Monday, April 7, 2014

Retired Montana FWP biologist: rewild the West

Theodore Roosevelt, who was hunting and ranching near Medora, North Dakota, wrote in 1885: “A ranchman who ... made a journey of a thousand miles across northern Montana, along the Milk River, during the whole distance he was never out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live one.” One witness to the shameful wildlife slaughter in the Judith Basin was a 16-year-old youth from Missouri who like Stuart arrived there in 1880 — Charles M. Russell. Charlie saw a good part of it go and then said: “The West is dead! You may lose a sweetheart, but you won’t forget her.” Among the images he blessed us with was a masterpiece that pictured buffalo crossing the Missouri and climbing out on the “breaks.” He called it “When the Land Belonged to God.” Today, we observe the 150th anniversary of both Charlie’s birth, and Montana’s birth as a Territory. Today, nothing prevents us from finishing the saga of wildlife restoration — except the cultural will to just simply do it. What Charlie put on canvas we now are capable of putting out on the landscape. It is time to return buffalo to the wild and to do it with pride and with dignity. [Jim Posewitz, Time to return buffalo to wild, Montana Standard]
Here's more:
Efforts by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop to undermine the 1906 Antiquities Act (pdf) and by the Utah Legislature to take control of federal lands in the state are “symptoms” of a larger national issue, says Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. Jarvis points out the act “has been used by both Democratic and Republican presidents since its inception. We have used it with this president to expand the national park system to represent contributions of minorities. [Billings Gazette]

The ninth annual New Horizons Oil & Gas Conference will focus on oil and gas activities in the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, especially as they affect the Williston, Powder River and Denver-Julesburg producing basins. Geology and geological engineering professor emeritus Alvis Lisenbee says the Black Hills are an ideal location for the petroleum conference. He says rock layers, which produce oil in the surrounding areas, are at the surface, and geologists can walk up to an outcrop and see the material. [KOTA teevee]
The South Dakota Department of Transportation has announced its schedule to rebuild I-90 east of Wall again at taxpayer expense. Why? Because the Pierre Shale that breaks up the interstate every year makes the Keystone pipeline untenable.

Ellsworth Air Force Base plans to downsize personnel this year as part of a nationwide shift in Air Force funding priorities. Offers of voluntary separation or early retirement have been extended to airmen across the country. [KDLT teevee]

Stock growers in the Paradise Valley say the proposal would give ranchers in the greater Yellowstone area valuable tools to manage elk, which carry the bacteria the causes brucellosis, and limit the possibility elk could transmit the costly disease to domestic cattle. Brucellosis has been mostly eradicated in the United States, but the bacteria continue to exist in wild bison and elk populations in and around Yellowstone National Park. Management of Yellowstone bison is governed by the state/federal Interagency Bison Management Plan and is designed to prevent the spread of brucellosis from wild bison to domestic cattle. Critics raised concerns about the impacts wildlife-proof fencing would have on native wildlife species — from antelope to elk — and the potential for ranchers in the Paradise Valley to essentially “privatize” wild game. “Cattle are the source of the problem and asking FWP to build fences on private land to control the elk with fees derived from hunters is an asinine suggestion,” wrote Mark Potter of Polson. Steve Kelley, director of the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council, said the plan recommendations would cause “significant adverse environmental impacts to Montana wildlife and habitat, in violation of state and federal statutes. [John S. Adams, Elk plan in cross hairs, Great Falls Tribune]

President Obama: rewild the West.
President Barack Obama’s request for the 2015 fiscal year calls for an increase of $2.8 million in funding for the agency’s wild horse and burro program, and would allow it to continue studies to develop more effective contraceptive drugs and techniques. The budget also seeks to maintain funding for the BLM’s initiative to conserve sage grouse habitat across the West to avoid the bird’s listing as an endangered or threatened species. [AP, Billings Gazette]

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