@Charles, I don't want to punch you in the nose, and wish I'd read the thread and known you were here for the Festival. I appreciate your provocative article, and think you make interesting arguments. There's a lot on which we agree. I am also bummed that our culture struggles to make space for the Wild. Current discourse around wolves demonstrates our inability to live and let live. Keep writing.
Sorry. Please know I know the difference between it is (it's) and its. Writing fast, drinking wine, didn't re-read carefully. And if you would like to come punch me in the nose, or better yet, pepper spray me, I'll be at the Festival of the Book in a couple of weeks.
As the author of this article (and after reading the comments here and in other papers where this piece appeared) I agree it is terribly short-sighted of me and worse, irresponsible not to carry bear spray for the reasons mentioned. It is a sad fact that I hadn't considered that a bear would be punished (killed) for doing nothing more egregious than being a bear. I'm imagining meeting one by accident and it is protecting it's young or something of the sort and neither one of us is to blame. And believe me I do not want this to happen. Still, I am not above admitting to being a hypocrite (nearly every last one of us is, yes? in one way or another, at one time or another?) and because I feel the chances are so slim (and they are) of being mauled, I will continue to not carry bear spray. I will also travel in the backcountry alone. Ski alone, and with no beacon. Irresponsible? Yes. It is how I prefer to do things, and I'll take my chances. Furthermore, I'm not a misanthrope. I simply believe we don't need to occupy every last square of this earth. And I will carry a tent and first aide kit and such and not go naked to encounter the wilderness on it's own terms. Such arguments are foolish. As I am.
We were just passing thru Missoula as we do every fall and I picked up your paper at our favorite coffee stop. I didn't settle in to read it until we reached home. What a pleasure to find your article on the legendary Cecil Garland. Like the reader above I met Cecil and watched him at numerous meetings, hearings and public events in the 1960's and early 70's. He was undoubtedly the most heroic and strong willed public advocate I've ever met. During his many public appearances fighting to protect the Scapegoat wilderness he frequently moved hard men and tough women to tears.
The Scapegoat wilderness is undoubtedly a great masterpiece he left behind when he left Montana. However in the late 1970's he emerged from his ranch near the Utah-Nevada border to fight the bizarre MX missle system planned for his neighboring desert. Once again he moved those who listened, including at least one nationally televised audience.
The missle system never was built. Thanks for a fine article.
Deer Harbor, Washington
I agree with the arguments in other comments that suggest carrying and God forbid using pepper spray is better for an attacking griz. I also take issue with the notion that "we should set aside huge swaths of country that human beings aren't allowed to set foot on..." Why? While I agree there may be justification for occasional or regular closures, like in the Mission Range in Montana, humans and grizzly bears have coevolved. Humans have used and appreciated this planet since the beginning of our time here. The author's comments reek of a misanthropic tone I find unusual among Wilderness users and advocates.
You are most irresponsible. Pitch a tent on railroad tracks. Raft whitewater without a life preserver. Skydive without a parachute. Try Russian Roulette for entertainment. Why not?
If the bear kills you then the wardens are going to kill the bear. We need to save the bears, we have plenty of people.
This is the first time I have commented on an article in the Independent I just could not stand the thought of anyone else following this example. People are killed by bears almost every year. The result of this is the bear being caught and "dispatched," so I just wanted people to know that the bear would not benefit from eating a person. It would instead be caught and killed. Better to bring the bear spray and use it than to be the cause of two deaths the bears and your own.
I understand the desire for risk, I’ve climbed rock walls without ropes and paddled rivers swollen to their extremes, but in this case it’s not all about us or you. Actually, I find it rarely is, but that’s rant for another day. The choice to bring bear spray into the backcountry is not a decision which only affects you. Other lives are at stake. In the event that some day your nickname (Eaten-by-Bear) becomes prophetic, it may not only be you that gets to experience the big national park in the sky. Depending on the circumstance it may be the bear you so valiantly want to protect as there are often consequences for human-eating bears, such as relocation or death. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that a bear that has met with pepper spay is less likely to have a negative interaction with an unsuspecting hiker in the future, thereby again increasing it’s own chances of survival and that of other humans.
Also, while your concern over inflicting pain on a species other than your own is a nice one, your facts are a little off. Yes, grizzly bears have an incredible sense of smell, which makes bloodhounds look like Chia pets with stuffy noses, but this is not the mechanism through which bear spray acts. The concentrated capsicum in bear spray is not a deterrent because it smells so bad, it is an airway and mucus membrane irritant. So, while bears have a great deal of surface area up in their noses, which allows them to smell so well, it is not their incredible smell per say which makes bear spray effective on them. The spray for example, would work equally well on my runny-nosed Chia pet if it had eyes and a trachea.
Lastly, what is your feeling on Vibram soles, Goretex, and nylon because if you really want meet wilderness on it’s own terms, you should take on the weather, a foe both mightier and more immediate than a grizzly bear you can’t see.
I agree that wilderness has inherent risks that we should embrace if we're going to travel there. If we aren't willing to face the risks, we should find safer, front country pursuits. However, not carrying bear spray in griz country is just irresponsible. I will "hey bear!" myself hoarse when the terrain calls for it (yes, it destroys the solitude)--I actually don't WANT to use that spray and will do what it takes to keep it in its holster. While little old me isn't much of a threat to a griz, humans as a species are the ultimate threat. If a one-time encounter with pepper spray illustrates that threat to a bear whose life I've unintentionally intruded upon, so be it. It isn't really fair (I'm in their home, they were here first), but it just might save BOTH of our hides.
Listen to Josh, by being assaulted or even threatened by a bear, the bear at best would be relocated, but would likely be euthanized. Bears that associate humans with a face of pepper spray will likely avoid a confrontation in the future.
You really haven't thought this through. Being killed by a bear would not serve any useful purpose. If a bear actually did eat you it would be killed as quickly as the authorities could find it. It's much better for a bear to get a face full of pepper spray, learn that people are to be avoided, and live, than to end up dead so you can satisfy your sense of adventure.
Carry pepper spray or don't. But please stop pretending you're doing the bears some kind of favor.
Charles, you are so right. Where in our history does it say we have the right to destroy the natural world because of fear and worst of all greed. It is not the "wild animals" we must fear, it is the out of control human that will cause the destruction of this planet....soon!!
A novice environmentalist at 27, I first met Cecil Garland at a public meeting of the Lolo National Forest on a mild winter evening in January 1972. The Forest Service was explaining to the audience (the public) the process for the first Roadless Area Review Evaluation (RARE I).
A Forest Service official (maybe it was the supervisor of the Lolo) had just introduced the idea of reviewing roadless areas for possible wilderness protection. All of a sudden I see Cecil Garland slowly walking down the aisle, red hankie showing in the back pocket of his denim jeans.
He graciously asked for the microphone, which was graciously given to him. Then Cecil, eyes a twinkle and with his infectious smile, proceeded to inspire that public audience, telling us in no uncertain terms that the public lands belong to the people and it is the people who will inform their representatives of what areas they want classified as Wilderness, that it was not up to the Forest Service.
The room grew quiet. I sat, mesmerized, as I got Cecil's message: the people get to decide for preservation of the people's lands. I was empowered from that night onward...to this day. I have Cecil Garland to thank for awakening in me my lifelong ethic to protect as much of the natural world as possible, 60 acres at a time if need be.
I, too, left Montana (in 1979) but to this day a big part of my heart remains there and I shall never forget Montana, years of public lands work, or Cecil Garland.
Just as houses destroy the habitats for ants and beetles. Just as cars destroy millions of birds a year through birdstrikes. Just as I destroyed a few flying insects this year on my morning runs...because they flew into my mouth. Do you have any idea how many gophers were displaced when the University of Montana was built? Stop the madness!! Animals are more important than humans! We all need to throw away our ipods, iphones,burn our iclothes and stop eating our ifood, which either kills animals or plants...neither is acceptable! All humans must find a way to live without harming anything...
Also...Lions are next. Do you have any idea how many antelope are killed a year by lions???
Are there not turbine designs that are more bird friendly beyond the traditional windmill. We should be working on that.
Sad but true. Wind farms destroy the airshed for living creatures, just as stripmines destroy watersheds. There really is no such thing as "green" energy.
Perhaps, before we start looking for new life on other worlds, we should stop killing life on this one first.
Why wasn't there an evacuation center for the animals? Why did they "have" to be left behind?
While you drive the roads of Montanistan watching for Al Ciada, I can save you a lot of time, just go down to the County or City Courthouse and watch the Inquisition. The movie you laugh off as a comedy is one of many scripts they prepare americans to see and laugh off. Independence day, Mars Attacks, Men in Black, etc, all scenarios that are in place, called "False Flags, and you are watching it happen. Rehberg, Baucus Testor sit in DC selling the party line while they drain you of everything. Look around all you brave Montanistani warriors on your scooters, here comes Denny on his horse crying, "The Muslims, and Homosexuals, and druggies, and callifornians are coming, they are coming". Actually Denny it's really the Bogeyman, really Denny, its the real one this time.
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