Mountain High 

In mid-November, the United States Department of the Interior announced its plans to remove the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from the endangered species list. Coincidentally, on the same day the announcement was made, a long-scheduled forum titled “State of the Grizzly: Recovered or Reeling” was scheduled in Missoula. Because of some changes in the speaker lineup and more than a little hostility from some participants toward others (see “Bearly speaking,” Nov. 17, 2005), the forum ended up being a platform for two opponents of delisting rather than a dialogue between people who disagreed about the plan.

But at 7 PM on Thursday, Nov. 26, in the University Center Theater on the UM Campus, Missoula is finally going to get some give-and-take on grizzly delisting, courtesy of the Hellgate Hunters & Anglers and the Montana Wildlife Federation, who jointly sponsor “Should Yellowstone Grizzlies Be Delisted?” Chris Servheen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tom France of the National Wildlife Federation and Brian Peck of the Great Bear Foundation will participate in the forum, which aims to expose substantive differences on grizzly bear management policy and hopefully generate some sort of consensus on policy.

So that’s policy. Nothing like a little parley on wildlife management to get the blood flowing. Well, maybe one or two things.

For instance, running gets the blood flowing. And you can do it when Missoula Parks sponsors Frost Fever on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 10 AM at Playfair Park. The 5K event is labeled a fun run, which means that there’s no pressure, lots of amenities and long-sleeve T-shirts aplenty. So, if you’ve kept your New Year’s resolution to go running a few times a week, you should be in fine shape for this weekend’s trot through town. Call 721-PARK and get yourself signed up.

But if you do that, you’ll miss the Rocky Mountaineers’ Saturday, Jan. 28, backcountry jaunt up to Bobcat Creek, which runs between Lolo Peak and Lolo Hot Springs. Since there hasn’t been much snow this week, backcountry is probably the way to go, and the pre-trip publicity promises some good touring terrain and access to higher elevations if the snow doesn’t seem promising. Call 721-4686 to get involved.

Another way into the backcountry is with a pack animal. It’s a great way to go if you or your friends resent the weight of a backpack or the lack of a cast-iron frying pan. At Smoke Elser’s Wilderness Outfitting and Packing Course you can get hands-on instruction in packing and horse/mule handling. I’ve gotten good feedback from people who attended before, so if it seems like learning this stuff would fulfill your backcountry ambitions, call 549-2820 to register.

While walking your mule through the snow, perhaps you should wear some snowshoes. If you don’t already have a pair, it would be a good idea to head to Pattee Canyon sometime between 10 AM and 3 PM on Saturday, Jan. 28, and Sunday, Jan. 29, when you can walk a mile in another man’s snowshoes—and then think about buying them during REI’s free snowshoe demo days. Call 829-0432 to make sure there’s adequate snow for the demo.

The University is back in session and that means there will be a slew of offerings from the Outdoor Program, many of which will be open to the public. Here’s fair warning: though I will try to mention as much as I can, my space is limited, and there are piles of events that you might be interested in. You can always call 543-5172 and get the whole list.

That said, Wednesdays, Feb. 1 & 8, there will be free Avalanche Awareness Lectures at 7 PM in room 131 of the Science Complex—a good idea if you plan to head out to where the snow may be sliding.

This one is helpful only if you’ve got a Griz Card, but I know that many of you do. The climbing wall in the Fitness and Recreation Center will be strictly for the ladies from 7 to 9 PM on Wednesday nights from Feb. 1 to Mar. 22. Fellas, your best bet is to show up at 9 PM with some brewskis and a smile.

And here’s some warning for you slow-pitchers craving spring softball. Wednesday, Feb. 1, is your last chance to register for Missoula Parks’ Blizzard Ball 2006 tournament. Not only can you play co-rec softball in the snow; you can also put your scarecrow costume to use as part of the Blizzard of Oz theme for the Feb 11–12 tourney, which takes place at the Fort Missoula softball complex. Call 721-1360 to get info on entering your team in this multi-state charity event.

Finally, the weather: It looks like another dry spell is settling in around Western Montana; I haven’t seen hardly any fresh snow in my survey of conditions in the area, and it doesn’t seem that much is headed here soon. I’m sure it’s only temporary. If you know differently, be sure to tell me. I’m always listening.

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