Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Timber Meeting Update and Public Comment

Open Meeting Update - Cancelled
This morning, I called FWP Region Supervisor Beck, officially, the meeting on the 17th was cancelled by Comm. Stuker. It has not been rescheduled for another time, date, or location.
"While the meeting wasn’t officially noticed, it was open to the public and Commission Stuker had planned to take public comment."

To those of you who planned on attending, as I was planning, thank you for your concern and intended public participation.

But, we still need to address the issue of way over objective elk concentrations in HD 580, partly due to public access issues and outfitting. Comm. Vermillion's suggestion of going antlerless in HD 580, has been brought up by others as part of the season setting changes for HD 580 before. This is a public process, FWP needs to hear your voice on the matter.

Also, there is another season setting issue with Region 2's HD 215, near Elliston, at the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This WMA was purchased for winter range for the wildlife. We should not be having a shoulder season hunt on public lands, especially on a WMA for winter habitat. The shoulder seasons were "sold" as a means to drive off elk, from private lands, to public lands, where they would be publicly accessible, not harbored, in areas that were over objective.

So here is the ask...
Please participate in the public process, take a few moments,

  • Send your public comment email to FWP ( fwpwld@mt.gov )or fill out the form on their page (link above)
  • The comment deadline is Wednesday, January 24 at 5 PM.
  • Please also request HD 580 go antlerless and no shoulder season hunt on HD 215.
  • And it would be a great help, if the public would demand FWP update their woefully outdated Statewide Elk Management Plan (2004), instead of continually kicking the can down the bloody road!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's all about the transparency, baby!

"Montana’s populist roots promoted early adoption of statutory 'open records' mandates. Montana’s first open records law was passed six years after statehood in 1895 and guaranteed: Every citizen has a right to inspect and to take a copy of any public writings of this state … (and) every public officer having the custody of a public writing … is bound to give (citizens) on demand a certified copy of it."
The American people deserve to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by and that their lawmakers' only interest is what's best for the country, not their own financial gain.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/kirstengil623961.html

The American people deserve to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by and that their lawmakers' only interest is what's best for the country, not their own financial gain. Kirsten Gillibrand
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/kirstengil623961.html

The American people deserve to know that their elected leaders play by the exact same rules that they play by and that their lawmakers' only interest is what's best for the country, not their own financial gain. Kirsten Gillibrand
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/k/kirstengil623961.html
~ Peter Michael Meloy, attorney and author of the Montana Open Government Guide

Open Meeting?

A meeting has been called, with officials from the executive and legislative branches on a matter, which by law makes it an open meeting – yet, this meeting is anything but “open”.

I have long been an advocate of open government. I read the laws so that I know my rights, the public's rights. And there have been times I have had to print those rights out and take them to meetings or cite them to officials, to make sure our rights are not ignored. For example, my taking audio of public meetings for transparency and accountability. There are no questions or “he said, she said” confusion when audio exists. 

There has been ongoing controversy on two storm fronts, which have collided in the Crazy Mountains: public access and over objective elk numbers. 

For years I have advocated against shoulder seasons, since FWP is not following their Statewide Elk Management Plan, which they are required to do; nor have they updated it. Part of the issue involves the State's requirement to manage the elk to objective. I will not go into all the finer points of how our state wildlife agency has gotten themselves into this pickle, that can be reviewed here.

I got a call this morning with some interesting information about a meeting being set up.

Some details involved:

1. HD 580 (eastside Crazy Mountains) has an elk objective of 975, yet 580's 2017 elk count was 4846. Based on "FWP's Estimated Elk Numbers Assuming 80% of Elk Are Observed" – that would make the elk population about 6058. This is a huge problem to landowners with agriculture to have losses due to the over populated elk and potential property damage, for example fences.

2. One of FWP's season setting public meetings is in Big Timber, Jan. 18th, 7 pm at the library.

3. In Brett French's article in the Billings Gazette, FWP, some commissioners at odds over Montana's extended elk season, FWP Commissioner Dan Vermillion addressed HD 580, "Vermillion pointed to Hunting District 580, on the east side of the Crazy Mountains, as an example of why Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks should go to a cow-only elk hunt in specific areas. He said elk populations for the district are 200 percent over objective. The objectives are based on landowner tolerance."

4. Chuck Rein is a Crazy Mountain landowner (HD 580); Vice-President of Montana Outfitters and Guides Association; an outfitter that profits from public resources (like antlered bull elk) and public lands; holds a FS outfitting permit in HD 580; a member of the state and local stockgrowers associations; aggressively pursued actions against Yellowstone District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz for doing his job, following policy on multiple use in the Crazy Mountains, including meeting with officials, bringing Sienkiewicz up to the Stockgrowers meetings, resulting in letters from both the local Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers and Montana Stockgrowers Association to Senator Daines, USFS Chief Tidwell; Rein was also part of a landowner group letter to the same legislator and officials, including USDA Sec. Perdue - resulting in Sienkiewicz' removal and investigation (thankfully, he was reinstated).

So Chuck Rein calls FWP Commissioner Richard Stucker recently (the Ag representative) from Chinook, about the antlerless comment/season setting, to set up a meeting. The meeting is scheduled the day before FWP's public meeting. You might think that if Rein had questions or concerns, he could participate in the public process on the 18th, like everyone else.

A meeting has been set up for Jan. 17, 1:00 pm, at the NRCS Bldg in Big Timber, which I confirmed all these details, calling FWP's Bark Beck and Dan Vermillion.

What is really interesting is who all is invited:

Chuck Rein – landowner/outfitter in HD 580/Vice-President of Montana Outfitters & Guides Association/Stockgrowers members

Nathan Anderson – landowner HD 580, also President of the Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers Association and signer to the letters and efforts against FS Sienkiewicz

Jay Bodner - Montana Stockgrowers Association

Richard Stuker - FWP Commissioner

Dan Vermillion - FWP Commissioner

Nels Swandal - Senator SD 30 (R)

Alan Redfield - Representative HD 59 (R)

Barb Beck - FWP Reg. 5 Supervisor

Justin Paugh - Reg. 5 FWP Wildlife Biologist

Rein didn't just suggest that since these people might happen to be in the area for the public meeting on the 18th, let's meet to have a beer and shoot the shit! And why the Legislators, when this isn't a legislative matter?

Now, when you look at Montana open meeting laws, this many Executive branch officials and 2 State legislators (and if any public monies are spent for them to attend) - discussing policy/actions, or conducting business, you have an open meeting, which the public can attend. Montana Open Government Guide states, "Indeed, any time the body meets to hear, discuss, or act on any matter, the meeting is deemed to be open regardless of the matter to be discussed."

This subject involves three issues: 
public resources (and their management), and at times public access and public lands - which should be open and transparent.

This meeting smacks of the same Rein maneuvering/alignment he used against Yellowstone District Ranger Sienkiewicz to get him removed.

So what exactly is going on here? 

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Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Demoralization, a condition unresponsive to drugs


A while back on my psychology news feed, I read an article about demoralization, as opposed to depression - The demoralized mind.

Everywhere, we are surrounded by an assault on our public trust, our public lands and access, our wildlife, our natural resources and so much more.

Increasingly, I hear people make comments about being depressed because of the constant assaults, the constant state of hypervigilance, being stretched too thin, so many battles, too many battles, only so much of a person to go around...

I understand, my daily conservation news feed, spanning the US, has become like the stereotypical, folkloric raven depicted as a harbinger of doom, only it is not one raven, but a murder of them. Not only are the warning articles increasing, but we are now seeing studies on the effects these non-stop assaults are producing, using phrases like "rising depression". After overhearing a conversation in a rural grocery store, near where I was documenting last week, I was reminded of the demoralization article. Though its original application was about our culture of consumerism, it is relevant to our current conservation battles.

"Contributing to the confusion is the equally insidious epidemic of demoralization that also afflicts modern culture. Since it shares some symptoms with depression, demoralization tends to be mislabeled and treated as if it were depression... Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder... The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle... "

The article shared a massive study, reviewing over 5,600 cases of diagnosed depression and found that only 38 per cent of them met the criteria for depression, stating, "a high percentage of ‘depression’ cases are actually demoralization, a condition unresponsive to drugs."

"We are long overdue a cultural revolution that would force a radical revamp of the political process, economics, work, family and environmental policy. It is true that a society of demoralized people is unlikely to revolt even though it sits on a massive powder keg of pent-up frustration. But credibility counteracts demoralization, and this frustration can be released with immense energy when a credible cause, or credible leadership, is added to the equation."

Edward R. Murrow, a journalist and broadcaster wrote, "To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful." I would add, we need to demand this of our government, our agencies, our media; and just as important, involving conservation, the conservation activists. Without that credibility, we will not be able to counteract the growing demoralization in conservation activism.

Crazy Mountain Notes

A few years ago I began physically documenting access around the Crazy Mountains, which was seriously ramped up this last year. After having shown one of the Park County Road department officials my pictures from the first west side Crazy Mountains trip I made with Brad Wilson (Friends of the Crazy Mountains), one "No Access sign stood out to me. I asked if my understanding of the law was correct, that it was illegal to put signage on county or state signs? He stated yes.

I just got an update from Park County Roads that they did deal with this illegal sign, removing it. A landowner had illegally attached their privately made sign to a Park County sign post, deceptively trying to make it look official. Their "No National Forest Access" sign has now been removed.

For those that might be curious...

Montana Code Annotated 61-8-210. Display of unauthorized signs, signals, or markings. (1) A person may not place, maintain, or display upon or in view of a highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking, or device that purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic control device, that attempts to direct the movement of traffic, or that hides from view or interferes with the effectiveness of any official traffic control device or flag person.

(2) A person may not place or maintain and a public authority may not permit commercial advertising on an official traffic control device on a highway, except for business signs included as a part of official motorist service panels or roadside area information panels approved by the department of transportation.

(3) This section does not prohibit the erection of signs upon private property adjacent to highways that give useful directional information and that are of a type that cannot be mistaken for official signs.

Violation Of Chapter -- Penalty
61-8-711. (1) It is a misdemeanor for a person to violate any of the provisions of this chapter unless the violation is declared to be a felony.

(2) Each person convicted of a misdemeanor for a violation of any of the provisions of this chapter for which another penalty is not provided shall for a first conviction be punished by a fine of not less than $10 or more than $100. For a second conviction within 1 year after the first conviction, the person shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $200. Upon a third or subsequent conviction within 1 year after the first conviction, the person shall be punished by a fine of not less than $50 or more than $500.

Brad Wilson, who has assisted in some of my documentation amassing, just put out an oped on the Crazies work.

Protect access rights in the Crazy Mountains

"Absent from the Losing Ground 'Portfolio' report is any mention of historic roads and trails in the Crazy Mountains, which is at the heart of these access conflicts. While the report notes that landowners and recreationists are looking for ways to improve access in the range, the first step to finding a solution is for the U.S. Forest Service to follow its direction and policy and take action necessary to protect these existing access rights to National Forest Service land."

Documenting, especially the legalities and facts, access we already have, is foundational towards protecting any access.

On that note, I have had to add the following disclaimer to my site, to protect this work from poaching, by others that have used it for purposes contrary to the public trust.

"Copyright © 2017 Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (EMWH) reserves the rights for images, other graphics, videos (visual media), excluding maps, at this site. You may not reproduce any of the visual media content on this website, without the permission from EMWH. Visitors are strictly prohibited from using EMWH's Website and its Content for fraudulent, illegal, threatening, libelous or defamatory purposes, or any communications and/or materials that could give rise to civil or criminal liability under law."
A day after my last newsletter Chris Solomon's Crazy Mountain article came out. Having reached out to Chris about this issue, which applies across the U.S., and providing documentation, I was very relieved by his well written article - he got it, and the bigger application to our public lands access threat - the land grab.

The Fight for Public Land in Montana's Crazy Mountains by Chris Solomon

Public Lands
Don Thomas wrote a guest opinion - Public lands for how long?

Thomas, like me, didn't just read Sen. Steve Daines' press release on his bill to eliminate our Wilderness Study areas. He noticed the groups that Daines used to try and make it look like "sportsmen" and other groups advocated his bill. And if you don't read the fine print and know the history of some of these groups, you would have missed this political ploy altogether.

"Now Daines has introduced the ominously titled Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act. Why “ominously”? Because Washington politicians have developed a double-speak that allows them to sugarcoat legislation in ways that imply the opposite of its intention. This bill won’t protect anything...

It is always instructive to note who has signed on in support of bills like this. What about the endorsement from Big Game Forever (BGF)? Since numerous studies show that undisturbed security habitat is crucial for elk — our most popular big game animal — this group’s name sounds suspiciously like another example of double-speak, and it is."

Remember my reported request of my hunting license history by the D.C. guy that did opposition research for the Republican National Convention and America Rising? Well here it is on a large scale against our federal employees.

E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email

"Three different agency employees, in different jobs, from three different cities, but each encountered a similar outcome: Federal records show that within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of emails written by them that mentioned either Mr. Pruitt or President Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency.

The requests came from a Virginia-based lawyer working with America Rising, a Republican campaign research group that specializes in helping party candidates and conservative groups find damaging information on political rivals, and which, in this case, was looking for information that could undermine employees who had criticized the E.P.A."

With 2017 coming to an end, I would like to share a thought with the EMWH Newsletter readers. Aldo Leopold  wrote in the The Ecological Conscience, "I have no illusions about the speed or accuracy with which an ecological conscience can become functional. It has required 19 centuries to define decent man-to-man conduct and the process is only half done; it may take as long to evolve a code of decency for man-to-land conduct. In such matters we should not worry too much about anything except the direction in which we travel. The direction is clear, and the first step is to throw your weight around on matters of right and wrong in land-use. Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be accepted because it pays. That philosophy is dead in human relations, and its funeral in land-relations is overdue."

To close with some very good news, here is Public Land/Water Access Association's 2017 Year In Review.

Thank you to contributors & subscribers for your support; without it, EMWH would not be able to pursue this work.

 Click to be a Contributor or Subscriber to Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Beware of the person who can't be bothered by details

"Beware of the person who can't be bothered by details."
~ William A. Feather, Publisher and Author

Carol Gibson's Passing
It is with sadness that I share the news of Carol Gibson's passing on Dec. 3rd. While some may think of Carol as the quieter sidekick to the conservation mountain, John Gibson, Carol was her own force of nature, she will be missed.

In addition to all Carol's Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA) work, where I got to know her, she was an activist and a conservation hunter/angler here in Montana. Carol was an educator for many years, a Billings Representative for the Montana State House, sat on the Governor appointed Board of Outfitters, participated in numerous organizations like PLWA, Northern Plains Resource Council, League of Women Voters, MT Wildlife Federation, Billings Rod & Gun Club, and Montana Conservation Voters.

"Carol, who owned her own rifle and shotgun, spent many days hunting with John and friends. She also killed her own deer, field dressed them and along with John, butchered and put the meat in the freezer", shared Bernard Lea, a long time friend that was on many of those hunting trips, during their 60 years of friendship.

John shared, "At eleven A.M. on  Sunday Dec. 3, my wife, soul mate of 61 years and the mother of our 3 daughters, Jill, Shaun and Teal and Jill's 2 sons Justice and Frisco, left this world. Her heart became too weak to carry out it's life giving functions. Carol will be cremated. We will plan a celebration of her life at a later date but for now I will take a trip and spread a small part of her ashes on memorable spots that represent a part of our life together. One example would be Mud Creek where we lived in the mid sixties and the owner would let us swim in the warm pool while the winter snow fell."

In lieu of flowers, if you would like to send a memorial contribution in honor of Carol Gibson, you may do so to Public Land/Water Association, PO Box 80987, Billings, MT 59108 or online at PLWA.org.

John stated that he is thinking of holding a Celebration of Life for Carol on her birthday, January 27th.

Public Land/Water Access Association's New Website
Public Land/Water Access Association just raised the public access bar with the debut of their new website at plwa.org.
With nearly 2 million acres of public lands in Montana not accessible to the public, more than double that of other Western states, Public Land/Water Access Association was created in 1985 to, “maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access to the boundaries of all Montana public land and waters.”

With the growing membership and public access awareness, PLWA needed a new web platform to provide resources and an interactive library to their members, journalists, law students, lawyers, historians and the public at large, about public land and stream access issues in Montana. Their social media friendly web platform is designed to work on PCs, tablets and smartphones.

“This is a totally new vehicle for us, with interactive resources for public lands and water access awareness and activism in Montana - a fact based vehicle that will grow with us and go with us into the future, as we continue pursuing our mission of maintaining, restoring, and perpetuating public access to the boundaries of all Montana public land and waters”, said Bernard Lea, PLWA's new President.

For decades the grassroots public access non-profit has been working with local hunting/angling organizations across the State, as well as with County Commissions, State and Federal public lands agencies to restore access. When necessary, PLWA is not shy about fighting back in County Commission meetings, or in District and Montana Supreme courtrooms. One case, involving the Seyler Lane Bridge easement, on the Ruby River, took about 13 years to finally be resolved. Now, as resolved by State law, Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks will complete the fencing public access project on both sides of the Seyler Lane Bridge, this next spring.

Vice President John Gibson declared, “Private interests are continually attacking access to our public lands and waters. Check out our new website, see our track record of access victories! Then join the fight to preserve and restore access to our Montana public lands and waters. Let's get that 2 million inaccessible acres restored back to the public who owns them!”

Crazy Mountain Note
I am still doing research on the Crazy Mountains, including Railroad Grant deeds.
"Whereas, by the act of Congress approved July 2, 1864, entitled 'An Act granting Lands to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from Lake Superior to Puget's Sound, on the Pacific Coast, by the Northern Route,' and the Joint Resolution of May 31, 1870, there was granted to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, its successors and assigns, for the purpose of aiding in the construction of said railroad and telegraph line, ... 'every alternate section of public land...' ".

Many of these granted sections are in the Crazy Mountains. When the Northern Pacific sold these sections (mostly by 1940) to private landowners, if there were public access roads/trails at that time, the deeds include language, such as, "The lands above described shall be subject to an easement in the public for any public road heretofore laid out or established or now existing over and across any part of the premises," or "... the lands hereby conveyed being subject, however, to an easement in the public for any public roads heretofore laid out or established, and now existing over and across any part of the premises." That language does not occur on deed sections that did not have roads. This has been very interesting plotting out the Railroad grant sections to current maps. ;) I am loving the research resources here in Helena.

Troy Downing update
While back in the Bozeman area for some research, I went in for the Downing omnibus hearing scheduled for Nov. 15th. The omnibus had been rescheduled. I was told that Downing had this rescheduled for Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 1:30 pm.
Meanwhile, an article came out in the Bozeman Chronicle, Montana U.S. Senate candidate claims primary home tax break in California.
"U.S. Senate candidate Troy Downing of Big Sky is receiving a tax break on property he jointly owns with his wife, Heather, in California, an exemption that is for homeowners if the home is their primary residence... The San Diego County assessor’s office confirmed that he had been receiving the homeowner’s tax exemption since 2005. The most recent property tax bill for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2018, showed Downing received the exemption... San Diego County Division Chief for Assessment Services Jeff Olson said Downing acquired the Fallbrook property in 2005 and has had the exemption since then. The application for the tax exemption is a self-declaration that is signed under penalty of perjury, he said."

I found the PDF of the San Diego County Assessors Homeowners' Property Tax Exemption.

Also online was the current property tax bill, which is public records, showing the $7000 resident Homeowner' Exemption (screenshot below) for their Sleeping Indian Road, Fallbrook property.

Concerning the MT FWP citations, in a press release on Nov. 8, Downing's campaign stated, "This is nothing more than an orchestrated attack on a combat Veteran..." Being a veteran has nothing to do with this, nor is it a defense. In the Chronicle's resident Homeowners Exemption story, Downing's campaign again tried to excuse the issue, "Downing’s Campaign Manager Kevin Gardner released a statement after being presented with the property tax bill and said it was California policy to automatically renew homeowner’s exemptions. He said if it was done, it was done without Troy’s knowledge."

This begs the question, if Downing can't keep up with his MT FWP residency information, nor notifying San Diego County's Treasurer Tax Collector as to a change in primary residence, as well as his campaign's deflecting/attacking excuses when confronted with legitimate residency questions, how in the hell would he be able to handle the very detail oriented, high pressure work load of representing Montana in Congress?

I mean, Tester is not a superhero, and he was none too happy with receiving a 479 page tax bill, including illegible handwritten notes, shortly before having to vote on it. What would, thus far, detail deficient and deflecting Downing do in that situation?

It's all about the details, accountability and properly representing Montana! I agree with Senator Tester, Montanan's deserve so much better.

Thank you to contributors & subscribers for your support; without it, EMWH would not be able to pursue this work.

Click to be a Contributor or Subscriber to Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT