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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
A little news and opinion from the wilderness fragments still found here in the Wild (northern) Rockies. CounterPunch graciously ran the following piece about a fake “Wilderness Bill” introduced in the U.S. Senate by Montana Senator Jon Tester (D).
There appears to be strong business support for Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA). What stewardship? Imagine Tester as the head servant of business, the steward who collects rents and dispenses government (subsidies) provisions.
Paid pollsters with their surveys tell us it is a good thing. Businessmen looking for government handouts tell us the same fairy tale. Yard signs in the well-healed, “smart” parts of university towns – “donor-class” neighborhoods — reinforce this narrow-minded, virtue-signaling, herd mentality. Tester’s collaborators pontificate, regurgitate. It must be so. But is it so?
In early August, I drove from Bozeman to Missoula, Montana to attend a federal court hearing before Magistrate DeSoto. I’ve been at many hearings over the almost four decades of fighting to protect native fish and wildlife habitat on public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service-USDA. As so often is the case, our (plaintiffs) argument centered around the ill effects of roads and clear-cut logging on elk and grizzly bear populations. Because there are no laws to protect most animal species that live in national forests, the elk and bears serve as proxies in many of these court battles. Our dependence on machines and capitalism are the primary underlying obstacles preventing proper consideration for all lifeforms when forest management decisions are made. This is my opinion. I am not a scientist, journalist or lawyer.
There was a discussion in the post below wherein Ms. Cynthia J. Laughery chimed in with the following comment regarding Climate Change and forest fires. She lives in Oregon.
You may be certifiable to anyone living in Oregon.
“Climate Change is absolutely based on nothing. I tell people all they have to do is stick their heads outside and look around and see that nothing is changing.” Seriously? I’m new here, but I’ve lived in southern Oregon in the forest for over thirty years and have seen the drought come up from California for the last ten years, with the trees now dying at an alarming rate….not from beetles or other critters/pathogens but from lack of deep water in the aquafers, rivers, lakes and streams due to NO RAINFALL OR SNOW PACK of significance. What was once a six foot deep snow winter is now a light snow twice in a three month season that may not stick at all, and if it does, stays overnight, then melts off. The 100 year old trees are shedding needles and branches all the way up.
If you are going to tell me there is no such thing as climate change and I’m frigging living in it, looking at it, and just spent TWO MONTHS in summer with doors and windows shut, three air purifiers going 24/7, what other lies would you care to spout before I remove myself from a subscription that begins with ‘the king has a new set of clothes’? Believe you or my own eyes? Do you write at the behest of a fossil fuel corporation of just own a hedge fund?You may be certifiable to anyone living in Oregon.
“Climate Change is absolutely based on nothing. I tell people all they have to do is stick their heads outside and look around and see that nothing is changing.” Seriously? I’m new here, but I’ve lived in southern Oregon in the forest for over thirty years and have seen the drought come up from California for the last ten years, with the trees now dying at an alarming rate….not from beetles or other critters/pathogens but from lack of deep water in the aquafers, rivers, lakes and streams due to NO RAINFALL OR SNOW PACK of significance. What was once a six foot deep snow winter is now a light snow twice in a three month season that may not stick at all, and if it does, stays overnight, then melts off.
The 100 year old trees are shedding needles and branches all the way up.
If you are going to tell me there is no such thing as climate change and I’m frigging living in it, looking at it, and just spent TWO MONTHS in summer with doors and windows shut, three air purifiers going 24/7, what other lies would you care to spout before I remove myself from a subscription that begins with ‘the king has a new set of clothes’? Believe you or my own eyes? Do you write at the behest of a fossil fuel corporation of just own a hedge fund?
A federal district court judge recently ruled in favor of grizzly bears and bull trout in a lawsuit filed by grassroots environmental groups challenging the 2018 revised Flathead Forest Plan. The Flathead National Forest in Northwest Montana has a long history of giving priority to timber industry interests at the expense of wildlife, native fisheries, water quality and what’s left of the untrammeled mixed conifer forest landscape that surrounds Glacier National Park. What happens outside Park boundaries influences what happens inside the arbitrary boundary, and visa versa.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy cited Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ruling that the federal agencies were negligent in abandoning the prior Plan’s Amendment 19 road management protections (The forestwide Plan recovery standard for over 30 years) for grizzly bear and bull trout. Molloy said: “it’s like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Amendment 19’s road closure and removal requirements are credited with putting threatened grizzly bears on a path toward recovery.
Amendment 19’s requirement that culverts be removed from unnecessary, permanently-closed roads is credited with helping protect threatened bull trout from the sediment released by inevitable clogging and wash-outs where culverts intersect unused and abandoned logging roads.