Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let ’em trap

Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Wow. I would think you and your readers have had enough of this anti-trapping rhetoric, but I guess not (see Letters, Feb. 16). Some guy minding his own business doing what he wants and some nosey person with binoculars is watchin’. Yes, beaver are beautiful but harvesting them doesn’t hurt them today as it did in 1820. Same with any furbearer that is harvested. Enough propaganda on how they die. Odds are the trapper used a body gripper that kills them instantly. Pretty? Nope. But quick.

Everything has a season and people, whether you like their sport or not, have the right to choose their sport. They don’t need your blessings any more than you need theirs when you walk the dog.

I live on the Clearwater and have two dogs. When I take them out for a walk I am aware of snowmobilers and trappers—and they are on a lead because of it. I can’t mount up and ride the ol’ saddle-mule because of snowmobilers. It’s their season, so I don’t ride.

If you hate and despise trapping, so be it, but let those who do (I no longer trap) do it.

I like wolves, too, but if one was taking a toll on my stock I’d defend them. I bet most of you might hate that idea, too.

Until spring keep Fido on a leash. Let folks of all walks of life enjoy what they want. Most folks who deal with the natural resources of this great state understand the need to manage (not exterminate) those resources. Harvesting is never pretty, nor should it be taken lightly, but as a conservationist it should be done.

Angelo Pecora

Seeley Lake

Baucus clears the air

Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Do you want to leave your children a Montana where the air is safe to breathe and the fish are safe to eat? Most of us would likely say “yes.”

Yet in today’s industrial age, we cannot take such things for granted.

Indeed, parts of our state suffer from bad air pollution. And over 50 bodies of water, including popular fisheries such as Flathead Lake and Fort Peck Reservoir, have warnings urging children and women of childbearing age to avoid eating too much fish due to mercury contamination.

Mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants emitted from power plants pose a risk for neurological damage, birth defects, cancer, and premature death. Other types of air pollutants pose a risk for asthma and cardiovascular diseases.

Fortunately, some or our leaders understand these risks and the need for protections that reduce dangerous pollution.

In 1990, Sen. Max Baucus led an overwhelmingly popular, bipartisan effort to modernize the Clean Air Act. The bill, signed into law by the first President Bush, required polluters to install technologies that capture toxins such as mercury and hydrochloric acid before they are released into our air.

But politics and industry pressure being what they are, implementation of this law has been delayed for more than 20 years.

Only now has the Environmental Protection Agency finally released rules for industry that will put them in line with this law. While we may grumble about the slow wheels of government, industry has had over two decades to prepare for these rules.

Back in 2001, Baucus cited the need for these long-delayed anti-pollution safeguards: “The American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all testified that we are facing a public health crisis due to air pollution.”

He added: “All the studies on the Clean Air Act generally have reached the conclusion by a huge factor that the benefits of the Clean Air Act outweigh the cost of the Clean Air Act.”

Thanks to Baucus, we will soon see the cleanup of toxic pollutants from Montana’s largest industrial sources as well as cleanup of asthma and respiratory-impairing pollutants from sources like Colstrip.

Each year across America, the newly adopted mercury and air toxics standard alone will help prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks.

While these standards should have been implemented a long time ago, they will help make Montana’s air and water safer for present and future generations.

We thank Baucus for his past and continued support of the Clean Air Act. Thanks to his leadership, perhaps we will leave our children a Montana where air is safe to breathe and fish are safe to eat.

Greg Lind


Craig Mathews

West Yellowstone

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flattened at Maclay Flats

Posted on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I was down at the river at Fort Missoula today, enjoying the weather and looking for birds. I noticed a canoe across the river and took a quick look through my binoculars to see who was canoeing. It was an older man, standing up in his canoe, rowing slowly, close to the bank. I wondered, “What is he doing? Oh dear God, is he trapping?”

The answer was a resounding yes. At this point, I was stunned and continued to watch. The area where he was trapping—across the river from the fort—I believe is Maclay Flats. Is trapping really legal at Maclay Flats? It is, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would tell me. Many people access the river at Maclay Flats, often with their dogs.

I was horrified to watch him pull out the large, bloated body of a beaver. How awful to see this beautiful animal bloated from having died by drowning and laying under the water for God knows how long (considering the law says the trap must be checked only within a “reasonable” time period), pulled up and tossed into a red Coleman canoe. How unsportsmanlike! And how cruel. I guess death by drowning is better than having your skull smashed while still alive in a trap, which is how many of the fur-bearing land animals are killed. Then I watched him rebait the trap (definitely big enough to kill my 30-pound dog) and continue down the river to check his next trap.

When is this horrific practice going to end? Trapping has no part in a civilized society, not even by government officials. Be fair. We already have taken over most of the wild animals’ habitat in this world. At least get out there and stalk your game to kill it. I don’t want to hear how trapping is part of Montana’s heritage. It’s not. It is an unfair way to kill animals for money. Trappers claim they want to enjoy the outdoors. May I suggest you get a pair of binoculars, a scope or a camera and get out there and enjoy the outdoors and the wildlife that deserve to live in it?

These animals are not varmints. Trappers seem to believe all of these animals they trap, including the ones they trap in error, like dogs and eagles and deer, are all varmints. None of them are. These animals belong in the landscapes, whether you like them or not.

This scene has stayed with me all day. It is horrible and upsetting. What if a Labrador retriever had been swimming in the area and got wind of whatever bait is used in traps? I bet the trapper would have disposed of the dog without a word to anyone. No animal deserves to die in this manner. It is time we put a stop to recreational and commercial trapping.

Kit Stevens


Marbut’s tirade

Posted on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 4:00 AM

A recent rant submitted by Gary Marbut of Montana Shooting Sports Association is so void of fact that it requires rebuttal (see Letters, “Let FWP starve!” Jan. 26).

His claim of FWP’s “shocking tolerance and support for large predators” stems from a federal reintroduction of gray wolves and federal courts treating wildlife management as abstract legal theory rather than science. Fact is, there's nothing FWP could do to change that.

Does he suggest FWP should have disregarded federal laws and court? Common sense tells us FWP was handcuffed by the federal wolf reintroduction. FWP could have ignored common sense—much like Marbut and MSSA did during the 62nd Legislature, when they promoted over 30 unfavorable bills, including one to gut the state wolf management plan, which would have resulted in continued federal wolf protection.

His attack on the integrity of FWP personnel should not have been allowed by an editorial board. It is without any supporting evidence. Strong personal attacks need to be supported by fact, not a personal tirade, as when he says FWP has been “fudging game counts and census numbers, and...blaming any game population declines that could not be covered up on climate change, sunspots, lazy hunters or aliens—anything but the truth.”

These claims, if not so incendiary, would not be worthy of a reply. This logic, or illogic, ignores loss of habitat, a politically-influenced elk management plan and legislative meddling as primary causes for current elk numbers. Unfounded claims such as Marbut's have no place in the discussion.

Fact is, Marbut’s friends in the legislature continue meddling in the affairs of FWP, to the detriment of resident hunters, making science-based game management political fodder. Sen. Debbie Barrett and her colleagues have passed bills requiring FWP to keep elk and deer populations under already low objectives. Those bills and the low objectives in the Montana elk management plan have done much to reduce elk populations in the Madison, Bitterroot and Gallatin. That’s a fact.

Now for the most humorous of his quotes: “Nobody at FWP noticed or cared several years ago when the editor of the NRA’s nationwide American Hunter magazine published a feature article about his fruitless elk hunting trip to southwest Montana, a trip where the only tracks he saw were wolf tracks.”

Since when is FWP responsible for a magazine editor’s hunting skill, or in this case, lack thereof? Given the abundance of elk “several years ago,” it is hard to believe an experienced hunter could not even find a track. Unfortunately, this kind of storytelling serves as truth among some who serve in Helena.

Montana finally has control of our wolves. We now have a wolf season to go with our mountain lion and black bear seasons, year-round coyote hunting and a myriad of other ways for hunters to deal with the predators Marbut implies are causing the “crashing herds.”

In the last two months, friends and I have hunted wolves whenever possible. Predators have fallen to our bullets, including one wolf. Hunters managing predators, as planned. With wolf delisting, we have every tool reasonably expected to manage predators. How many vocal critics are actually out there using these management tools versus sitting behind their computers whining that FWP is not killing these predators for them?

Speaking of predators, the kind that prey on resident sportsmen seem abundant during legislative sessions. Bills promoted by MSSA and Marbut have often been attacks on FWP, resident hunters and anglers and common sense. Bills like H.B. 321, which would have cost Montana sportsmen over $24 million in federal matching dollars. Or H.B. 369, which would have crippled our game wardens and let poachers have free reign.

Marbut’s tirade seems most driven by fear of a slight fee increase. Whether or not FWP will go to the next legislature for such, who knows? What we do know is that history shows MSSA will likely be on the wrong side of the issue when measured against facts, common sense and what is best for resident hunters.

Randy Newberg

Montana Sportsmen Alliance


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Close the clunker

Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 4:00 AM

PPL Montana spokesman Gordon Criswell recently penned an apology for the Colstrip coal-fired power plant. The Colstrip juggernaut is the eighth largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the nation and a major source of a host of other pollutants, including sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain), particulate matter (small particles that travel to the depths of people’s lungs, causing serious respiratory injury) and mercury (a potent neurotoxin).

But as Criswell points out, Colstrip provides a lot of electricity. The question is: Do the benefits of the electricity from Colstrip justify its costs? If so, maybe we should keep the plant running despite the pollution and even though it’s nearly a half-century old. If not, maybe we should close the behemoth.

Contrary to Criswell’s suggestion, the answer to whether to keep Colstrip running is a resounding “no.” The power from Colstrip doesn’t justify the harm its pollution visits on our state. Two recent studies—Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal, by the late Paul Epstein of Harvard, and Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States, by William Nordhaus of Yale—demonstrate that coal costs our economy $345 billion to $500 billion annually and that coal-generated electricity’s costs exceed its benefits. Coal only stays in business by pushing those costs onto our health and ecosystems.

If Colstrip had to pay for its pollution, it wouldn’t be competitive. It’s time we close the clunker and replace it with cheaper, cleaner and faster renewables and energy efficiency.

Charyn Ayoub


Healthy elk, healthy children

Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 4:00 AM

My compliments to Alex Sakariassen for his article on the elk decline issue (see “What’s eating the elk?” Jan. 26). The data he quotes from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks concerning the time periods of decline and expansion in the elk populations in southern Ravalli County correspond with our findings.

However, judging by the Ravalli County Commissioner’s predator policy, it is obvious that irrationality again trumps science. We recently provided the commissioners with our published study Observations of Brachygnathia Superior in Wild Ruminants in Western Montana, USA. The study is free online. We found that over half of the wild and domestic grazing animals, including elk, examined for the study had symptoms consistent with disruption of the fetal thyroid hormones during development. Most symptoms of fetal hypothyroidism cause the young to die prior to or soon after birth. This, of course, decreases the number of young available to replace the animals that die of natural causes or are killed by humans or other predators. Finding what is causing the hormone disruption and dealing with the actual culprit is the intelligent way, and the only way, to solve the problem of declining ruminant populations.

Doing this will also make you and your children healthier. There will be far fewer children born with heart defects, brain malformations (especially autism), a propensity to have asthma, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, childhood cancers and the other debilitating health problems the Pentagon has stated are a national security issue. All are symptoms of the disruption of the thyroid hormones during fetal development. Or you can follow the Ravalli County Commissioners’ policies and your children can keep being born with those serious and costly health problems. Strangling, maiming, torturing or poisoning all animals that happen to be caught in snares and traps or that eat the poison spread around or shooting bears, mountain lions and wolves over bait will not protect the young of wild grazing animals or children from the effects of congenital fetal hypothyroidism. Killing predator species using these inhumane, unethical methods will only decrease the available hunting opportunities, especially for outfitters to guide ethical hunters.

Judy Hoy


Like the sea

Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 4:00 AM

The “Ingomar’s fortune” cover photo was great, and it was a well-written article (see Feb. 2). Nice mix of past and present, and tying the very forces of “progress” that created towns like this to the slow withering of so many now.

As a New Englander, like the author, I really honed in on his note about the last time he felt the way he did sleeping in Ingomar was by the ocean, and Susan Webber’s thoughts about how bigger places can be overwhelming.

I was telling someone today how in 1982, when I first arrived here, I was walking on Main Street and a stranger passed me and said “Hi” with a smile. I turned around to see whom it was they were greeting. Of course, there was nobody else there. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

I grew up on the South Shore in Massachusetts, one town in from the sea. One reason I’ve stayed here is that the mountains remind me of the sea—a vast open space with very few humans in it. And to get into that space, I only need a pair of boots and a backpack, not a pricey boat.

Pulling out and highlighting the thread of Susan’s emotions was very poignant. And there was a good eye behind the camera. I appreciated the map, as I still don’t know this vast state very well.

Elizabeth Marshall


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Marbut’s off target

Posted on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I was not surprised by Gary Marbut’s long discourse regarding predators (wolves) and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (see Letters, Jan. 26). Marbut’s ideology has always been extremely far to the right, and he is vehemently opposed to wolves in the northern Rockies. He has long promoted hysteria about wolves attacking humans and turning Montana into a “biological desert.” Sadly, Marbut also supports political causes and candidates that work their hardest to destroy and degrade Montana’s wildlands, thus ruining the prime elk habitat so desperately needed. Sort of “shooting oneself in the foot,” in my opinion.

Since the late 1970s, the elk population of Montana has nearly tripled. But, of course, Marbut accuses FWP of lying (“fudging”) to come up with such optimistic numbers. He goes on to ridicule the “professionals” in FWP and their “green” ideas such as “biological diversity.” Apparently, in Marbut’s view, FWP’s job is to manage for a monoculture of elk, to the detriment of other species, making our forests an elk farm. That way, he can have an easier time getting “his elk” for the tiny fee FWP charges for a license. He prefers hearsay to scientific studies and disregards evidence that conflicts with his beliefs—a dangerous trait.

Now, funding is down and Marbut claims FWP will want to raise revenue from “the general public to pay the bills.” That’s actually a good concept, as all Montana residents enjoy wildlife, not just hunters, and we should all be willing to pay the bill. Perhaps it’s time FWP gets their funding from the state’s general fund, and doesn’t have to rely on one group. That way, we’d all have a say in how Montana’s wildlife is managed.

Wolves and other predators are here to stay. Close-minded attitudes and ideological straightjackets won’t help solve the complex wildlife management issues we have today. They only cause divisiveness.

Mike Koeppen


Solve the stalemate

Posted on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Montana’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act again came close to passage last month. The bill aimed at creating jobs and improving forest management enjoys strong support in Montana and has earned crucial support in the U.S. Senate.

But as FJRA gains momentum, opponents appear to be shifting tactics. They can no longer pretend the bill doesn’t exist. And because so many Montanans have united around FJRA’s collaborative approach to creating jobs and resolving national-forest conflicts, outright opposition has become politically imprudent.

Instead, we now hear proposals to change the forest jobs bill by requiring completion of the logging and thinning before resource-protection provisions take effect. Known as “trigger language,” this suggestion is a red herring—a made-in-Washington poison-pill provision that Congress has rejected time and again.

In other words, if you can’t stop FJRA on the merits, attach a provision that would effectively kill it.

The whole idea of trigger language is borrowed from epic forest fights of the past, the same fights that many of us have left behind. The most important thing everybody needs to know about the bill is that the many Montanans who’ve had a hand in writing it are focused on Montana’s future, not its past.

We want a future that guarantees 100,000 acres of timber harvest over 15 years. We want a future where forest restoration projects are judged in court not just by short-term impacts to the land, but also by the long-term benefit to the land. We want a future that ensures our clean water and wildlife won’t be held hostage by partisan politics. FJRA suggests that we advance these solutions now instead of wasting more time fighting over trigger language.

For decades, Montanans fought to stalemate over how to manage our national forests. Some wanted more logging, others more designated wilderness. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts wanted more places to ride, while hikers pushed for more areas closed to machines. No interest group or industry in Montana has enough clout to overwhelm the others, but they all have the ability to say no. So the us-versus-them, conflict-ridden forest politics produce nothing but gridlock and failure.

Stalemate translates to lost opportunity for all of us who depend on the forests for our livelihoods and quality of life. Stalemate robs us of any real ability to shape the destiny of our communities. Stalemate produces the same answer to every need, desire and opportunity in the woods: “No.”

That’s so frustrating.

Frustration is what brought together Montanans from diverse interests in communities from Troy to Seeley Lake to Deer Lodge and beyond. We weren’t sure at first whether we could find a better way, but we knew we could do better than the unacceptable status quo.

When Montanans stopped shouting and started talking—and listening—we found that the common ground was bigger than anyone had imagined. Why is this such a surprise? Loggers like to hunt and fish on the weekend as much as anyone. Wilderness wanderers need paychecks, too. We all need clean water. The fact is, most of us make use of our national forests in several different ways.

By talking, we learned that many things that people and groups want from the forest aren’t mutually exclusive. We also found that not everything should boil down to election-year partisan politics. Also, it turns out we don’t have to agree on everything to agree on many things.

We found agreement in collaborative proposals for forest management in the Yaak, the Blackfoot-Clearwater region and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National forest. The proposals are tailored to specific areas but include a combination of timber harvest, forest restoration, recreation—motorized and non-motorized—and wildland protections.

The agreements strike balance—and not just between timber production and wilderness protection. For example, fewer than 45 miles of roads or trails would be closed to motorized vehicles under FJRA, leaving thousands of miles open to off-road-vehicle enthusiasts. In fact, for the first time, FJRA would establish permanent recreation areas for snowmobilers, including boundaries suggested by local snowmobilers. That’s just an example of giving up a little to gain a lot.

Most important, by working together, we developed trust in one another. Trust was the catalyst for FJRA. Trust is the glue that holds us together and helps the FJRA coalition grow. Trust creates hope for the future.

That trust translates into a commitment by a broad coalition of Montanans to continue working together—in our communities, in court when necessary and in the forests—well after this forest jobs bill becomes law. Montanans who support this partnership trust one another and our ability to teach Washington, D.C. a thing or two about solving problems rather than exploiting them.

Anybody who tries to undermine this trust creates peril for Montana’s struggling timber industry and the good jobs it provides. FJRA will create logging and forest-restoration jobs. Trust the leaders of our timber industry when they tell you that.

Loggers, hunters and anglers, business owners, wilderness users, community leaders and so many others united behind FJRA are working on far more than a piece of legislation. We’re working to create a better future for Montana.

Won’t you join us? We welcome your support.

Robyn King

Yaak Valley Forest Council

Gordy Sanders

Pyramid Mountain Lumber

Tom France

National Wildlife Federation

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