the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"
loses its claims to legitimacy
when it fails to fulfill its obligations."
- Martin L. Gross
is considered a basic condition for governing, in this case, our
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Without legitimacy, a government
will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and eventual collapse. I believe
that we are seeing this collapse in FWP, though to be honest, it
is not entirely of FWP Helena Administration's doing, our Montana
special interest legislators have had a hand (rather stranglehold)
in that as well.
FWP's mission statement is, “Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks,
through its employees and citizen commission, provides for the stewardship
of the fish, wildlife, parks and recreational resources of Montana,
while contributing to the quality of life for present and future
generations.” Sounds very much in keeping with the Public Trust
Doctrine – “certain natural resources, are held in trust by the
government, for the benefit of the people.”
FWP published a Strategic Plan, last updated in March 2008, when
Jeff Hagener was the FWP Director, but under a different governor.
On page 1 it states, “We will serve as an advocate for responsible
management and for equitable allocation of public use of the limited
resources which we are entrusted to manage.”
Let's jump back to “legitimacy” a moment. There are 3 key points
to legitimacy in government:
1. Respect – the people need to have a voice, feel that if they
speak up, they will be heard, treated with respect.
2. Neutrality – the law has to be neutral, predictable, fair, not
3. Trustworthiness – the people need to trust the government behind
the system, trust the authority will be fair.
With power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. But what
happens when you break faith with the people? What happens when
the people are denied legitimacy? Malcolm Gladwell addressed the
anger that builds up when the people repeatedly feel their voice
is not being heard, when there is partiality and people have lost
trust in the system - “If you deny people legitimacy, they will,
one day, by one means or another, come back and defeat you.”
In the last few years I have been active in wildlife/habitat conservation
in Montana, I have witnessed or been the recipient of primarily
Helena FWP's lack of respect, including violations of Montana's
Constitutionally protected Right of Participation and Right to Know.
I have heard the growing discontent amongst hunting and non-hunting
conservationists, a number of which have been creating their “Firing
Wish lists” of FWP employees (mostly from Helena Administration)
they feel “need to go” for the public trust to be restored - kind
of the opposite of sharing your “dream team” players for whatever
your passion is. A number of sportsmen and non-hunters alike express
that they fell they no longer have a voice, that there seems to
be a steamrolled agenda taking place.
This discontent grows when our Legislative Audit Division conducts
2 audits recently on FWP. The first, involving the Block Management
Program, which pays private landowners for public hunter access.
This audit found, among other things, that FWP paid $2 million of
our sportsmen's dollars in compensation for public hunting access
to private lands where such access already exists through department
conservation easements. And the most recent audit, published in
May, of the Game Damage program found among other illegalities and
shortcomings, that FWP again was using sportsmen's dollars to provide
for private landowners services or materials, such as stack fencing,
when there was no proof of game damage, landowners did not qualify
or no required public hunter access was provided.
Additionally, the illegal elk brucellosis program that has been
going on since the beginning of 2012, borrows from game damage,
yet totally bypasses any required public hunter access for the services
and materials provided. Which brings up another issue that wastes
our sportsmen's dollars that could be put to better use – the sportsmen
having to sue their own agency and/or commission to get them to
comply with the laws on the books. These are just a few examples.
Point #2, neutrality/partiality, appears to be seriously lacking.
Which brings us to the trustworthiness of our public trust managers,
the stewards who are supposed to be managing these resources on
our behalf, and for future generations, is there an erosion of trust?
I had to stop writing this article to attend FWP's 15 and Forward
listening session, tonight was Bozeman's meeting. We had about 36
members of the public attend, that was it. Now while the room was
not quite filled, it is disappointing to me that so many people
I normally hear express discontent or suggestions over FWP and it's
management, were simply not there. They broke us up into 5 breakout
groups and I was inspired by a number of the people in our group,
who also spoke of the Public Trust Doctrine, the North American
Model of Wildlife Conservation. We voiced issues that were hard,
but necessary subjects. And almost everyone in the group had regular
interactions with FWP, especially regionally and with the biologists.
So one of the concerning subjects, which I have heard before from
others across the state, was that we are in support of the science,
of our wildlife biologists, but there is a disconnect between Helena
administration, which is highly partial, not neutral, and that
partiality is adversely affecting the management of our resources.
I brought up the "culture of fear" I keep observing and hearing
about, even from those retired from FWP. This disconnect removes
management from the science/evidence based wildlife and habitat
management of the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model
of Wildlife Conservation FWP subscribes to in theory, when in practice,
Helena administration is highly political, even biopolitical, managing
more for the European/Texas model of landowner privatization.
When the groups reconvened, the opinions read off and compared,
again, there were a number of comments expressing loss of trust
and constructive criticism on getting back on the scientific, evidence
based path; actually following the laws, regulations and management
plans already in place that have not been utilized; moving away
from the special interest politics.
I hope that Helena actually “listens” to their public, because the
future challenges we brought up tonight, are not going to get any
easier, especially for our wildlife/habitat, or we wont have a future
generations for the fish, wildlife and habitat for our future generations
of Montanans and others to enjoy – it will be privatized, commercialized
So please, in the same vein, confront Helena to fulfill it's obligations
to the Public Trust:
- attend one of the Game
Damage hearings on Aug. 11th & 12, reject their proposed
amendment that removes this from the commission public
“season” process and moves another step towards privatization;
- and attend and/or submit constructive public
'15 and Forward – FWP's future direction.
Parks visitation could reach all-time high in 2015
"Montana State Parks visitation has climbed for the fifth straight
year and is on track to set a record in 2015. This follows a national
trend toward greater outdoor recreation use, said Betsy Kirkeby,
public relations specialist for Montana State Parks.
'We’ve broken the record for the last four years,' Kirkeby said.
'And it’s steadily going up.' "
side of Going-to-the-Sun Road opens
"Glacier National Park officials reopened an 18-mile stretch of
the Montana park’s most heavily trafficked roadway on Friday, more
than two weeks after a wildfire forced its closure during the busiest
time of the year."
company asking to drill test well in southwest Montana
"An oil exploration company is proposing to drill a 10,000-foot
vertical test well in the Tendoy Mountains, eight miles west of
Lima in extreme southwestern Montana.
Lima Exploration Co., a subsidiary of the Denver-based Great Western
Oil and Gas Co., applied for a drilling permit with the Bureau of
Land Management on July 13, said David Abrams, public affairs specialist
for BLM in Butte.
Scot Donato, manager of regulatory affairs and environmental health
and safety for Great Western Oil and Gas, said if the company is
successful, the future could bring 10 to 20 wells to the area."
And you thought domestic sheep pneumonia
was the only threat to our Bighorn Sheep populations here.
therapy program works with troubled teens, regardless of income
"InnerRoads Wilderness Program in Missoula is one of the only nonprofit
wilderness therapeutic intervention organizations in the country
that offers a sliding-fee scale so that troubled teenagers from
poor families have the same access to help as wealthier kids.
That help comes in the form of grueling, six-week backpacking trips
in some of Montana’s remotest reaches, where youth learn to make
fires without lighters or matches, communicate their feelings, channel
their anger and tackle their most serious issues head-on. It’s not
easy for them, and it’s no cakewalk for the instructors either."
fence-mending brings Bitterroot ranches together
"Sometimes, bad fences make better neighbors. The traces of past
ranching along the Bitterroot River are getting an upgrade that
helps today’s cattle operations, wildlife researchers and young
students learning about both...
Bart and Wendy Morris and their Oxbow Cattle Co. wanted to apply
new herding and fencing methods to their grass-fed beef cows. That
meant pulling off much of the old barbed wire and replacing it with
a “wildlife friendly” design that combines barbed and smooth wire.
The fence can be four strands wide and pointy for the two weeks
when cattle need to be kept in place on a pasture, or compressed
to two strands for the other 50 weeks of the year so elk and deer
can move freely. In addition to hosting professional researchers,
MPG Ranch also teams with Missoula-based Ecology Project International
to give young people four-week intensive outdoor learning experiences."
Click for more information
on Wildlife Friendly Fences
I ran into the newly relocated Kevin Hurley from the Wild Sheep
Foundation at the FWP '15 and Forward meeting this evening, he was
in the same breakout group. They are leasing part of a building
in the 4 Corners area, just west of Bozeman proper. 412 Pronghorn
Trail, Suite B, Bozeman
I smiled, because I always carry around all these various manuals
and studies with me in my large olive green bag, what someone once
referred to as my "war chest". Kevin had a copy of the 2010
Montana Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy with him on the
table. During the discussion of FWP strengths, weaknesses, what
they should be doing, Hurley brought up, what others have voiced,
including retired FWP biologist Tom Carlsen, who primarily wrote
the strategy, that the strategy needs to be implemented.
Another example of the Helena politics failing to fulfill its obligations
to our wildlife, scientific wildlife management - for future generations.
I have yet to see a decent
article come out on what
is really taking place with the Bullwhacker Access situation and
the Wilks land proposal, which is against the BLM trespass regulations.
3 times I had requested the sign in sheets, minutes of the scoping
meeting that were held across the state and the public comments
submitted. Finally I had to request them in a FOIA. Apparently others
put requests in as well and BLM is in the process of setting up
a webpage with the documentation to be made available to the public.
After requesting a copy of the Wilks "cease and desist" that Dir.
Stan Benes mentioned at the RAC meeting and was mentioned in an
article by Laura Lundquist, BLM has decided to add that one in with
my previous request (still pending). The trespass investigation
is still ongoing.
The morning that the BLM Cadastral Survey was filed with the Federal
Register, Aug. 4th, I called for a copy. This is basically 3 maps
of locations of the brass markers, monument rock piles (collars)
and blazed trees - no documentation of the trespasses since the
investigation is ongoing. There were 2 PDFs of descriptions (survey
speak) of the same, except, one PDF does mention, "The locational
calls to fences contained herein are given as ground conditions
existed at the time of survey. Subsequent discussions have begun,
during the construction of this record, indicating the potential
for many of the fences to move."
The other PDF mentions an additional type of violation -
the unauthorized removal of any government survey monument or marked
trees, "An iron post 30 ins. long, 3/4 in. diam., found lying loose
nearby." And another, "The remains of the original monument, an
iron post, 20 ins. long, 1 in. diam., with brass cap mkd 1/4 S14
S23 1914 was found lying loose nearby in an area disturbed by recent
earthmoving work." So the illegally unpermitted caterpillar that
was bulldozing hundred of trees, vegetative materials and blading
the ground, uprooted survey monuments on our public lands. I wonder
how many blazed trees got uprooted or other markers to far removed
for the metal detector to pick up? I will get these documents up
this week with the documentation from the Durfee Hills helicopter
trip, it's been kind of game damage/elk shoulder season documentation
"It is unlawful for the unauthorized alteration or removal of any
Government survey monument or marked trees: 'Whoever willfully destroys,
defaces, changes, or removes to another place any section corner,
quarter - section corner, or meander post, on any Government line
of survey, or willfully cuts down any witness tree or any tree blazed
to mark the line of a Government survey, or willfully defaces, changes,
or removes any monument or bench mark of any Government survey,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six
months, or both' (108 Stat. 1796, 2146; 18 U.S.C. 1858)"
Proposed BLM-Wilks land
swap bad deal for average Montanans
"We are average working Montanans, who have a personal interest
in the proposed land exchange between the Wilks brothers and the
Bureau of Land Management. We legally access and use the land the
Wilks brothers want. This trade concerns us and should concern everyone
Budget cuts felt at CMR
"What's it like to be in charge of over a million acres of public
lands, including 125 miles of Missouri River and 245,000 acres of
Fort Peck reservoir? What if the budget you have to manage these
lands seems to get smaller by the year? That’s the challenge facing
Paul Santavy, project leader for the Charles M. Russell National
Wildlife Refuge, the second largest refuge in the lower 48 states
and the largest refuge in Montana."
Coal Royalties Listening
Tour Stops In Billings Tuesday
"The federal government’s controversial coal program is the subject
of a public listening session in Billings Tuesday. It’s the first
of four planned throughout the heart of American coal country. The
Department of Interior is encouraging the public to enter the fray...
'How much royalties come back to the taxpayers? What's it take to
administer the coal program, and are the current royalties appropriate
for the work that's done, and is it an appropriate rate of return
to the taxpayers?'
The meeting begins at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday at the Hampton Inn in Billings."
Accidentally Turned This River Toxic—And Orange
"Since Wednesday morning, a ribbon of bright orange water has been
making its way down the Animas River in southwest Colorado. The
cause? A million gallons of gunk pouring out of an abandoned century-old
mine. The Environmental Protection Agency is already on the scene,
though. Because, well, they caused it. Yeah, oops...
The abandoned mines in the area have long been a problem, filling
up with acidic wastewater that leaches heavy metals out of rock
and leaks into the river—a slow-motion environmental debacle. And
the EPA has been trying
to designate the mines a Superfund site for years, only to come
up against local resistance. The mines still aren’t on the Superfund
list, but the EPA has been trying to them clean up anyway. That’s
why a crew was digging around the Gold King Mine—they starting to
investigate leaks when the mine’s plug blew, turning the slow-motion
problem into a fast-moving, highly visible advertisement for fixing
Wastewater from Colorado mine
reaches New Mexico
Thousands of mines with toxic
water lie under the West
"Beneath the western United States lie thousands of old mining tunnels
filled with the same toxic stew that spilled into a Colorado river
last week, turning it into a nauseating yellow concoction and stoking
alarm about contamination of drinking water.
Though the spill into the Animas River in southern Colorado is unusual
for its size, it's only the latest instance of the region grappling
with the legacy of a centuries-old mining boom that helped populate
the region but also left buried toxins."
If you would like to further this work and research,
please click to contribute