A justification for wilderness

Years ago when I lived in Billings, MT, some friends and I would walk an eight-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River. This was our part of Audubon’s annual Christmas bird count. The trains ran the same route, and parts of it were so narrow that if a train came through while we were there, we would scatter and hunker up against a rock embankment with our faces buried. Trains are dangerous, and can throw rocks and debris that could be deadly.

I remember thinking one time as I was hunkered down how powerful those trains are, and how our industrial society is served by them. “I am part of this,” I thought, that is, me and my demand on resources is part of the reason that train exists. 

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Colonizing Montana Wilderness in 2022

The following is an op ed piece submitted to Montana’s print media with the hope of reaching some people who have been duped by the dupers. Whenever you hear about a western congressman or senator talking about “wilderness protection,” there is always more to the story, and more seizing native forest land for commerce than there is wilderness protection. My argument follows:

Technology and machines encroach into rural homes, schools and businesses, changing the private and public values that have long defined quality of life in Montana. Fragments of virgin forest fall to man’s replacement: expensive, more powerful machines.

Local, year-round residents in towns like Seeley Lake and Lincoln have always struggled to make ends meet. Local businesses always worked hard just to keep their heads above water. Life in Montana has always been a struggle to survive; it makes us smile.

Lately, political operatives with fancy titles and university degrees in political science and social engineering are now trying to sell Montanans a fable that these isolated communities were once thriving mining and logging towns.  According to Webster’s, to thrive is “to grow vigorously, flourish or to gain in wealth or possessions: prosper.”  My question to these (self-appointed) superior intellectuals: Is that so? 

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Crazy Mountains Update

Photo credit: Missoula Current

Two untrustworthy players, playing a game we know little to nothing about, except that if the past is prologue, we need another Yellowstone Club like a hole in the head.  Remembering the Lee Metcalf Wilderness trade-off (Jack Creek road) and Gallatin I and Gallatin II land exchanges, which I opposed, with only a handful of like-minded souls who could see the disaster (Big Sky/Yellowstone Club et al.) long before it materialized.  I cannot figure out what the Crow nation sees in this by accepting anything less than original, absolute title to their sacred land.  My .02, off the top of my head.

Anyone can submit commments. If you do not submit comments, you will be most likely barred from entering a federal court challenge due to lack of “standing.” Clever, aren’t they?

steve k


Forest Service seeks comments on Crazy Mountains land exchange proposal

The public now has the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed land exchange that’s been brewing for four years on the east side of the Crazy Mountains, an idea first formulated by a group that includes area landowners.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest released a Preliminary Environmental Assessment for the East Crazy Inspiration Divide Land Exchange Projecton Wednesday morning, signaling a possible resolution to what has been a long-simmering dispute over public access to the region.

The agreement would exchange 4,135 acres (10 parcels) of forest lands for 6,430 acres of private lands (11 parcels), owned by six private property owners in the Crazy Mountains and near the Inspiration Divide Trail in Big Sky. The land near Big Sky is sought by the Yellowstone Club, a private community of multi-millionaires. 

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What I’ve been up to …

This photo was taken on the Katmai Peninsula, Brooks Falls, a world-renowned place to view the Alaskan brown bears feeding. These amazing animals have but three months to fatten up for a six-month hibernation. A run of red (sockeye) salmon helps them along.

We viewed them safely from a platform above. At one time we counted 17 bears present. Standing in the river downstream, perhaps 300 yards away, are a dozen fly fishermen. The forest service lectures everyone to mind our manners, never interfere or draw the attention of a bear. Since we are not a food source, we coexist in tenuous harmony. I stood with a small group outside a restroom as two of these massive creatures wandered by us, not oblivious, but not concerned.

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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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Riding the 33: Doom and Bloom

“I love dandelions. They make me feel like sunshine itself, and you will always see some creature resting on an open bloom, if you have a little patience to wait. This vital source for all emerging pollinators is a blast of uplifting yellow to brighten even the greyest of days. It stands tall and proud, unlike all the others opening and swaying in the breeze. The odd one out.” 

~ Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

This past weekend was the convergence of holidays spanning three Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It seems this occurs . . . every 33 years. (Uh oh, there is the 33 — once again.) April 15, 2022 was Good Friday, and also the first day of Passover, concordantly marking the time of Ramadan.

Amidst this concurrence of religious faiths, there have been seeds of doom and gloom wafting over the media airwaves. One alleged incident of doom this week occurred in the NYC subway. And what do you know? It was infused with the cryptic 33 (see here and here). Imagine that. Do you also see the 33 coding in this reported incident of gloom on April 16, 2022 at Columbiana Centre in Columbia, S.C.?

If the conniving, 33-obsessed controllers can ride the 33 this week (ostensibly, a time signaling religious faith and renewal), then, hey, why can’t we?! Perhaps there is an occulted hint in exploiting the vibrational template of 33, but for beneficent aims (?). While I surmise that occulted numbers — such as the 33 — can be utilized to manifest imprints of doom and gloom, I suggest that ordinary, well-intentioned individuals (including an ‘odd one out’ — such as myself) may also be able to access the natural vibration (an inherent, universal energetic template) of the 33, with which to harness and manifest intentions of bloom, as well as reckoning, restitution, and reciprocity. 

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Crazy court ruling threatens all public lands

[East side, Crazy Mountains of Montana]

Change is coming to what I think is Montana’s most alluring “island” mountain range, the Crazy Mountains.  It’s about to become the latest in a long, tortured history of celebrity destinations dotting the American West.  As the success of Big Sky ski resort, the Yellowstone Club, and Moonlight Basin (northwest of Yellowstone National Park) have demonstrated, there is plenty more opportunity here in Southwest Montana if you’ve got deep pockets and high-level political connections in Washington, D.C.

Hikers and hunters have been battling the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to maintain access to public lands for decades.  Local ranchers have been illegally posting “no trespassing” signs to keep hunters and hikers out of their backyard, and off their private land.  But the ownership pattern is complicated in a “checkerboard” of private and public sections (640 acres, or 1 square mile, per section) that originated when the railroad was given title to every other section.  Under the Union Pacific Act of 1862, Congress granted every other section along the railroad – in one square mile blocks — to Union Pacific and retained the alternate sections as federal government lands.

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Green Party deja vu?

The fight to have a political presence in the two-party “duopoly” continues. What democracy, right?

I may have said I was no longer involved in electoral politics.  I changed my mind last week after talking to Richard Winger over at Ballot Access News out of San Francisco.  https://ballot-access.org/  The battle over ballot access for “3rd Parties” is not over yet, and the filing deadline was Monday, March 13.  Nobody else seemed to be interested, so what else could I do?  I really do want to see this battle to final resolution, win, lose or draw. 

I filed online, paid my $15 fee with a credit card, with the Montana Secretary of State to be a Green Party candidate in State House District 61 in Bozeman, my home district.  It was a last-minute decision with purpose relating to an ongoing lawsuit against the Montana SOS challenging the signature requirement for acquiring ‘new party’ status in the 2016 election.  I’ve written about it before.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/08/montana-ballot-access-decision-suppresses-green-party-voters/ …and here:  https://pieceofmindful.com/2021/11/10/green-party-prevails-at-9th-circuit-court/

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Audubon Schmodubon

I used to be a member of Audubon Society, in fact, up until 2021. We are a funky lot of people who devote time and energy into identifying, feeding, studying and talking about birds. Our back deck is usually a minor mess, as birds are not careful when feed is available. It is a tiered ecosystem where birds at the highest perch use their beaks to scatter seed below, looking for the most desirable morsel. Down below birds that are ground feeders hunt and peck. Seed that ends up below the deck accumulates until a doe or buck passes by.

Why, I was asked, do we care about these species? “Unconditional love” was the only answer I could muster. They show no gratitude, in fact do not even know we are caring for them. A bird pecking away at a seed bell strung from a wire has no clue he is not on a tree, one with abundant mealy worms.

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How not to communicate

Back in the 1990s I was active in a group called the Montana Wilderness Association, since renamed “Wild Montana” and changed from activism to collaboration, an industry front group. Part of my self-initiated volunteer work was to go around Billings, my home town, and speak to various groups. But rather than “speak,” I had an idea. I was dedicated to one purpose only, the preservation of wild lands, and noticed that we had this in common with just about everyone, even our severest critics. However, we had among us misanthropes, and such people tended to be the face of our movement, as cameras tend to pick out the wild ones with dreadlocks and who carry signs and stand on street corners. In truth, the men and women I worked with in MWA were serious and stable. These were some of the best people I’ve ever known, and I look back on those times with warmth and good feelings.

My idea was to speak to disinterested and even opposition groups, and bring love of wild lands to them. I went to the forest service and asked if they had any resources I might use – in fact, they had photographs of just about every lake and mountain in the state, and offered to let me use them. My first engagement was a large gathering with the Gem and Mineral Society, and was well received. All I did, without prepared script, was to show the slides and ask who in the audience recognized the places. They were enthusiastic – they knew the names and were proud of having been there. People in that group knew every place, more than a few having hiked to them.

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