Putting the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"

"These gentlemen want you to forget that ballot initiatives happen precisely
because people believe their legislative representatives
have failed to protect the public interest
or to perform their duty due to political allegiances
or from a true lack of understanding of an issue.
 If the state Legislature... had done a good job for the people,
I-143 would not be necessary.
- David Stalling, L. Jack Lyon, Stan Rauch and Larry Townsend


This newsletter focuses on a number of interconnected issues that should concern conservation hunters and non-consumptive conservationists alike. If you value wildlife in general or your favorite species in particular, I challenge you to keep reading and see what is at stake for Montana. Meeting dates and links below.

Whether you agree with the varied methods of hunting or the principle of hunting in general, the fact still remains that the wildlife belong to the people - all the people (Greek - demos, the common people). Conservation in the United States began with quite a number of hunters that were out on the landscape and saw what was happening to wildlife in the US. They banded together, began a conservation movement that has evolved over time to protect the fish, wildlife and habitat from their commercialization across the US. And yes, there were some non-hunters in the process, which has grown. As a result, each state created a fish and wildlife agency and it is this agency that manages their respective state fish and wildlife. At times, it has been necessary for the US Fish and Wildlife to get involved, that discussion is not the thrust of this newsletter, but rather the local state level - in this case - Montana. The question is, what is at stake for our Montana wildlife?

I grew up in the military, with my Air Force father, with war movies, my love of history, which included military history and strategy from  junior high onward. I am a firm believer in Edmund Burke's statement, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." Ancient military strategy taught me, you have to have a bird's eye view of the battle/situation or you could set yourself up for a loss. As much of a detail oriented researcher that I am, I frequently have to take a step back, and get that bird's eye view - the big picture of all the interconnected pieces. This is what I do with the Montana conservation issues.

Constantly learning a new facet of Montana's "Back From the Brink" history, I am inspired by the efforts of so many conservationist battles that have been won on that front. But each time we gain a victory, in protecting our fish, wildlife & habitat, it is not a done deal - like democratically voted Ballot Initiative143 (2000) to end game farming in Montana or Ballot Initiative 161(2010) to fight against outfitter privatization of our ungulates that also robbed our FWP of finances. Those ballot initiatives had to go to the general voting public because they could not pass through the legislative stranglehold that exists today.

In Montana's Wildlife Legacy, Decimation to Restoration it states, "Other activities, such as artificial feeding of wildlife, have to be regulated because of their negative effects upon wildlife. Artificial feeding of big game animals on public land has been banned in Montana for several decades. When we see the problems in controlling diseases such as brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease, the wisdom of this long established ban is much appreciated. Banning private game farms in the state by a citizen's ballot initiative (I-143) in 2000 was done for the same fundamental reasons as banning artificial feeding on public land and was a major step forward in maintaining the health of our environment and its wildlife."

The special interests that seek to gain control, dont just give up. They learn why they lost, they change some of the inflammatory language that would send up red flags, they repackage or rebrand, they co-opt what was successful, but most all, they chip away at what was won - they have the time, they have the money, they have the machinery.

This is why HD 29 Rep. Bill Harris, an outfitting landowner representing the Wilks Brothers district where a fencing dispute on our BLM public lands involving the Wilks legal fence height, introduced  HB 557 to change Montana Legal Fencing description, REMOVING the height max of 48 inches. High fences typically equals game ranching. This is why out of state billionaire James Cox Kennedy has stated that the Montana Constitution Stream Access laws are unconstitutional, will probably appeal to the US Supreme Court to get this heard out of state to try and overrule our state constitution. This is why we constantly see so many bills against our fish, wildlife & habitat, chipping away at our protections and wildlife agency.

The following are just a handful of the many examples I know of, the public's embracing whatever it takes to fight back against privatizing machinations and push for scientific wildlife management to be restored to our FWP agency and state. It breaks my heart when I hear/read about conservationists, like Kurt Kephart, who took out a second mortgage on this home, to get I161 to the general public for a vote, because he believed in it so strongly. Or the agency wildlife biologists who get fired or pushed out for speaking up for the science and stats to protect our wildlife like Carolyn Simes and Arnie Dood. Or the conservation sportsmen groups like Skyline and Anaconda Sportsmen who used their own dollars to sue our FWP agency to simply get the legally required science to be practiced. Or the Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife that had to pay for a bloody plane flight and aerial count to prove to FWP that the CB Ranch routinely harbored about 800 elk. Or bison advocate Steve Kelly that had to pay for the artwork and billboard to help educate the public that wild bison are wildlife. Or Rod Bullis and the other Bitterroot Houndsmen that had to pay to bring in renowned scientists to Montana to fight for mountain lions and scientific wildlife management. None of these people are million or billionaires. They are the average public, doing everything they can to fight for the democracy of the wild, while our public trustee sits silently on the side or worse, sometimes conspires with the privatizers.

"The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." - Theodore Roosevelt

If we are to take back the ground that we gained previously, we, the public, are going to have to get more involved to ensure that our government, which is supposed to represent the public and swears oaths to our Montana Constitution that, "The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations," does just that.
1.    There are at least 4 agenda items of interest at the Interim Legislative's Environmental Quality Council Updated Agenda for September 9th & 10th, Helena, State Capital BLDG, Rm. 172, the public can comment.
9th, 8:45 Statutory Administrative Rule Review - which involves the recent Game Damage proposed changes
9th, 3:00 Public Access to Federal Land (HJ13 study)
10th, 9:00 FWP Program Evaluation: Wildlife Conflict Management - elk shoulder seasons
10th, 10:45 FWP Director's Agency Update

2.    I did a wee bit of research on the Wilks statement a couple years ago on their purchasing ranches to include "wildlife management" and found their unnatural captive Frankenstein antler deer breeding game ranch in Cisco, Texas - Wilks Whitetails Game Ranching. "Two of those billionaires are Farris and Dan Wilks, burly brothers from Cisco, two hours west of Dallas... Owners of several high-fence ranches..., the Wilkses are ideal clients for the deer breeding industry: trophy-hungry hunters who are short on the time required to wait out deer in the wild but flush with enough cash to have prized bucks brought into their crosshairs." This is not what Montana has fought for in wildlife conservation - the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation - this is the European/Texas Model.

3.    If you havent yet, please sign and share the growing "Save Our Durfee Hills Public Lands" petition so that one of our largest elk herds and their habitat do not become privatized by the Wilks. Another chipping away of the previous ballot initiatives.

4.    I finally squeezed in some time to process the helicopter aerial flight out of the northern part of the Durfees from that documentation trip at the end of July. I saw open grass areas that showed alot of driving tracks, sometimes donuts on our BLM lands. When I commented about that, the pilot turned around and began showing us other areas, as well as following part of my initial investigation route on the northern boundary where you can see all the blading for the fencing job; then cut across to show us some erosion damage that is occurring; took us back up with the fencing borders for a bit where you can see the damage and erosion that is occurring, as well as the hundreds of trees that were cut in the process, more two tracks. This part was at the pilots generosity, as I had not paid for that time, so it is not in an orderly fashion, following all the fence, piece by piece. I am grateful to the hunters that all contributed to pay for this flight, cause I sure couldnt have done it, but we needed it done. One thing you need to also keep in mind is how beautiful this elk habitat is. We dont want to lose this, especially for the poor exchange being offered by the cow beaten ground of the Anchor Ranch.
5.    After thinking about I143 and I161, doing some research on ways the public can fight back against the special interest legislative stranglehold that has been operating, even to the point where Sen. Brendan publicly threatened the governor and sportsmen that they would pay the consequences for not getting his way, I have been networking with some conservationists on this idea.

To create a ballot initiative, the ballot initiative language gets turned into Legislative Services to tweak, then gets sent to the Montana State Attorney General for legal review, which takes about 30 days. Then it gets sent to the Secretary of States office who notifies the sponsor if it was approved. At that point, the sponsor begins collecting the signatures necessary to get it on the ballot, in this case the 2016 election. You have to collect signatures based on 5% of the votes cast for the governor in the previous election. The Sec. of States office said this would be 24,175 signatures. Additionally, those signatures have to at least come from 34 of the house districts, so that would be a minimum of 242 signatures per those 34 house districts, which is part of your base 24,175 signatures.

Even with major opposition by some groups, I143 and I161 passed to Montana's benefit. We have greater technological networking, websites and social media available to us today than we did in previous years ballot initiatives. AND, one of the major efforts is simply getting to the people to get signatures. So I asked the Secretary of State, me being very efficiency and preferring offense rather than defense, what if we had several ballot initiatives at one time? Could we gather signatures for 3-4 different initiatives at once? Yes, so long as we make it clear to the signer that there are 3-4 different issues. Color coding papers would help that situation. We could get more bang for our buck that way.

6. While I was finishing this newsletter, my postman delivered a certified envelope from BLM. It is my July 9, 2015 FOIA request for the sign in sheets, minutes of the scoping meetings on the Bullwhacker Access and all the public comments submitted - in response to BLM's public statement in the Great Falls Tribune, " 'The public overwhelmingly said they wanted us to reconsider a land exchange as a possible alternative,' Moor said." I know from the audio of the Billings meeting and reports from several people at the others, that the public did NOT overwhelming say they wanted a land exchange during those scoping meetings and with over 2500 signatures on this new petition and growing, in opposition to trading the Durfees, I suspect the reality is otherwise, hence my FOIA request. I will get this online shortly for the public.

Click image to enlarge

I would like to thank the following contributors for helping to support EMWH. Your gift is very much appreciated.
A Colorado conservation hunter that enjoys Montana, Ray Gross, Tony Shoonen and the Anaconda Sportsmen's Association

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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