Mountain High 

Those who honor the forecasts of the National Weather Service, the Farmer’s Almanac or any of the oh-so-confident El Niño predictors might have noted that “indicators” are telling Western Montanans to expect a warmer, dryer winter.

But those of us looking forward to a whitest of winters should further note that neither the mysterious Almanac nor the well-funded NWS predicted that August’s precipitation would tally 351 percent above normal, so take those “indicators” with a grain of road salt.

Many Montanans, including skiers, farmers and snowmobile rental companies in Yellowstone’s gateway communities, rely on at least a moderate dose of snow each winter. The high Yellowstone Plateau rarely goes without snow, and the serene, stark beauty of the park’s winters draws visitors from around the world to its unique geothermal features.

But a recent report by the National Park Service states that at some park locations, the winter whine of snowmobiles is omnipresent. The report adds that visitors might want to wear ear plugs to avoid hearing damage, and that toxic air pollution near entrance stations is a major hazard to those involved in the popular recreational pursuit of breathing while in a National Park. Still, a Bush administration plan intends to boost by as much as three times the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park this winter, despite its own report’s documentation showing that mandatory noise-reduction rules are broken as often as 17 out of 24 hours on weekend days. The legal battle is expected to play out in Wyoming and D.C. courts for years to come, so stay tuned.

Another plank of the cut-‘n’-run administration’s gut-‘em-all environmental platform is the overturning of the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Folks appreciating these untrammeled places and their use for spiritual renewal, recreation or hunting grounds have an opportunity to nip this destructive policy reversal in the bud. Leading the charge are the sportsmen and women of the Montana Wildlife Federation, as the scuttling of the Roadless Rule could have massive consequences for Montana’s critter populations. About 2.5 million people strongly supported the Roadless Rule 13 years ago, and a broad array of conservation, hunting and recreation groups are again ramping up efforts to protect these last, best places. You can join the MWF for a free conference on Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Missoula Public Library, or you can e-mail your comments to the feds before Sept. 14 at Call Larry Copenhaver at 458-0227 for more info.

Or (in an unaffiliated event) you can join rabble rouser/wilderness guide/conservationist Howie Wolke as he lays out the realities of America’s dwindling roadless areas. He’ll tell you what’s going on, why, and what in hell you can do about it. It’s free and open to the public, so hit the Missoula Children’s Theatre on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. Call 549-1142 for more info.

As the Rocky Mountain Front continues its evolution from what The New York Times has called “The American Serengeti” to poster child for out-of-state gas development, opportunities are opening up for interested Montanans to make their voices heard. Join the Native Forest Network in UM’s Jeannette Rankin Hall, room 202, on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. for a slideshow and strategy session geared toward Missoulians interested in protecting the Front. Contact Cameron at 542-7343 to get involved.

Or learn firsthand about oil and gas development on the Front by joining a field trip Sept. 18–19 to Canada’s Front Range, a startlingly well-developed view of what’s to come for Montana if development continues to push forward. After carpooling from Missoula, interested parties will hear from local wildlife biologist Brian Horejsi and discuss the impact that roads, refineries and other development have on the local community. Registration is required, so call Cameron at 542-7343 to make a run for the border.

Local non-profit Montana Trout is holding a $12 fundraiser ($10 in advance) on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at UM’s Urey Lecture Hall. They’ve hooked homeboy/author David James Duncan for a reading and will be showing flyfishing films (NOT, by the way, A River Runs Through It.) A primo raffle is included with your entry, so log on to to get in the game.

Hey cyclists! There’s a brand spankin’ new five-mile long single track course snaking through Snowbowl Ski Area, and on Sept. 12 Missoula’s backyard mountain will host the 18th annual version of its mountain bike race, The Circuit Course. Register at 10 a.m., then plan on 2,000 feet of uphill grind before riding the lightning back down to the base—complete with hairpins, steeps and no shortage of obstacles. There are easier rides for beginners and tougher rides for experts, and a base area party starting at 4 p.m. Spectators are welcome, dogs aren’t, and obviously helmets and common sense are mandatory for racers. Call Snowbowl (549-9777, ext. 36) or sponsor Big Sky Cyclery (543-3331) to complete the circuit.

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