Montana covered by stifling cloud of smoke.

The first big fires of 2007 in Idaho blew smoke across uninhabited Central Idaho and into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana on July 9. More and more fires started in Idaho and then throughout western Montana. The fires are of all sizes, but a large number are over 50,000 acres.

On my trip there last week I couldn’t find clean air anywhere south of Glacier National Park. While only some of the fires were actively burning new territory, diffuse smoke was rising all over the large swaths already inside the fire perimeters. This came from creeping, smoldering, individual trees (such as red lodgepole torching) and few runs. This made for few visible plumes, but omnipresent smoke.

I stayed one night at a motel in Hamilton, and I asked the night clerk about it. She said the smoke has been nearly continuous since July 9 (a few clear days). The smoke was hardly confined to the Bitterroot Valley, but filled almost all the Western Montana valleys and well as the mountain air and the plains to the east for a ways.

The year 2000 was a huge fire year and 2001 pretty big too. With just a few exceptions, Western Montana has been covered with smoke partially or entirely much of every summer since 2000. This has got to affect recreation and the economy — a dream retirement home in the Big Sky with the sky dirtier than in any city?

The fires will return too — not in an unusually wet year, but the trees are so stressed from lack of water and resulting attack by insects and disease, that they are going to burn for a long time in every dry and even normal precipitation year.


At Two Medicine Lake. Glacier National Park. Sept. 15, 2007.
Photo copyright Ralph Maughan


Smoky Fleecer Mountain, ten miles south of Butte. The way most of Western Montana has looked this summer.
Photo by Ralph Maughan. Sept. 16, 2007.

In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base

In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base. White House Push For Oil, Gas Turning A Red State Purple. By Karl Vick. Washington Post Staff Writer.

This is the reason political operatives are trying to stir it up between ungulate hunters and those more generally interested in wildlife — divide and conquer. What party do you suppose SFW- ED’s support?

Here is another article on this (added Sept. 20). Gas Drilling Shakes GOP Foundation. By David Frey. New West. 

Posted in oil and gas, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on In Colorado, Drilling Some Holes in the Republican Base

Evangelicals and environmentalists are surprising allies

“Evangelicals and environmentalists are surprising allies. Creation care divides evangelicals in Idaho and the nation, and a Boise congregation and its pastor are among those at the heart of the debate.” By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Several months ago I posted a piece by a SW Idaho politico-religious activist (Bryan Fischer) who said it was God’s word to kill all the wolves. This is an interesting counterperspective.

Thanks to “B.E.” for editing my blog while I was gone

I took a ten day trip to western Idaho, north central Idaho and western Montana, with more time in or near Glacier National Park because, other than McCall (western Idaho), Glacier was the only place not covered with heavy forest fire smoke.

These forest fires are clearly going to burn until snowfall, putting out lots of smoke even as they burn little new territory. I think the fires are the most significant wildlife event I saw during the trip, and a lot more needs to be written about their growing presence.

Thanks go to “b.e.” for taking over the blog while I was gone.

Posted in Bears. 5 Comments »

Motorcyclist gets hand slapped for hitting hiker in wilderness study area

This is from Rocky Barker’s blog, although I read a similarly outraged editorial in the North Idaho paper when I was recently driving around and hiking up there.

Barker: Motorcyclist gets hand slapped for hitting hiker in wilderness study area. Idaho Statesman.

I’d like to know more about this. Was the illegal motorcyclist a friend of the prosecuter? Or more likely the fact they were Sierra Club? I’ll bet there was plenty of politics involved.

Another hunter felled by grizzly near Gardiner, Montana

Hunter survives grizzly attack. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press writer. This is a new incident in the same general area and with different bears.

On the 9th a Yellowstone Park employee who was hunting black bears was mauled by a grizzly too in the Gardiner area.

. . . . more. I have learned that this individual behaved with more sense about grizzly bears than the earlier incident with the person who is the “Safety Officer” for Yellowstone National Park who was given at least two opportunities to retreat after her first attack. He also shot and wounded the bear.

Earlier story on the attack on the Safety Officer. Yellowstone Safety Office mauled by bear.

Posted in Bears, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Another hunter felled by grizzly near Gardiner, Montana

Killing Wolves Violates Public Trust

This is a piece in New West by George Wuerthner. Killing Wolves Violates Public Trust.

Among other things Wuerthner argues that “state wildlife agencies [want to be] killing wolves merely to enhance hunter opportunity.” This isn’t true, and most in the agencies know it. Most state wildlife agencies are antagonistic to all carnivores because they perceive that their constituency thinks these animals reduce hunter opportunity, not that they really do reduce opportunities for those who want to hunt ungulates. State wildlife agencies are clientele agencies, meaning they owe their political support to just a segment of the public, and clearly not the public as a whole. Therefore, Wuerthner is right on when he argues killing wolves to reduce their numbers violates the public trust.

“The public” is a word that has gone out of style in recent years, and inasmuch as it has democracy, itself has been weakened. Many of the incumbent politicians today are the ethical stepchildren of railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt, who in 1882 told a reporter inquiring about the operations of Pennsylvania Railroad, “the public be damned” (as well as a number of others).