Monday, March 9, 2015

Wild Bison Want Ad: Montana, is this YOU?

Dear Governor Steve Bullock, as a Montanan, I would like to encourage you to lead the way for wild bison restoration in Montana.

  • Montana has plenty of suitable public lands that do not have grazing leases that could be a conflict, in which to restore wild bison to.
  • Wild bison are a native wildlife species that historically played an important part on this landscape and can be again.
  • Scientific studies show the benefits of native wild bison for our type of ecosystem and climate, especially to our prairie grasses.
  • As a conservation hunter, I would like to see bison on our public lands as a huntable species, utilizing our fair chase hunting ethics.
  • Bison are advantageous to our outstanding and growing ecotourism businesses and our residents outdoor experiences.
  • Montana is certainly up to the challenges of managing such a remarkable wildlife species. Please be the leader we need to usher in this historic event, to restore Montanas native wild bison to public lands.

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Bozeman, Montana

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bullwhacker Bypass Road BLM Proposal

Attention Public Land Access Advocates

The BLM Missouri Breaks Monument Manager, Mike Kania, has started an Environmental Analysis (EA) process to decide whether BLM should construct a new, by-pass road around the Wilks property to gain public road access into the Bullwhacker watershed.

This preliminary step in the EA process now ongoing is called: ‘scoping.’ In this stage BLM is gathering comments from the public that identify the strength of public support both in favor or opposed to the road construction. Scoping comments also include public proposals for options different from the BLM plan. At this stage any ideas the public puts forward are considered relevant. This is the first of several steps before a final decision is made.

The three preliminary alternatives being offered by BLM are:

  1. West Side Route – Build a new road around the west perimeter of the Wilks property.
  2. East Side Route – Build a new road around the east perimeter of the Wilks property.
  3. NO ACTION – Do not build a new by-pass road.

The scoping comment period is open until March 5, 2015
You may submit scoping comments by email to:

Send written comments by mail to:
Bullwhacker Road Comments
Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument
920 NE Main
Lewistown MT 59457

The public land access interest at stake

Please submit your comment supporting construction of this new by-pass road either on the east or west side. Take a stand against the ‘NO ACTION’ alternative. Unless this project moves forward no public road access in to more than 50,000 acres of public land in the Bullwhacker area will be forthcoming for the foreseeable future.

Do not be put off by talk of a land exchange between BLM and the Wilks Brothers private landowners. No land exchange proposal is currently under consideration; previous proposals have been evaluated by public hunters and found to be not in the public interest because they do not improve public access relative to the public land values being traded away.
Perhaps a good proposal will be offered and some agreement on an exchange will be reached someday, but such exchanges take many years to complete even when public interests are in agreement. Meanwhile we have no road access into the Bullwhacker.
The public access interest is very simple: build the new bypass road.

Below is a summary of important points to make in your comments


Construction of a new road to provide public motor vehicle access to the Bullwhacker Watershed is in the broad public interest.
I support construction of the new bypass road along the ‘East Side’ route described in the EA. And I urge BLM to proceed with construction as soon as possible.
  1. Historically, the public has had vehicle access to this area since before homestead.
  2. Year round motor access into the Bullwhacker is specified in the Travel Management section of the BLM Resource Management Plan for the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. Loss of use of the original right-of-way does not constitute a modification of the BLM Resource Management Plan.
  3. BLM constructively contributed to the loss of this historic and regulatory motor vehicle access by its failure to defend the access when it was challenged in state court.
  4. BLM continues to assert an agency policy of improving public access. BLM also has cited the Bullwhacker as its top priority for achieving public access to BLM administered land in Montana.
  5. Approximately 50,000 acres of BLM land is without motor vehicle access because of the current situation in the Bullwhacker Watershed.
  6. All parties can agree that opening the original Bullwhacker Road to public use would be the best outcome. Unfortunately that option is not achievable given the full set of facts at work now and for the foreseeable future.

  • Other Points

Land Exchanges – The topic of land exchanges between the BLM and Wilks Brothers as an alternative to new road construction is irrelevant at this time.
No exchange proposal currently exists that would not produce strong public protest and/or litigation. If such a proposal ever appears it can be discussed on its merits at that time. In the meantime, BLM should proceed with the business at hand, which is construction of the new by-pass road, they can stop the road project at any point prior to construction should an alternative appear.

Feasibility of Road Construction – Construction of a new bypass road around the Wilks property is quite feasible. BLM can obtain a public-private partnership to mitigate costs and the east side route offered in the EA document is a physically adaptable route. According to BLM cost of construction on the east side route is about half the cost of the west side route.

The Bullwhacker Watershed is not an area that qualifies as being of wilderness characteristics. This is certainly a ‘backcountry’ area but it is a working landscape with human infrastructure in place – including roads, trails, fences, livestock tanks, permanent corral structures and energy extraction infrastructure. The natural features of the Bullwhacker are valuable and worth preserving. But these characteristics realistically are not diminished by a new road running parallel with an existing road for five miles along the top of the area’s main ridgeline. The Montana public always has accessed this area by motor vehicle.

Bullwhacker Bypass Road BLM Proposal alert created by Ron Moody

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Public Comment Sought On Illegal Wilks Wildlife Obstructing Fence

This post presents a Public Trust issue, that being the wildlife obstructing illegal fence the Wilks have erected around our BLM public lands known as the Durfee Hills, in Fergus County, needing your Public emails to correct this situation.

The BLM Durfee Hills sits in the middle of a ring of parcels owned by the Wilks.

Here is the Timeline of the events involving the Wilks Ranch fencing issue.

  • The Wilks sought a land trade with the Bureau of Land Management, exchanging ranch land near Bullwhacker road in Blaine County for the Durfee Hills, which is situated right in the middle of their property with no public access, except by plane or helicopter. However, even though it is a wee bit more difficult to access, it is prime elk habitat.
  • Through efforts spearheaded by the Central Montana Hunters, the Public signed an online petition  as well as hand signed petitions totaling over 1600 signatures and public comments which were then submitted to the BLM State Director Jamie Connell in April. As a result, the BLM rejected the Wilks land exchange proposal.
  • The Wilks then began tearing up a swath of land to erect a fence "on their property", encircling the BLM Durfee Hills.
  • This fence was first photo documented by a bowhunter (wingman) that flew into the Durfee Hills on Sept. 5th on the Hunt Talk Forum.
  • After seeing the first photo of a 5 wire fence, I began posting documents citing legal fencing laws and regulations, even if it was erected on private property.
  • On Oct. 1st, as a result of a number of the public raising questions, the Billings Gazette ran an article that the Durfee Hills fence built by the Wilks was okay - it was not.
  • Oct. 7th, I contacted the Fergus County Clerk & Recorder, followed by the Assessors office detailed below - there is no professional survey on record!
Here are the various aspects of those laws and regulations, which I have stored full documents on a Fencing Page of the EMWH website.

Montana Code Annotated - minimum 3 wire fence, maximum 48" in height, bottom wire not less than 15-18".
Unlawful Inclosures of Public Lands Act - The Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 (UIA), as amended, is applicable to fencing constructed along or adjacent to public lands. This law states, in part, that "No person, by force, threats, intimidation, or by any fencing or enclosing, or other unlawful means...shall prevent or obstruct free passage or transit over or through the public lands..." The courts have ruled that the UIA guarantees access to public lands for all lawful purposes and that wildlife access to and use of Federal lands is a legitimate use
The BLM Fencing Standards Handbook - "The [Taylor] Grazing Act regulates fencing on public land, and unless fences on private land conform to those standards, the UIA prevents fences which wrongfully enclose public lands."...In summary, the "Red Rim" fence decision (United States v. Lawrence) establishes that legal action may be taken against parties who construct fencing on private lands that could enclose or block access by wildlife to public (Federal) lands.

The BLM Handbook states 3-4 wire fence involving deer, elk, moose or antelope with a top height of 38", 40 is acceptable if necessary with cattle. The bottom wire needs to be smooth and 16" from the bottom as shown below. Below is a pic of the Wilks fence which has been reported as higher than 48" and the bottom wire in this one is about 6" off the ground - 5 wire.

Wanting the copies of the surveys, I made a call to the Fergus County Fergus County Clerk & Recorder, to see about electronic copies of the BLM land surveys. They could not locate the parcels in question without a Certificate of Survey (COS) number. I had Geocodes and Legal Descriptions from the Montana Cadastral program, which did not list any Certificate of Survey numbers. The clerk referred me to the Fergus County Assessors office who could take my Geocodes and give me the COS for each parcel. Problem was, there has never been any professional surveys on record for these BLM lands in order to have a Certificate of Survey number, not one. I checked all the surrounding Wilks parcels with the Cadastral and none of those show any COS either. I called the Assessors office back and ran a number of these parcels through, providing the Geocodes and no Certificate of Survey numbers for the Wilks parcels either, not even the smaller one that was part of a large block of BLM land.

One of my questions: How can fences be erected without a survey? Also, "After BLM staff conducted a flyover and ground visits using a survey-grade GPS, no encroachment was found," if there has not been a professional survey? After speaking with professional surveyors, confirming with FWP that they did not give approval to the Wilks for the fencing as rumored (which I have stated they did not have jurisdiction to do), and speaking with BLM who confirmed there is no professional survey, I concluded the necessity of requesting the BLM to conduct a professional survey of our public lands to protect our Public Trust from special interests.

At issue here is a wildlife obstructing non-compliant fence, which may be partly on private land and partly erected on public (due to WAAS enabled GPS readings), ground disruption and damage to Public Lands, unlawfully enclosing our Public Lands (UIA), possible posting of no trespass signs on Public Lands (should the professional survey corroborate the GPS readings) and the possible intent to privatize our Public Wildlife. The reason I bring this last subject up, is if the Wilks were simply erecting a fence to mark their boundaries for any of the Public that flew into the Durfee Hills, why go to the labor and cost to erect a 5 wire wildlife obstructing fence? A 3 or 4 wire would have sufficed for marking boundaries.

Below is part of a letter which I sent to the Bureau of Land Management State Director Jamie Connell requesting the BLM conduct a professional survey and investigate the Wilks fence around the Durfee Hills. Please use any of this information and the email link below to send a letter, standing up for our Public Lands.

Bureau of Land Management State Director Jamie Connell,

I am writing to request the Bureau of Land Management, a trustee/trust manager of our public lands, to conduct a professional survey of the Durfee Hills in Fergus County, Montana, which does not have a current professional survey, per the Fergus County Assessors office – to define the legal boundary, to check for ground disruption and that private fencing does not encroach on our public lands.

I would also like to request that you investigate the Wilks 5 wire fencing being erected to determine it's compliance with the Unlawful Inclosures of Public Lands Act, which is cited in your BLM Fencing Standards Manual H-1741-1, “Fences Along Public-Private and Public-State Land Boundaries, The responsibility to install fencing along the boundary between Federal public lands and lands owned by non-Federal entities (i.e., State, local, private) generally rests with the non-Federal landowners...The Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 (UIA), as amended, is applicable to fencing constructed along or adjacent to public lands. This law states, in part, that 'No person, by force, threats, intimidation, or by any fencing or enclosing, or other unlawful means...shall prevent or obstruct free passage or transit over or through the public lands...' The courts have ruled that the UIA guarantees access to public lands for all lawful purposes and that wildlife access to and use of Federal lands is a legitimate use. ”

The following BLM properties, known as the Durfee Hills - Geocode, with Legal Descriptions in parentheses.

08-2143-14-1-03-01-0000 (S14, T12 N, R22 E, S2NE4, SE4NW4, E2SE4)

08-2143-13-1-03-01-0000 (S13, T12 N, R22 E, SW4NE4, S2NW4, S2S2, NW4SW4, NW4SE4)

08-2143-23-1-01-01-0000 (S23, T12 N, R22 E, NE4, N2SE4, NE4SW4)

08-2143-24-1-02-01-0000 (S24, T12 N, R22 E, G LTS 2,3,4, W2E2, NW4, SE4SW4)

08-2144-19-3-01-01-0000 (S19, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 3 AND 4, E2SW4, W2SE4)

08-2143-25-1-01-01-0000 (S25, T12 N, R22 E, G LTS 1,2,3, W2NE4, NW4SE4, NE4NW4)

08-2144-30-1-02-01-0000 (S30, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 1,2,3,4, E2NW4, NE4SW4, N2SE4, S2NE4, NW4NE4)

08-2144-31-2-02-01-0000 (S31, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 1,2,3, SE4NW4, E2SW4, SE4)

23-2034-06-1-01-02-0000 (
S06, T11 N, R23 E, GOVT LT 2)


Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu

Monday, September 29, 2014

Divide Travel Plan and Programmatic Amendment for Big Game Security Public Comments Due

Comment Due October 6, 2014 (extended from Sept 29)
Subject line: Divide Travel Plan

Helena Hunters and Anglers Association offers the following points in developing your comment to the Divide Travel Plan.

Alternative 5 is unquestionably the best alternative for natural resource concerns. Water quality, soil and vegetation health, minimization of noxious weed spread, fish and wildlife habitats, would all be well served by Alternative 5, over and above the other Alternatives. The highlights include:
- The 300' rule that allows driving off of roads for camping only, would be reduced to 30' for vehicle parking, and if a camping trailer is involved, the allowance would be 70'.

- Dead-end and duplicative roads will be closed resulting in significant improvement for what has been severely reduced big game security and other wildlife habitats.

- Important wildlife winter range in the Priest Pass-Sweeney Creek area would be managed as such with designated driving routes yearlong - NO off-road use

- Integrity of travel management in adjoining Clancy-Unionville area will be assured through similar management on both sides of the Tenmile Divide. One concern is the proposal to open route 4009-A1 to vehicles 50" or less to motorized use. This route parallels, within 1/4 mile, another open motorized route, and goes through an elk calving/nursery area, so it should not be opened.
- Inventoried Roadless Areas would be properly treated as Roadless Areas through removal of motorized routes, with the exception of MTR-501 between Limburger Springs and the Little Blackfoot. Be aware that the east side of Nevada Mountain Roadless Area (Ogilvie-Deadman) is not included in this decision but it should ultimately receive travel management consideration that would be consistent with the adjoining Blackfoot winter travel plan to the west, and Alternative 5 of the Divide travel plan.
- Winter travel restrictions along the consolidated critically important Continental Divide wildlife movement corridor from Mullan Pass through MacDonald Pass and south to Bullion Park is a substantial improvement. This decision would join Sweeney Creek winter range with the Jericho Mountain and Black Mountain Roadless Areas which are known use areas and movement routes for lynx and wolverine, and provide likely movement for grizzly bears to the north and south and connecting eastward to the Elkhorn Mountains.

Please provide your own site specific examples.


A separate decision is being made regarding change of the existing Forest Plan Big Game Security Standard.

Helena Hunters and Anglers Association has submitted extensive comment regarding big game security. We feel strongly that any big game security standard must involve "cover." Alternative B, which is also out for comment, is a significant improvement over Alternative A that was described in the Divide Travel Plan DEIS. Provisions of Alternative B include:

- Hunting season dates of 9/1 - 12/1

- Vegetative cover is recognized as an important component of big game security - as compared to Alternative A, which does not even acknowledge cover needs.

- Alternative B recognizes that where security is limited, that concealment cover must be recognized and measures to retain or improve cover when possible will be taken.

- Security is defined as an area of at least 1000 acres least 1/2 mile from a motorized route open to the public between 9/1 and 12/1

- Intermittent Refuge Areas are defined as areas at least 250 acres in size but less than 1000 acres, also at least 1/2 mile from a motorized route open to the public between 9/1 and 12/1

While not ideal, Alternative B works with the existing landscape and seeks to improve cover where opportunities arise. The goal is at least 50% security within each Elk Herd Unit (EHU). None of the Elk Herd Units currently meet the 50% security goal, ranging from 0% security for the Quartz EHU to 30% security for the Little Blackfoot-Spotted Dog EHU. Travel plan Alternative 5, working in conjunction with big game security amendment Alternative B would enhance security over and above Alternatives 1, 2, 3, or 4 in four of the six EHUs within the Divide landscape.

Click on the link to the Divide Travel Plan. Scroll to the bottom and click on "Divide Travel Plan Comment page". Then toward the bottom of that page you will have several options including:

- Divide Travel Plan - Draft Updated Programmatic Plan Amendment (which is Alternative B for Big Game Security ---- plain language would be helpful!).

- Divide Travel PlanAlternative 5 Map - Open roads and trails

- Divide Travel PlanAlternative 5 Map - Overview of planning area roads and trails

- Divide Travel Plan - Alternative 5 Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Map

- Divide Travel Plan Alternative 5 Overview

THANKS FOR PARTICIPATING. You can improve the Divide landscape and its natural function.

Helena Hunters & Anglers Association

Marias River WMA Settlement Agreement Between FWP and the Wankens Public Comments Due

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the FWP COmmissions are seeking public comment on a settlement agreement between FWP and Wankens. Comments due Oct. 3rd, 2014.

A detailed summary of the settlement agreement between the Wankens and FWP can be found here. Please send your comments to Region 4 Supervisor Gary Bertellotti at with the subject of  "FWP-Wanken Agreement". My suggestion is to oppose this agreement, reasons below.

Here are some of my concerns about this agreement:

Back story - Wanken Farms, Troy Wanken own land east of the FWP Marias River Wildlife Management Area. There is a historic prescriptive easement road which ran from Lincoln Road through the Wankens providing access to the property that FWP purchased for the Marias River WMA. After the FWP purchase, the Wankens claimed the road was private and anyone, including FWP crossing that road would be trespassing. 

Now there is no fencing on the eastern portion of the WMA. FWP tried to get surveyors out there to survey for a fence and build a fence between the Wankens property and the FWP Marias River WMA. The Wankens would not allow this, hence the lawsuit. So for years, the Wanken cattle and domestic bison have trespassed, without any grazing lease, on the Marias River WMA. This is a theft to the to the Public taxpayers. The Marias River runs through the entire length of the 14 mile property with an important riparian habitat there. FWP has no current Environmental Assessment on this property, nor have they started one. It would take about 3 years, including the initial EA to come up with a plan that might involve grazing, should they determine that it would enhance the wildlife habitat.

1. So this current settlement agreement (the previous one was rejected due to objecting public comments) increased a FWP land transfer of 483 acres to Wanken Farms. Now, while this agreement includes the public's right to access and recreationally use that 483 ares in perpetuity, this land will privately belong to the Wanken's and they can bloody well do with it as they please. Which means they could do a sort of "scorched earth policy" of turning it into a feedlot if they chose. Now who would want to recreate that? The Wankens did not offer, nor agree with this provision to the 483 acres, so keep that in mind.

2. Next, FWP would grant the Wankens the opportunity to match any higher bid for a grazing lease on the WMA (should the FWP assess one would be beneficial) giving them  an advantage over other nearby residents and bidders and giving the Wankens priority to the land. This jewel of a provision was suggested by our ranching FWP Commissioner, Richard Stuker (per FWP)  - the one that keeps bringing up that if the ranchers dont get what they want they are going to cut off public access, who participated in the alternative settlement negotiations with FWP, FWP Commission Tourtlotte and the Wankens. My thought is, if someone has been stealing from the Public for years, why should he be rewarded?

3. and 4. Access to the Lincoln road will be limited to a reservation only system and for a specified period of time. Yes, this would provide closer access to this portion of the WMA, but at what cost?

This court case involves a historic prescriptive easement. Montana's Legislative Services wrote on this subject - Prescriptive Easements and Ways of Necessity. "In order to create a public right-of-way by prescription, the evidence must establish that the public has pursued a definite fixed course, continuously and uninterruptedly, and coupled it with an assumption of control and right of use adversely under a claim or color of right for the statutory period of time." "As discussed, prescriptive easement actions require proof of open, notorious, exclusive, adverse, and continuous possession or use for the statutory period of 5 years. The burden is on the party seeking to establish the prescriptive easement, and all elements must be proved."

As the Montana Sportsmens Alliance have stated on this subject, "The court case is about a prescriptive easement. We prefer that play out. We either have access coming or we don't. We oppose paying anything for it, we oppose any transfer of fee title lands for this purpose (483 acres is crazy), and we most certainly oppose giving any preference to Wanken's for grazing. We have members who are landowners in the immediate area and potential players in any grazing agreements. This certainly looms as another black eye for FWP in this area...We have access at other points and do not require this for access to our WMA. The public needs to be involved in management plans for this area and that is certainly not the case." 

Some of the MSA members, are also Public Lands/Water Access Association members, as I am, who understand fighting for historic prescriptive easements.

Please take a few moments to participate in the public process to fight for our public lands - send a public comment.

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu

Wilderness History by Gayle Joslin

On Saturday, Sept. 27th, 2014, Jim Posewtiz and Gayle Joslin were guest speakers at a Celebrating Our Public Trust Dinner, hosted by Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat in Bozeman. The following is the awesome, heartfelt speech shared by Gayle Joslin on Wilderness.

Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habitat
By Gayle Joslin
September 27, 2014

It has been quite some time since I’ve spoken in public, and when I retired 7 years ago from a 32 year career with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks as a wildlife biologist, I must say I was relieved to think my public speaking days were over. But when Kathryn asked me to visit with you for a few minutes about Wilderness, I thought, “this is a subject so near and dear to my heart that I’ll have to saddle up.”

Right out of the chute, America was embracing its Manifest Destiny philosophy with rapacious vigor. A young French journalist, Alexis de Tocqueville, was scrutinizing the behavior of our fledgling country and observed:
In Europe people talk a great deal of the wilds of America, but the Americans themselves never think about them; they are insensible to the wonders of inanimate nature. Their eyes are fired with another sight; they march across these wilds, clearing swamps, turning the courses of rivers…”1
But, evolution of the thought process that eventually led to legislated Wilderness was getting started in the 1700’s with the Concord transcendentalist philosophers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson who published the seminal book Nature. That work profoundly influenced Henry David Thoreau who wrote many books, spoke widely and professed “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.” This cadre of thinkers prepared the country for an era of conservation.

WILDERNESS was a concept devised in America by people who had seen what greed and destruction will do. Each generation built upon the thoughts and writings of the previous generation.

Individual experience and observation of history lead George Perkins Marsh to write Man and Nature in 1864 (exactly 100 years before the passage of the Wilderness Act). Marsh had been the U.S. Minister to Turkey in the 1800s and had had time to travel in Greece, Palestine and the Nile Valley where entire landscapes had been altered by man. He was able to see that man’s actions could devastate and permanently alter landscapes. When he was a child, his family’s mill was washed away when the mountain behind it was stripped of timber and could not withstand drenching rains and then horrific erosion that gouged gullies and carried away top soil, their mill, and their livelihood.

When in the Middle East, he could see that those landscapes didn’t occur naturally, they were a product of abuse, exploitation, and arrogance. He set the stage with his writings for those who would follow to understand that all things are connected (the concepts of what we now call Ecology) and that humanity itself would determine whether their local environments, the landscapes, ultimately whether our little blue planet would continue to be able to sustain us if we did not heed the rules of nature.

Scoffing at such altruistic, sentimental notions were the likes of our very own William A. Clark, robber baron extraordinaire, the embodiment of greed and exploitation of land and people for his personal gain. In their wake, people of his ilk left gaping holes such as the Berkley Pit that will forever appear, even from space as an infected, toxic orb threatening to spill out across the landscape.
In a 1907 essay Mark Twain portrayed Clark this way:
He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced.”
Satisfied not with their own personal wealth, the robber barons of today have managed to hood-wink our Supreme Court into providing their corporations, “personhood” through the Citizens United decision. So the ante of the battle, even today, goes up another notch. But that’s a different path that we are not going to take today.

Wilderness was able to be created from the raw unclaimed landscape of a new republic. Before the idea of “PUBLIC” land, the government was selling off land to pay for the Revolutionary War. Then it gave Land Grants to the Railroads, and then Settlement grants. But the idea of public land was recognized in 1891 with creation of the Forest Reserve Act and designation of 43 million acres by Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley (Benjamin Harrison 13 million acres, Grover Cleveland 25 million acres, McKinley 7 million).
But, it was Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who, with the support of his dedicated staff and close compatriot Gifford Pinchot (soon to became known as the father of the United States Forest Service), really set the stage. Roosevelt had been creating national forest reserves on public lands, much to the chagrin of his party and the corporate interests that funded their campaigns. So in 1907 in an effort to reign in his enthusiasm, Congress put a rider on an agricultural bill to prohibit the President from creating any new nationals forest reserves in 6 western states, one of which was Montana (also Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho)

The President could not veto the bill because of important funding provisions that were included. He had 7 days to sign the bill. In those 7 days Roosevelt created 22 new forest reserves covering 16 million acres in those states, and then signed the bill that would prevent him, and future presidents, from ever doing that again. Because they were compiled during long nights of pouring over maps during those 7 days, these lands became known as The Midnight Forests. Ultimately Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres for conservation purposes – more than 5 times the collective acreage of all presidents before him. And he created the U.S. Forest Service in 1905.

Just 4 years earlier, Bob Marshal, was born in New York in 1901 to wealthy, civic minded, Jewish parents who seemed to have nurtured Bob’s proclivity to stride unhindered through the Adirondack Mountains. “He was however, well-educated, gentle, funny, enormously energetic and extraordinarily effective. He was a young man with seemingly boundless energy who became a forester with the U.S. Forest Service.

Marshall tirelessly advocated for a special category of public land designation that would retain certain landscapes as “Forever Wild.” His hiking sagas are legendary. He would walk 30-40 miles in a day across wild, trail-less country. He generated a staunch following that, after his death at the age of 38 on a train returning to New York, pursued his ideals for another 25 years before passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

The text of the Wilderness Act itself is poetic and in part says:

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

With passage, across the United States, 756 wilderness areas involving 107,436,608 acres were eventually bequeathed Wilderness Status. Here in Montana, Bob Marshall’s wilderness namesake had been established by Federal Regulation in 1940 in honor of Marshall with the recognition that “by saving wilderness, we also save a vital part of the human spirit.”

With the 1964 Act, 16 wilderness areas would eventually be designated in Montana but only 4 new areas would come into existence with the signing of the Act, as well as the Bob Marshall Wilderness being officially recognized. (Absaroka-Beartooth 1964, Anaconda-Pintlar 1964, Bob Marshall 1940 and 1964, Cabinet Mountains 1964, Gates of the Mountains 1964, Great Bear 1978, Lee Metcalf 1983, Medicine Lakes 1976, Mission Mountains 1975, Mission Mountains Tribal 1982, Rattlesnake 1980, Red Rock Lakes 1976, Scapegoat 1972, Selway Bitteroot 1964, UL Bend 1976, Welcome Creek 1978)

Montana would become famous in the struggle for Wilderness when in the late 1960s the mercantile owner in Lincoln named Cecil Garland and an outfitter from Ovando, Tom Edwards, took it upon themselves to champion the first citizen’s initiative for Wilderness for the Lincoln backcountry, as it was called then. Ultimately the Scapegoat Wilderness, was designated in 1972, but it came so close to not happening at all. The bulldozers had already been unloaded and were said to be idling at the edge of the “Backcountry” about to begin the building of roads necessary to harvest all the timber units that had been laid out by the Helena National Forest.

Small, wiry, and colorful, Tom Edwards had made his living in the backcountry taking people in to enjoy the scenery in the summer and pursue the wily wapiti in the fall. Cecil Garland simply would escape to the “backcountry” for recreation and solace. Although a simple small town merchant, Cecil was thoughtful, passionate, and eloquent about the land out his back door. At his store, Cecil had heard about the unloading of bull dozers and followed up with calls to the Forest Service. Receiving unsatisfying answers, he telephoned his Senator in Washington D.C., Republican Jim Baton. Baton phoned the Helena Supervisor and said for him to give him 24 hours to investigate the situation. Upon being told by the Supervisor that he did not have 24 hours, Baton slammed his hand down on the desk and thundered, “BY GOD I”D BETTER HAVE 24 HOURS!” For the time being the project was put on hold. Tom and Cecil teamed up and traveled to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress.

At this time I was in high school, but my summer job was as a camp cook on backcountry trips through The Bob and the Lincoln Backcountry, working for Tom and Helen Edwards. Tom and Helen were close family friends of my parents, and my dad did a lot of volunteer guiding for Tom during the hunting season. Tom had been his high school physics and art teacher. So when dad took me with him on one of those trips, so that I might prove myself capable enough to be considered as a camp cook. It changed my life. And I got a job!

When in Washington D.C., Cecil and Tom swept away their audience of politicians with vivid descriptions of magical places nestled in the mountains of Montana. Tom explained in his high, thin voice,

For over a quarter of a century I have virtually lived in these areas, especially the Lincoln-Scapegoat back country, from Decoration Day to Thanksgiving. I have been privileged to take guests from all over the United States and some from foreign lands into every crook and cranny of this marvelous wilderness. I love the high country and alpine meadows with a passion – it restores my soul and into this land of spiritual strength I have been privileged to guide over the years literally thousands of people, the old, many past 70, the young, the poor, the rich, the great, and small people like myself. I have harvested a resource of the forest of most importance. No one word will suffice, but to explain this resource, let us call it – the ‘hush’ of the land.”

Then Cecil painted a place akin to heaven and said, in part:

We camped that first night on a small bench above Ringeye Falls. Taking down our tent from an old frame that the pack rats were using for a home, we made a secure camp, cooked our supper, fed our sock, and then turned our complete thoughts to our whereabouts.
We took from our duffle an old reed elk bugle and as the chill air fell with the sun we shattered the calm of that September evening with a blast from our elk call. Then almost as by magic, above us on Red Mountain a bull elk bugled his challenge that this was his home. All through the frosty fall air the calls echoed back and forth and I knew that I had found wilderness.
I would not sleep that night for I was trying to convince myself that this was really so; that there was wild country like this left and that somehow I had found it. But all was not at peace in my heart for I knew that someday, for some unknown reason, man would try to destroy this country, as man had altered and destroyed before.
That night I made a vow, that whatever the cost for whatever the reason, I would do all that I could to keep this country as wild as I had found it.

Four years later, in 1972 Congress finally passed into legislation the first citizen initiated wilderness in the United States, the Scapegoat Wilderness. While several other Wilderness Areas came along shortly thereafter, Montana has not seen any additional Wilderness designated for the past 31 years and counting. Congress did pass the 1988 Montana Wilderness Bill only to have President Regan kill it with a pocket veto…..

Leaving citizens today holding the line for Wilderness Study Areas, Inventoried, and non-inventoried Roadless Areas, and working to restore tattered wildlife linkage corridors, big game security, cutthroat and bull trout habitats.

I am a member of the Helena Hunters & Anglers Association and we are deeply invested in actions of the Helena National Forest. We recently explained to them that:
Few things matter to us more than the conscientious stewardship of our public land natural resources – here at the doorstep of our home along the flanks of the Continental Divide. Few agencies have more history or meaning to us than the U.S. Forest Service with its colorful and courageous genesis out of the corporate exploitive era of the late 1890s and early 1900s. The Helena National Forest was in fact, one of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Midnight Forests” – public lands that he and his staff valiantly worked to define as National Forests, and to preserve wild places “for those yet unborn in the womb of time.” WE are those unborn souls he was referring to, and we do not believe we have the right to drop the ball or retreat from the responsibility to be involved in the future of our public lands.”

We are doing our best to live up to our pledge because it’s been said that “The only thing for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.” … and I would add, a few good women.

There is something sacred … beyond words, about wild places, something that rests in the heart of one’s soul, and to which we must return.

So, when my mom and dad both passed away last year, there was no doubt that their remains would be returned to the country they loved. As it turns out, my grandfather homesteaded along the Rocky Mountain Front up the Dearborn River in a tributary that came to be known as Joslin Creek. So dad was returned to the Grassy Hills in what is now the Scapegoat Wilderness, where he got his first elk. And mom was returned to the Boundary Waters Canoe area of Minnesota where she was born.

But, there is also a part of them that is resting near my home in the forest of those tattered lands within the Helena National Forest – reminding me that my work is not yet done. 

1 Peter Wild. Pioneer Conservationists of the Eastern United States.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Standing Up For Federal Public Lands Against the Far Right - Pat Connell

Recently, the Montana Republican Party held their convention June 19-21 in Billings, Montana. At the convention, one of the party planks proposed was the transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states. This was reported as being a unanimous vote. Yet after the convention a news article ran  - GOP vote on land turnover wasn’t unanimous which quoted Connell, “Whether or not recognized by the chair or yourself due to lousy acoustics, I, for one, did vote in opposition, and I believe there were a handful of other nays,” Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, a certified forester, said in an email to the State Bureau. “While I have spent a career encouraging and promoting better management of federal lands, I do not advocate the wholesale transfer of federal lands’ responsibility to the states due to the incredible liability risks to the taxpayers of Montana such action would create.”

Due to the conflicting information, I wanted to find out directly from Rep. Pat Connell of Hamilton, what his stance on transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states is. Rep. Pat Connell is running for Senate District 43. He beat Sen. Scott Boulanger in the Republican Primary. Sen. Boulanger did not win the current seat he holds, it was appointed to him by the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

Rep. Pat Connell replied to my inquiry with this statement, "I have argued from local to the halls of Congress for enhanced federal land management - but transfer to the state isn't the way. Demand adequate vegetative management to protect our watersheds: volume, quality and timing of water flow. Montana can expect this as a result of the Water Compact signed by the USFS and Montana ( The only one that the fed has done with any state! ). Easiest way that I can explain it is right now,  is that 330 + million taxpayers have the burden of paying for the cost of ownership and management of these lands. Montana has 1 million folks. Do the math, and the liability risks.
Likewise, the water compact with the tribe: do a risk assessment of them pursuing their claim through the Federal District Court in Missoula upwards through the 9th Court of Appeals, and the likelihood that non tribal Montanans would get a better deal is slim to none in my opinion."

As a retired forester, Connell uses a signature quote from Gifford Pinchot, a forester who served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, on his emails, "Conservation is the wise use of resources for the benefit and enjoyment of ALL mankind ..."

I, for one, am grateful that we have a legislator willing to take such a stand for our Federal Public Land ownership. But, Connell is getting backlash from the far right Republicans that have been orchestrating the attacks on our Public Trust (principle that our natural resources - land, water, wildlife, etc., are held in trust for the public and their future generations).

Connell objects to Ravalli County Republican Central Committee request

"A Republican state legislator from the Bitterroot Valley got into a tiff with the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee over the weekend when he refused the group’s requirement to sign the party platform in order to be reimbursed for his registration fee at the state GOP convention.

Rep. Pat Connell, who serves in House District 87 at the southern end of Ravalli County, is running as the Republican candidate for Senate District 43 this November.

He attended the Montana Republican convention in Billings June 19-21. On July 3, he and the other Republican candidates from Ravalli County received an email from Sue Pyron, secretary of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

In the email, which was made public on the political blog, Pyron said the central committee had unanimously voted on June 10 to 'fund only candidates who agree to sign and support the Republican Platform.' "

In addition, Sen. Scott Boulanger, who was defeated in the Republican Primary has labeled Connell as a RINO - Republican in name only. This is a faddish attack by far right Republicans to marginalize what some might call traditional or moderate Republicans. I was born and raised in Texas. My family are generational straight party Republicans. I campaigned for Reagan before I was old enough to vote in the 1980 elections, so I fully understand the Republican Party from the inside. But the more I got involved in politics, researching and voting on issues, I came to view myself as an Independent, in the sense that I dont vote party politics, I vote on issues, so I may have a mixture of candidates from different parties on my ballot. So Boulanger's attack on Connell, trying to discredit Connell as not being a true Republican, is low.

I may not agree with Connell on all his positions or his voting record, but there is nothing to indicate that Rep. Pat Connell is not a Republican. In an article in the Ravalli Republic, 2014 elections: Connell to challenge Boulanger for state Senate seat, the legislator effectiveness between Connell and Boulanger is addressed. “Comparing Scott’s record, who was absolutely unsuccessful in passing a single bill that he sponsored, I was successful in seven different bills as sole sponsor,” Connell said in a phone interview with the Ravalli Republic. “Including the wildland fire suppression fund that, first off, reduced waste and year-end shenanigans with any money left over in the different departments, so that money would pay for wildland fire suppression instead of expecting the taxpayers and the state legislature to pick up the tab in the legislature. I sponsored that bill, it passed with bipartisan support overwhelmingly. Scott opposed it. He called it a slush fund at a luncheon meeting. But protecting the taxpayer from having to pick up the tab of wildfire is not a slush fund.”

If you take a look at the Montana Legislative website, doing a search for Sen. Scott Boulanger you will see this page.
This shows that all the bills requested by or sponsored by Boulanger died, as the article above states, except HB 245, which Champ Edmunds sponsored.

As a legislator, representing his constituency and working with other legislators, Pat Connell has a good reputation of doing just that.

So back to the Federal Public Lands transfer issue, if you take a look at Scott Boulanger's Facebook pages, you see that he very much advocates the transfer of OUR Federal Public Lands to the states.

As a US Federal Public Land Owner, as a Montanan rich in federal public lands and as a conservation hunter that advocates for the Public Trust Doctrine, this is a no brainer. All other voting issues are the same state to state. There will always be education, health care, economic, women and children issues, etc., no matter where you live, especially in the concrete jungles of all US major cities. But an issue that most states do not have is the abundance of our wilderness, rights and access of Federal Public Lands, for all US citizens to enjoy and this is right here in our own Montana backyard, so to speak. Boulanger and others want to take that away. 

Boulanger is not content with the Republican Primary results, so he is now embarking on a write in campaign, based on his Facebook page (click image to enlarge), where he states "Real Republicans" are angry. Boulanger wants to steal your Public Trust lands and their resources to privatize them. Pat Connell is a real Republican. A real Republican that sees the value of not only our Federal Public Lands, but the Montana state economic best interests of keeping them in the Federal hands. A Real Republican that stood up for Federal Public Lands against an agenda driven plank in the party platform led by Sen. Jennifer Fielder. Not only do these Federal Public Lands contribute to our outdoor heritage, but they contributed to the $5.8 billion dollars of Tourism and Recreation income that was brought into Montana, that means Montana jobs as well. Nonresident Values of Montana’s Natural Areas report our Federal Public Lands - natural areas, are a major attraction to Montana's tourism and recreating, which includes out of state hunting.

In this election, learn who the candidates are that uphold your Public Trust lands, not special interest agendas that would rob you of your Federal Public Lands. Stand up and Vote for your Public Trust.

Kathryn QannaYahu