman, contact the local Citizens Climate Lobby through their Facebook page for more information or to get involved. There is a new group in Missoula and one starting in Billings.
If 97 percent of the climate experts agree that humans are responsible for climate change, then I am 100 percent certain that Congress needs to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax, or they can write a blank check to FEMA and divert all funds there.
Citizens Climate Lobby
I am writing to you concerning the proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine. With changing political environments in the past few years, big industry has begun to creep into politics so extensively that individuals are losing the ability to represent themselves and each other, and decision makers can't decipher right from wrong. Let me help.
Polluting people's air is wrong. We have no choice whether or not to breathe the air around us, we cannot control its quality, nor can we clean it on our own. Everyone has the right to have clean air. Polluted air from coal causes thousands of deaths each year, not to mention other coal ash-related health issues.
Exponentially increasing greenhouse gas emissions is wrong. The coal from this mine will contribute approximately 280 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere a year. We're already seeing the detriment of global climate change each year, and significantly adding to it is unethical.
Finally, destroying water sources is wrong. Ranchers depend on this water for their cattle, as well as their irrigation. Coal mines cannot prevent heavy metal seepage into surface waters nor can they prevent coal ash pollution in water. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals also means check your fish before consuming, they could be toxic.
Allowing another outdated energy source in this state is wrong. Check the facts and listen to the individuals, not the big corporate groups just saying what you want to hear. Please let democracy work!
I am writing in response to the increasing interest in mining Otter Creek coal. It is my opinion that this development will be not only harmful to the immediate community surrounding Otter Creek, but also to the state of Montana as a whole.
Decline in the demand for coal has been fueled recently by a rise in alternate sources, such as cheaper natural gas. The environmental impacts on air quality due to emissions are causing coal power plants to be shut down; this coupled with a decline in plant production makes coal a questionable investment. The Otter Creek coal is even less desirable due to high sodium content. This means coal from Otter Creek will be destined for Asian markets.
Knowing that we will be destroying our own state to ship a product to Asia to be burned and release pollutants into the air is a disturbing thought. As Montanans we should be focused on an effort to minimize our impact on the environment, and to become leaders in setting an example for moving toward America's energy independence.
It is hard to put a monetary value to the land destroyed to access the coal, the air and water polluted to ship it overseas, and the cultural impacts of such an operation on the communities it touches. In the end it seems clear to me that the products and profits from such a venture will go to Asia, coal companies and railroads; and the bill will come to Montana.
Arch Coal, one of the biggest and richest coal companies in the world, is currently seeking a permit to rip up a pristine agricultural valley in southeastern Montana to mine the coal underneath and sell it to China. Coal markets in the United States are disappearing. Corporations looking for a fast buck are trying to ram through proposals to open the Otter Creek strip mine and expand ports in the Northwest so the coal can be shipped on rail line through Montana, Washington and Oregon. Communities along the rail line would be choked with more train traffic and longer and longer waits at crossings. Montana has little to gain from Arch Coal's venture. Montana would lose a treasure. The Otter Creek Valley is one of the last undeveloped places in the state and the nation rich in cultural and historical value. Irreparable harm would come to the valley if the mine and accompanied Tongue River railroad were brought to fruition. Who would gain from these schemes? Arch Coal would get the profits. China would get the coal. Montana would only get the impacts.