Montana Outdoors

April 28, 2007

Feeding your 800 pound gorilla.

Filed under: Arizona, California, Conservation, Environment, Politics — montucky @ 3:18 pm

What do you do to feed your 800 pound gorilla if it’s energy he wants? The present opinion seems to be “anything you can possibly imagine doing, no matter what the cost”.

If your gorilla is in L.A., you go get it from southeastern California and Arizona by trampling all over the Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve north of Palm Springs, Pioneertown near Yucca Valley, Pipes Canyon Wilderness Preserve and a corner of the San Bernardino National Forest as the L.A. Mayor wants to do as reported in this story in the LA Times.

“Wait”, you say, “you can’t do that”! But it seems that Federal Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman thinks you can.

As pointed out in this story, also in the L.A. Times, “Federal energy regulators Thursday singled out most of Southern California as an area in need of more high-voltage power lines and set in motion a process to make it happen — even if state officials balk.”

“Critics warned that the move could potentially gut local and state authorities’ control of the siting of the transmission lines, among the most controversial issues that state and local agencies address.”

“The action, authorized under a law signed by President Bush in 2005, puts power-short regions of the country “on a path to modernize our constrained and congested electric power infrastructure,” Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said in a statement.” “Under the Energy Department proposal, federal energy regulatory commissioners would have the right to overrule state and local regulators if the latter refuse to issue permits for transmission corridors on designated private lands, an Energy Department spokeswoman said.”

When intelligent beings in outer space (and I’m hoping there are some there because there apparently aren’t any here) look toward the Earth at night, and see what a fantastic picture on this NASA website shows, they must wonder why in the world we want to destroy all of the natural resources we have just to light up the night sky.

They probably also wonder why we don’t put our 800 pound gorilla on a very strict diet.

April 27, 2007

Why indeed?

Filed under: Elk, Hunting, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, White-tail deer — montucky @ 10:02 pm

$2.399 per gallon, 16 gallons to fill the tank, total: $38.38. The accompanying feeling of outrage and frustration isn’t a pleasant one.

The road up out of the valley into the canyon is more difficult this time of year, with ruts in the muddy sections, and ice under the snow-covered sections, causing the Jeep to slide around, even with the transfer case in 4 wheel high, but where it takes me is worth the trouble; and the risk. The high ridges are directly above now as I park and get out to hike up the slope, a one-hundred story building higher than the canyon, where the snow is much deeper, but the beautiful green of the evergreens still shows above the snow.

The tax bill came last week: ten percent higher than last year and twice now what it was ten years ago. And I voted again only last Tuesday. Why? Did it help? No.

The mountainside is steep and difficult during the ascent. A few inches of snow covering the rocks and low brush and tree branches doesn’t help, but the valley is slowly melting away behind the lower clouds. My heart rate increases with the exertion, but the slight ache in my legs actually feels good, and my deep breaths of ice-cold, pure mountain air produce an exhilaration which, mixed with the visual effects of the wild country is un-paralleled by anything I can think of in the valley.

O.J. has written a book. Pelosi is now Speaker of the House.

The ridge top is twenty paces away now and just over its crest I can see the area I will hunt today. A few miles to the far ridge at the horizon, then circle around to the left. Five miles in all.

Ridge 1

Fifty yards ahead, at one o’clock there’s a slight flash of motion; the twitch of an ear. White-tail! Damn the oil companies! Damn the politicians! Damn O.J. and good luck to Nancy! Now forget all that. It’s hunting season!

As the deer turns its head a single spike of an antler comes into view on the right side of his head; nothing on the left. A young buck; not what I’m shopping for today. He’s not aware of my presence and browses his way up the ridge and disappears over a small snow-covered hump that crosses the ridge top. Off to the left, at 11 o’clock there’s more motion. More deer at a hundred yards, bounding quickly toward a thicket along the left side of the ridge. Six more White-tails, no bucks.

I swing my binoculars to follow them, and into view comes the unmistakable light brown/orange colored butt of an elk! Then another and another and more, nine in all. One small bull who’s just starting out. His antlers are a couple of feet in length with small forks at the ends. Not legal: my tag is for a brow-tined bull only.

I watch the elk (they haven’t seen me) and the valley becomes a million miles and a thousand years away. The peace of the wild country! The young bull looks directly at me and I stand completely motionless. He sees me but yet he doesn’t. I know, because next he drops to his knees and lies down at the edge of an opening just off the crest of the ridge, still looking my way. Not my quarry. As I continue to watch, big snow flakes appear among the elk: I lower the binoculars and there are none here; just a small storm a hundred and fifty yards away. I admire the beauty of the sight.

Circling around to the right of the lounging elk, not disturbing them, and continuing on toward the far ridge, I look behind me and have to stop to admire the view of the mountains on the far side of the canyon where the Jeep is parked, their top third invisible behind the clouds. Just for a little accent of color, Mother Nature has left the gold on a few tamaracks and I thank Her for that in silence.

Ridge 2

Two more miles along the ridge, more deer, but no more elk, and as I turn back to make the circle complete, to my right is a view of the valley where I live.

Ridge 3

The peace and beauty are all in the foreground: why would anyone ever want to go back down?

Note: this was written in the fall of 2006.

April 26, 2007

More on the Wilderness Bill H.R. 1975: opposition

When the new Wilderness Bill was announced, Montana’s only member of the House of Representatives, Denny Rehberg, immediately came out in opposition to it in a poorly worded, poorly organized and factually empty statement quoted in this story in the Missoulian: “I oppose this legislation because it’s a top-down approach that doesn’t properly take into account the impacts on the local economy. Nor does it adequately protect access for hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation,” Rehberg said in a statement. “I’ll continue to work to implement responsible policies to protect Montana’s natural resources.”

Is there perhaps more motivating his opposition to the bill than that simplistic statement implies?

In March, 2007, Rep. Rehberg held a fundraising event at, of all places, the exclusive Yellowstone Club near Big Sky Montana., which is owned by, as pointed out in this story in the Billings Gazette his friend Tim Blixseth. While some of us might have been able to scrape together $1,000 to attend the event, most of us couldn’t come up with the minimum price for a home there ($1,000,000) or even the $300,000 necessary to join their private country club.

Rep. Rehberg’s friend Blixseth is an interesting person. As mentioned in this story in the Missoulian titled “World’s most expensive home’ for sale in Big Sky”, Blixseth “built the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, a members-only ski and golf resort. Several years ago, he sold a 20-acre lot there for $20 million, at that time the most expensive housing lot in the state. He put the club together after buying 140,000 acres of scattered Plum Creek Timber Co. lands in 1992, then going through a series of land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service that consolidated both public and private holdings. Blixseth and his partners paid about $25 million for the Plum Creek properties, he has said”.

There was also an interesting story in the March 5, 2006 edition of the New York Times about the life and career of Tim Blixseth. It appears he is one of the highest-rolling developers in the world today. Here is that story.

Considering Rep. Rehberg’s ties to Blixseth, I am compelled to ask: is Rep. Rehberg motivated to support the preservation of Montana’s natural resources, or the exploitation of them? I am reminded again of the two sets of rules: one for the rich, and one for the rest of us. It is beginning to appear obvious which set of rules Mr. Rehberg has chosen to by play by.

It seems to me that the saving grace here is that Wilderness bill H.R. 1975 is neither in the hands of Denny Rehberg nor Tim Blixseth, really: it is now at the National level and in the hands of the American people. The natural resources that it would protect, while located in the five Western states, belong to everyone in America. Because it is at the National level, you all can play your own parts in this by voicing your opinions to the elected Representatives from your own states.

At the moment, it seems that Montana doesn’t seem to have anyone in the House to defend our natural resources. However, I think a vote of thanks should be given to its sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney from New York and all of the bill’s cosponsors from other states who can be seen listed here.

April 25, 2007

Exercising the Utmost Caution.

Filed under: Humor, Hunting, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Writing — montucky @ 9:01 pm

It was hunting season in northwestern Montana and the high mountain roads were either snow packed or ice covered or both as was the stretch coming up ahead of us. As I piloted the Jeep up that particularly steep and extremely icy section, almost wide enough for the wheels, I said to my son and hunting companion, “this is where we have to exercise the utmost caution.”

“Why, because we only have two tires on the road, the tach is reading 3000 RPM, and we’re going BACKWARDS?”, he yelled. … “JUMP!!!”

“No, that‘s not what I mean” I said. “When we get home we have to exercise the utmost caution to avoid mentioning this to your mother or our hunting will be over for the rest of this year at the very least. Women, especially your mother, are very peculiar about such things . I don’t understand exactly, but I know from experience that’s just how they are.”

“Now, since you’re already out of the Jeep, climb down out of that tree and hook our winch cable onto that big log that’s fallen across the road up ahead and we’ll be on our way.”

Seven heart attacks later we arrived at our planned hunting spot and within half an hour my fingers were able to let go of the steering wheel. Everything looked good so far, but I thought it rather strange there was absolutely no one else around. They all must have taken the bad road up.

The hunt went very well and after roughly twenty miles of hiking up, over, and around the Continental Divide, we bagged a nice 6X7 Mulie who was leaning on the Jeep when we returned.

The trip back down the mountain was fairly simple and completely predictable, since we already knew the road was nothing but ice. All fear of sliding down the road left as soon as complete terror took over and the actual sliding began, and it would have been quite pleasant if it hadn’t been for all the loud screaming going on. We hardly aged twenty years before arriving at the bottom!

As we turned onto the highway for the last fifty miles home, I realized it was again time to exercise the utmost caution. The bad road was behind us now, but the dangerous road was still ahead.

Wilderness Bill: A Washington resident’s viewpoint

I was delighted to see this post on Random Musings this morning.

aullori’s response is exactly what I wish we would see from people all over America who are concerned about our natural resources.

April 24, 2007

Wilderness bill H.R. 1975: a few related photos.

This bill addresses precious wild country in five states in the Northwest. Since I have the good fortune to live in one of them (Montana), I am pleased to show some photos taken in and near a few of the areas close to me and where I have spent a fair amount of time. They represent only a tiny portion of the area encompassed by the bill, but I hope they will at least provide a glimpse of the country that it was designed to protect.

The following four photos show something of the Baldy Mountain area, consisting of approximately 6,482 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest..

Mt Baldy viewed from the south:

Mt Baldy 2

Mt Baldy viewed from the southwest:

05-18-2006-2

The next two are scenes from within this proposed area:

Beargrass4

Beargrass5

In the following two photos, some of the peaks within the Cherry Peak area, consisting of approximately 34,964 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest can be seen. When most of the snow pack melts up there (in about a month) I will make a two-day trip into the area and bring back and post some pictures taken within it.

Eddy Mountain

2-16-2007-5

Here are three photos of the Patrick’s Knob/North Cutoff area, consisting of approximately 17,400 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest:

This is a view looking east from the high country. The wilderness area will extend to the Clark Fork River at the canyon bottom. In the high country across the river are the north and south Siegel areas and the Reservation Divide area.

Home of the cat

Looking up into the area from the north.

Western Larch3

Looking west from along the Flathead River. Patrick’s Knob is the snow-capped peak in the distance, center.

Flathead in winter 1

This is a scene in the South Siegel/South Cutoff area, consisting of approximately 13,872 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest viewed from the north.

Bear grass blossom and pine trees

The North Siegel area, consisting of approximately 8,670 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest. is directly to the left in the next photo, and the beginning of the Reservation Divide area, consisting of approximately 24,540 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest starts also to the left at about 10 o’clock.

East canyon

Back in the days when the Big Hole Lookout tower in the next photo was manned during fire season, the Teepee-Spring Creek area, consisting of approximately 13,092 acres administered by the Lolo National Forest could easily be monitored just below it.

Bighole Lookout

As the summer goes along I plan to visit as many of the areas in this vicinity as I can and will bring back and post more pictures of the scenery within them.

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