The Beaverhead in trouble

Zinke and BLM Lands in Montana

Zinke and BLM Lands in Montana

Zinke promised something quite different than he left in his legacy. Legacy, a funny concept. I think he promised to leave Montana in better shape than he found it?

Editorial from Tony Bynum in the Missoulian. Scraped it from Moldy Chum yesterday.

As former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rides off into the sunset, Montanans are forced to confront the repercussions of his decisions for our public lands. Under Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management recently moved ahead on the sale of oil, gas and fracking leases on 10,000 acres of public lands in southwest Montana, including parcels along our beloved Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers. Zinke made this decision even though the BLM received thousands of comments against the sale and only one comment supporting it.

This lease sale is indicative of how Zinke operated as Interior secretary: ignore the public’s cry for protecting our most revered public lands, and allow special interests to exploit those lands. I fear this disturbing pattern will continue in one pending decision that could have the greatest impact of all on public lands in Montana — the BLM’s land management plan for much of central Montana’s prairie.

I’m an avid hunter, and have made my livelihood photographing this tradition, mostly on public lands. In recent years I have grown to love central Montana’s vast prairies. The buttes, breaks, wide-open spaces and river valleys provide plenty of opportunities for solitude and secure habitat for wildlife. The wildness of this landscape was what most inspired Charlie Russell, a wildness that was fading fast after his arrival in Montana in 1880. Through his art, he captured this fading wildness to make sure we didn’t forget about it and the people, wildlife and features that characterized this landscape.

While Russell was pessimistic about the future, we shouldn’t forget that because of his and many others’ efforts, much of what he thought would be gone forever has been restored and protected over the years. This conservation story is not over, however, and I fear that it could take a drastic turn for the worse when the BLM Lewistown Field Office releases its draft management plan, which will determine how some of the last blocks of unbroken prairie will be managed for the next 20-30 years. Many of these lands are concentrated south of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, where the Musselshell River runs into the Missouri River. Places like Horse Camp Trail, Chain Buttes and Crooked Creek, which cover about 200,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands and serve as some of the most productive ungulate habitat in North America, will be addressed in this plan.

These wild and remote public lands provide valuable habitat for some of the largest and healthiest big-game populations in North America, as well as opportunities for hunting, hiking and camping. A study recently released by Southwick and Associates showed that Montana’s 8 million acres of BLM land supports 3,931 jobs and $134 million in salaries and wages.

These BLM lands also include Areas of Critical Environmental Concern like the Judith Mountain Scenic Area, one of the only forested mountain islands in the Great Plains. It offers Lewistown residents and visitors access to a popular 5.5-mile trail up Collar Peak, which cuts the prairie air at 6,126 feet above sea level.

When evaluating Ryan Zinke’s legacy on our public lands, it is clear that he wasn’t at all the Teddy Roosevelt conservationist he claimed to be. We can only hope that the BLM’s pending land management plan for our prairie landscape doesn’t fall into the pattern he established of ignoring the public’s demand for conserving some of our most cherished public lands.
The wildness that Russell cherished shouldn’t be treated as a painted relic out of a quaint past; it is still with us, and it is our responsibility to make sure that it remains for future generations.
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9 Comments.

  • allan roberts
    January 29, 2019 6:31 am

    THIS IS NO SURPRISE….WHY DID MONTANA GO FOR TRUMP IN THE FIRST PLACE?………..
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s new pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency

    Andrew Wheeler a former coal industry lobbyist said on Wednesday 1/16/9 that he does not believe

    climate change is a major crisis, and would continue to undo Obama-era emission limits,and is a pro

    business extremist is not fit to run the nation’s top environmental regulator.

    A federal report written by 13 government agencies late last year said climate change will cost the U.S
    economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, damaging everything from human
    health to infrastructure and agricultural production.
    Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt on climate change and has indicated his intention to withdraw
    from a global pact to fight it, dismissed the report after its release, saying “I don’t believe it”.
    You and the genius in the White House disagree despite the United Nations saying the world should
    take UNPRECEDENTED action to cut carbon emissions in the next decade….breaking news folks
    this is our WORLD WAR 3.

    The Republican Party led By Donald Trump…… is the only significant group of people

    in the ENTIRE WORLD……. who are climate change deniers.

    The United States has always been at the forefront of being good stewards of planet earth and it

    has now ……..abdicated that sacred…honored…and sacrosanct….. responsibility.

    This president who actually knows very little, reads almost not at all, has a short attention span,and who is

    indifferent to concepts and scientific evidence,and therefore is completely unqualified to establish

    legislative policy that now impacts the fate of this tiny blue marble we all inhabit.

    When I was a much younger man I loved to gamble and went on many

    trips to Las Vegas.

    I don’t any more…..but while I was there I saw many

    huge bets being made…..of course none of those were by me.

    But Trump and his Republican party , are the biggest high rollers I have ever encountered.

    You are willing to wager……… the possible lives of your family, your children,

    grandchildren and future generations…… and the welfare of the entire planet on the word of our leader

    who has a BS in Economics from Wharton…..OVER the opinions of over 190 countries,who have vetted all human knowledge on the subject and

    who have signed the Paris Climate Agreements….. and OVER the opinions of the Union of Concerned

    Scientists with its over 200,000 members ……many of those with PHD’s. While it is true that some

    EPA regulations impede the cost of doing business and of course Trumps prime motivator is

    the economy but….. THIS HAS GONE WAY BEYOND MONEY. You know there is no free lunch

    and we must all pay for our transgressions …. that we have committed against the environment

    and our planet……and time is not on our side.

    We are at the point of no return ….action is required…and it is time to change our priorities ..and stand up for

    our very existence…rather then short sighted ……. monetary goals….initiated by short sighted Republicans.

    I do not want to put my children’s fate in the hands of someone who says climate change

    is a HOAX perpetrated by the Chinese………………..Do you want to do that?

  • dan from ohio
    January 29, 2019 7:18 am

    …So anyways-
    A rope goes into a bar, bartender says, “I’m sorry, we don’t serve ropes here…” The rope goes outside, ties a knot into itself and frays an end, goes back inside, and the bartender says, “I thought I said we don’t serve ropes here- Aren’t you a rope?” Rope says, “I’m a frayed knot”…

  • Great OP Ed. I wish I knew why MT voted for Trump. I can say I do believe MT is a purple state, we have a Senator and Gov who are D’s. I think if D’s used public land access and public land use with more thought and articulation they would do much better come election day.

  • I read and love this blog each morning. As a Montana native and avid fly fisherman, I greatly appreciate the updates on fishing, great photos and helpful tips / thoughts on becoming a better fisherman. What I don’t appreciate is any politicization of this blog. Lets stick to fishing.

    • Thanks DJK for reading daily. I appreciate your comment.

      I posted this article because of conservation. I am sticking to fishing. The Beaverhead waters run into the Missouri River, as you know. So, a concern for post-fracking action, the destruction of Montana communities, and all of the bad shit that happens along with the fracking experiment was the angle here. My concern is for the watershed, not for any political aim.

      The headwaters of the Mighty Mo has a lot to do with our fishing, our local community, our local economy, our ecological position, and Montana as a whole.

      Thanks again for reading. I figure of the 5000+ posts we have published, the less than 10 conservation articles may spawn some good. We are not angry, upset, or trying to engage political unrest. We post this for the future generations of Montana Natives and their enjoyment of nature, Montana’s watersheds, and the awareness of what is happening with our beautiful state.

  • allan roberts
    February 5, 2019 8:02 am

    I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that…then I realized I’am somebody.

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