Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Lest We Forget

Mail-In Primary Election Ballots are out... please vote for candidates that don't just talk about our Montana public lands & access, stream access, the environment & wildlife - vote for candidates who actually defend and enhance them with action!

Over the years, there are some candidates who keep running for a variety of positions. While they tout their desire for "public service" as their motivation, it is really about power & control - power and control to privatize and profit.

For example, in 2016 a group of Republicans went around Montana campaigning as a group - "Future Land Board". That was the whole bloody point of these candidates running for those specific positions, was to CONTROL our STATE LAND BOARD!!!
As far as public lands and access, including stream access, that is where some of these candidates really are dangerous for Montana.

So for a reminder as to how horrible some of these candidates are for Montana and Democracy in general, here is some of the research I have done over the years, made public for y'all on the EMWH website and networked thru the Newsletter...

Greg Gianforte lied, when he last ran for Governor, about our FWP Fishing Access Site Easement in the Gallatin - a perpetual easement, btw. He was trying to make a land grab by filing a lawsuit, demanding FWP give up our deeded public access. I went to the courthouse and clerk & recorders offices in Bozeman, got the lawsuit and the property records to show the truth. Click to view the Easement documentation webpage.

Gianforte also assaulted a journalist on the eve of the Special Election in 2017. Click to view the assault documentation webpage.

Now Gianforte is running for Governor again, whis is a Land Board position, this time with public access partner in obstruction - Kristen Juras.

Kristen Juras ran for the Montana Supreme Court. Once she filed, I looked thru law journals to see what she wrote about. I found a law review - Stop the Beach Renourishment. On page 58 she wrote, "Although the early Montana courts and legislature strongly protected riparian rights (1) by extending riparian ownership to the low-water mark of navigable waters and to the middle of non-navigable waters, and (2) by affirming the riparian owner's right to exclude the public's use of privately-owned stream beds, these rights have progressively eroded. The first erosion was slight (and, in view of Montana's affinity for fishing, caused little controversy) -the adoption in 1933 of the 'angler's statute' allowing fishermen to enter onto the banks of navigable rivers between the low- and high-water marks for purposes of fishing. The second erosion was monumental-the expansion of the public trust doctrine to allow public use of both navigable and non-navigable stream beds for recreational use." She's talking about our Stream Access and Public Trust Doctrine as an erosion!

Troy Bryan Downing Jr. ran for U.S. Senate in 2018. He is now running for one of those Land Board positions, State Auditor.

A week before Downing was to stand trial for the 9 FWP hunting violations (including purchasing Resident license when he was a California resident, robbing FWP of the funds), Downing plead guilty to 2 charges as part of a plea agreement. Click to view the Troy Downing FWP documentation webpage.

Additionally, Downing hired a Republican opposition researcher from Washington, D.C., who used to work for the Republican National Committee doing oppo research, to research me - not a candidate - as a result of my watchdogging research.


On an additional political front, in February I attended our Montana Progressive Democrats annual meeting. I was asked to run and was elected for the Communications position. The Montana Progressive Democrats are a chartered & recognized partner organization of the Montana Democratic Party.

I'm gradually working on the Montana Progressive Democrats website, showcasing progressive activism and positions from across the state (be patient). I just recently produced the Candidate Endorsement memes, you can check those out on our MT Progressive Dems twitter page.

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Friday, May 1, 2020

Conservation in the Time of Coronavirus

Like many others, I had been sick for weeks. Thankfully, a friend in CA whose company made clothing, retooled to make masks for medical care workers. She sent me 5 yards of a medical grade thermal bonded nonwoven polypropylene filter material that I've been doubling in the masks I've been making, to help protect some of our older populations. I know from other conservation conversations with friends, there are others sewing masks across the state to aid efforts to protect the public and our medical care workers. This is how we step up to help our communities.

To those medical care and essential workers, thank you.
To those making masks - thank you.
To those wearing masks - thank you.
To those not wearing masks - wear a @#%* mask!!!
As with all things, I don't rely on MSM for news, I've been researching academic papers. I came across an academic paper addressing need for increased social distancing, staggering or side-by-side while exercising outdoors, for example on populated trails and parks. Towards aerodynamically equivalent COVID-19 1.5 m social distancing for walking and running.

Weather and humidity can affect droplet concentration. "They found that deep exhalation (exercise) yielded a four to sixfold increase in concentration and rapid inhalation a further two- to threefold increase in concentration."
15 ft for walking
33 ft for jogging/slow cycling
65 ft for running/fast cycling

While Montanans love our public lands and public access, please be safe outdoors.

"The secretary of the interior, David Bernhardt, has sped efforts to drill, mine and cut timber on fragile western landscapes. Meanwhile, the EPA, headed by the former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, has weakened critical environmental laws and announced in March that it would cease oversight of the nation’s polluters during the Covid-19 crisis."

Rules Change

Mike Korn (retired FWP) and I attended the FWP hearing, in Feb., to address a number of concerns about this program's rules. I took my copy of Gov. Bullock's letter with me, in response to my comments during SB 341 and the lack of protection for our public lands access, especially historical prescriptive easements, RS 2477 & RR grants deeds with easement in the public language.

"Accordingly, as my administration implements this bill, I am directing the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to adopt rules that will require the Department to determine if the public already has access to a property before finalizing any agreement under SB 341."

While the language is better, including language we recommended about FWP exercising "due diligence" to research any pre-existing public access,

"The department may not enter a PALA where there is an existing right of public access over the proposed access route. If the department is uncertain whether the proposed access route is public or private, or if a controversy exists over whether the proposed access route is public or private, the department shall present its findings to the PL/PW for its consideration in its recommendation."

FWP elaborates in RESPONSE #7: "In response to this comment, the department has amended the proposed language to better explicitly state the department will exercise due diligence so as not to enter into any agreements for which a right to public access already exists. In its exercise of due diligence, the department intends to use a checklist of questions and criteria to ensure that there is no existing public access. The department's checklist would include things such as checking county records to make sure the proposed route is not a county or public road and that the county does not do maintenance on it, checking with FWP field staff along with staff of the agency that manages the public land to be accessed to see if they are aware of any asserted claims or controversies related to public access, checking newspaper articles and press, and checking with local or area leaders."

Yet, FWP does not mention unperfected historical prescriptive easements directly, which would not be recorded in county records, or possibly some of the RS 2477 roads/trails. While Railroad Grant Deeds, which may include "easement in the public" language, these also may not show up in county maps of easements. The railroad grant deeds are also not directly addressed.

Without the specifics, the public will not know if "due diligence" is actually being exercised. So my recommendation is for the public to routinely request applications to watchdog and research any existing public access, including unperfected historical prescriptive easements, RS 2477 and Railroad Grant Deed easements. Without individual or group sponsorship to pay for public access research, I unfortunately cannot continue to pour myself out doing this public access research freely, as needed as it may be.

"Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has solicited site-specific proposals for bison restoration and conservation in our state... Therefore, we have produced a draft proposal to develop a herd entirely within the UL Bend area of the Refuge, north of Fort Peck Reservoir. The herd would be allowed to grow up to 400 animals, contained within about 150 square miles of diverse habitat...

Most Montanans have little or no awareness of this situation. It is urgent to develop public recognition of the precarious status of bison conservation in our state. The Montana Wild Bison Restoration Coalition will do all it can in this regard. But there are many distractions in the public media this year. We implore readers to post bison information on personal websites and to promote forthright public discussion, especially by national and state organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation."

"The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth."

"Privatizing of our public lands is being promoted by politicians. A two-minute computer search of Montana’s Republican Platform, Page 12, and a two-minute computer search of Montana’s Democratic Platform, Page 8, will clearly reveal the parties' public-lands philosophies. The purpose of this article is to explain to Montanans who use public lands, ranchers in this instance, what could happen if the public land they run cows on were privatized."

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Monday, February 24, 2020

Privatization is an Erosion of the Public Interests

Privatization Is an Erosion of the Public Interest

A lot has been taking place needing updates. Yes, it seems like we are contantly deluged with attacks against our public interests.

FWP's Public Access through private lands program.
First up, Remember SB 341 from this last legislative session?
Tomorrow evening, Feb. 25th, 6pm, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will hold a public hearing at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters Building, 1420 E. 6th Avenue, Helena, Montana, to consider the proposed adoption of rules involving the passage of SB 341.

Please take a look at the PDF on FWP's page.

Concerned persons may submit their data, views, or arguments either orally or in writing at the hearing. Written data, views, or arguments may also be submitted to: Jason Kool, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail Jason.Kool@mt.gov, and must be received by February 28, 2020.

Despite the Governor's assurance, when he didn't veto SB 341, that FWP would draft rules to include required researching and protecting of existing historical prescriptive public easements/RS 2477/ Railroad grant deeds of public access (for example), if they exist; there are no such requirements in these proposed rules to prevent reverse adverse use attempts to exclude the public from historical prescriptive easements.
  Is Your Rep Invested In Fossil Fuels? Interactive map
Rep. Greg Gianforte has as much as $4,809,024 invested in the fossil fuel industry.
"As Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mt.) and his spouse hold up to $674,607 in Chevron stock, the oil giant lobbied Congress last year on three pipeline safety bills assigned to the House Energy and Commerce committee, on which Gianforte sits, as well as one pipeline security bill."

And speaking of Gianforte, Sat. Jan. 11th...

Montana Outfitters and Guides Association held a Governor candidate forum in Bozeman. During the forum, which was video recorded and I have a copy of, a number of disconcerting statements were made by Gianforte,which cold be devastating to Montana, the Public Trust, including our wildlife.

After stating he has heard FWP horror stories across the state, the negative impacts, one such statement was about FWP/state employees, "So this would be a top priority, to change the culture. We have good state workers, they have not been led well, they don't know what success is."

I would beg to differ. Decades before Gianforte moved to Montana, Montana had lost massive amounts of our wildlife. A major restoration effort was led by FWP, which resulted in Montana becoming one of the premier fish & wildlife states, which contributed to Montana developing a leading outdoor recreation economy. The fish & wildlife restoration was termed, "Back from the Brink."

He falsely stated, "However, FWP, in my mind, from the stories I've heard traveling the state, are at war with outfitters and landowners." "What FWP has not done is the voice of the local community is not been heard in a way that allows their views to be represented."

I have participated in numerous local level FWP meeting where the public had plenty of opportunity to weigh in, make or submit public comments, participate on Regional Citizens Advisory Councils, etc.

Gianforte is fearmongering that all things FWP are broken and disfunctional, which is simply not the case. He is trying to create a problem, to sell you that he is the solution. While FWP is not perfect and there is always some room for improvement, FWP has contributed to making Montana the Last Best Place - don't y'all forget this this election cycle.

"Of those samples, 142 tested positive for the fatal disease, including 86 white-tailed deer, 53 mule deer, two moose and one elk. These were Montana’s first detections in moose and wild elk." 1 elk at an elk game farm, tested positive.

Disease transmission & sub-species contamination, "While a portion of the mystery surrounding Elk Zero has been solved, the investigation into who is responsible for taking the elk from Washington and releasing him in Montana is ongoing. Wardens in both states continue to ask questions."

1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). Callers can remain anonymous & may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

"The Path of the Pronghorn is a 170-mile migration route that the antelope-like creatures have traveled annually for 6,000 years. It is one of North America’s last remaining long-distance terrestrial migration corridors. And it is at risk. This week conservation groups filed a legal petition challenging the Trump administration’s plan to allow 3,500 new gas wells in south-western Wyoming that would block the route."

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Monday, November 11, 2019

South Crazy Mountains Forest Service Land Exchange Proposal Issues

South Crazy Mountains Forest Service 
Land Exchange Proposal

South Crazy Mountains Forest Service Land Exchange Proposal

I apologize for not getting this out sooner, I had an event that hit my TBI really hard this last month, affecting my ability to work. So this review is not nearly as thorough as normal.

The Forest Service has been negligent, not just in the other aspects of the Crazy Mountains, but in how they are presenting this South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange and what the public will lose. For years this land exchange has stalled and been objected to. I will not retype all the details out in this newsletter, please see the webpage I set up to house the documents, maps and details. In the right hand side bar I also have links to some pertinent comments by others and BHA's video.

Public comments are due on Nov. 18th, just 1 week away.
Their comment page is acting up, but here is the link to comment online.

If you can't get thru the online portal, and since no other comment submission address was provided in the Preliminary EA Proposal, I would suggest emailing your comments to Dee Closson, Realty Specialist, dee.closson@usda.gov
CCing Supervisor Mary Erickson mcerickson@fs.fed.us
Project 56687 - South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange

Mail: Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, P.O. Box 130, Bozeman, MT 59971;
Fax, (406) 587-6758;
or personally to 10 East Babcock Street, Bozeman, MT

Some points of interest:

  • We would be abandoning Trail #272, which goes back, at least, to the 1925 Forest Service Map
  • We have public access easements to Sections 8 & 4 of 2N11E (easement documents on webpage) through Rock Creek Road #199. 8 & 4 overlap by about 48 feet providing access to both.
  • Additionally, I have included a PDF of  of a 1986 Park County Attorney Opinion on corner crossing, which recently helped a member of the public get his corner crossing trespass dismissed in court (please see my notes on the webpage). This could allow further access from FS Section 4 to 3N11E FS Sections 32 & 34.
  • In the bigger Crazy Mountains picture, what is moving and driving all these landowner deals right now, may involve the fact that Senator Daines has received $12,500 (2012-2014) and $7,800 in 2020 cycle from Altria (tobacco industry, top non-individual contributor in Montana), the parent company of Philip Morris USA, who owns the Crazy Mountain Ranch, one of the 3 landowners involved in the proposal. *Remember that it was Daines who submitted landowner complaints and false information to get District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz removed from his position (links and details on webpage).
  • Also, USDA Ag Secretary, who is in charge of the Forest Service has also received contributions from Altria when he was governor of Georgia, as well as gifted flights from Altria, which were part of an ethics investigation. Remember that as soon as Sony Perdue was confirmed, he attended a Montana Ag Summit in Great Falls, organized and sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines; days later Sienkiewicz was removed from his position.
  • No Alternatives were provided that would include an exchange with 1 or 2 landowners, rather than all 3 together, allowing for an exchange with Wild Eagle Ranch (red) & Rock Creek Ranch (blue), but excluding Crazy Mountain Ranch. I don't see an issue with the Wild Eagle and Rock Creek Ranch exchanges, but object to Crazy Mountain Ranch exchange.
  • CMR will permanently reserve rights to operate and maintain the Rock Lake dam and outlet tunnel in the deed through which CMR conveys Section 11 to the Forest Service. CMR would retain its water rights for the volume of water from full pool to the bottom of the outlet tunnel.
  • The Forest Service has not provided an Environmental Assessment for the public to review of the potential hazardous substances, nor environmental impacts, as mentioned above, for us to make an informed public comment. Provided is a PRELIMINARY EA.
  • CMR has a conservation easement exception for "one new recreation cabin which may be built and maintained on the land protected by the CE". It does not state the size of the recreation cabin or preclude outfitting, hunting camps, which could be privatizing that elk herd which is currently available to the public. Listed activities at the CMR now include: snowmobiling, zip-lining, dog sledding, which could affect the wildlife habitat currently under FS public land.

Please take a few minutes to check out the information and submit a public comment to protect our public lands and access.

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Passing of a Montana Conservation & Public Access Warrior

The Passing of a Montana Conservation & Public Access Warrior

Tony Schoonen - shown above with his beloved "River Rat" cap. Photo courtesy of Roy Morris.

Tony Schoonen, an Army veteran and 30 year educator & principal, who currently resided in Butte, Montana, was a passionate conservation and public access advocate. His passing away last night is a tremendous loss to Montana.

Tony was a good friend of mine, a kindred rabble rouser. As I researched access years ago, I kept seeing Tony's name and contacted him. He taught me a great deal about Montana's public access and how they waged war on privatization. Much of the public land and water access that we enjoy today, Tony was right there, fighting for it: from OpEds in the papers, river protests on the Ruby River, legislative sessions, State Land Board meetings and FWP Commission meetings - rallying the Butte contingent for battle.

Tony was a member and past president of one of Montana's premier hunting & angling organizations, the Skyline Sportsmen Association and local leader of the George Grant Chapter of Montana Trout Unlimited. He had also been President of the Montana Wildlife Federation.

On March 31, 1980, Jack Atcheson Sr., Tony Schoonen, and Jack Jones formed and filed the Montana Coalition for Access on State Public Lands, Inc., funding their work out of their own pockets. The name would later be changed to Montana Coalition For Appropriate Management of State Lands, Inc. This Coalition led the charge for our state lands public access.

Inspired by the State Lands Coalition, another coalition was formed, on April 14, 1980 – the Montana Coalition for Stream Access, Inc., which Tony was a member of. It was decided to first pursue Stream Access, which then became law in 1985.

In 1985, the Public Land Access Association (PLAAI) was created to carry the banner, later embracing stream access, becoming Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA). Tony became a PLWA Board of Director in 1997, elected as Treasurer, a position he held through 2007. He remained on the Board, in 2008 until his recent passing.

In 2016, Tony was inducted into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame.
Recently, Schoonen became active in the battle for our public access in the Crazy Mountains, becoming a part of our Coalition lawsuit.

While this is not a complete list of all the many conservation organizations Tony was involved in or the positions he held, nor exhaustive of the many awards or acknowledgements he received, it is representative of his passionate energy and leadership. His booming activist voice, outspoken opinions and rabble-rousing will be sorely missed.

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Friday, September 20, 2019

Biopolitics & Privatization

Biopolitics & Privatization

Hughes Creek Road Public Access - Below is a timeline of the continuing obstruction of our Public Access to our USFS Public Lands in Ravalli County, on the Hughes Creek County Road. Bundy invited by landowners to get involved (Nevada armed standoff w/ BLM & Malheur armed occupation).

Hughes Creek Co. Rd. blocked by private landowner locked gate for over 30 yrs, has been contested during that time.
1/25/2017 - Ravalli Co. Comm. voted to reject the landowner petition to abandon portion of Hughes Creek Rd.
4/2017 - landowners sue - case is dismissed
7/20/2017 - Landowners in Hughes Creek Rd road suit ask Montana Supreme Court to intervene dismissal of lawsuit.
10/12/2017 - Attorney for landowners filed part of his brief in the form of a theatrical play.
7/20/2018 - MT Supreme Court upholds Ravalli Co. Comm. decision to reject landowner petition for abandonment.
9/2018 - Landowners file 2nd appeal
7/9/2019 - MT Sup. Court denies 2nd appeal, Ravalli County Comm. gives landowners 30 days to remove gate or the county will do it.
9/11/2019 After Bundy is invited into situation by landowners, he writes blog article.

PEER: NEW PARK SERVICE E-BIKE ORDER INVALID - NPS Edict Violates Federal Laws and Misinterprets Interior Directive
"A new National Park Service order allowing electric bicycles on park trails violates several federal laws, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which is threatening to sue any park that implements it. Significantly, the acting NPS Director, who issued the order, did not follow the instructions given by the Secretary of Interior."

Theft of our public lands - "The Interior Department is transferring public lands (CA, AZ, NM) to the Pentagon for construction of about 70 miles of border wall, in a move likely to ratchet up controversy over one of the Trump administration’s signature projects. The action by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt moves jurisdiction over about 560 acres currently overseen by the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Army, which will use it to construct barriers the president has said will help secure the nation’s southern border against illegal migration."

FWP to pay for CWD testing statewide

Hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in these areas should stop at a local CWD-sampling check station to have the animal sampled. FWP staff will collect samples and submit them for testing.

"We argue that the Montana Constitution mandates restoration of public, wild bison in our state.
There are no public, wild bison, year-round, in Montana – not by the legal definition of wild bison, nor by a biological definition of wildness. (Wild Bison and the Law)"
Please contact Governor Steve Bullock at governor@mt.gov and FWP Director Martha Williams martha.williams@mt.gov recommending restoration of public, wild bison on the CMR National Wildlife Refuge, fulfilling a mandate of our Montana state Constitution.

Our most powerful, high-tech climate solution? Our forests - World Economic Forum
"International focus on fossil fuels has overshadowed most powerful & cost-efficient carbon-capture technology world has yet seen: #forests. Scientific research confirms forests are absolutely essential in mitigating Climate Change - carbon sequestering & storage capabilities."

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT