Mountain High 

Missoula’s sympathies usually line up more with bears than with bison, though I think that’s just a matter of proximity. Right now, Montana, it’s time to set aside your megafaunal predispositions and come together to create some change in wildlife management.

I’m referring to Montana House Bill 253—aka the Montana Wild Buffalo Recovery and Conservation Act of 2009—a long-awaited first stab at deflating the ill-conceived and bloated mechanisms of state bison management.

I won’t rehash the issue, as you’d have to be either an ostrich or fresh from California to be unfamiliar with the general outline. HB 253 does three things: It restores bison as “valued, native wildlife in the state of Montana,” restores control of bison management to Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and continues to protect private property by coordinating with the Department of Livestock (DOL).

It’s time for input, and the best way to support the bill is to call the legislative hotline at 444-4800, and leave your comments with the whole House FWP Committee.

I’ve watched buffalo mismanagement at the hands of the DOL—the abuse of week-old calves, the unrelenting pressure on birthing cows, the bullets for straying bulls—and while we’re still operating under the paradigm of state control, it just makes sense to return a wildlife agency to the task. Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.

And speaking of opportunities, you may have noticed a distinct lack of falling snowy matter of late. I apologize. As is the case with our region’s profusion of karaoke nights, there’s simply nothing I can do. If you’ve got ins with the weather maker, now would be the time…

You see, there are still plenty of snow-dependent events on the area roster, so your action in this case will be much appreciated. Just think of the young participants in the Missoula Ski Education Foundation Classic, which goes down Feb. 6–8, at Montana Snowbowl. In order for the area’s best young skiers to wow the crowds, they’ll need some pow-pow. Don’t think, just make it happen.

Nobody wants a fresh dumping of snow right now more than Whitefish, which hosts the culmination of the 50th annual Whitefish Winter Carnival from Feb. 6–8. The king and queen, as well as the prince and princess, have been coronated, so all that remains is a full weekend of dances, chilly ice dips, skiing, skating and the like all over town. Visit whitefishwintercarnival.com for the full scoop.

The Rocky Mountaineers take up the reins on Sat., Feb. 7, with two trips: Take along all that backcountry gear for the first of four weekly backcountry ski trips into the Bitterroot, about which you’re asked to call Joshua at 543-0898. On the mellower tip, and on the same day, the Mountaineers and the Sierra Club team up to promote a Moonlight Cross-country Ski Trip through the supremely managed Lubrecht Forest. Call Steve at 721-4686 about that one.

The Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., offers an activity with no need for snow with the Sat., Feb. 7, Kids’ Activity Super Stars! at 2 PM. Learn about the cosmos, bake a comet cake and read some astral literature to prepare you for humanity’s future among the stars. $2/members free. Call 327-0405.

And while you’re at it, direct a few feet of powder over to Ski Lookout, on I-90 at the Montana-Idaho border, so that their Sun., Feb. 8, Big Air Contest can offer launchees a nice, safe place to land. Visit skilookout.com.

Or, while the cover’s patchy, take this opportunity to freshen up your gear: Don’t miss the Mon., Feb. 9 deadline to register for UM’s upcoming Ski and Snowboard Maintenance Class, which takes place on Wed., Feb. 11. The $5 cover’s well worth it. RSVP 243-5172.

Birds don’t particularly care for snow, and it’s a good thing, as two avian events come your way on Mon., Feb. 9: The Flathead Audubon Society presents woodpecker expert Lisa Bates, whose 7 PM lecture “The Wild Life in Dead Trees,” takes place in Kalispell’s Summit Medical Center, 205 Sunnyview Lane. Stay south like a snowbird when you attend Michael Schwitters’ presentation “Seeking the Birds of Mongolia” during the Five Valleys Audubon meeting at 7:30 PM in Room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. Both are free.

Come up with ways to get more kids outside by going inside during the three-day Children and Nature Summit, which begins with a big gala event at 7 PM in Wed., Feb. 11 in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall, and continues through Fri., Feb. 13, with seminars and panel discussions. Opening night’s free, and after that some greenbacks are required. Visit www.cfc.umt.edu/children&nature.

Also on Wed., Feb. 11, the Rocky Mountaineers’ monthly meeting features a presentation by Dr. Steve Porcella on his rocky exploits in the Bitterroot at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering. It’s free, so just show up.

We conclude this week’s roster with the rapid-fire freestyle announcing of four simultaneous outdoor-related lectures on Thu., Feb. 12: At 7 PM, choose between Shawn McKinney’s “Nutcrackers and Pines: Keystones of the Northern Woods” at the Ninemile Ranger Station in Huson, Keith Bosak’s “Nanda Devi: Adventure and Ecotourism Around India’s Sacred Mountain” in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall and Leo Bird’s “Blackfeet Skies” at the Montana Natural History Center. Or wait around until 7:30, when you can take in “The Biology of Yellowstone Hot Springs” with UM’s Scott Miller in Room L09 of the Gallagher Business Building. Phew.

Get snowy, people.
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