Putting the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"

"Government loses its claims to legitimacy
when it fails to fulfill its obligations.
- Martin L. Gross


Legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, in this case, our Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Without legitimacy, a government will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and eventual collapse. I believe that we are seeing this collapse in FWP, though to be honest, it is not entirely of FWP Helena Administration's doing, our Montana special interest legislators have had a hand (rather stranglehold) in that as well.

FWP's mission statement is, “Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, through its employees and citizen commission, provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks and recreational resources of Montana, while contributing to the quality of life for present and future generations.” Sounds very much in keeping with the Public Trust Doctrine – “certain natural resources, are held in trust by the government, for the benefit of the people.”

FWP published a Strategic Plan, last updated in March 2008, when Jeff Hagener was the FWP Director, but under a different governor. On page 1 it states, “We will serve as an advocate for responsible management and for equitable allocation of public use of the limited resources which we are entrusted to manage.”

Let's jump back to “legitimacy” a moment. There are 3 key points to legitimacy in government:
1. Respect – the people need to have a voice, feel that if they speak up, they will be heard, treated with respect.
2. Neutrality – the law has to be neutral, predictable, fair, not showing partiality.
3. Trustworthiness – the people need to trust the government behind the system, trust the authority will be fair.

With power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes. But what happens when you break faith with the people? What happens when the people are denied legitimacy? Malcolm Gladwell addressed the anger that builds up when the people repeatedly feel their voice is not being heard, when there is partiality and people have lost trust in the system - “If you deny people legitimacy, they will, one day, by one means or another, come back and defeat you.”

In the last few years I have been active in wildlife/habitat conservation in Montana, I have witnessed or been the recipient of primarily Helena FWP's lack of respect, including violations of Montana's Constitutionally protected Right of Participation and Right to Know.  I have heard the growing discontent amongst hunting and non-hunting conservationists, a number of which have been creating their “Firing Wish lists” of FWP employees (mostly from Helena Administration) they feel “need to go”  for the public trust to be restored - kind of the opposite of sharing your “dream team” players for whatever your passion is. A number of sportsmen and non-hunters alike express that they fell they no longer have a voice, that there seems to be a steamrolled agenda taking place.

This discontent grows when our Legislative Audit Division conducts 2 audits recently on FWP. The first, involving the Block Management Program, which pays private landowners for public hunter access. This audit found, among other things, that FWP paid $2 million of our sportsmen's dollars in compensation for public hunting access to private lands where such access already exists through department conservation easements. And the most recent audit, published in May, of the Game Damage program found among other illegalities and shortcomings, that FWP again was using sportsmen's dollars to provide for private landowners services or materials, such as stack fencing, when there was no proof of game damage, landowners did not qualify or no required public hunter access was provided.

Additionally, the illegal elk brucellosis program that has been going on since the beginning of 2012, borrows from game damage, yet totally bypasses any required public hunter access for the services and materials provided. Which brings up another issue that wastes our sportsmen's dollars that could be put to better use – the sportsmen having to sue their own agency and/or commission to get them to comply with the laws on the books. These are just a few examples. Point #2, neutrality/partiality, appears to be seriously lacking.

Which brings us to the trustworthiness of our public trust managers, the stewards who are supposed to be managing these resources on our behalf, and for future generations, is there an erosion of trust?

I had to stop writing this article to attend  FWP's 15 and Forward listening session, tonight was Bozeman's meeting. We had about 36 members of the public attend, that was it. Now while the room was not quite filled, it is disappointing to me that so many people I normally hear express discontent or suggestions over FWP and it's management, were simply not there. They broke us up into 5 breakout groups and I was inspired by a number of the people in our group, who also spoke of the Public Trust Doctrine, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. We voiced issues that were hard, but necessary subjects. And almost everyone in the group had regular interactions with FWP, especially regionally and with the biologists.

So one of the concerning subjects, which I have heard before from others across the state, was that we are in support of the science, of our wildlife biologists, but there is a disconnect between Helena administration, which is highly partial, not neutral,  and that partiality is adversely affecting the management of our resources. I brought up the "culture of fear" I keep observing and hearing about, even from those retired from FWP. This disconnect removes management from the science/evidence based wildlife and habitat management of the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model of Wildlife Conservation FWP subscribes to in theory, when in practice, Helena administration is highly political, even biopolitical, managing more for the European/Texas model of landowner privatization.

When the groups reconvened, the opinions read off and compared, again, there were a number of comments expressing loss of trust and constructive criticism on getting back on the scientific, evidence based path; actually following the laws, regulations and management plans already in place that have not been utilized; moving away from the special interest politics.

I hope that Helena actually “listens” to their public, because the future challenges we brought up tonight, are not going to get any easier, especially for our wildlife/habitat, or we wont have a future generations for the fish, wildlife and habitat for our future generations of Montanans and others to enjoy – it will be privatized, commercialized or destroyed.

So please, in the same vein, confront Helena to fulfill it's obligations to the Public Trust:

  • attend one of the Game Damage hearings on Aug. 11th & 12, reject their proposed amendment that removes this from the commission public “season” process and moves another step towards privatization;
  • and attend and/or submit constructive public comments on  '15 and Forward – FWP's future direction.

Montana State Parks visitation could reach all-time high in 2015
"Montana State Parks visitation has climbed for the fifth straight year and is on track to set a record in 2015. This follows a national trend toward greater outdoor recreation use, said Betsy Kirkeby, public relations specialist for Montana State Parks.

'We’ve broken the record for the last four years,' Kirkeby said. 'And it’s steadily going up.' "

Glacier Country
East side of Going-to-the-Sun Road opens
"Glacier National Park officials reopened an 18-mile stretch of the Montana park’s most heavily trafficked roadway on Friday, more than two weeks after a wildfire forced its closure during the busiest time of the year."

Southwest Montana
Oil company asking to drill test well in southwest Montana
"An oil exploration company is proposing to drill a 10,000-foot vertical test well in the Tendoy Mountains, eight miles west of Lima in extreme southwestern Montana.

Lima Exploration Co., a subsidiary of the Denver-based Great Western Oil and Gas Co., applied for a drilling permit with the Bureau of Land Management on July 13, said David Abrams, public affairs specialist for BLM in Butte.

Scot Donato, manager of regulatory affairs and environmental health and safety for Great Western Oil and Gas, said if the company is successful, the future could bring 10 to 20 wells to the area."
And you thought domestic sheep pneumonia was the only threat to our Bighorn Sheep populations here.

Missoula wilderness therapy program works with troubled teens, regardless of income
"InnerRoads Wilderness Program in Missoula is one of the only nonprofit wilderness therapeutic intervention organizations in the country that offers a sliding-fee scale so that troubled teenagers from poor families have the same access to help as wealthier kids.

That help comes in the form of grueling, six-week backpacking trips in some of Montana’s remotest reaches, where youth learn to make fires without lighters or matches, communicate their feelings, channel their anger and tackle their most serious issues head-on. It’s not easy for them, and it’s no cakewalk for the instructors either."

Students find fence-mending brings Bitterroot ranches together
"Sometimes, bad fences make better neighbors. The traces of past ranching along the Bitterroot River are getting an upgrade that helps today’s cattle operations, wildlife researchers and young students learning about both...

Bart and Wendy Morris and their Oxbow Cattle Co. wanted to apply new herding and fencing methods to their grass-fed beef cows. That meant pulling off much of the old barbed wire and replacing it with a “wildlife friendly” design that combines barbed and smooth wire. The fence can be four strands wide and pointy for the two weeks when cattle need to be kept in place on a pasture, or compressed to two strands for the other 50 weeks of the year so elk and deer can move freely. In addition to hosting professional researchers, MPG Ranch also teams with Missoula-based Ecology Project International to give young people four-week intensive outdoor learning experiences."

Click for more information on Wildlife Friendly Fences

Yellowstone Country
I ran into the newly relocated Kevin Hurley from the Wild Sheep Foundation at the FWP '15 and Forward meeting this evening, he was in the same breakout group. They are leasing part of a building in the 4 Corners area, just west of Bozeman proper. 412 Pronghorn Trail, Suite B, Bozeman

I smiled, because I always carry around all these various manuals and studies with me in my large olive green bag, what someone once referred to as my "war chest". Kevin had a copy of the 2010 Montana Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy with him on the table. During the discussion of FWP strengths, weaknesses, what they should be doing, Hurley brought up, what others have voiced, including retired FWP biologist Tom Carlsen, who primarily wrote the strategy, that the strategy needs to be implemented.

Another example of the Helena politics failing to fulfill its obligations to our wildlife, scientific wildlife management - for future generations.

Central Montana
I have yet to see a decent article come out on what is really taking place with the Bullwhacker Access situation and the Wilks land proposal, which is against the BLM trespass regulations. 3 times I had requested the sign in sheets, minutes of the scoping meeting that were held across the state and the public comments submitted. Finally I had to request them in a FOIA. Apparently others put requests in as well and BLM is in the process of setting up a webpage with the documentation to be made available to the public. After requesting a copy of the Wilks "cease and desist" that Dir. Stan Benes mentioned at the RAC meeting and was mentioned in an article by Laura Lundquist, BLM has decided to add that one in with my previous request (still pending). The trespass investigation is still ongoing.

The morning that the BLM Cadastral Survey was filed with the Federal Register, Aug. 4th, I called for a copy. This is basically 3 maps of locations of the brass markers, monument rock piles (collars) and blazed trees - no documentation of the trespasses since the investigation is ongoing. There were 2 PDFs of descriptions (survey speak) of the same, except, one PDF does mention, "The locational calls to fences contained herein are given as ground conditions existed at the time of survey. Subsequent discussions have begun, during the construction of this record, indicating the potential for many of the fences to move."

The other PDF mentions an additional type of violation - the unauthorized removal of any government survey monument or marked trees, "An iron post 30 ins. long, 3/4 in. diam., found lying loose nearby." And another, "The remains of the original monument, an iron post, 20 ins. long, 1 in. diam., with brass cap mkd 1/4 S14 S23 1914 was found lying loose nearby in an area disturbed by recent earthmoving work." So the illegally unpermitted caterpillar that was bulldozing hundred of trees, vegetative materials and blading the ground, uprooted survey monuments on our public lands. I wonder how many blazed trees got uprooted or other markers to far removed for the metal detector to pick up? I will get these documents up this week with the documentation from the Durfee Hills helicopter trip, it's been kind of game damage/elk shoulder season documentation busy.

"It is unlawful for the unauthorized alteration or removal of any Government survey monument or marked trees: 'Whoever willfully destroys, defaces, changes, or removes to another place any section corner, quarter - section corner, or meander post, on any Government line of survey, or willfully cuts down any witness tree or any tree blazed to mark the line of a Government survey, or willfully defaces, changes, or removes any monument or bench mark of any Government survey, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both' (108 Stat. 1796, 2146; 18 U.S.C. 1858)"

Proposed BLM-Wilks land swap bad deal for average Montanans
"We are average working Montanans, who have a personal interest in the proposed land exchange between the Wilks brothers and the Bureau of Land Management. We legally access and use the land the Wilks brothers want. This trade concerns us and should concern everyone else too."

Missouri River Country
Budget cuts felt at CMR
"What's it like to be in charge of over a million acres of public lands, including 125 miles of Missouri River and 245,000 acres of Fort Peck reservoir? What if the budget you have to manage these lands seems to get smaller by the year? That’s the challenge facing Paul Santavy, project leader for the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the second largest refuge in the lower 48 states and the largest refuge in Montana."

Southeast Montana
Coal Royalties Listening Tour Stops In Billings Tuesday
"The federal government’s controversial coal program is the subject of a public listening session in Billings Tuesday. It’s the first of four planned throughout the heart of American coal country. The Department of Interior is encouraging the public to enter the fray...

'How much royalties come back to the taxpayers? What's it take to administer the coal program, and are the current royalties appropriate for the work that's done, and is it an appropriate rate of return to the taxpayers?'

The meeting begins at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday at the Hampton Inn in Billings."

The EPA Accidentally Turned This River Toxic—And Orange
"Since Wednesday morning, a ribbon of bright orange water has been making its way down the Animas River in southwest Colorado. The cause? A million gallons of gunk pouring out of an abandoned century-old mine. The Environmental Protection Agency is already on the scene, though. Because, well, they caused it. Yeah, oops...

The abandoned mines in the area have long been a problem, filling up with acidic wastewater that leaches heavy metals out of rock and leaks into the river—a slow-motion environmental debacle. And the EPA has been trying to designate the mines a Superfund site for years, only to come up against local resistance. The mines still aren’t on the Superfund list, but the EPA has been trying to them clean up anyway. That’s why a crew was digging around the Gold King Mine—they starting to investigate leaks when the mine’s plug blew, turning the slow-motion problem into a fast-moving, highly visible advertisement for fixing the problem."

Wastewater from Colorado mine reaches New Mexico

Thousands of mines with toxic water lie under the West
"Beneath the western United States lie thousands of old mining tunnels filled with the same toxic stew that spilled into a Colorado river last week, turning it into a nauseating yellow concoction and stoking alarm about contamination of drinking water.

Though the spill into the Animas River in southern Colorado is unusual for its size, it's only the latest instance of the region grappling with the legacy of a centuries-old mining boom that helped populate the region but also left buried toxins."

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

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu


Wildlife &


Bozeman, MT

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