Mountain High 

Folks, I can’t launch into a digest of recreational happenings in good faith without a brief update on the Yellowstone buffalo situation. For the last wild herd of American bison, it’s been a bad year already, and the hardest part of the season has yet to begin. Shooters killed 112 animals during the course of Montana’s bison hunt, which is set to end Fri., Feb. 15. Government agencies in charge of bison management, which include Montana’s Department of Livestock and the National Park Service, among others, have prematurely made good on promises that capture and slaughter operations will ramp up once the hunts are over. At press time, the Park Service has captured 139 bison within the boundaries of Yellowstone, and has sent at least 67 to slaughter without testing them for brucellosis, the disease that supposedly necessitates the policy.

In response to the start of hazing season, theBuffalo Field Campaign’s Week of Action begins Thu., Feb. 14, and you’re invited to join them on a beautiful journey down the Madison Valley. Guests will be fed, housed and clothed—if necessary—for the duration. An 8:30 AM rally on Sat., Feb. 16, at the West Yellowstone entrance to the Park offers a chance to advocate for a free-roaming herd. Call 646-0070 or visit buffalofieldcampaign.org.

Alternately, stick around Missoula and take your honey to Room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building on Thu., Feb. 14, where  Fred Allendorf digitally recounts his adventures in New Zealand during the presentation Wildflowers From Down Under at 7:30 PM, brought to you by the Montana Native Plant Society.

Find release from the inevitable post-Valentine’s Day letdown when you head up to Whitefish Mountain Resort on Fri., Feb. 15, for the second installment of their Night Riders Park Series at 6 PM. The event is a rail jam, which means that skiers and snowboarders will grind relentlessly—hey, I though we were going to get our minds off of Valentine’s Day—and without pause for your enjoyment. Watch or join in by getting more info at 862-2900. 

Animalia is the key word for Sat., Feb. 16, and who better to kick things off than the Montana Natural History Center? Beginning at 7:30 AM, they present wildlife researcher and owl-nut Denver Holt, who drags the assembled bird-fans to the Ninepipes Wildlife Refuge for an all-day program titled Wonder of Winter Raptors. All manner of flesh-eating hollow-boned, egg layers await, so call 327-0405 to reserve a spot. 

Another feathery option with the Five Valleys Audubon Society’s Larry Weeks starts at 8 AM in the UM Fieldhouse parking lot—or at 9 AM at the Ninepipes Lodge—for a day of visiting winter resident birds of the Mission Valley. Call 549-5632.

Following forest critters is the name of the game at a Winter Tracking Workshop at 9 AM on Sat., Feb. 15, which takes place at the Kalispell Montessori Elementary School, 349 Willow Glen Drive, and in the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area. Bring lunch and water, and call 857-2393 to register. 

In the interest of facilitating your animal tracking, Missoula Parks & Recreation offers a Snowshoe Class and Trek on Sat., Feb. 16, at 9 AM at Currents Aquatics Center. Snowshoes are provided by Pipestone Mountaineering, and the class covers all the basics. Register by calling 721-PARK.

The Rocky Mountaineers have something special planned for you on Sat, Feb. 16, and it goes by the name of the Runt Mountain Runaround. Cross-country skiers who are comfortable riding chairlifts under a variety of challenging conditions will meet at 10 AM at the Lookout Pass lodge, buy two single lift tickets and begin a regimen of riding and descending the mountain on all manner of trails. It sounds fun, and it sounds like you might want to clear up a few questions when you call Jim at 822-5000.

Returning to the tracking theme, Northwest Connections offers a two-day Animal Tracking Clinic starting on Sat., Feb. 16. The class, based at a historic Swan Valley homestead, covers topics such as animal gait patterns, tracks, habitat selection and behavior. It’s also offered on the weekend of Feb. 23-24, but stay focused on the present and call 754-3185 today.

Enough with the animals and their tracks, already. The Sierra Club asks that you avoid even mentioning the existence of animals during their Sun., Feb. 17, Cross-Country Ski Trip from Lolo Pass to Lee Creek. Rescheduled from last week due to some malicious microorganisms, the route features some sick downhill sections and possibly some breaking of trail. Call Steve at 721-4686.

The Watershed Education Network, a group of water lovers who aren’t afraid of getting their hands wet, offer the first of six Volunteer Stream Monitoring Trainings at 4 PM on Wed., Feb. 20,  beginning under the Greenough Park Pavilion. Go through the training and you can help bring watersheducation into local schools. Call 541-9287.

And finally, those crazed cavers of the “Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto” hold their monthly meeting at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St., at 7 PM on Wed., Feb. 20. Once the bidness is settled, Thomas Coleman will present a talk about more new cave discoveries in the Bob Marshall Wilderness titled “The Turtlehead Mountain Expedition of 2007.”

Light the fires and kick the tires, people. And send me word of your daringest exploits.
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