Dirt First!

It’s tree-planting season.  My annual order of 24 native seedlings arrived today via Fed Ex from the State nursery in Missoula, Montana. Minimum order is 24 “plugs” or bareroot stock, grown for “conservation” purposes and sold throughout the state.  This year, I selected P-pine (Ponderosa).  Last year it was juniper, and western larch the year before.  I treat this as a ritual of Spring, that for me goes way back to the mid-1980s.  The serious woman at the nursery – maybe a tree scientist —  I ordered from this year wasn’t thrilled about my selection because the seeds were gathered at a much lower elevation, and from a site West of the Continental Divide, somewhere in the Blackfoot River watershed.  I’m planting East of the divide in much poorer dirt, in a more hostile setting with less annual precipitation (drought prone) and generally lower humidity.  After a robust discussion she agreed to send my 24 Ponderosa pine. 

Ponderosa pine seedling (“plug”)

These little beauties are now in 1-gallon pots.  It didn’t take long at all.

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Endless pressure, endlessly applied.

Backyard, Bozeman, Montana. Dreaming of summer.

Wildness, wilderness and roadless areas are all words that we use to describe lands that remain as nature intended, untrammeled by man’s unquenchable thirst for comfort, convenience and attachment to shiny objects. Fragments of Montana, Idaho, Alaska and smaller parcels scattered about the Lower 48 are all that remain of the once vast wild landscape that existed before Europeans occupied (colonized) and exploited anything and everything that could be converted into gold, silver of fiat money. It was all wilderness once. Lately I’ve been reflecting on experiences and events that have influenced my life in the Northern Rockies. Yes, I’m a transplant, originally from “The East.” College in Denver, and then migrating to Missoula, Montana in the winter of 1974-75. I wrote the following piece for a group I helped to found in 1987 in Swan Lake, Montana, The Friends of the Wild Swan. wildswan.org

After 35 years of grassroots wilderness and forest-ecosystem activism, it’s worth reflecting on one of Friends of the Wild Swan’s most important accomplishments:  wildlands protection.  In 1987, the social, cultural and political climate surrounding the wilderness/roadless-areas debate was highly contentious, to put it mildly.  All across western Montana, and in the Swan Valley in particular, public outrage and resentment was growing rapidly against the rapid expansion of clearcut logging on Plum Creek’s (“checkerboard”) corporate holdings, and indiscriminate clearcutting on publicly-owned forest land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

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The John Birch Society, alive and well?

Based on my memory of where we lived at the time, remembering our living-room as the site, in 1973 I hosted a meeting of the John Birch Society (JBS). I only did that once, and my reasons for never doing it again, never participating again, had more to do with a lack of moral courage than anything about them. In my youthful and naive political state, I felt they were on to the right messages, but that I would be stigmatized by belonging and participating. For a brief while I had a bumper sticker supporting JBS, but when my older brother Steve snickered at it and me, it went away.

First, a brief history of JBS from Wikipedia. Surprisingly, it is littered with usual suspects and spook markers. The Society, founded in 1958, was named after John Birch, the “first American casualty of the Cold War.” During World War II, he was a military intelligence officer under General Claire Chennault. He was part of the “Doolittle Raid,” a subject that rings a bell but is off-topic here. In 1942, Birch, who spoke Chinese, became an Army Intelligence officer. In 1945, Birch was promoted to Captain and worked for the OSS, Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA. He led confrontations against renegade groups of Chinese Communists ordered to surrender. In one such confrontation, Birch was ordered to give up his sidearm, and refused. He was beaten and then shot, and his corpse was bayoneted.

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Aggressive stupidity

“There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Aggressive stupidity: “Stupidity that flaunts ignorance and seeks out opportunities to go toe-to-toe with real knowledge is another story altogether, being at once dismaying and frightening.” (Donald Weick, American Thinker)

This post, I hope when it is done, will qualify as a rant. In my life I have traveled in most circles, from conservative Republican (birth family) to liberal Democrat (the bounce – once I realized that conservative Republicans had it wrong, I assumed liberal Democrats had it right – you might say I was stupid), to Naderite Green and back to “conservative” without the R. On that journey the worst and most thoroughly annoying people I have met are liberal Democrats. Their brains have been shrink-wrapped and function without adequate oxygen. Let me give an example:

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Music Maestro?

https://www.usdebtclock.org/ Check this out.

The national debt just jumped higher than ever before. Music maestro! Gold medal.

During the Obama era the national debt was a daily topic of concern at the Heritage Foundation — the leading “conservative” think tank. Many AM radio mouthpieces hammered home the risk to our economy and our individual households, especially to “our grandchildren,” who will apparently be responsible for paying it all back. And in Congress, especially among those House and Senate members self-described as members of the “freedom caucus,” the national debt was tops.

Well, as it turns out, debt is our business, our only business. The debt plantation just got bigger. No surprise. I haven’t figured out a proper theme song, but am soliciting suggestions as we merrily wander into new (debt) territory. No worries, mates. It’s an I.O.U.

What Keeps Montana’s Timber Industry Alive: Is it Socialism or Fascism?

Please note facsi on either side of the American flag. Fasci will remain for Trump’s State of the Union address.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an address to Congress on March 3, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress without informing the White House. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

In the not so recent past Montana’s private logging contractors and saw-mill owners operated predominantly on privately-owned lands.  The old growth was “high-graded” (stripped off), and much of that land was sold off to the federal government and real estate corporations (REITs).  In other words, after the easy-to-access, high-value old growth on private land was liquidated, the timber industry has been going through a structural transition (merger, acquisition, liquidation) for decades. This is the trend. Mills have closed, workforce numbers declined, and the “timber economy” in Montana and other Northern Rockies states has trended downward, with no end in sight. 

A significant portion of all wood-fiber production has relocated to the Southeastern states for a variety of quite logical, ecological and economic reasons.

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Circular travels

I was listening to a talk by Andrew Klavan, the crime and suspense writer, given at Hillsdale College. I liked the entire talk, as I think I have come half-circle. Twenty-nine years ago I dropped my then twenty-years-running subscription to National Review, the magazine founded by Bill Buckley. I just renewed it. I hope this time around I am a better thinker. There is much I like about conservatism, and much I find to be less well reasoned. (Their attitude about the supposed “free market” and health care along with opposition to “socialized” medicine has led us to a dystopia called Obamacare, making us prisoners of AHIP, though they are not aware of this.)

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