Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

By JC

It was just a matter of time until the USFWS’s rush for delistings caught up with them. In an Opinion released today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and overturned the April 2007 delisting of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Area. There is much to said about this case, and its announced decision today, but I’ll let the Opinion speak for itself:

the [US Fish & Wildlife] Service cannot take a full-speed ahead, damn-the-torpedoes approach to delisting…

The Service’s delisting decision, the subject of this appeal, raises a host of scientific, political, and philosophical questions regarding the complex relationship between grizzlies and people in the Yellowstone region. We emphasize at the outset that those are not the questions that we grapple with here. We, as judges, do not purport to resolve scientific uncertainties or ascertain policy preferences. We address only those issues we are expressly called upon to decide pertaining to the legality of the Service’s delisting decision: first, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that a projected decline in whitebark pine, a key food source for the bears, does not threaten the Yellowstone grizzly population; and second, whether the Service rationally supported its conclusion that adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to maintain a recovered Yellowstone grizzly population without the ESA’s staunch protections.

As to the first issue, we affirm the district court’s ruling that the Service failed to articulate a rational connection between the data in the record and its determination that whitebark pine declines were not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly, given the lack of data indicating grizzly population stability in the face of such declines, and the substantial data indicating a direct correlation between whitebark pine seed availability and grizzly survival and reproduction. As to the second issue, we reverse the district court and hold that the Service’s determination regarding the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms was reasonable.”

Advertisements

by jhwygirl

Some good news from out near Hood River.

Yesterday the Condit dam was breeched by PacifiCorp, freeing the river for the famous Pacific Northwest steelhead and chinook fisheries.

There’s some pretty dramatic footage of the breech to be found around the innertubes – I’ll offer this video from The Oregonian:

Pretty impressive, huh?

The University of Montana Geomorphology Lab were there for the scene – but instead of watching the dynamite do its deed, the went to watch the rebirth of the White Salmon River. Here is a 2-hour time lapse of the White Salmon’s rebirth – and the draining of lake:

Somewhere I read this morning that it had been estimated it would take 6 hours to drain.

UM student Josh Epstein was there in the group, and he has 3 videos posted. Here’s One, Two, and Three.

Fascinating. The Condit dam is the second tallest dam to be removed in the U.S. The Seattle Times had a great piece today reporting on some of the history of the dam.

BPA, for its part, had to say goodbye to the Condit, which was able to generate power about 7,000 homes in the northwest.

While hydropower seems to be their predominate source for power, it appears BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) is relying more and more on wind and biomass. This map shows their power generation locations and sources.

I tried to look for a similar resource at Northwestern Energy, but couldn’t find one.

~~~~~
Free the sturgeon of the Kootanai

This is a guest post from Larry Winslow of the Northern Plains Resource Council – It outlays some of the issues of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, all brought to the forefront because of Exxon’s crime of negligence on the Yellowstone River. I’m extremely grateful for his information – jhwygirl

The rupture and release of 42,000 gallons of crude oil from an Exxon pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River brings home to Montanans the need for improved oversight and careful planning of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is proposed to carry corrosive tar sands oil across 250 miles of Montana en route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. Its route will include 400 water crossings in Montana, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

The difference between the two pipelines is huge, with the Keystone XL pipeline projected to carry 22.5 times as much oil per day as the Exxon pipeline. The 12-inch Silvertip Exxon pipeline that ruptured July 1 carried 40,000 barrels of Wyoming crude a day to the Exxon refinery east of Billings. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter and carry up to 900,000 pressurized barrels of corrosive tar sands oil a day.

More than 200 miles downriver from the Exxon spill, Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District in Glendive shut down its pumps Saturday morning as a precaution. It had yet to turn them back on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m concerned about oil getting into our irrigation system. This concerns me and my neighbors,” said James Whitmer, board member of the Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District said.

TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline in eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska began transporting Alberta tar sands oil a year ago and is already responsible for 12 oil spills, despite TransCanada’s reassurances that a spill-incident of 50 barrels or more would only occur once every seven years.

“This really scares me,” said Doris Frost of Miles City, a member of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group who irrigates from the Yellowstone River where the Keystone XL pipeline is planned to cross. “We are talking about a pipeline that carries more than 20 times the oil that the Exxon pipeline carries, and it’s far more corrosive material. The State Department, Montana DEQ, and everyone else involved in the permitting process needs to take a hard look at what is being proposed.”

A report released in February by the National Resources Defense Council and other groups showed that pipelines carrying diluted tar sands (bitumen) have a higher rate of corrosion failure. Diluted bitumen is the heavy tar sands oil extracted, mixed with natural gas condensates.

“The oil industry is always saying that the chances of a leak are nil to zero, and responses in the case of a leak would be quick and thorough,” said Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust. “However, that wasn’t the case with the Gulf oil spill, the Enbridge pipeline spill in Michigan, the Chevron pipeline spill in Salt Lake City, and the dozen spills on TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline.”

The U.S. State Department, which has authority to grant a presidential permit approving Keystone XL’s construction, had its initial Environmental Impact Statement rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “inadequate” because significant environmental impacts had not been sufficiently evaluated. The State Department is now preparing a second EIS. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has yet to issue its permit as well. Members of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group have requested that DEQ attach specific conditions to any permit to improve the safety of the pipeline.

In Congress, a House subcommittee passed fast-track legislation in mid-June that would order Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reach a decision on the project by November 1. The bill now has to be voted on by the entire House. The bill would compel Clinton to over-rule demands for a further review of the project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and disregard local safety concerns from landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s 1,700-mile route.

by jhwygir

For up-to-the-moment news from an affected landowner, please read Alexis Bonogofsky’s twitter timeline.

Of greatest interest today, she reports that Exxon did not send out their specialized crews today.

Nice, huh?

While MSNBC reports that Exxon officials are now saying the spill could extend beyond the 10 miles they’ve originally reported.

You don’t say? And I’m loving those qualifiers (could? Really? We’re in flood!)

Please take notice of the wildlife photos on that MSNBC story.

On that note, Ms. Bonogofsky, ranch owner of Blue Creek Farms has also reported on the immediate loss of wildlife from her Yellowstone River ranch.

I cry for her loss. It is heartbreaking to hear of this devastation. I wish there was something I could do.

Watch Mike Scott, who is co-owner with Alexis of Blue Creek farms, question Exxon in this KTVQ-NBC Billings report and video.

And again – on that note – ranch owners Alexis and Mike were kicked out of the press conference and public officials did nothing to stop this banishment.

The agriculture industry is being ruined down there along the Yellowstone and public officials are allowing Exxon to clean up their image by keeping affected landowners out of press conferences? Shame to any and all who escorted Alexis and Mike out of that press conference.

by jhwygirl

The story develops – this from the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Pruessing (Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. president) also said that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. He said the company decided to restart the line after examining its safety record and deciding the risk was low.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees pipelines, last year issued a warning letter to Exxon Mobil that cited seven safety violations along the ruptured Silvertip pipeline. Two of the warnings faulted the company for its emergency response and pipeline corrosion training.

And this…

The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Tests to determine the pipeline’s depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.

So Exxon inspected the line and provided the report. These are guys with a history of safety violations – yes, here in Montana too.

Please notice the language “the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed”. Did they inspect it or not? How could you be off by 5 to 8 feet? Or was that a guess?

Why the government hasn’t learned its lesson over self-regulation is beyond me. At minimum, the permitting process should included ongoing fees for inspections, and the government should be hiring 3rd party contractors to do these inspections.

by jhwygirl

All of that being reported in the local press. Property owner adjacent to the river have been evacuated….and ditch owners all along the Yellowstone are doing what they can to keep the toxic mess out of their systems.

The NYTimes just got the story up in the last two hoursdo make sure to hit that link and see the devastation.

Exxon? YOU SUCK.

Below are some pictures from the owner of the Blue Creek Farms ranch who is now faced with dealing with this absolutely devastating spill of crude. I hope to be able to speak with him tomorrow.

Montana Department of Environmental Equality has a 24 hour hotline where spills are to be reported. I hope some industrious reporters are out there finding out what role the state and the feds are taking in dealing with this. Let’s hope Exxon isn’t out there on their own on this holiday weekend.

Good Goddess.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is reporting the early estimate is that 1000 barrels have spilled into the Yellowstone River.

Tim Thennis, a spokesman for the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services division, provided that initial estimate. He added that although no cause of the spill has been determined, it’s possible that heavy flooding affecting that part of the U.S. could have played a part. Thennis said that flooding is also interfering with the clean-up effort, meaning the oil could reach the Missouri River, of which the Yellowstone is a tributary, making the task even more difficult for emergency responders. Montana emergency officials have notified officials in North Dakota that the oil could be heading their way, Tennis said.

“There’s no way to capture [the oil] right now,” Thennis told Dow Jones Newswires. “The further it spreads the more difficult it becomes.”

Pictures in the Billings Gazette turn my stomach. Wildlife, farm fields – all coated in oil. 150 miles of river and counting. North Dakota has been warned.

By JC

The blowback from Senator Jon Tester’s Wolf Rider has begun in earnest. Three environmental groups filed lawsuit in federal district court today challenging the constitutionality of his wolf rider.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians charge in their complaint that the delisting rider violates the U.S. Constitution, as it specifically repeals a judicial decision. While Congress has the right to make and amend laws, the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713 of the budget law, HR 1473, PL 112-10) does not amend the Endangered Species Act. Rather, it orders the reinstatement of the 2009 wolf delisting rule.

“The rider goes against a bedrock principle of our democracy: checks and balances between branches of government,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “Legislators can’t pick off specific court decisions they don’t like. That’s not fair for the wolf, and it’s certainly not good for our democracy.”

This debate over the wolf rider is no longer about the issue of wolf reintroduction or science or politics. It is about the role of the three branches of the federal government–checks and balances–and the right of the public to participate in that process, no matter how out of the mainstream those actions may be portrayed in an attempt to intimidate dissenters.

Jon Tester’s wolf rider was merely an attempt by him and his most ardent and vocal supporters to repress dissent among those who would use the processes guaranteed to them by the Constitution and codified in important federal legislation like NEPA and the Endangered Species Act to act on behalf of their constituencies, the mission of the nonprofits they work for, and the principles they advance.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in an April 18, 2011 letter to President Obama weighed in on the issue:

“I write to express serious concern over the inclusion of policy language unrelated to the budget. Specifically, using policy “riders” within the budget to de-list gray wolves in the Northern Rockies region from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)… sets a highly undesirable precedent for making decisions on important social and natural resource issues that deserve open and informed debate.

A six-month budget resolution negotiated through backroom discussions is clearly the wrong vehicle to make permanent changes to significant public policy. For nearly 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has assured decisions about our nation’s natural heritage are driven by science, fish and wildlife professionals, and public input. Removing protection for an endangered species by congressional mandate, much less through a budget bill, stands in unprecedented contrast to this history. This action erodes the integrity of the ESA, excludes important public involvement, and usurps the agency structure, established based on a balancing of executive and legislative branch power, that exists to undertake important decisions affecting America’s wildlife.”

Of course, Senator Tester developed his political chops in the Montana State Legislature, a hotbed of extra-constitutional legislating (which has been abundantly documented here at 4&20). One would have hoped that the futility of unconstitutional legislating would have been left behind in Montana when the Senator went to Washington, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case.

This issue will continue to be attacked by those who merely see this as a battle over wolf numbers, or when/how they were delisted (legally or not). But Senator Tester’s having elevated this to a constitutional battle raises the issue to one of majority tyranny: the repression of dissent, as expressed in the right of a vocal and active minority who are willing to challenge the status quo and the forces that maintain them. Those who have been fighting for the wolf have been doing so in a time-honored fashion, and doing it the old fashioned way: through legal public process, which to the chagrin of the majority, includes the judiciary.

Senator Tester’s action to legislate a judicial decision raises a far greater question than one of how to properly delist a species from the Endangered Species Act. And that question is: how far is Congress and mainstream America willing to go to repress the democratic bedrock upon which citizens are allowed to redress their grievances?

“We’re back in court for two reasons,” concluded Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “First and foremost, it’s to continue to protect wolves from indiscriminate slaughter. Second, someone has to stand up when the basic tenets of our government are under attack by unscrupulous politicians.”

Let the armchair lawyering begin…

————-
Update: As Matthew Koehler noted in the comments, The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in federal court today, also:

Today’s lawsuit is based on Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the principle of “separation of powers.” This principle dictates that the judicial power of the United States lies in the federal courts and not in Congress. In this case, Congress violated the principle by inserting itself into an ongoing legal case brought by conservation groups over the fate of wolves in the northern Rockies.

 
Airing: Thursday April 28th, 7pm on Montana PBS

By JC

Our byline here at 4&20 references “politics and culture” and perhaps nowhere else is the clash between politics and culture better illuminated than in documentary.

High Plains Films, in its own words “dedicates itself to exploring issues about the relationship between nature and society.” With almost 30 films under its belt, and 35 national awards to its credit, High Plains Films newest feature–nearly 10 years in the making from inception to final cut–will air Thursday April 28th on Montana PBS at 7pm. The 78 minute documentary will be shown in its entirety.

The film is the result of the collaboration of diverse Montana talent, and is an ITVS/Montana PBS co-production.

High Plains Films is located in Missoula, Montana and has been producing documentaries for almost 20 years. You can learn all about them by visiting their recently redeveloped website, which is chock-full of video trailers, clips, deleted and extra scenes, interviews and accompanying information about their 30 films. Much of the footage shown is in spectacular HD! Spend some time wading through the material and exploring their window on the world, and you’ll see a whole ‘nother exposition of many, many issues.

There are several short documentaries shown in their entirety in addition to some sample scenes from works-in-progress like Two Rivers, a film about the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, and the impact decades of mining and a dam had on its ecology and nearby residents.

There is an illuminating and articulate 20+ minute interview with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer about the bison/brucellosis issue, as well as a tribute piece to Buffalo Field Campaign activist Brian “Frog” Gharst, and an amazing short clip showing a golden eagle harrassing a deer. Facing the Storm also includes original stop-motion animations from Missoula’s Andy Smetanka, and an original score from Ivan Rosenberg.

The new HPF site was designed by UM School of Media Arts professor Greg Twigg and constructed by a local developer. The HPF website also offers free music downloads from film scores and other original material from Ned Mudd, Aaron Parrett and Ivan Rosenberg. There is a stock-footage library being constructed where High Plains FIlms can showcase much of its thousands of hours of footage.

Check out the documentary this thursday, and spend some time exploring their new site when you have some free time!

hpf site

By JC

Jhwygirl asks the correct question over at Left in the West:

“Congress should be the decision maker? Not science?”

in response to Rob Kailey’s statement in his diary “Donald Molloy Maintains Judicial Integrity” yesterday:

“For the record, this judgment goes beyond a simple defense of wolves in the Northern Rockies. This was a defense of the federal separation of powers and the integrity of the judicial branch. So, the legislative efforts move forward, precisely as Molloy said they should or shouldn’t. That’s up to Congress, as it should be. “

For those who may not be following the story closely, on Saturday, Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled in a case involving an attempted Settlement Agreement between a coalition of organizations attempting to head off Congressional action over wolf delisting in Montana and Idaho.

That coalition included 10 out of 14 plaintiffs in a lawsuit that had been filed to challenge the way the federal government was going about delisting wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The other 4 organizations refused to settle, believing that they had won important legal issues already, and were set to prevail on their Complaint challenging the way the government was proceeding with wolf delisting.

When those 10 organizations discovered that Senator Tester was going to do an end-around the court case by introducing a rider to delist the wolf in Congress, they decided to settle their case with the government as a way to obviate the need for the rider. And on Friday, they were relieved to find that most of the policy riders had been struck from the Continuing Resolution that had been agreed upon that would fund the government for another week.

But on Saturday, Senator Tester indicated that he had reattached his wolf delisting rider to the compromise 2011 budget agreement that is supposed to get worked out this week:
Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Updated below.

So Governor Brian Schweitzer is a fan of nullification.

Why am I not surprised?

How is a progressive blogger like me supposed to criticize unconstitutional GOP-proposed legislation when the highest elected official – a Democrat at that – is out there espousing to national media that he’ll ignore federal law and shoot wolves?

Triangulation at its best.

~~~~~
Newly elected Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead, a Republican, disagrees with Gov. Schweitzer:

“I think you have to be cautious about telling people to go break federal law,” said Mead, a former chief federal prosecutor for Wyoming.

Mead’s a good guy. If I had lived in Wyoming this last election, he’da had my vote.

By JC

Governor Schweitzer issued an Executive Order yesterday halting the importation of bison into Montana. This action is in direct response to the National Park Service’s capture and holding of 525 bison in capture facilities within the Park.

The AP, in an article in the Billings Gazette, frames the story this way:

“Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer blocked the impending slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison on Tuesday, in a surprise move intended to spark an overhaul of how the federal government deals with the iconic but disease-plagued animals.

Schweitzer signed an executive order to prohibit the importation of park bison into Montana for 90 days. That effectively blocks all potential routes out of the park to slaughter plants in Montana and neighboring states.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C. to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

In the interim, Schweitzer suggested the park bring in loads of hay to feed 525 bison captured so far this winter [and held at Stephens Creek,] after trying to migrate out of the snow-packed park in search of food at lower elevations.

“More than anything else, this is a direct signal to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. to get their hat screwed on right and manage this bison population,” Schweitzer said. “Their plan is, when there gets to be a lot of snow, buffalo will go into Montana and then somebody else will have to deal with it.”

Of course, the immediate ramification of Schweitzer’s actions is that captured bison have been given a reprieve from being slaughtered, hopefully to be released in the spring when heavy snow conditions abate in the Park.

Schweitzer’s actions comes on the heel of a lawsuit brought by the Buffalo Field Campaign and others trying to get an injunction on the pending slaughter. That lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Charles Lovell a few days ago. Judge Lovell is a retired federal judge and longtime curmudgeon and thorn in the side of bison advocates, who has ruled against bison 100% of the time.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, had this to say about the Governor’s action in a press release sent out yesterday:

“We, the people, have stopped the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo before it has begun! I am at a loss for words.

The effect and outcome of Governor Schweitzer’s order is the National Park Service cannot use any of Montana’s gateway communities as exit points to ship buffalo now held in traps inside Yellowstone National Park to slaughter houses…

There is a lot of hard work ahead to make large cores of habitat and corridors available for America’s last wild buffalo herd to roam. That is our next step, it must happen, we the people can do it. For now, you should dance a little buffalo jig, and give thanks to everyone who has worked very hard to make this happen. Thanks for all you do, for the wild buffaloes.”

So the battle for habitat outside Yellowstone National Park for wild buffalo continues, with the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of bison on the line caught in a crossfire between federal, state and livestock interests. And at the forefront, Buffalo Field Campaign continues its relentless observance of these events both on the frontlines, and in the courtroom, advocating for wild bison, and the habitat they need in Montana on which to roam.

Send them your support if you can, and let your state reps and others know that you stand with the buffalo and BFC in the quest to bring some sanity and  a resolution to this senseless slaughter and management quagmire that has been going on for decades.

baby buffalo in Yellowstone

By JC

Well, as long as it is PSA Tuesday, I’ll throw in my favorite event of the week! I hope you all can turn out wednesday night for the premiere screening of Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison.

I’ll have to admit that this PSA comes with a bit of personal investment. I have seen the rough cuts for this documentary, and it is a kick ass, definitive production! There are also many friends of mine in the video, and the production team includes many Missoulians, with the documentary being produced right here in Missoula by our own High Plains Films. I also may have a little bit of my own time invested in both the production and issue, too… So hop on down to the Wilma and check it out!

Big Sky Film Series SPECIAL SCREENING

Montana Premiere of FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON. New documentary feature highlights the abundance and breadth of local Montana talent

Where: Wilma Theater, 131 S. Higgins Avenue, Missoula, Montana
When: Wednesday October 6, 2010 @ 7 pm Tickets: $8

High Plains Films presents the Montana premiere of FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON, an ITVS/Montana PBS co-production. The film also had local support from Humanities Montana. The screening is a fund-raising event for Missoula’s Big Sky Film Institute (parent organization for High Plains Films & the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival). The feature documentary is the result of the collaboration of diverse Montana talent. Review copies are available on request.

Full Press Release below the fold. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

The latest meme from our bloviating Governor Brian Schweitzer is that the Canadian tar sands – slated for expansion – are (get this) “conflict free”:

“I would say this is conflict-free oil and I don’t want to send one more son or daughter from Montana to defend an oil supply from one of these dictators and become dependent on that energy supply,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press from his office in Helena.

Really?

There are Canadiansordinary citizens, doctors and Fort Chipewyan tribal members – that would disagree with you.

Does the fact that they don’t have bombs and guns make it conflict free? Because I don’t agree with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Hypocrisy and ignorance barely begins to describe the irony behind Schweitzer’s comments to the Canadian press this past week. Governor Schweitzer is a guy who doesn’t want to see the Flathead mined, yet approved a coal mine next to a Class 1 air shed (tromping on Crow tribal rights) and an alluvial floodplain right in Montana’s Tongue River valley.

Governor Schweitzer is a guy – born in Montana – who doesn’t seem to know his history, or even the higher cancer rates we saw right here in the upper Clark Fork basin because of the rape and pillage by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (think Atlas Shrugs by Ayn Rand) that polluted everything near it from Butte to Missoula and beyond.

Schweitzer’s comments were made all the more pornographic given they occurred 30 years from when corporate irresponsibility suffocated Anaconda Montana.

Maybe The Brian should read Anaconda native Patrick Duganz’s words?

If they aren’t enough to expose him to the conflict of corporate irresponsibility, perhaps he should try and learn the lessons so many others haven’t forgotten of the dirty filth that mining has layed upon our lands.

Schweitzer sure is oblivious to this stuff isn’t he – and consider he’s got 130 million or so dollars of Natural Resource Damage Protection Program funds to spend to try and buy back lands to mitigate that environmental disaster thrust upon our state 100 years ago.

Maybe he forgot where that money came from?

Schweitzer is spouting off his newest talking point of “conflict free” as pressure mounts, nationwide, to stop the transport of the Korean-built Kearl modules up and over the Montana-Idaho border, adjacent to the Clearwater and Lochsa River, adjacent to Lolo Creek…through Missoula and next to the Blackfoot A-River-Runs-Through-It River, then up and over another mountain pass and on to the tar sands in Alberta.

Movie director and producer James Cameron? This Montanan thanks you.

Our Governor feigns to respect tribal peoples – yet the Nez Pierce, over who’s native lands these modules will travel – have objected to the modules.

Scientific journals are confirming high levels of carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium being thrust upon the native peoples of Canada. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America has published a paper explaining the pornography of the situation.

Discover Magazine has a pedestrian-friendly article on the issue.

Governor Schweitzer? You call yourself a scientist, don’t you? If cancer was reigning down in your watershed, would you call that “conflict free”?

Did Montana call that conflict free when it happened here?

by jhwygirl

Last month Director had told the Legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that their review of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s environmental analysis (yep, the applicant submitted the ea) would be completed by August 15th….while later he backtracked and said that he didn’t expect to have it by the end of August.

Well, here we are, middle-of-September, and the bad news continues to pile on. Forest Supervisors of both the Lolo and the Clearwater National Forests oppose the plans to move the rigs up and over Lolo Pass…and Oregon’s U.S. Representative Pete Fazio is >calling for an investigation into Exxon/Imperial Oil’s plans to ship giant equipment through Idaho and western Montana to an energy project in Canada.

Apparently the Helena National Forest is OK with the plans to move the Korean-built bohemaths up and over Roger’s Pass – yep, no potential there for major disruption…

Not only does the bad news continue to pile on, but Lynch had promised the EA “by early September.”

One does have to ponder the Lolo National Forest Supervisor’s current position – given that they had to rescind their decision to bury powerlines (the request the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s transport plans) given that they failed to consult with the tribes – Lolo Pass the site of the ancient native Nez Pierce tribe’s Nimi’ipuu trail.

Wonder because while they are taking comment on the proposal to bury the powerlines through September 24th and the scoping period is exactly (and only) 30 days. Rather odd considering both the controversy surrounding the project and the fact that the scoping is the result of them having overlooked even scoping the thing in the first place, don’t you think?

You can read the notice here and check the map out on the specifics here.

Let’s note, too, that the scoping notice does not mention the application is the result of Exxon/Imperial Oil’s need to have the lines buried so they can move their oil modules. It does, in fact, state the purpose of the initiation of the request by Missoula Electrical Cooperative is to “improve long-term service to local residences and businesses.”

Really?

Still, too, one has to ponder if MEC should really be the applicant? Isn’t Exxon/Imperial Oil paying for this burial? Or is it the customers of MEC? It does lay open the question, doesn’t it? Given that the stated purpose on the scoping notice is to improve long-term service to its customers?

Shame on the Lolo for misrepresenting that line burial project. Check out that map…there’s quite a bit of that line burial that is immediately adjact to Lolo Creek, endangered bull trout habitat.

Are lines being buried on the Clearwater National Forest? What permits are needed from both of these forests? Why doesn’t the fact that these transport plans affect at least 3 National Forests this thing isn’t being analyzed under a full NEPA environmental impact statement?

Why doesn’t the fact that this entire transport plan crosses multiple state jurisdictions and multiple countries warrant a full NEPA EIS by the Feds? Is our security that lax? Is the concern that little?

Hopefully the hypocrisy of the Lolo’s public notice for the burial of these powerlines won’t go un-noticed.

The public and our County Commissioners and City Council should provide comment asking the Lolo National Forest to ensure that it re-notice the application to note the full purpose of the project…and analyze the full effect of the connected actions of this proposal – the effects both here and in Canada on the Athabasca tribal peoples.

by jhwygirl

This Montanan thinks ya’all are awesome.

I also think the Nez Pierce rock, too.

Montanans? We need to get after it.

by jhwygirl

….in Idaho, it seems.

Idahoans don’t seem to have any love for Exxon/Imperial Oil’s Kearl module transport plan to move oversized loads over the historic and scenic highway 12 which runs adjacent to the Wild and Scenic designated Lochsa River and Lolo Creek.

There’s a group of Idahoans suing the state to halt the movement of the oversized loads, charging that Idaho did not follow its own rules to issue the permit. The cite concerns over could threaten public safety, harm tourism in an area that relies on it and pose a risk to the pristine river corridors:

“Whether Highway 12 will remain an outstanding tourist and recreation destination that provides jobs and revenues to the local community – or become a congested industrial ‘high and wide’ corridor for the conveniences of the oil industry … – are matters of great concern to the plaintiffs and many others in the area.”

Idaho residents have also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement from the Clearwater National Forest on the project, saying that the USFS has a responsibility to protect that corridor.

Now – this route passes through the Lolo National Forest, too. What has the Lolo done? They didn’t consult with the tribes (as they are required to do under NEPA and they categorically excluded the project from need of any additional environmental analysis.

Burying power lines on federal lands (as opposed to the overhead lines there currently) apparently doesn’t have any impacts, according to the Lolo.

Hard to believe.

NEPA, unlike the MEPA review that the Montana Department of Transportation is attempting (and truncated one – an “environmental analysis” – at that, requires an analysis of connected actions – connected actions such as the impact on air and water quality as a result of these big things being delivered to Canada for tar sands processing. The economic impact of having these things assembled in Korea, shipped here and transported whole to Canada.

The list goes on for this one.

Exxon/Imperial, for their part haven’t been very neighborly here in Montana – but it might be that they don’t have to: As JC pointed out, our carbon fuel-loving Governor supports all those flag-waving jobs the project will bring for Montanans.

Yeah! Go Korea!

MDOT, for its part, should be should be releasing its decision any day now

I know I wait with bated breath.

Got that right this time, I think.

I hope someone on this side of the pass is scrutinizing that “categorical exclusion” of the Lolo National Forest….and I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what comes out of MDOT in the next few days.

It is possible that MDOT has determined that there are significant enough impacts that a full EIS is needed. Both Missoula County Commissioners and Missoula City Council have requested an EIS – as did much of the public comment.

But of course, this is the same department that said that this was the only oversized load in the pipeline, which was an outright lie. Multiple loads line await on the docks in Lewistown.

Of course, they could be banking on the low median income of the people of the state and the financial stress on non-profits to sue ’em.

It’s wait and see…wait and see.

by Pete Talbot

We’ll deal with pot first, which is being assaulted by Republicans and the media. 2008 Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown had this to say about current Montana medical marijuana laws:

“… and when their peers in junior high have (medical marijuana) cards, it just sends the absolutely wrong message.”

Show me one junior high kid who has an authentic medical marijuana card, Roy. But fear speaks louder than facts at the Republican convention in Billings, and Brown wants Montana voters to repeal the law that they passed by 60% in 2004. The final language adopted in the platform came from Victor Republican Jim Shockley, which urged that the law be repealed or amended.

At least Gov. Schweitzer, the guy who beat Brown for governor, did a little research before opening his mouth. While touring a marijuana caregiver’s facility in Missoula, he said that although the law needed some revision, he didn’t like the idea of taking the herb away from those in need.

Our hometown daily, however, feels differently. Sunday’s rabid Missoulian editorial took a page right out of the Republican play book of fear with peripheral horror stories and this rejoinder:

Until the state can straighten out the rampant problems with the Medical Marijuana Act, Missoula should order existing dispensaries to cease doing business and impose an immediate moratorium on new shops.

I can agree that the law needs some tweaking and a moratorium on new shops could be in order, but existing dispensaries should cease doing business? Missoulian editorials of late rarely take this strong a stand — not on the economy or health care or war or climate change — just on pot.

On to wolves.

Photo: Kurt Wilson/Missoulian

Wolves aren’t endangered, kids in camo and their folks told District Judge Don Molloy. Elk and other ungulates are the ones in danger from wolves, said the sign carriers in front of the Missoula Federal Courthouse.

At issue is the re-listing of wolves as an endangered species, being heard in Federal District Court.

A host of other factors like loss of access, private hunts and game farms are affecting hunters. Include climate change and habitat loss and other threats besides wolves, and the reduction in wildlife numbers becomes a more complicated debate.

But you don’t usually see this crowd at wilderness hearings, environmental rallies or public access meetings. No, it’s the federal government these folks are mad at, as usual. They’re the Tea Party of the hunting crowd.

by jhwygirl

That’s what many said to the State Land Board (and to 3 of its 5 members, Governor Schweitzer, Secretary of State Linda McDulloch and Auditor Monica Lindeen) before then went ahead anyway and approved the Otter Creek coal leases.

Not before – let’s not forget – a poorly orchestrated show between Governor Schweitzer and Linda McCulloch, who first added a bonus bid of 15 cents/ton. Four of ’em played along in that one (with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau casting the lone dissenting vote), but in the end, even Attorney General Steve Bullock changed his mind, seeing through the corporate welfare that was, eventually, approved – a 40% drop in price (and let’s not feign that this was in any way a “bid” given that only one entity could competitively bid on it, given the land-locked nature of the state lands involved and the fact that the bidder is the one that land-locks the land) along with a $57 million instant subsidy of the coal corporate giants.

Can’t forget, either, that a railroad that will also need to be condemned through Montana’s eminent domain laws – that’s condemnation of private land in the interest of a private corporate entity, folks – a railroad that will save that private corporate entity well in the range of $100 million a year in hauling costs from Wyoming’s extensive coal fields down south.

Don’t try and tell me that coal isn’t subsidized – a industry as old as the world is still gaining both federal and state subsidy to operate. Ridiculous.

Oh, yeah – there was more. The votes were disappointing (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Monica I-campaigned-on-a-biodiesel-bus Lindeen). Even Button Valley was getting an overload of it, as was I, as Governor Brian Schweitizer headed out around the state pushing on communities to sign a oath to coal in order to get their legislatively appropriated stimulus money.

An illegal transgression that was largely overlooked – as was the stashing of that Otter Creek bid money in this year’s general budget instead of going to schools as it is legally obligated to do (along with that whole the-legislature-is-the-only-lawful-appropriator-of-money thing). It’s something that is coming home to roost, those illegal transgressions, and quickly becoming a private joke amongst many of us who railed against both of these things when they were occurring.

But we’ll leave that for another post, and the real journalists who are already asking the questions. Enable once, shame on you..enable twice, shame again…but sure as hell don’t get indignant about it the third time around…

Enter now Northern Plains Resource Council, the Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club, who collectively filed two lawsuits this week challenging the Otter Creek coal lease approval.

NPRC and WF said that the state land board failed to adequately analyze the environmental effects of the project. MEIC and SC challenged on the basis of the economic and global warming effects of the project.

There are a myriad of problems with Otter Creek. I’m mystified as to the embracing – in a state that seems to champion individual property rights – of a project that will railroad over the private property rights of individuals (pun intended).

I’m also mystified that a state – in a time of general budget distress not only internally, but nationwide – would dish out such corporate welfare to the detriment of our very own children’s education funding.

What’s the real shame is that Montana’s citizens – and its very worthy non-profits – have to sue to get the state to meet its constitutional obligations outlined in what is known in our state constitution as the Montana Environmental Policy Act.

This can not and should not be taken lightly. I don’t care how many laws that the legislature passes or tries to pass attacking it. This is a constitutional guarantee. Guarantee. And this word can not be overemphasized enough. This isn’t some old state constitution. It is a modern document, with words that were carefully chosen, discussed and debated in modern many-remember-them times. Guarantee was not a word chosen or placed lightly, and it leaves little room for discussion.

It is the law of the land. Our state agencies, our land board and our Governor all have the obligation to make sure that guarantee is met each and every day. Shame on them for having to be sued to comply with constitutional obligations.

by jhwygirl

Superprogressiveeditorialist The George Ochenski has his latest column up for the Missoula Independent taking on the Fire Sale that the state land board put forward (by a 3-2 vote) on Monday by dropping the .25/ton bid price on Otter Creek coal by a full 20% 40% to .15/ton.

(I should note I stole that headline right out of GO’s post, too)

He lays out the hypocrisy of saving the Flathead from coal mining, while approving Otter Creek, knowing darn well it will destroy that valley.

That’s the difficult thing to reconcile. And while I’ve been called “bitter” for railing on Otter Creek (and yes, as a pro-coal cheerleader for Otter Creek, Governor Brian Schweitzer has been on the receiving end of this wrath) while not mentioning a peep about the wind projects approved – one was actually approved by Judy Martz (Judith Gap) – I believe that is a bit unfair.

Since Brian likes to tell stories – he compared the dropping of the bid price to an auctioneer trying to sell a couch – I’ll put forth my reasoning for not championing these wind projects.

Two rights don’t fix a wrong. If your 16-year old son takes your car for the night and comes home drunk, but still makes it home safely and by curfew, do you reward him because he came home on time without a scratch on the car? I doubt it. You aren’t going to overlook that he is drunk and that he drove drunk. Frankly, once you realize he’s drunk, the fact that he got home on time and the car was unharmed won’t mean a damned thing. And if he says to you as you drill down on him for drinking and drinking and driving “but I got home on time,” that might even piss you off more.

So approving 3 wind projects (this is kind of an extension of that hypocrisy that Ochenski was talking about, isn’t it?) over the last 5 years doesn’t make approving Otter Creek right.

These kinds of decisions aren’t like elections. It isn’t a popularity contest. There are people that don’t keep a score of good and bad and whichever you do more of in the end negates all that other stuff. I dare say that most people expect their electeds to do the right thing.

And Otter Creek was the wrong thing.

And George Ochenski kicks ass.

~~~~~~
There are other things that don’t have me all happy and cheery about those wind projects. Every single one of ’em is taking power to California or Oregon or Washington or Colorado or Nevada. They require major transmission lines crossing our state – and those transmission lines are going to mean private property is going to be taken in some cases under eminent domain (or threat of – most people end up knowing that they really can’t afford a fight with those big corporations).

So it’s kind of hard to champion wind power when we aren’t getting any of it…but what we are getting is a whole bunch of power lines crossing the state, carrying that power over our heads and over to California. AND private landowners (ranchers), some of which are reluctantly acquiescing to the presence of those lines, under the inevitable threat of a government takings lawsuit.

What is Montana? A colonial outpost for California’s electricity and Wyoming’s coal rail road market line?

Call me crazy, call me whatever – but when someone’s talking green energy, I expect it to be for us here in Montana. At least some of it.

by jhwygirl

In a 3 – 2 vote (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Lindeen voting yes), the Land Board voted to lower the minimum bid price on the Otter Creek tracts from .25/ton to .15/ton.

I’ve yet to stomach a viewing of the entire hearing – but thanks to my DVR (and since the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio and video like the legislature has been able to do for quite a number of years), I’ll be watching it tonight.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Attorney General Steve Bullock both voted against the project. For that, I am deeply grateful.

I hope to transcribe the testimony and comments of at least two individuals from today’s hearing. AG Bullock spoke to the corporate welfare that he saw about to be dispensed. Another opponent spoke to the corporate money of Arch Coal – where they put it and the return they would get if the leases were approved.

Those words – like Juneau’s “no” vote in December – need to be out there so that people can be reminded of precisely what was at stake when Otter Creek becomes the disaster that will be.

And make no mistake, those that voted yes were keenly aware of that impending disaster. Lee reporter Mike Dennison captured that awareness by referencing Governor Schweitzer’s promises to Montana’s water resources prior to the yes vote by he and Lindeen and McCulloch. I’ve gone ahead and transcribed them word for word. Read them and ponder why the taxpayers must forego $5 million in coal revenues to the general fund or to the school trust (he didn’t say where he planned to take that $5 million) to protect Montana’s water resources.

I’m going to instruct my budget director, to put in my budget that we take to the legislature, $5 million so that every high school in Montana will either have solar panels or a wind turbine at their school and in order for them to receive this money – which is approximately $32,000 per school – they’ll have to sign a contract with the Department of Commerce that they will spend a minimum of 5 hours teaching time in each of those classrooms with every high school student in Montana explaining to them how this alternative energy works and how it is the energy of the future. I’m also going to instruct the budget director to put $5 million in the budget to protect those that live in Otter Creek and their water. I don’t know who the director of DEQ will be 8 years, 12 years, 20 years from now. I’ve no idea who will be seated on this land board…who will be responsible at the DNRC. We can’t control that – the people of Montana will elect those positions, and the rest of ’em will be appointed. So that’s why whether the DEQ or the DNRC has the fortitude to make sure that the mining companies are protecting the water assets of the people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children will not be in doubt – because there will be $5 million put aside. And those monies – $5 million and $5 million – would come from this bonus bid.

While the “people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children” can’t take that $5 million to the bank – only the legislature can appropriate – what they can take to the bank is proof, given to us today by the 3 yes votes, that corporate coal money reigns supreme over their water, their lives, their farms, their ranches and their children.

by jhwygirl

Inquiring minds are wondering. Tomorrow’s Land Board meeting may provide the answer, as the state’s executive branch (Gov. Schweitzer, Sec. of State Linda McCulloch, Attorney General Steve Bullock, State Auditor Monica Lindeen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau) consider whether to lower the minimum bid for the Otter Creek coal tracts.

Most readers may recall that the Land Board, after delaying the vote in November, went ahead and approved the leases (sans Denise Juneau’s vote), back in December.

But not before listening (for the upteenth time) to hours of opponent testimony that ranged from environmentalists, tribal members and ranchers who will be directly affected by the rape of the land, litany of industry lies, and the permanent assault on both the environment and private property rights.

Their testimony of which, notably, was kept to a 3-minute time limit while proponents representing big coal interests (the Montana Coal Council) and the only likely leaser (Great Northern/Arch Coal) were allowed to ramble on. Watch the video in JC’s post on Otter Creek to hear what one opponent had to say about that treatment.

And not before adding a .15/ton bonus to the minimum bid recommendation, which was, perhaps not so ironically, arrived at through negotiation with the only potential leaser Great Norther/Arch Coal.

So it should be no surprise that the only potential bidder on the coal is whining about the minimum bid. Which, speaking of – it’s a little ridiculous to call this a bid process, IMNSHO. It sorta creates an image that there is the potential for the bid to go higher – that someone else might place a bid. Which isn’t the case here.

~~~~~~
The level to which we find our electeds here in Montana kowtowing to corporate interests all in worship to the almighty – yet elusive – “business” and “jobs” still astounds me. Proponents say that these tracts will create massive numbers of jobs, yet the total of all 5 working coal mines here in Montana doesn’t employ even 1,000 people. Factor in that the highest paid of those jobs go to out-of-state engineers and corporate big dogs, and that number becomes even lower. Mining is highly automated – and is becoming more and more automated with larger and larger machines.

The level of corporate kowtowing won’t stop with a lower of the bid price – if they do it….it’ll continue with a tromping of private property rights over those of (yep, you guess it) the developer Great Northern Arch Coal.

Certain members of the Land Board (no sense in calling anyone out in particular, and yes, Denise Juneau can be exempted here) have gone through great pains through the several hearings on Otter Creek to say that “this isn’t about the rail road” and “this isn’t about the actual mine – what we’re talking about here is just the lease” as if leasing the tracts doesn’t bring the other two.

In federal language, this is called “connected actions” and this is where federal agencies often meet their legal woes. Simply put, actions that are a result of the intended outcome must be considered.

In this previous post, titled Montana GOP leaders support federal condemnation for Otter Creek, I explained how the railroad will require condemnation (i.e., eminent domain takings) of private property. Whether the railroad will be looked at as a common carrier has yet to be seen, but even if that doesn’t occur, state law can and will be used in an attempt to condemn for that railroad.

Great Northern/Arch Coal will use MCA 70.30.102 – using a pretty wide interpretation of “public uses” (since the only one truly benefiting from the railroad will be Great Northern/Arch Coal) – to condemn private property to build this railroad. A railroad that will help Arch Coal move its Wyoming coal more cheaply to markets both east and west.

And before any wingers go screaming “tax revenue” as a public use, let me remind you of the Kelo case (which is linked to within the condemnation piece above).

I’ll also remind you that the private property of Kelo, condemned in the Kelo case, still sits unused by a now bankrupt private entity that had successfully gained the property through eminent domain.

Yessiree, this Otter Creek is one big mess. The Land Board added the .15/ton bonus payment saying it wouldn’t sell the coal cheaply. That the kids would benefit (McCulloch had some constitutional blackout with that one, since only the legislature can appropriate). Even the Good Gov has long said he would not sell Otter Creek cheaply.

We’ll see, won’t we.

~~~~~~~~
For those of you interested, you can watch the Land Board hearing live by watching it on TVMT (Channel 67 here in Missoula, other channel listings for around the state can be found here.)

You could also stream it live from the state’s website, links which can be found here, at the top of the page.

Oddly – and even the Land Board’s website is pretty clear about this – the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio or video of the Land Board meetings. This is opposite the very efficient and public-information friendly legislative branch who archives not only audio and video from years past sessions, but committee meetings along with the written minutes.

SO – if you want to watch the Land Board hearing, you best set 4 or 5 hours on the DVR or VCR to tape, or catch it live. Because after that, it’s only a memory. Of course, a month later you can read the typed minutes, but those aren’t complete transcriptions.

Nothing like seeing your elected officials in action, peeps.

~~~~~~
In closing – please take the time to call or email the Land Board members tonight…or before 9 a.m. tomorrow. Tell them that leasing that coal at a lower price further perpetuates corporate welfare.

Also, don’t just listen to me – read Button Valley’s 2 most recent Otter Creek-related posts: Value of school children plummets and “If not now, when? If not us, who?”. You can also search the term “otter” over there for a whole wealth of informative posts on Otter Creek.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

by jhwygirl

Left in the West’s Yellowstone Kelly has a post up predicting tomorrow’s state Land Board decision regarding the leasing of the Otter Creek coal leases in eastern Montana.

I won’t be so bold as to make a prediction – and even if I were, it wouldn’t be the 4-1 supposition that Yellowstone Kelly put up, mainly due to my continued hope that Montana’s 5 highest elected officials will see the sense in their party’s platform that supports clean energy and the lunacy in bringing up a billion tons of coal from the ground. Someone’s gonna burn it, and it’s gonna be dirty and that is an unchanging fact.

Not only do we – do Democrats – have a responsibility to our school children, we have a responsibility to the environment. Leasing 1 billion tons of coal is not environmentally responsible.

Sec. of State Linda McCulloch can speak all she wants about funding the school children, but she makes that statement without any regards to the other income potentials to the Otter Creek tracts – income that can be cleaner and sustainable (as opposed to mining for coal).

In fact, the decision on Otter Creek has been framed as being “for the children” and “for the schools” – and anyone saying that is taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge concerning trust land revenue and how it effects school funding. It’s irresponsible, and it is dangerously close to being untruthful.

Let’s say this to be clear: Leasing the Otter Creek tracts will have NO direct effect on the funding levels for schools. That is a fact, pointed out aptly enough by MEA-MFT president Eric Feaver MEA-MFT is the union which represents teachers, and has been behind repeated calls for increased funding to the state’s K-12 schools.

Funding for schools is set by the legislature. Revenue from any income generated on school trust land is deposited in the trust (which is really what having a trust is all about) and the interest is what may be used to fund schools. It is the interest, and that amount it what helps fund schools. What is available and what the legislature uses are completely independent of each other.

Montana’s citizens – and its press – would do well to better understand the school trust and the school funding system. It’s complex – I won’t pretend to be an expert – but I will say that hearing what I’ve heard from a number of elected officials has made me cringe over the years.

Leasing of the Otter Creek tracts has along list of ramifications – degradation to the environment, degradation to water quality…condemnations under governmental actions of eminent domain – all of which being with the destructive act of bringing the stuff up out of the ground.

Help out the many ranchers who live in and near the Otter Creek tracts that will be effected, and write a short email to the Land Board members tonight and let them know that leasing the tracts is a bad, bad idea. Monday’s meeting is 9, so time’s a wastin’ people – get ‘er done:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

OR you could cut and past these into your email: governor@mt.gov; OPISupt@mt.gov; doj@mt.gov; mlindeen@mt.gov; sos@mt.gov Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.

~~~~~
For more information on Otter Creek, you can put the words “otter” or “Tongue” into our search here (over there on the rigth) or, even better, head on over to The Button Valley Bugle and do the same. The Editor at The BV Bugle has done the finest of jobs in covering the issues on Otter Creek – and both of us have peppered our posts with plenty of links providing additional sources of information. In fact, I see The Editor has a “final push” post up too – titled “Otter Creek and Utter Rhetoric” that shouldn’t be missed.

by jhwygirl

Update: I have turned off comments to this post.

Please consider this an open thread.

I’m a volcano/Yellowstone/earthquake/geology geek. Geek may be the wrong word, but whatever. This is the coolest thing. Then there’s the video 3-D imagery showing the plume, which can be found here. Wild stuff.

Seem like someone has finally decided to give the Kootenai sturgeon some water. That would be a good thing. Here is where the sturgeon survive today:

If you click on the pic, you get a report that includes some interesting how-did-we-get-here information. NewWest has a great article with more information on the current situation surrounding the sturgeon.

Former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfield has bought a ranch in the Big Hole.

I’ve actually pondered this recent situation in Helena, wondering whether that sort of thing’d be a problem. Apparently it is.

Them teenagers in Helena sure seem to get in to a whole lot of trouble, don’t they?

Don’t miss this shocking post from Mark Tokarski.

Just to be clear, it’s the “there, I said it,” part that is shocking. NOT.

I read this and I think this is harassment of the homeless. I mean – does this town allow its citizens to lock up its bikes? What is the point in fining him?

Now, here’s a class act, NOT.

I can’t get why people like her. I get the sense that at a party, I’d want to avoid her..

Our Governor has been on, quite frankly, a roll. First, as guestnote speaker for the Montana Stockgrowers Association meeting in Billings last week, Schweitzer took a big ole’ jab at the leadership, telling its 2,000 members (over dinner) that they “don’t always act” in their best interests. That, after making peace with them a while back.

Then Schweitzer blocked payment of some mis-appropriated funds to Kalispell-based Swank Enterprises, a long-time generous supporter of the Montana GOP’s latest felon, Sen. Barkus. Schweitzer’s taking the late-minute insertion into the state’s budget bill quite literally – using the words “up to” in “up to $600,000” quite literally, and saying he’ll get nothing.

Now, I’ve no love for the Stockgrower’s Association, nor Barkus – so reading these had me, quite frankly, laughing. Pretty damned bold. But then I read this, where he brags to the Stockgrowers that he’d “sent more bison to slaughter than any other governor,” which only leaves me shaking my head, reminded that slaughtering wildlife for no frickin’ reason is one of his several UNendearing qualities.

Way to go.

Speaking of “way to go” and Sen. Barkus, seems they guy wants all his felonies dismissed.

My thoughts? Hey – a guy can dream. I’m also sure Rep. Rehberg is just thrilled to have Barkus eeking out every delay possible, especially when you consider the possibility of Rehberg’s subpoena increasing looking like it will be coinciding right smack-dab in the middle of his 2010 re-election campaign. Whee!

by jhwygirl

Lacking an identifying tag, the thing’s illegal, right?

Publisher, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of NewWest Publishing Jonathan Weber was walking his pet in his families subdivision – in the open space area owned in common with all of the homeowners – along a trail used by many when his dog got snagged in an untagged trap placed 10 feet from the trail.

Fortunately, Weber’s Norwegian elk hound is fine, save for some bruises – and the trauma inflicted upon Weber and his son.

All the more shocking is that when Weber went back to check the situation out further – once boy and dogs were back home safe – the trap had already been reset.

His report on the Thanksgiving day incident, though, brought out all sorts of utterly shocking and senseless accusations against Weber as having staged the event. While it’s not shocking – it the same tactic trapping advocates and enthusiasts, some of them from out-of-state, have done around here when we’ve mentioned other irresponsible trapping behavior – the attacks have been taken to heart, understandably so, by the Weber family who have had to experience the trauma of their family pet (and it could easily have had far tragic results) being caught in the trap.

While I get that advocates of trapping would pay attention to the story – they are currently mounting a massive effort to defeating a ballot initiative by Footloose Montana that would halt trapping on public lands here in Montana – but to accuse an award-winning journalist of having staged the event does their cause no good that I can see.

Fact is, I suspect it’s the same out-of-state interests that have trolled this site when we’ve posted about trapping in the past…none of it positive. It’s amazing to me the money that is poured into this state by out-of-state interests on a variety of issues – guns, coal, trapping are a few examples – and our state legislators listen to these lobbyists who are doing nothing more than using Montana as its pawn for its national interests. A win here chalks one more up on the map for these folks…many who parrot talking points that include ‘facts’ not even applicable here in Montana.

And aside from all that, it really bugs me how trapping advocates seem to toss aside any animal, whether it be bald eagle or threatened Canada lynx or the neighbor’s golden retriever, as something that didn’t belong there or ‘that’s the way it goes sometimes,’ defense.

Point is folks – attacking a bona-fide nationally respected journalist on his home turf of an award-winning online news media site has little chance of bringing trapping advocates the positive press they are going to need so badly. Recognizing that there are jackasses out there doing what responsible trappers would never consider is one way to move forward a reasonable dialogue regarding laws and regulations that protect both the trapping public and the general recreating public.

But defending every documented negative trapping-related incident isn’t going to get those advocates anywhere.

by jhwygirl

This is in follow-up to a previous post.

Somewhat surprisingly if only for who made the motion, the State Land Board voted to delay decision on the Arch Coal Inc. leases of the state’s Otter Creek coal holdings for 30 days to allow for additional time for public comment regarding the leases.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch made the motion. McCulloch has been a vocal supporter of the Otter Creek coal project since her days as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Does this signal weakening support for the leases? At least from what any local citizen can see here at either the city or county level, when approval is expected to go south, elected who support a project will often make a motion to return the thing back to committee rather than face a death-knelling vote. Delaying the vote is usually a last ditch effort to try and solidify an affirmative vote.

Was McCulloch sensing the vote heading south? Time will tell.

Lee Newspapers Mike Dennison first story on the vote made mention of the massive amounts of carbon dioxide that will be released into atmosphere should the 1.3 billion tons of coal be burned. His second story on the vote provided information from the two counties that provided proponent testimony on the project, which included Powder River County Commissioner Don McDowell – who is also listed as Treasure of the Montana Association of Coal and Gas Counties.

Given there are 30 more days, those interested might want to go back to my previous post which links to many great resources on the subject of Otter Creek. For some related stuff around these parts, you can search “Tongue River” “coal” and “sequestration” for additional information concerning issues of Otter Creek, coal production and the water quality and quantity degradation that it brings to Montana and the residents of the Tongue River.

If coal could be shown to be clean, I’d be fine with it. It’s not, though. The EPA, until recently, exempted carbon dioxide from NEPA analysis when permitting coal-fired plants. Montana’s CO2 output is increasing.

With less of a market for coal and with rising CO2 outputs in the state – and aren’t we supposed to be going green or something? Isn’t would that what the Good Governor campaigned on back in 2004? – why would we facilitate the extraction and consumption of more coal and CO2? Isn’t that bass ackwards considering that it is 2009 and “renewable” and “sustainable” are the names of the game now?

There are many factors here where public comment and testimony depart from the economic analysis done last fall (prior to the EPA decision regarding coal-fired plants). The leases are based upon that older analysis that is in dispute. Certainly, given that this is one of the largest leases ever put out by the state ever, a thorough, accurate and timely analysis is in order.

Let’s hope that the additional 30 days provides all with sufficient time to more thoroughly look at all factors surrounding the Otter tract leases to determine whether it is what proponents are saying it’s going to be.

by jhwygirl

This comes to me via a reader from Bozeman. I’ve edited it slightly for posting.

The Billings Gazette reports on the Otter Creek coal tracts and the decision to be made Monday by the State Land Board. Letters sent via email are needed NOW to stop the giveaway of state resources to out-of-state corporate coal. Slow down. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean. If coal development happens, it should not happen in rushed manner without benefit to Montana.

This is NOT about jobs. With six big strip mines and a new underground mine, Montana is already the 5th largest coal producer in the country, and that has translated into only 1008 jobs total, according the the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council.

The important thing is write an email NOW and send it to the members of the Montana State Land Board:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

OR you could cut and past these into your email: governor@mt.gov; OPISupt@mt.gov; doj@mt.gov; mlindeen@mt.gov; sos@mt.gov Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.

~~~~~
Monday’s Land Board hearing begins at 9 a.m., so as you can see action is needed now.

Many have blogged on Otter Creek. For a great start, Button Valley has done a number of pieces. Remember the Tongue River Valley and Maybe We Shouldn’t Otter are two that contain a number of links to other sources, including one to 4&20 hero and Indy columnist extraordinaire George Ochenski.

The Northern Cheyenne, who darn near border the area and who will be affected directly by any development, have – officially – barely endorsed the plan. As you can see from their comment provided to the Land Board earlier this year, they are suspicious that the promises made to them for jobs won’t be followed through. Seeing the facts on jobs from the Montana Coal Council, they should be suspicious.

Despite the official response of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, meetings held this summer showed even less support amongst the tribes, and native American news source Reznet has that perspective.

Coal isn’t clean. Montana is not the Saudi Arabia of coal as the Governor and Arch Coal and Great Northern would want us to believe. Many organizations have been working hard to drive this message home to the Land Board, including Northern Plains Resource Council and the the Montana Environmental Information Center, two very fine organizations that have fought the good fight, taking up against the state in a number of environmental cases and winning. Economists here in the state (and elsewhere) have said the Otter Creek tracts are overvalued.

Arch Coal will now use pressure to get final approval of its leases at the Land Board on Monday. They have no access – they have no railroad. Two significant impediments to that access are the heir to the Mars candy fortune – who has said “NO” to the railroad moving through his property – and FWP, whose board recently denied a request from Great Northern for its railroad through some of its land. Condemnations and eminent domain requests are messy and lengthy. Why should the state lease its land now when not only is access lacking, but once (and if) major impediments are removed, the value of that coal (if there really is value) and the leases themselves will increase immensely?

Please take the time as you read this to send and email and ask the Land Board to say “NO” to Otter Creek until all effects and affects of both the mine and the railroad can be assessed.

Below is the news alert from the Sierra Club. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Bull trout are a threatened and endangered species.

Are irrigators exempt from complying from the Federal Endangered Species Act?

This stuff goes on every day. Irrigation diversion structures blocking main channels of important fisheries, large and small. No fish passage, no fish screens required.

In the lets-not-require-too-much-of-anyone mentality of Montana, it’s all voluntary.

In other words, rarely ever done.

MEPA? Schmepa.

Some of these structures are built and torn down every year. Others are effectively overflow dams, that are annually given the OK by an assortment of local and state agencies. I think even the Army Corp of Engineers exempts these from environmental review.

Kinda like how the EPA has been exempting carbon dioxide from regulations which was great for coal-fired plants.

I’ve asked – What is Montana without its rivers and streams?

We can champion our rivers and streams and fisheries – use that for selling Montana as a vacation spot in ads around the world – but if we are going to criticize FWP for shooting a Boone and Crockett record bighorn sheep for what it takes away from the citizens of Montana, we should be looking at the statewide unregulated takings of threatened and endangered bull trout from our public waterways.

Tourism is the fastest growing economic sector in Montana. Apparently fishing and our streams and rivers have nothing to do with it, author Norman Maclean not withstanding.

We can also sing songs and laud the tear-down of the Milltown dam – but with structures above it, on the Blackfoot, and another more permanent structure like it below, what in the hell are we celebrating? Really? I mean – think of all the fish tagging going on. Just where are they actually getting to? Where should they be able to get to?

This picture, below, of a diversion on the Clearwater river near its confluence with the Blackfoot – both bull trout fisheries. Maybe a better word instead of fisheries is habitat. It is put in place each year by using bulldozers in the river, and torn out each fall, again, by using bulldozers in the river.

Imagine the state of our fisheries if these things were required to provide both fish passage and fish screening.

(Ed. note: This post was corrected after clarification from elkamino.)




  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Miles on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    success rate for In… on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Warrior for the Lord on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Linda Kelley-Miller on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Dan on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,668,844 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,738 other followers

  • April 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    282930  
  • Categories