Saturday, January 15, 2011

Guest opinion: Conservationists must again battle bad, old ideas about public lands

Guest opinion: Conservationists must again battle bad, old ideas about public lands
By JIM POSEWITZ The Billings Gazette | Posted: Saturday, January 15, 2011 12:00 am

It was once said that bad ideas die with the people who hold them. If only that were true. In viewing the opening of the Montana Legislature, it is apparent that the anti-conservation, anti-environment, anti-public land and anti-wildlife philosophy of Montana's most notorious politician is vigorously alive in 2011.
By way of refresher, William A. Clark was our U.S. senator from 1901-1907. At the time, it was a position filled through vote of the state Legislature. For Clark, it was “... a position he had initially purchased with bundles of crisp $100 bills handed out to legislators in monogrammed envelopes — W.A.C. stamped on the fold, $10,000 per vote,” according to Tim Egan in “The Big Burn,” published in 2009. Clark's defense at the time was, “I never bought a man who was not for sale.”
The prize then, as it is now, was privatization and commercialization of natural resources. Clark and conservatives like Idaho's Sen. Weldon Heyburn and “Uncle Joe” Cannon of Illinois championed privatizing all of America. Their opponents believed that in America some natural resources were best shared. Their names are less eroded by time: Gifford Pinchot, George Bird Grinnell, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Montana's public land legacy

In order to protect forests and wildlife, Roosevelt, Pinchot, and Grinnell created the Boone and Crockett Club to introduce the sporting code and conservation to a nation.
In 1891 they lobbied a bill through Congress to allow presidents to reserve unclaimed land as forest reserves. When Roosevelt got to be president he used that authority — with vigor. In response, Clark, Weldon, Cannon and other anti-conservation conservatives attached a “rider” to an appropriations bill to prohibit the president from creating any new forest reserves in six western states — including Montana. In the seven days he had to either sign or veto the bill, Roosevelt added 16 million acres of national forest reserves in the states that Clark and his allies sought to reserve for the corporate robber barons. For Montana, those seven days meant the Big Hole, the Big Belts, the Little Rockies, the Cabinets, the Lewis and Clark and the Custer national forests. A couple of years later Grinnell led the fight to add Glacier Park to the list of protected places.
The battle between exploitation and conservation has persisted through the century that followed, generally with pseudo-conservatives attacking conservation budgets, vilifying those carrying the conservation message, and purging progressive political thought from their own political ranks. We are only one year away from the 100th anniversary of Republican Party bosses denying Theodore Roosevelt the nomination as their party's presidential candidate in 1912. As the years passed we have responded to Reagan's “Sage Brush Rebellion,” Interior Secretary James Watt's effort to “bomb” the Bob Marshall Wilderness with oil exploration, and numerous other attempts to sell off our public lands or diminish their protection.
Welcome to the 2011 Montana legislative session and its promise to: privatize and commercialize our
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  1. From On Target - US Sportsman's Alliance:
    Bills in Montana Threaten to Divert Wildlife Funding
    Two bills have been introduced in Montana that would divert funds away from the state Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). Multiple others are still awaiting introduction.

  2. Here at home Peter Shumlin said to myself & Roy Kilburn, at the Yankee Classic, that he would not allow any firearm hunting for deer in the month of Oct. & would "Veto" it. I'll bet you any amount! Rod Elmer

  3. only if he wants to commit political suicide. he has no such 'veto' power anyhow. there is a reason why the legislature got out of deer management back in 1979 - how well do you like answering phones?

    Vermonters have been asking for the October muzzleloader season since 1989 - it's in the 1990-95 deer plan. The only scientific advice for current hunter opinion for an October muzzleloader season was the $12K random phone survey the FWD commissioned in summer 2010 - majority response was supportive. Make no mistake - this was a hunter initiative coming out of much public input during the recent big game planning process, not a FWD initiative. FWD did everyhting they could to inform folks of the details of the proposal by having the survey results on their website, having the detailed proposal memo to the Board on their website, having a bulleted handout at the Board public hearings, and presenting those details at those hearings. If hunters and others want to show up to public hearings and make fools of themselves - what can you do? you can take a horse to water.... If this proposal gets voted down, hunters and Board members should not bother asking for it again until the next big game planning process. VFWD has done their part to support hunters in VT as usual - too bad they get no reciprocation. Hunters need to get organized with decent leadership in this state - leaders like those on this blog.

  4. Annon 12:33 - Thanks for the compliment. I think it is time to do a follow up future Search Conference to the Future of Hunting in VT we did in Castleton. Lot's of good things came from that weekend.

  5. "the only scientific advice for current hunter opinion for an October muzzleloader season was the $12K random phone survey the FWD commissioned in summer 2010"

    Not really scientific since it didn't include non-hunters. The meetings had a few. They should have done a survey of all Vermonters not just hunters. The board is in a real sticky position since they are the ones who claim that the people who show up at meetings are the ones who make policy.

    As far as I can see there is nothing for Shumlin to "veto". Even if he did have something to veto, it would not be political suicide. Hunters aren't what got him elected. Even with nothing to veto, he most certainly can tell the FWD to remove their recommendation. There isn't much evidence that the new season has any biological reason. Acccording to the FWD, the upper champlain valley zones met the doe kill levels set by the Game Management plan. The south western zones don't have enough hunters to claim all the permits available. The rest of the state doesn't matter with regard to doe. It's really just a social issue as Laroche pointed out in 2009. If it's just a social issue, why potentially negatively impact grouse, bear, bow, youth, rifle, and dec muzzleloader seasons? If anything the new season should be started in a few WMU's (k1, k2, n). Apparently we didn't learn anything from changing the antler restriction experiment from 3 WMU's to the entire state.

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