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Saving the Sagebrush Sea: An Imperiled Western Legacy

Nearly 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush habitat for their survival.


Montana News

Keeping Public Lands Public

Montana’s public lands define our way of life. It’s a father teaching his daughter how to fly fish. It’s a mother and her son climbing a peak in the Bitterroots.

It’s those memorable moments — and our very birthright as Montanans — that are at risk if those who seek to transfer the management of federal lands to states are allowed to succeed.

While “allowing states to manage the lands within their borders” may sound like an appealing idea, the real goal is a threat to our outdoor heritage.

Montanans who believe in responsible governing and management of our state understand that the costs of managing an additional 30 million acres will leave the state with only one option — selling off our public lands to the highest bidder in order to pay to manage what’s left.

Imagine how many acres would be locked up if we were forced to sell the lands to wealthy out-of-state interests? Fences and “No Trespassing” signs would spring up overnight, barring access to anglers, hunters, mountain bikers, backpackers and hikers.

Currently, more than 2,000 employees manage federal lands in the Montana region at the cost of $200 million every year. Add to that the cost of fighting forest fires, which in recent years has totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, and the loss of $50 million every year to local communities in the form of payment in lieu of taxes and Secure Rural Schools funding, and you can plainly see the added financial burden Montana would face.

While our state’s budget is in strong fiscal shape, we do not have the resources to take over management of these lands. Doing so would be cost-prohibitive, raise the tax burden on Montana families, and send our budget deep into the red.

Montana was just named the most fiscally responsible state in the country, and jeopardizing our future prosperity in order to satisfy a narrow interest group that would prefer to see strip malls and condos along ridgelines and streams just doesn’t make sense.

This is the not the outdoor legacy we want to pass on to our kids and grandkids. We want them to experience landing their first trout, floating the Madison River and horseback riding in the Crazy Mountains.

In order to ensure that we maintain our Montana way of life, let’s work together to keep our public lands public.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jobs In Rural Western Counties With More Than 30% Protected Public Lands Increased 300% Over Last 40 Years

A report released yesterday by consulting firm Headwaters Economics continues to shed light on the economic importance of protected public lands to local economies in the American West.

It finds that there were more than four times as many jobs created in non-metro counties with protected public lands compared to those without. This data contradicts the ideological rhetoric of many Republicans seeking to throw open more federal acres to mining and drilling.

Read full text: Think Progress

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bison transfer should be allowed, with conditions

The story of Yellowstone National Park's bison has taken so many twists and turns, followed by more twists and turns, again and again, that everyone involved may be a little dizzy.

And we're not talking just about this past week when the state essentially smuggled 66 of the shaggy beasts across the state to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in order to get the jump on any legal action against the move.

We're talking about the decades of animus surrounding the animals — so long-running and convoluted that we can't resist imagining what thebison would think if they could understand the multi-level, three-dimensional tug-of-war that has taken place among humans over their future and health.

Read full text: Great Falls Tribune

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bison reach Montana as part of relocation plan

Sixty-four bison from Yellowstone National Park were shipped almost 500 miles to northeast Montana's Fort Peck Reservation on Monday, under a long-stalled relocation initiative meant to repopulate parts of the West with the iconic animals.

Read full text: The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finding Common Ground: Logging, public access and wildlife protection merge in 28,000-acre conservation easement near Troy

Deep in northwestern Montana near the Idaho border, an expansive 28,000-acre conservation easement proposal is bringing together a diverse group of interests, with conservationists, loggers, wildlife managers and outdoor enthusiasts discovering they can all agree on a common vision: protecting working forestland from development while keeping it open to public recreation.

Thanks to a recent $6.5 million federal grant, their vision is inching, if not accelerating, toward becoming a reality.

Read full text: Flathead Beacon

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anaconda-area sportsmen stage demonstration over whether road is public

ANACONDA -- While Anaconda-Deer Lodge County continues its research into what is allegedly a county road northeast of town, local sportsmen are uniting to press the issue.

About 75 people staged a peaceful (if at times heated) demonstration on Sunday afternoon on Modesty Creek Road, opening a pair of landowner gates to what they believe should be public access.

A line of more than 20 trucks rumbled over snow and ice on a stretch of the road running east to Dry Gulch through private land. There, they reviewed maps from as far back as 1889 that label the road as a county road.

One Anaconda police officer responded to the scene, but only to keep the peace. No arrests or citations were issued.

Read full text: Billings Gazette

Monday, January 23, 2012

State wants hunters to be enforcers; some question ethics

HELENA - Montana is looking to recreational hunters for help in enforcing more of its wildlife management policies, but one regulator worries they are being asked to cross an ethical line in doing so.

The question is whether the state is unwittingly putting those hunters in a fix: Does their new role fall within ethical hunting guidelines or does it reduce them to wildlife management mercenaries whose actions could give hunting a black eye?

That's the concern of Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioner Ron Moody, who recently questioned whether the agency's policies and proposals are asking hunters disregard what it means to be an ethical hunter.

"I think we're either at those limits, or what I really think is we've gone past them," Moody said.

Read full text: The Missoulian
Monday, January 23, 2012

Eastern Montana, several states hit hard by deer-killing disease

White-tailed deer populations in parts of Eastern Montana and elsewhere in the Northern Plains could take years to recover from a devastating disease that killed thousands of the animals in recent months, wildlife officials and hunting outfitters said.

In northeast Montana, officials said 90 percent or more of whitetail have been killed along a 100-mile stretch of the Milk River from Malta to east of Glasgow. Whitetail deaths also have been reported along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in western North Dakota and Eastern Montana and scattered sites in Wyoming, South Dakota and eastern Kansas.

The deaths are being attributed to an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. Transmitted by biting midges, EHD causes internal bleeding that can kill infected animals within just a few days.

Click here to read the full story on the Billings Gazette

Monday, January 9, 2012

Preserving the Hunt

The final numbers reported at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations support a widespread perception that the big game population, specifically deer, is hurting in most areas of the state. And as a result so is the tradition of hunting.

Of the state’s seven regions, only one showed above average harvest numbers for both whitetail and mule deer — Region 3 in the southwest. Nearly everywhere else saw significant declines in both animals harvested and hunters in the field, especially in eastern Montana. In fact, all but two regions reported a below average number of hunters this season.

Click here to read the full story on the Flathead Beacon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No bison on Spotted Dog, says FWP

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is shelving the idea for placing quarantined bison on the Spotted Dog and Marias River wildlife management areas, but is recommending that 68 quarantined bison be relocated to two northern Montana Indian reservations. 

The final decision about the relocation of the bison — which migrated out of Yellowstone National Park, and were rounded up, quarantined and tested since 2004 as part of a brucellosis study — is expected to be made by the FWP Commission at its Dec. 9 meeting in Helena. However, the recommendation was part of a Record of Decision signed Wednesday by FWP Director Joe Maurier.

If the commission approves the recommendation, the 68 bison could be moved as early as this winter to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation near Harlem and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation near Wolf Point.

Click here to read the full story on the Helena Independent Record

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In Yellowstone National Park: Plan could cut 360 bison

Park biologists wrote in the proposal that reducing the population could avoid the need for the large-scale slaughters — more than 1,700 were killed or removed in 2008 — seen during past migrations. In harsh winters, bison leave the park in large numbers seeking food at lower elevations in Montana. 

State officials said hunting was their top choice for population control. However, Schweitzer said in an interview that for the strategy to work, the park must open its borders to hunting inside portions of Yellowstone where bison often congregate in winter. Past hunts yielded few bison during mild winters when the animals did not cross out of the park. 

Click here to read the full story on the mtstandard.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sheep station scrutinized

Federal and state agencies, sportsmen groups and environmentalists are calling for an end to sheep grazing on a federal research ranch in the Centennial Mountains, saying the decades-long practice is coming at the expense of grizzly bears and other wildlife. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baucus to introduce Front wilderness bill

HELENA — U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced Friday that he will sponsor the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act in Congress.

The long-anticipated bill, which Baucus said he plans to introduce this session, would add 67,000 acres of new wilderness to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The measure also would designate another 208,000 acres as conservation management areas, which would limit road building but allow current motorized recreation and public access for hunting, biking, timber thinning and grazing.

Click here to read the full article on the Great Falls Tribune

Friday, October 28, 2011

Roaming Yellowstone bison prompt lawsuits from stockgrowers

BILLINGS — Montana's newfound tolerance toward wild bison is heading to trial as cattle ranchers and county officials seek to prevent a repeat of last year's mass migration of hundreds of the animals out of Yellowstone National Park.

State District Judge Wayne Phillips has been asked to settle a fundamental question: Are bison in Montana free-roaming wildlife, or should they be kept in the park to protect private property and public safety?

Click here to read the full story on the Great Falls Tribune

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Western Montana hunters see mixed bag on big-game season opening weekend

HAMILTON - For the second year in a row, hunters found plenty of opportunity to fill their freezers with elk meat in the Big Hole Valley, but elsewhere in western Montana most critters stayed clear of the bull's-eye on opening weekend of big-game season.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FWP accepting campsite reservations at Montana State Parks

Never mind your Thanksgiving or Christmas plans. Think ahead.

If you know what you're up to over Memorial Day or the Fourth of July in 2012 - and it involves camping at a Montana State Park - you can reserve your campsite now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Roundup coal mine seeks to expand exports to Asia, South America

"BILLINGS - An international commodity company has bought into a major central Montana coal mine in a $400 million deal designed to ramp up exports of the fuel to markets in Asia and South America.

FirstEnergy Corp. and Boich Companies, Ohio-based owners of the underground Signal Peak Energy mine near Roundup, announced the deal with Cyprus-registered Gunvor Group, Ltd., on Tuesday.

The companies say they plan to ship less coal in future years to FirstEnergy's Midwestern power plants and instead route the fuel to potential markets in Japan, China, Korea and Chile.

Production at the Montana mine would increase to about 15 million tons per year. That's more than triple the volume extracted from Signal Peak's Bull Mountain mine last year and would entail surface mining in addition to the current underground operations."

Click here to read the full story on the Missoulian

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bringing back the bison: Group pushes reintroduction to Montana public lands

"A Montana conservationist, hunter, author and promoter of hunter ethics, Posewitz has lent his voice to the National Wildlife Federation's push to have bison restored to the 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana.

'What better place, what better species and what better time?' he said."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yellowstone hits 3 million summer visitors for 3rd year

"BILLINGS, Mont. — Yellowstone National Park administrators are reporting that more than 3 million people visited the park over the summer."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Judge's Sage Grouse Ruling Could Stall BLM Plans in Wyo., Idaho

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that the Interior Department has failed to adequately address sage grouse impacts from energy development in southwest Wyoming, and grazing areas around the Idaho national monument.  This case has far reaching impacts as it challenged 18 land management plans across six western states.

Click here for the full story on the New York Times

Friday, September 30, 2011