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.