"What about the many grassroots members?"
Integrity is defined as soundness, wholeness, the state of being whole, undivided; from the Latin root integer,
meaning whole complete. When "integrity" is used to define the quality
of a person or organization, for example, or the lack thereof, we are
looking at their wholeness.
lacking in this Ducks Unlimited situation with the firing of a respected
conservation writer, Don Thomas (E. Donnall Thomas) from their
publication, for an article written in an entirely different publication
that did not even mention Ducks Unlimited, or ducks for that matter,
but rather an attack by billionaire James Cox Kennedy on our Montana
Stream Access laws and a portion of our Montana Constitution, at a MT
appellate Supreme Court Hearing.
appeal case against Madison County took place here in Bozeman, at
Montana State University, on April 29, 2013, which btw, ruled in favor
of PLWA. It took awhile, but I found a video recording of the hearing
and transcribed part of it. The case is not PLWA against Kennedy, it is
against Madison County, Kennedy joined as an intervenor.
Kennedy's attorney stating that Kennedy owns the air space above the
river, that stream access was a "taking", he also stated, "This court
said that unconstitutional actions are void and the passage of time
does not render them okay, does not render them constitutional." At
which point Justice Patricia Cotter asked, "You're asking us to overturn
Curran & Hildreth, aren't you, and also to declare the stream
access bill unconstitutional?"
Kennedy's attorney replied, "That's correct."
then asked, "Counsel, aren't you also asking us to declare a portion
of the Montana Constitution unconstitutional? (Kennedy's attorney
interjected "Yes") Article Nine, Section 3 provides paragraph 3 that,
'All surface, underground, flood, and atmospheric waters within the
boundaries of the state are the property of the state for the use of
its people and are subject to appropriation for beneficial uses as
provided by law.' If your position is, we were to accept it, would
reject that provision of the constitution?"
Again, Kennedy's attorney answered "yes".
is not a small land dispute taking place, it is a portion of our
Montana Constitution and our Stream Access law that Kennedy is
After I shared Don's letter with the Newsletter, posting it online
and posting it to a thread on Randy Newberg's Hunt Talk forum
Don's letter began being shared and reposted all over by forums,
conservation webpages and other social media, Don's many associations
also networked, resulting in DU members contacting DU about the
injustice done to Don Thomas and what was at stake for conservation.
These type of grassroots members are the backbone, the foundation, of
most conservation organizations that exist today.
Shortly after, DU sent the below canned reply to these grassroots members.
Donnall Thomas was a freelance contributor to Ducks Unlimited
magazine. He was not a DU employee. He wrote the "Closing Time" column,
which appeared on the back page of every issue. Mr. Thomas had been
writing this column for DU since 2001.
the Fall 2015 issue of Outside Bozeman, Mr. Thomas wrote an article
entitled: "A Rift Runs Through It; Fighting For Access to the Ruby
River." The article dealt with ongoing legal challenges related to
public access on a portion of Montana's Ruby River that runs through a
longstanding DU volunteer leader's property in Montana. DU recognizes
there are many views on this issue, but our mission is waterfowl and
wetlands conservation. As a result, DU has no position on the stream
access issue in Montana.
DU's opinion, the article published by Mr. Thomas in Outside Bozeman
publicly and very personally attacked a DU volunteer leader. We felt
that the article demonstrated a lack of fairness in vilifying a member
of the DU family without allowing that person the opportunity to provide
result, DU decided to discontinue its relationship with Mr. Thomas. We
would be similarly concerned if Mr. Thomas had written comparable
statements about any DU volunteer leader. DU honors freedom of speech,
but also honors our volunteers.
Mr. Thomas has the right to express his opinions in any way he sees
fit. DU has the right to choose who contributes to its publications." - Ducks Unlimited
The following is Don Thomas' response to the DU canned reply, which he shared with me.
Response to DU Statement
is written in response to a statement from DU outlining the reasons for
my termination, and a note from Matt Coffey to Matt Volz.
claims to take "no position on the stream access issue in Montana."
When they terminated me solely as the result of an article in another
magazine on a subject at arm's length from DU's mission, they most
certainly took one.
me of "vilifying a member of the DU family." What I did was report
James Cox Kennedy's record of illegally blocking public access to a
stream and engaging in (unsuccessful) frivolous court actions to prevent
such access. If that constitutes "vilifying," it is because of the
nature of Mr. Kennedy's actions and behavior.
concern for their "family" begs the question of who that family is.
Evidently, my own years of membership and service to the organization
didn't meet the definition. And what about the many grassroots members
who have expressed support for me and contempt for Kennedy's behavior?
did not personally contact Mr. Kennedy to solicit his views because the
well-documented legal record clearly establishes them. No one has
challenged the accuracy of that reporting.
Coffey asserts that Mr. Kennedy did not ask DU for repercussions.
Perhaps DU can explain how they found out about the article? It is hard
to imagine distant DU board members subscribing to Outside Bozeman." - Don Thomas
of the conservation hunters at Hunt Talk made an important statement,
"There it is, my New Year's resolution: re-evaluate the organizations
I'm donating to." This is a point I made in one of my previous
EMWH Newsletters -
"... people would start
taking a closer look at who they contribute to, or do
people think all they have to do is send in a yearly
membership, pat themselves on the back, feel good
about themselves and their responsibility for our
Public Trust ends there? Organizations are no different
than government (one reason I didn't file as a non-profit), you
should be holding your organization accountable for what
they are voting for, representing at the tables and
work groups they participate in, because they are
using your membership, your dollars, your numbers
when they stand up there and make those votes or
those statements. If you don't know what is going on,
you should. If you dont like what is going on, you should let
them know. Nothing is static, things are always changing.
Despite written mission statements, organizations may
change based on controlling members or new
presidents. What once was a conservation organization
could now simply be playing at conservation. The
proof is in their actions, their votes, their public statements."
With that said, another Hunt Talker suggested ending support for DU, "Instead support PLWA.
MT would be a far less accessible place without them." So true. For
those of you that would like to support an awesome VOLUNTEER
conservation organization that is in no way "too big for their
britches", whose mission statement is, "... to maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access to the boundaries of all Montana public land and waters," please consider joining & contributing to Public Lands/Water Access Association
, truly a grassroots conservation organization with integrity.