Archive for February 23rd, 2012

by jhwygirl

Since seeing this article in the Missoulian I’ve been a little perplexed.

President Engstrom is threatening – quite clearly now – to put an end to some annual forester’s ball that’s been around since I-don’t-know-how-long because it (apparently) gets too rowdy.

Drunken students. The shock.

The thing is so rowdy that I’ve never even known when the darn thing’s been held – and apparently the annual soiree just occurred a few weeks ago.

But answer me this: The Griz games are one big drunken booze carnival before hand, only recently cut back to 5 hours of tailgating on campus property, right? I mean, we’re not talking clandestine alcoholic beverages sipped out of paper cups – we’re talking barrels of beer and all that you’d expect of Montana and football and a bunch of crazed Montana football fans from across the state.

But Engstrom’s got his britches in a skritches over a few dozens forestry students having an annual party to raise some money for scholarships?

When we’ve got university sanctioned public drinking on public property?

Football OK, forestry scholarship fundraising once a year, bad?

Yeah – UM has priorities.


by jhwygirl

I’m more disgusted than shocked – it’s no surprise, really, that a court that would side with the sale of our elections to the highest willing buyer determined yesterday that our public waterways can be owned by private corporations, without even payment to use the land.

I won’t pretend to have studiously read the court’s opinon, issued yesterday. I have read through it quickly though, and prior I had read both PPL and the state’s briefs, along with many of the other documents.

My favorite read of the PPL v Montana case was one that I think anyone would enjoy, regardless of their opinion on the case or the court’s recent ruling. Historian Stephanie Ambrose-Tubbs’ amicus brief submitted in support of the state’s position is rich with descriptive language that brings to life the color and visual of early Montana – from Lewis & Clark’s first travels on the Missouri to the steamboat travel days, outfitting and present day fishing and floating.

My favorite television reporter Marnee Banks (Helena’s CBS news) did this reporting on the hearing just before the case was heard by SCOTUS in December.

In the end, the court did not agree with the state that a the PPL dam – one in particular which sits on a series of waterfalls on the Missouri River up near Great Falls (there are other PPL dams involved also) – was on a navigable river.

Montana’s claim to rivers goes back to the law of the Magna Carta – under the principle that the waterways are a primary source of commerce, so important to the state that it is within their interest to control. Here in Montana, rivers have been used to move logs. Here in Missoula people might be interested to know that Ninemile Creek, Lolo Creek and the Rattlesnake were all used to “float” logs. That’s in addition to what most would expect – the Clark’s Fork, the Blackfoot and the Clearwater.

“Lolo?” I said when I was first told that by an old logger smokejumper in problembear’s favorite bar over there in Bonner. Apparently the old guys would cut those logs and stack them through the winter in low lands that would then be flooded by damming the creek to then “float” them down to the mills. Today you can still see the old logs sprouting up like mushrooms on the Blackfoot, now that the dam is gone at Milltown.

Some old old maps of Missoula show a log mill a the bottom of the Rattlesnake, near its confluence with the Clark’s Fork.

In some drainages, you can still see the remains of the log structures used to hold the slats that dammed the creeks.

The courts, though, apparently didn’t find logging a compelling enough of a commerce interest for the state to protect.

Meh. Whatever. Sometime soon when the set the date, I’m heading to DC to occupy the steps of SCOTUS. They still haven’t denied the request to hear American Tradition Partnership v Montana, which challenges Montana’s ban on corporate money in elections – and two court justices are hinting that they want to hear the case – so when they do, I plan to be in DC to at least be there for what I’m sure will be well-directed chaos.

What does SCOTUS’ recent ruling mean for our waterways? Apparently if you can’t float a boat, it’s up for sale to the highest bidder.

That, my friends, is sad – no matter how you slice it.

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