Archive for February 28th, 2009


by problembear

“we expect the good citizens of philadelphia to take good care of and protect the liberty bell. shouldn’t montana do the same with our wild lands?”

one of the best parts of the early false spring days of february in missoula is the warming sun triggers thoughts of summer wilderness trails leading around boulders and subalpine fir to a hidden basin where a bear can find solace from the fray of political and societal issues and pressures. it is the memory of a tiny two inch wide spring which gurgles beneath a rock ledge. it is the daydream thoughts of a soft fluttering of wings above and the startling call of the robber jay as it steals greedily and boldly closer to my lunch. it is the soft rustle of grass as a round eared pika peaks furtively toward me with her small bundle of “hay”.

wilderness thoughts come every spring even though i visit less and less these days into that wild part of the world where i feel safest and most myself. it is interesting to feel those stirrings of passionate beliefs come welling out of me like a force fed spring from a snowfield in july. a post by Bill Schneider over at New West a few weeks ago triggered old feelings about those old wilderness battles with a vengeance. i became predictably problemish in the discussion and the entire discussion between commenters leaves me wondering where does montana go from here.

Bill is getting weary of the battle of the greens and i cannot blame him. my own personal history of working to save wilderness mostly occured in oregon (back then called the Oregon Wilderness Coalition) during the period of 1974 through 1984. in that time i do not recall the enmity between groups in oregon that seems to occur here in montana. for that reason (and because in 1985, when i moved here i did not feel qualified to speak about lands i knew little about) i kind of stepped back and played a more supportive role on the sidelines as i watched folks like Mike Bader, Bob Yetter, Howie Wolke and other men and women battle the wilderness war for a couple of decades here. i could see that the rivalry between the Alliance For The Wild Rockies and other more staid groups like the Montana Wilderness Association and the Sierra Club was reaching a fevered pitch which absolutely precluded any meaningful communication between them.

this is a shame. here we sit in montana – surrounded by so much wild land in what i consider the great crossroads of wilderness in the contiguous united states and nobody can seem to come to the table and agree about how much and what we should save. it seems absurd to me, but i refrained from bellyaching about it because i was a native oregon black bear who had made his home among grizzly bears it seems and sticking my head up just didn’t seem too smart. but now that i have lived here almost 24 years i guess i am feeling it is time for some straight talk about what i think needs to be done here.

The Montana Wilderness Association. MWA needs to get on the dime and start protecting some wild lands. it is an organization that has been around since 1958 and in it’s first twenty five years it was a primal force in saving wild lands in montana. now, however, MWA seems to be more interested in it’s own precious credibility among law-makers and the powerful rather than advocates for Wilderness. where is the zeal to save wild lands?

other Montana groups Sierra Club? Audobon? Wilderness Society? where the hell are you guys-women? i don’t see anything from any of you on protecting wilderness this year and i read a lot of stuff.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies AWR probably needs to come to the table with more respect for the MWA and it’s viewpoints in order to move it’s current bill in congress closer to enactment. simply throwing insults at each other will get no one anywhere. (i am guilty of this also but today i am trying to be objective in thinking exactly what is needed to protect our most precious montana legacies for future generations and to encourage a dialogue which is more respectful of each other’s viewpoints.)

there is another country wide omnibus multi wilderness bill currently trying to migrate it’s way through congress which very conspicuously contains no wilderness proposals from montana. as someone who has supported AWR from the sidelines all these years it just seems like montana’s wilderness groups are not doing enough to come to the table and talk. how can we expect reasonable lawmakers like tester and baucus and a predominately democratic congress and a supportive president to help us if we wilderness supporters can’t agree on anything?

it seems we are acting childish and stupid right when the winds of change are most receptive to protecting these lands.  this is not a plea from me so much as a plea from the lands themselves for all you humans to change your stupid ways and finally come together and talk so we can be the way there is a great resource for some information available on this from missoula’s own aldo leopold wilderness institute to help fuel your comments with specific details.

so please consider this post to be an open thread about how you would like montana to approach the unapproachable stalemate of wilderness. i realize there is a lot of emotion out there about this topic. (only gun control gets more comments) but i will try my best to restrain myself and other’s comments from straying past the bounds of a good rollicking, chair-throwing, honest debate here. but try to keep it on topic. of course, i realize the economy takes precedent in these days (people are hurting out there) but i just thought a little hike into the wilderness issue might be nice- get our minds off the societal day to day survival things and think a little about our legacy as westerners and as montanans.  i will sit back and let people talk without too much interference on this because my paws are tired from all this typing and i think i smell fresh cinnamon rolls wafting from a certain little rodents den…, take a hike…

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