Montana Outdoors

November 17, 2007

Outsiders and public access

“it’s important I have written proof that Montanans don’t want members from New York and Connecticut dictating our land-use policy” (this is taken from a press release by Denny Rehberg, Montana’s sole member of the House of representatives, concerning his opposition to the Wilderness Bill, H.R. 1975. In the opening sentence of that release, he also called it a bill, “which would harm public access and recreation in Montana”.

It seems that every time an issue concerning the preservation of our National Forests or Parks arises, Montana’s representative the the House, Denny Rehberg, and Senator Max Baucus, throw their heads back and start braying about “public access” and outsiders “dictating our land-use policy”.

Some 50 miles south of Billings Montana lie the Pryor Mountains, a 78,000 acre high-country zone partly in the Custer National Forest. The Pryors now face a huge problem: unmanaged ATV and dirt bike riders are scarring the land, using and creating illegal trails through large parts of that area.

In a recent edition of the Billings Gazette, is printed a letter by a person defending the Pryors. Here is a link to the letter: Don’t let Pryor Mountains get chewed up by ATVs.

The letter itself is not all that informative, but if you are interested in seeing what some of the local people think “public access” means and why it will take outsiders to protect the National Forest lands in Montana, read the comments after the letter. It suggests to me that Montanans are more interested in playing with their motor toys than they are in protecting the environment!

The Custer National Forest is asking for comments on their new plan for this area, and the comment period is now open until December 19. This is a National Forest issue and therefore concerns not just the residents of Montana, but all of the citizens of the United States. For those of you interested in making your opinions known to the Forest Service about OHV use in our National Forests and helping make a difference, the following link will take you to the website of the Pryors Coalition where you will find more information about the situation in the Pryors and information about how to send your comment to the Forest: YOUR VOICE COUNTS!

November 15, 2007

The infamous magic words

As reported in this story, when 86 lawmakers across the U.S. asked the Park Service to limit motorized winter travel in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks to trips aboard guided snowcoaches as a means of protecting the Parks, guess who the 10 politicians were who got together to oppose that plan, saying “the need to preserve the parks needs to be balanced against public access“? (Essentially the same argument was used against the Wilderness Bill, HR 1975.)

The 10 are:

Denny Rehberg, (R) Representative, Montana
Jon Tester, (D) Senator, Montana
Max Baucus, (D) Senator, Montana
Bill Sali, (R) Representative, Idaho
Michael K. Simpson, (R) Representative, Idaho
Larry Craig, (R) Senator, Idaho
Mike Crapo, (R) Senator, Idaho
Barbara Cubin, (R) Representative, Wyoming
John Barrasso, (R) Senator, Wyoming
Michael Enzi, (R) Senator, Wyoming

It’s becoming obvious that these western politicians feel that the magic words “public access” provide an almost universal excuse for permitting all possible exploitation of the outdoors. Who would dare to be so cynical as to say that maintaining their constituents’ ability to make the maximum amount money from the National Parks in their area, despite whatever damage it might incur, has anything to do with it? I guess it must not be all that important to be concerned about the environment. (Don‘t worry about the world of Nature: what the heck… it‘s not as if we can’t make more!)

They remind me of a group of prostitutes who, when there is a crackdown on their activities, counter it by advertising “everyday low prices”!

The real argument here should be about how and what it takes to adequately protect the environment of the parks. When, and only when that has been determined and accomplished does it become appropriate to address the amount and types of access that are reasonable and acceptable. Until then to simply talk about “balance” between the two is nothing more than misleading rhetoric used by those to whose advantage it is to continue a maximum level of exploitation.

October 19, 2007

The balance

There is a balance which exists between mankind’s existence on and use of this Earth, and the ability of the natural world to support such existence and use. We don’t yet know what all of the rules are, or the boundaries and limitations. And yet…

A proposed Congressional Act, The “Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act” (HR 1975), which was designed to preserve much of the last remaining wild and natural country in the Northwest was discussed in the House of Representatives yesterday. The principal arguments against the Act were made by some politicians from a few western states who, under the guise of calling it a territorial dispute, want to retain the right to exploit National Forest System and public lands for the benefit of themselves and their own supporters, entirely disregarding the much larger issue.

We in the west are governed, in large part, by fools.

An A.P. story about yesterday’s discussion in the House may be found HERE

Information about HR 1975 may be found HERE

Information about the current roadless areas which are the areas addressed by the bill can be found HERE. This site will display maps of the roadless areas as road maps, topo maps or satellite maps.

A free printed copy of HR 1975 can be obtained from Congress by calling and requesting it at this phone number: 202-226-5210.

Since Wilderness designation is a big issue, there is an excellent website about wilderness which is a partnership project of the Wilderness Institute at The University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation, the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center, and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute which may be found HERE

June 28, 2007

To the east

Just beyond the trees and 4,000 feet below, the small town of Hot Springs is just 5 miles away. (This photo is for Geri.)

Hot Springs Montana

Beyond the town, and another 40 miles away, the majestic Mission Mountains.

Mission Mountains

Hot Springs and Mission Mountains

A few more degrees to the south and just below the peak, Baldy Lake.

Baldy Lake

Photographed June 26, 2007 from the summit of 7,464 ft Mount Baldy in the Cabinet Mountains of Western Montana. From within the Baldy Mountains roadless area.

June 27, 2007

Mount Baldy: the top

What a difference a day can make. On Monday the high temperature in the valley was 64º and there was new snow on Mount Baldy. On Tuesday the valley high was 78º and the snow was gone. All but at the top.

This is the first of several posts I will make about a hike to the top of Baldy and I decided to start at the top.

There are still a few snow banks remaining at the high elevations, mostly on the north slopes where the snow drifted deep during the winter and where they are normally shaded from the sun. Some are still as deep as 7 feet.

These photos were taken Tuesday from the top of Mount Baldy (7,464 ft).

Looking Southeast. The small lake is Baldy Lake. I will post another photo of it later. It’s probably still a little cool for swimming.


The next three are looking over different snow banks to the North. The high peak just above the snow banks is Thompson Peak in the McGregor – Thompson roadless area. It is the same height as Baldy and is 9 miles away.




Mount Baldy is in the West end of the 6,482 acre Baldy Mountain roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains of Western Montana, Lolo National Forest. It would receive Wilderness designation and protection under the Wilderness Act, HR 1975 if it is passed by Congress.

June 25, 2007

Baldy Mountain roadless area

Hot day? Here’s what the trail up Mount Baldy looked like this morning at about 7,000 feet:

Mount Baldy

Mount Baldy FS road

Mount Baldy trail

From Mount Baldy trail

Mount Baldy trail

Mount Baldy trail

Photographed from within the Baldy Mountain roadless area on USFS trail 340, Cabinet Mountains, Western Montana. (This area would be protected under the Wilderness Bill HR 1975.)

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