Putting the "Public" Back in "Public Trust"

"We are getting our conservation asses kicked!"

Montana politics infects alot of issues in this state, especially wildlife & habitat conservation. I became acutely aware of this with the interference of our EMWH Newsletter, back in 2014, when it got blacklisted and targeted as spam right after I sent out that expose work on Sen. Jennifer Fielder's Doublespeak and her EQC agenda to turn over federal public lands to the states. It took me three months to fight back and gain control over my newsletter. But then it kept happening (I know, I get into some controversial issues that involve powerful groups/individuals - cant help that), when similar subjects came up and more subscribers have been blocked from receiving it of late. So finally, after this last newsletter on Sept. 27th, "We are getting our conservation asses kicked" not being received by many of the subscribers, I had enough. See, I thought it was a great idea years ago to keep my money and support of businesses in Montana, so my server was based here, not in another state. While fine for my archaeology site, it apparently sucks for conservation, like giant whirlpool level sucking.

Thanks to the help of a number of fellow conservationists contributing to this specific "take back control" effort (thank you Steve Kelly, Ray Gross, Harold Johns, Leroy Mehring, Tony Schoonen, Glenn Elison and the Skyline Sportsmen's Association), I was able to purchase a Constant Contact account for a year. Friday, I created the template to pretty much mirror my original, had to manually add all 925 addresses into the system on Saturday, then sent myself a test at my emwh.org address to view it, which was blocked by my own server. There have been others that said they sent things I didnt receive, sometimes having to use my gmail address to get it through. So Saturday, I purchased web server space with a company out of Montana that not only provided two years for what I just paid for one year, I also have other layers of domain protections and preventions to help subscribers receive the newsletter and such, as well as increased bandwidth and such. I then migrated almost 1300 website files and made sure it was populated here in the technology boonies of Montana (kind of ironic that Europe got it updated yesterday, but Montana didnt have it until this morning) before compiling this newsletter. I am a very exhausted, but a relieved conservation activist now.

With that said, below is the newsletter from Sept. 27th that many didnt receive, with some amended information right now. Right after I sent the newsletter out, I received a certified mailing from BLM of some of the missing comments from the Bullwhacker Access scoping process - 191 additional pages of bloody missing comments, most of which were for new road access constructed. I compared the two disks, removed the duplicates and compiled a table showing the commentors and their votes -
I erred greatly on the side of the Wilks land exchange, for example, if a commentor didnt want any road put in the Bullwhacker area and mentioned a land exchange, I added that to the Wilks Land Exchange column, not the "No Road" column, so that no one could accuse me of trying to minimize that option. Yet, even with that handicap, of the 187 comments found so far, the Wilks land exchange only received 25.67% of the total, where new road access, especially on the east side of the Anchor Ranch, received 61% of the total, a clear majority.

So how can the Lewistown BLM justify the public statements they have been making like, "The public overwhelmingly said they wanted us to reconsider a land exchange as a possible alternative", which prompted my comment request to see what the reality was? Additionally,
the Central Montana District Manager, Stan Benes, left BLM unexpectedly on Friday, Oct. 2nd. The BLM Lewistown Field Manager, Geoff Beyersdorf, who supposedly did the investigation of the Durfee Hills fall 2014, putting out an official BLM News release that the Wilks fences were fine, previously transferred to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Thank you for your patience while we worked out the political "technical difficulty". And to those of you who have been fiscally, materially, inspirationally and emotionally supportive, I greatly thank you for your contribution to putting the "Public" 
 Back In "Public Trust".
Sept. 27, 2015 Newsletter

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I am not going to write about or link to the Sage Grouse news, there are a plethora of articles with a myriad of perspectives, which many of you are already aware of. I am not going to write about the numerous feel good National Public Lands Days goings on curently taking place here in Montana and elsewhere. Instead, I feel there are some interconnected issues more important to discuss, that have been gnawing at me awhile, especially since a number of us met with FWP Director Hagener recently - cause we are getting our conservation asses kicked.

ArcGIS Grant, but will it be used to map our Montana conservation ass kickings?
I am totally excited to share that EMWH put in for a  grant request to ESRI for the  ArcGIS Advanced mapping program that I downloaded the trial version of (ditched the open source), used to create the Elk distribution/Objectives/Outfitter map for the Elk Shoulder Seasons issue. ArcGIS is a totally awesome and expensive program (used by governments and agencies), no way I could pay for one. But, a FEMA guy, familiar with our conservation work suggested I put in for a grant, so I filled out their gauntlet ASCII grant application, with my non-conformist answers (they wanted to know what make and model of computer I have, I build my own; they wanted to know what GIS training I had, didnt have any, have been creating maps by hand with graphics programs and made one using their trial version; etc.). Not only did I get the machine coded response back right away, meaning I passed their gauntlet, but I received a response back in an hour, that granted my request for the ArcGIS software, as well as the 4  training manuals I requested, with an offers for training and extensions. Woohoo. So we can now create more maps based on science/data to advocate for Public Trust scientific wildlife/habitat management or, if things are as bad as I relate below, I will at least be able to gloriously map out our downfall to political bullshit, cause we are getting our asses kicked, and need to start effectively pushing back!

Chipping Away at Wildlife Habitat and Public Access 
Besides the special interest legislative sportsmen's ass kicking to stop FWP from acquiring any more public lands for wildlife and habitat, there is another way they are giving us the boot - privatizing public lands and access. As most of you know, we of course did not get a Corner Crossing bill through the Republican blockade, the previous legislative session.

Recently, while researching a Corner Crossing issue I had bookmarked back when I was injured, Tony Schoonen referred me to the Anaconda public access advocate referred to in the article written by Jack Jones. Dale Schafer,  led the charge for getting the illegal closure by a private landowner of a public access county road, Modesty Creek Road, opened back up to the public. (BTW, Dale told me that his trial download of ArcGIS maps used in court made all the difference. I told him we now have one for future reference.)  :)

But, it wasnt Modesty Creek that caught my attention, it was that Dale and another hunter had intentionally utilized corner crossing of public lands, not once, but twice and did not have to pay fines. He challenged the FWP Game Warden to write on the citation exactly what law or regulation he was breaking by not trespassing on private lands, but walking on our public lands. None was cited. Dale asked to be shown in the regulation book where the violation was, it was not produced. See, this issue has been gnawing at my mind for over a year, prompting the below EMWH Conservation Postcard I had been working on before I spoke with Dale.

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Corner Crossing
This is one of those issues that I think we need a Ballot Initiative on, to take directly to the Montana voters, a push back against the privatization of the public wildlife and lands. "Corner Crossing, not a taking of the private rights, but a Connecting of our Public Lands."

Another boot in the habitat and access scenario is an example by Gayle Joslin, conservation hunter and retired FWP wildlife biologist. She is fighting against  Helena National Forests recent attempt to reject a proven, science-based Forest Plan standard for wildlife security during the hunting season, that has been in place for 30 years. "The existing old standard is based on decades of peer-reviewed research by dozens of wildlife researchers. There are no new studies that refute the long-standing science of wildlife security needs on public lands. That research focused on the need to reduce roads, but never did the science suggest that vegetative cover should be reduced as a component of security during the hunting season."

And our Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has agreed to the change in big game security if travel plans for the Divide and Blackfoot landscapes are implemented. Which leads me to FWP's increasing rejection of hard science.

FWP Soft Science/Hard Science 
Some of us recently met with Dir. Hagener after the EQC meeting, where we expressed a number of concerns involving FWP, their recent game damage amendment, elk shoulder seasons and some other interconnected subjects (like Joslin's discussion above). I had stated a number of times in the two days I made comments at the EQC about our need for scientific wildlife management, which FWP is supposed to be based on; that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the FWP Commission are members of Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). In WAFWA's Public Trust Doctrine Resolution it mandates, "that fish and wildlife resources are to be held in trust by government for the benefit of present and future generations." It further states, "...the public must be made aware of this Public Trust, and it must be enforceable against the government." There are 7 important Public Trust components to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The 6th states that Science is the proper tool to discharge wildlife management. "Science as a base for informed decision making in wildlife management has become standard in Canada and the U.S. Nevertheless, funding has been largely inadequate to meet the research needs of management agencies, and a trend toward greater political influence in decision making threatens this principle. "

During the meeting with Dir. Hagener, he asks me, "Kathryn, isnt sociology a science?" I replied it was, but our elk management plan is based on biology, a hard science, which they are supposed to be managing for. So this greatly concerned me that the head of FWP, Dir. Hagener, was advocating for a soft science of society's behavior, rather than wildlife biology, a hard science. See, hard science and soft science are terms used to compare different scientific fields, "on the basis of perceived methodological rigor, exactitude, and objectivity." Basically, the natural sciences are considered hard sciences, such as the biology used for wildlife management that requires proven methods that consistently produce the same results, whereas the social sciences, such as politics, psychology, psychiatry are soft sciences. 4+4 always equals 8, elk consistently need certain things in order to survive in a habitat - hard, consistently provable science. But the science of society is not so "hard". Not all landowners hate wildlife, not all landowners want to privatize our public wildlife, one legislator does not represent the actual views of every single person in their area - see, lots of variables, open to interpretation and change, which is why it is considered "soft".

This is why Helena FWP is failing the wildlife, the public in general and specifically, the conservation sportsmen whose dollars pay their salaries and expect scientific wildlife management; Helena FWP has been managing for "soft" politics, rather than "hard" biology.

You cant expect, "that fish and wildlife resources are to be held in trust by government for the benefit of present and future generations," if the Director of the agency does not advocate for the hard science we need. Nor if you cater to the loudest yelling whims, legislative bullying, or certain special interest groups. Nor can you manage for scientific wildlife management when a culture of fear is entrenched in the agency, where biologists are hamstrung, in preference to special interest politics, or they get marginalized, pushed out or fired for speaking up. Nor when a ranching FWP employee can be in charge of a number of interconnected programs with little to no transparency, which has been failing audits, showing partiality to landowners that dont legally qualify, using our sportsmen's dollars and the Director is not even willing to discuss it. Nor, as an example, if you are going to haze elk off of a FWP Wildlife Management Area in Region 3, which was purchased for the wildlife, to the benefit of the domestic cows (our elk are seriously getting their wildlife asses kicked by Helena FWP). This is ludicrous. These are just some of the pieces of this absurd picture.

Also disturbing at the meeting was yet another excuse of what is taking place in FWP. In relation to my statements of the AFWA and WAFWA's Public Trust Doctrine and FWP's membership with them, Director Hagener asked if Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah were also members of AFWA and WAFWA? Do we consider that they uphold the Public Trust Doctrine, scientific wildlife management, why should Montana have to then? Before I could answer, one of the men next to me quickly and adamantly sat forward and stated, "Because Montana is the 'Last Best Place' and we dont want to be like those other states!" Couldnt have said it better myself.

To excuse FWP's lack of following the Public Trust Doctrine, involving scientific wildlife management, just because other state fish & game agencies arent, is not leadership. We need good leadership for Montana and for Montanans.

Ultimately, it is the Governor that appoints the Director and since the Director is not advocating for Montana's fish and wildlife, per Montana FWP law 87-1-201 and its subsections, "the department shall enforce all the laws of the state regarding the protection, preservation, management, and propagation of fish, game, fur-bearing animals, and game and nongame birds within the state," which involves the hard science of biology, perhaps we need to begin pressing the point with Governor Bullock, cause we are getting our conservation asses kicked big time on this one.

When an FWP "EIS" is not really an "EIS" 
Again with the hard science - this Bison "EIS" was not only a waste of time and finances, but of the public's time and expectations. We expected the public trust, scientific based wildlife management, a proper Montana Environmental Impact Study and what we got was either lazy, poorly produced, incompetent, driving towards privatization or horribly calculated to intentionally fall short of the mark as a delay tactic, all the while using our sportsmen's dollars.

I attended the FWP bison working group meetings, where they broke their chosen participants into 4 groups to come up with alternatives. Group 4 produced a site specific Charles M. Russell alternative with a large bison population for the necessary genetic diversity and more accurate science that a much smaller population would not reflect.

According to current publication, A Guide to the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), pg. 33, the "substantive requirements" of an EIS are: a description of the purpose and need for the proposed action; a description of the AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT; a description and analysis of the alternatives, including the NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE; and an analysis of the impacts to the human environment of the different alternatives, including an evaluation of appropriate mitigation measures." The capitalization and underlining is theirs. FWP has failed at the most basic level of producing an EIS, by not producing a site specific EIS.

The poorly produced draft EIS originally sent around in spring, still retained the CMR as a site specific alternative produced by Group 4, until an email on April 3rd, from Sen. Taylor Brown (one of the bison working group members) was sent back to FWP's Lauri Hanuska-Brown, objecting to the CMR site specific product of Group 4, which btw, was publicly produced and presented at those working group meetings. "My concern is that the attached EIS Update lists the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge as a 'Montana Site that Appears to Fit the Sideboards of Alternative #4'. I would question whether that is the case." As a result of Sen. Brown's "soft social science" objections, the "EIS" was revised to exclude it, thus falling short of one of the essential criteria of an EIS.

This was only one of the many, many deficiencies of this "EIS" because they didnt do the bloody hard science required, instead choosing to pander, once again, to soft science politics. Perhaps, if FWP had not politically fired a proven and qualified wildlife biologist, "coincidentally" their bison specialist, but an employee who has produced real EIS's, we would have had an awesome EIS based on hard science, but I am sure that was their point. We, definitely, and Arnie Dood, especially, got our asses kicked on that one. But the wild bison migrating into Montana definitely have been getting the biggest political species ass kicking of all.

Public Comments Ass Kicking
A number of times when public comments are submitted on controversial subjects, I will request a copy of the public comments, sometimes needing to do so as a Montana Public Information Request, knowing that if I don't, it will get dragged out until I need to end up doing so anyway. FWP's legal office recently replied and warned that while they waived any fee's per this Game Damage request, they would not do so in the future. Now FWP already has to compile and review these comments. How hard is it to take that electronic folder and copy it onto a disk? So what are all the hours and costs for putting it on a CD and mailing it? Except, it is a means of keeping the public from the information FWP doesnt want them to possess and it makes FWP accountable for the comments. I think a lot of us need to be requesting Public Comments more frequently!

FBI - Not what you think it is!
In the Game Damage Amendment Public Comments I recently requested and received, I was struck by three things.

First, so few people take the time to submit a public comment.

Second, concerning the rule change allowing landowners to chose the hunters for Game Damage, one hunter wrote about not allowing the landowners to choose. "I have a concern about the addition of or list of names supplied by the landowner. That the list will become the only way that hunters are chosen to hunt and it will become FBI (families, buddies and in-laws) list hunt and only FBI list will be able to be chosen to hunt."

This has already been a complaint on a number of Block Management issues as well. Again, paid for by our sportsmen's dollars to provide access, but the system is being gamed by some in more ways than the 2013 failed Legislative Services audit found. Like the recent example of a landowner in Region 7 who already had his "reservations" filled right at the moment of the opening day and time, when a public hunter called, as was the case the previous year as well, probably from FBI. Thankfully, this public hunter has filed a complaint that is on record. I know it is an inconvenience, but more people need to do this to ensure accountability and transparency.

Third, there are some key things conservationists need to know about making public comments, cause we are getting our individual asses kicked by those that know how to game the system.

1. I learned this at a Board of Livestock meeting and have been telling people this for over a year and a half now - Montana only counts FORM comments as ONE comment. So it doesnt matter if there are 1000 comments on a matter, MT only counts the form comment as 1. So conservation/sportsmen groups need to stop creating the bloody web forms that are cheating us of a valid voice. And individuals need to stop lazily filling the damn things out. Some groups do it to data mine the contact information, then they can then send you requests for donations. Groups, if you really care about the issue, put up a web page or newsletter of bullet points, encourage your readers to pick and choose like a buffet and make sure they are encouraged to create an original subject line and additional original sentences. This sh*t has gotta stop.

2. Groups, stop sending a comment from your group alone. It doesnt matter if you have 10 members or 1000, the agencies are counting that group comment letter as 1 comment. And the agencies are taking advantage of that to minimize the number of comments they present in their reviews. So send your group comment letter, but again, encourage your members to send in their own comments. I have even seen comments that were all generated by an obvious - sit down comment writing session, all with the same generation and received by date, location addresses and all the same paper (such as lined notebook paper) with similar comments, but it wasnt by the conservation hunters and anglers!

Here's another example. In the illegal FWP April 2014 Elk Brucellosis Work Plan public comments, Jessica Anderson sent in a comment on Park Conservation District letterhead, as the District Administrator. On the same letterhead, Anderson sent in another comment for the Upper Yellowstone Watershed Basin, as the Watershed Coordinator, she also sent in a comment as an individual. Now, the UYWB appointed Druska Kinkie, one of their members, as the Paradise Valley Elk Brucellosis Working Group Chair (this was not an FWP working group, also lacked multi stakeholders as it was supposed to).  Druska Kinkie also writes out a comment. Additionally, Rep. Alan Redfield, also a Watershed member and also a member of the brucellosis working group writes his own individual public comment, as did others that were members of both.

I have seen this play out repeatedly with public comments and special interest ag groups - they know how this works, and again, we are getting our collective conservation asses kicked because conservationists/sportsmen dont know how to play the game!

What's in your backyard? When your conservation "neighbors" join in the ass kicking. 
Heartbreakingly, it happens. One "conservation" group, to leverage getting what they want in their backyard, will sell another conservation group down the river, throw them under the bus, pick your metaphor, it's happening. An example is the recent Wilks Brothers land exchange where they are trying to exchange private landlocked land in the Missouri Breaks National Monument in Blaine County they bought to leverage for the awesome Durfee Hills, beautiful elk habitat in Fergus County. The Friends of the Monument and Montana Wilderness Association submitted public comments for the land exchange, throwing other public lands and wildlife they were not involved with, under the bus for what they wanted. I get their wanting to consolidate more of the Monument, but you shouldnt throw our public elk and the Durfees in another area, under your special interest bus to do so. And again, there was a group letter, then the individual letters from their members.

Then there are the "conservationists" who position themselves within the funding foundations, effectively, politically starving out other conservation "doers" from being able to "do". Trust me, while the head wills, and the heart wills, there is much you simply cannot do without even the most basic funding. I have been hearing and watching this over the last few years, that funding is shut off to certain conservation groups and projects, after leadership and boards at funding foundations change, who then begin to funnel that money into "their" interest groups.

Additionally, there is credit robbing (sometimes this is used to garner more contributions, by making it look like the group is doing more than they are actually doing). This is part of the political positioning, turf wars and pissing contests that jockey for membership and their contributions. They "market" themselves with nice ad campaigns, spending more time on the appearance than if hey had actually gotten out on the ground and actually done something concrete. They know the majority of the membership or contributors will not look into it, and they get away with it. My daughter's dog used to do that. I would throw the ball, he would wait for my dog to run out and retrieve it, then just as she was bringing it back, he, being much larger, would intercept and tackle her, grabbing the ball, dropping the ball in front of me as though he had retrieved it himself. I put a stop to that.

Sometimes the simple silence or inaction of a conservation group, because some higher member has a personal friendship with another involved in an agency, for example, puts personal politics ahead of conservation issues. Well hell, there are a lot of people who know a lot of other people in this state, yet you dont see this affecting the ag special interests. I didnt see the Montana Farm Bureau from refusing to publicly support SB245 when there were a number of outspoken conservation hunter farmers opposing SB245. The ag industry probably tells dissenting members to "suck it up" or "take one for the team", because they dont let anything get in the way of their machinery. There needs to be some kind of separation of church and state thing, because the silence or inaction of conservation issues, due to personal relationships, is allowing the privatizers to capitalize on that paralysis or simply co-opt the silence as an endorsement.

This is where conservationists get our asses kicked that should be the easiest to prevent, but ag special interests dont play this game. I have seen meetings and public comments where even if it doesnt have anything to do with sheep, the wool growers will weigh in FOR their ag cattle brothers, like with an elk issue. Likewise, the cattlemen will support their wool growing buddies in a bighorn sheep/domestic sheep issue. And the Farm Bureau will also weigh in, even if it has nothing to do with crops. They learned long ago the power of a united front, contributing to their bigger picture - solidarity. But the desperateness, scarcity, the lack of conservation wins, has some conservationists acting like drowning swimmers, so desperate to save themselves they are willing to drown those that could help them, and we all lose as a result of the "every man for himself, at all costs" mentality.

Back to the Brink, the Final Ass Kicking 
From where I am sitting, after this meeting with the FWP Director Hagener, looking at all the interconnections of this issue, we are at the point of totally losing fish & wildlife/habitat conservation here in Montana to privatization, if we dont aggressively fight back now and stop habitually accepting the calculated ass kickings. If only these issues were as appalling and mobilizing to the public as yoga pants or Montana legislator cleavage or skirt length. Perhaps, as some have said, we have already lost, in which case I should just get back to my archaeological/historical research and art, take care of myself financially, instead of pouring myself out for something that has already had its jugular cut and there is no way to stop the hemorrhage. In my new spare time, should I then begin working on a new book, "Back to the Brink: Montana's Conservation Rise and Fall of the Last Best Place"? Perhaps, as a few  other cynics have stated, "Let the privatizing fuckers have it all and then the conservation hunters & anglers eyes will be open." But could we get it back, once lost? Chances are slim, it is always harder to regain something lost, than to prevent the loss in the first place, but the loss may be inevitable.

The question really comes down to this, are Montana conservationists going to keep taking these privatizing ass kickings, or are we going to rise up and start effectively kicking some major ass ourselves? It really is that simple.

We have the tools (such as Networking, Ballot Initiatives and Public Comments) and the majority numbers, which presently are not being adequately utilized, if properly organized and orchestrated, could ensure Public Trust Doctrine scientific wildlife management, wildlife and public access to public lands and waters, for future generations. Your individuality enmasse is a powerful, powerful thing... when you chose to use it. What's in it for you? Will you set aside a little short term inconvenience to fight back, for some long term invested gain?

Heraclitus, a long dead Greek Philosopher from Ephesus wrote, "Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back." Instead of the 80% of conservationists being targets for privatizing ass kickings, Montana needs those 80 to become her conservation warriors, because it is going to take a 90% effort to keep Montana from becoming a privatizing Texas/European Model and slipping back into the "Brink". An even older dead, Greek philosopher, Plato, expressed that we are twice armed, if we fight with faith.

I saw a quote about a year ago, "What makes a movement strong is not the number of people willing to give money, but the number of people willing to believe there is hope."

Are we going to be one of the 90% that kicks some epic conservation ass, so that no one will ever be able to write that Back to the Brink book, instead inspiring a - how the public picked their bruised asses up off of the ground and took back our Public Trust Doctrine - for our future generations?   I have faith and I have hope that we can. The numbers question is, do you?

I would like to thank the following contributors for supporting EMWH. Your gift is very much appreciated.
Shawn Danielson

If you would like to further this work and research,   please click to contribute to EMWH.
Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu


Wildlife  &



513 1/2 W. Curtiss St., Bozeman, MT 59715
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