Is Gardiner, Montana, the Selma, Alabama, of Wildlife Conservation?

“On bigotry and bison management at Yellowstone National Park”-

It think this is a fine opinion piece in New West. Is Gardiner, Montana, the Selma, Alabama, of Wildlife Conservation? By Michael Leach, Guest Writer.

I kind of feel the same way as Leach.

– – – –
Note that Leach, who used to work for the Park Service, but longer does, has started Yellowstone Country Guardians. It is in our blogroll. He seems to attract enthusiastic young people to learn about Yellowstone.

31 Responses to “Is Gardiner, Montana, the Selma, Alabama, of Wildlife Conservation?”

  1. Ken Cole Says:

    I’ve witnessed the same convoys of government agents heading toward and away from these incidents a number of times over the years. It’s as if they are headed to capture prisoners who have broken out of prison. That’s what these bastards have turned Yellowstone Park into.

    • wolf moderate Says:

      It’s a large zoo. Finally, people are realizing it.

    • WM Says:

      I think more simply than most. This is about the need for winter range for the wildlife of Yellowstone that has to migrate to find food for survival -bison, elk, etc.

      I get very frustrated when this bullshit gets overanalyzed, analogized and sensationalized as some kind of “racist” policy. The only tway this gets fixed is if more area is added to the park, and unfortunately that will not happen easily or soon.

      • wolf moderate Says:

        Hopefully not more land going to expand YNP, but I’d be all for more wilderness or NF lands around the park for winter migratory animals. Deem it “off limits” to cattle grazing and I think most would support it, even w/ that stipulation. Wouldn’t be too difficult to raise funds for buying out private property owners, at least I wouldn’t think. They (RMEF) are welcome to use my $300 annual donation on acquiring lands surrounding the park…As long as it doesn’t become part of the park (no hunting).

      • WM Says:

        wolf moderate,

        Thanks for pointing out a potential flaw in my comment. I am not so keen on actual Park expansion, with all the prohibitions that come with it. Consider a GYE buffer zone that includes winter habitat, under FS stewardship, might be more palatable for most. The impediment to acquisition is that private property owners know the value of their holdings – an earlier discussion here on what to be the Forbes ranch (aka CUT/Royal Teton Ranch) as buffalo habitat, and the sloppy, protracted and wasteful use of taxpayer dollars for wildlife easements and minor acquisition illustrates this problem.

      • Elk275 Says:

        I was in Paradise Valley yesterday and went as far south as Yankee Jim canyon/Point of Rocks. I was not driving and was viewing my GPS the entire time. I purchased a $100 two gig chip that has the entire landownership of the State of Montana, all state, federal, and private lands. All roads, rivers, mountains and other physical features are displayed. All subdivisions and certificates of surveys and who owns each parcel is displayed.

        Almost the entire Paradise Valley has been subdivided with the exceptions of several large ranches. I have been working in the Valley for the last 17 years and never realized the extent of land divisions until I was able to visually see everything development put together. The valley has been broken up into hundreds of 5 to 20 parcels, entire sections were surveyed into 20 acres tracts and sold on contract for deed years ago. Land values are between $10,000 to $20,000 per acre depending upon size, location and water amenities, that is bare land without any improvements on the property. To acquire a section of land or 640 a acres is going to cost approximately $10,000,000. It is not possible for the purchase of large additional lands for winter range with the possibility one or two ranches on a buy/seller willing agreement. A small acreage site with a home is not going to be condemned under eminent domain for wildlife, we all know that

        I do not think that there is any way to acquire enough private land to accommodate anymore than 25 to 50 buffalo on a seasonal basis. This is the way it is in 2011, I truly wish that is not the case, but we all must be realist.

      • JB Says:

        In other states –those not so states-rights crazed as Montana, one could effectively protect the habitat for wildlife without making these lands national parks nor forests. It simply requires removing fences on private property so that wildlife is able to roam free and setting up other statutes and ordinances that restrict the ways in which people can use their land.

        Before I am accused of being a radical, I would point out that those of us who live in urban areas have far more restrictions on the ways we can use our property. For example, I am not able to have livestock, the number of pets I can house on my property is also restricted, as is where/how much of my property I can build upon.

        I’ll also suggest that anyone who believes that such restrictions violate their “rights” should make a special not to actually read the Constitution.

      • Ralph Maughan Says:

        Elk275,

        I’m afraid you are right. I used to be on the Board of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. We spent some money to do a full build out map for Paradise Valley. Even then, back in 2000, it looked very grim.

        I first saw Paradise Valley in 1980. I thought, “wonderful,” and then “this won’t last.”

  2. Cody Coyote Says:

    The question asked by the headline: “Is Gardiner, Montana, the Selma, Alabama, of Wildlife Conservation ?”

    The short answer? Yes….short of a contendor from Idaho or Utah or Fremont County , Wyoming.

    • WM Says:

      Words like: “Selma, skin color, civil rights, ’60’s, opression, race, bigotry…..” and a couple others have no place in discussing wildlife. Crap head articles that make these metaphors, similes and analogies make me gag, right along with the anthropomorphism of wolves or other wildlife.

      • Christopher Harbin Says:

        I agree WM. Equating what is happening there with what happened in Selma is a poor comparison. I think what is happening with the bison of Yellowstone is a tragedy in and of it’s own.

  3. Elk275 Says:

    JB

    ++It simply requires removing fences on private property so that wildlife is able to roam free and setting up other statutes and ordinances that restrict the ways in which people can use their land.++

    You are saying that if I own a piece of rural Montana land and I have horse/mules that require fencing that there should/could be statutes or ordinances that will restrict my right to be able to pasture horses/mules so that buffalo or other wildlife would be able to roam freely on my property. This could be accomplished by a zoning ordinance but zoning is done by the county commissioners and that is not going to happen. So what should we do? Should the federal over ride the county and institute federal zoning so that the buffalo can roam freely across one property? If I owned a 20 to 40 acre tract, the grass on that property belongs to me and it would be for my horses/mules.

    • Elk275 Says:

      Let’s take also consider this, what if some of those parcels are growing crops, hay is a crop. Should the wildlife/buffalo be allowed to graze off a hay crop? I do relize that elk and deer are grazing the hay fields. There are some very good hay meadows in the upper Yellowstone, across from from the check station.

    • JB Says:

      Elk:

      Your apparent shock at my suggestion underscores the differences between western states and the rest of the country. Here in the Midwest, most people do not have the expectation that they can do what they will with their land. Nationwide, the vast majority of people are greatly restricted in terms of what they can actually do with their property. Federal law, for example, prevents people from filling in wetlands. Local ordinances prevent me from owning horses, mules or livestock. The litmus test for any policy is: does it promote the public good. If not, then it isn’t good public policy. The trick, of course, is determining whether restricting/preventing some activities creates more “good” than allowing them to continue. I would argue that protecting winter habitat for the last remaining truly “wild” bison in the US would meet this litmus test, though I am also quite sure that others will disagree.

      – – – –
      Here in the Midwest, there are areas where corn is the primary source of food for white-tailed deer (seasonally, of course). States handle crop depredations analogous to how they handle livestock depredations: by reimbursing farmers for damages caused by wildlife and/or providing “depredation” permits (i.e., allowing farmers to kill some offending animals).

      • Elk275 Says:

        JB

        A little interesting story: In the summer of 1970, I had just graduated from high school in Billings, Montana and was working for the National Park Service in Mammoth, Wyoming, that fall I was going to start my freshman year at Denver University. We left Mammoth every morning and went somewhere in the park for are days work.

        There was the foreman, truck driver and four workers, myself, Tim, Jeff and another who I forget. Tim was the oldest and a senior wildlife biology student at Northern Michigan Tech. Jeff was from New York and was going to start his 2nd year at the University of Montana. The conversation somehow turned to trespassing on private land. Jeff was adamant that he or anyone had the right to cross private property to go fishing, hiking, tramping or whatever. I said no, that is trespass, it is illegal. It soon became an argument as we were pulling into the park headquarters in Mammoth. We all got out of the truck, Jeff left immediately. Tim pull me over and said “the western mind and eastern mind will never agree and never argue with the eastern mind” I never forgot it.

      • JB Says:

        Thanks, Elk. We Midwesterners often end up in the middle–I guess we can see things from both perspectives (yep, I’m making a huge generalization here).

        Do you still stay in touch with Tim?

      • Elk275 Says:

        No, come the middle of September on a Friday afternoon we all mustered out and went are own ways.

    • JB Says:

      Elk:

      I was looking for a passage in a book that I read recently and was lucky to find it. This is a bit lengthy, but it is extremely relevant to topic at hand:

      “…what a landowner can do on the land is increasingly depending on the land’s natural features and on the ecological effects that a given land use will have. This was the idea sketched out in Cawsey v. Brickey, the ruling by the Washington Supreme Court that rested on the idea that different laws could apply to different types of natural lands…The basic idea is that landowners ought to avoid land uses that entail altering the land in ecologically harmful ways. Such reasoning might seem novel in rural areas, but it is very much in line with the thinking that has governed urban land planning for generations.

      “In the case of wildlife law, the critical question has to do with wildlife habitat and the ability of landowners to alter it as a prelude to initiating some other land use. Few courts or lawmakers have addressed the issue directly. When we start searching, however, we find that there is already a wide range of laws that restrict the ability of landowners to alter habitat” (Freyfogle & Goble, 2009, p. 73, emphasis mine).

      Freyfogle, E. T., and D. D. Goble. 2009. Wildlife Law: A Primer. Island Press, Washington, DC.

      – – – – – –

      To be clear, I agree with you about both the use of local ordinances and eminent domain–not likely. However, if one wanted a clear path to protect this valley, here it is:

      (Step 1) List Yellowstone bison as Endangered under the ESA, and
      (Step 2) Force the FWS to declare critical habitat for the Yellowstone bison.

      • WM Says:

        JB,

        Good luck with step 2.

        Using the ESA, in effect, as a national land use act would have the states, at least Western ones, digging battle trenches at the borders and calling for cessation from the Union. For bison it would be one thing (critical habitat), and for another at risk species, possibly other constraints (I am thinking butterflies or endangered birds) Some might already say the ESA has skirted the issue for wolves. It certainly did for the spotted owls and marbled murrelet.

        I recall some years ago it was believed the Clean Water Act would be used in a similar manner – a national land use act- especially with implementation of best management practices for non-point pollution sources (with suggestions that irrigated lands with highly erodable soils or leachable salts and minerals be withdrawn from production), and population projections and TMDL calcuations for receiving waters for industrial and municipal effluents (dictating treatment levels).

        Practical and mostly science driven solutionsfor sure, but politically unsellable. The critical habitat issue will always be a hard sell for the ESA, and may very well lead to its downfall if not carefully approached on a case by case basis.

      • JB Says:

        For the most part I agree with you. It took 20 years to list the lynx and get FWS to declare critical habitat…but it can be done.

        Western states up in arms is nothing new. The “beauty” of the sagebrush rebellion is how little is actually at stake, politically. Democrats in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah are more endangered than wolves, grizzly bears or bison (and they aren’t in much better shape in Montana). They will shout about the unfairness of the ESA no matter what happens and they will continue to vote Republican–so where’s the political fallout?

        – – – –

        Just a fun fact: The endangered species act passed the Senate without opposition.

      • WM Says:

        More on Fun facts:

        Different time (Congress trying to refocus and heal after Viet Nam tore the country apart), Senate with more visionaries, fewer people with fewer conflicts affecting jobs. Now, nearly fifty plus years of experience with a law that had never been tried before. No unanamous passage in 2011, I would venture.

        Embarrassing spelling error (cessation) = secession

    • Save bears Says:

      JB,

      I am a 100% proponent of the Bison and have been for over 20 years now, including my work with FWP, but I strongly disagree with you on this point.

      Yes, we in the west have completely different ideas on how we manage our lands, which of course is why we don’t live in an urban setting.

      You are trying to apply urban standards to rural lands, it is not going to work.

      The first issue when it comes to Bison, is their classification, which currently is wrong.

      Bison are wildlife, they are indigenous wildlife and as such she be managed just as any other wildlife is.

      The wildlife management issue continues to come up with Wolves, as it should, but it should be applied in the same manner to Bison..

      • Elk275 Says:

        Saves Bears

        ++The first issue when it comes to Bison, is their classification, which currently is wrong.++

        That classification was enacted by the state legislator some years ago. There has been talk on this board in the past 48 hours about the make up of the state commission. If one follows the news there will be no need for a state fish, wildlife and parks commission — the state legislation is now trying to override the department and commission and take control of the department. I feel that the state legislator wants to privatize fish and game, gut the stream access law, make trespass a felony and put big animals under the control of the state livestock board.

        There are other things to worry about right now. and buffalo is not one of them.

      • Save bears Says:

        Elk,

        Both issues are very important to the future of wildlife management in the state of Montana, just because I make a statement about Bison, never think I am not paying attention to the other issues as well…

      • Save bears Says:

        I am well aware of what is going on with stream access, and management, believe me…!

      • Elk275 Says:

        Save Bears

        It’s the shits.

      • JB Says:

        SB:

        It would be helpful if you let me know what, exactly you disagree with. If it is simply my application of “urban standards” to rural areas, then we will have to agree to disagree. Whether one lives in an urban or rural area should not matter–the appropriate test is whether the proposed regulatory action benefits the well-being of the public.

        Pragmatically speaking, regulation will increase (as a necessity) with population densities, no matter how loud folks shout.

      • Save bears Says:

        JB,

        As you and I have talked on this page in the past, we have far different opinions about private property rights, I do agree, however with higher population numbers, management changes. Right now, that is not the issue north of the park, not a lot of growth going on in that area..

        Now remember, I live in an area designated as “Grizzly recovery zone” so I am pretty familiar with what I can and can’t do with my land..

      • Elk275 Says:

        Save Bears

        What are the restrictions on your and the adjacent lands because of grizzly bears?

      • Save bears Says:

        Elk,

        Last time I wanted to build an outbuilding, I was told, I would have to have an Environmental Impact Study done, with a 60 day public comment period, I would have to pay for all work done to assess what impacts it would have.

        Now take into account, the outbuilding would cost about $3000, the fees I had to pay to attain permission would have been over $10,000 which I had to pay, whether it was approved or not! In other words, even if building my outbuilding was judged to have no impact, I would still have to pay the fee’s, then I could spend the money to erect the building, but of course, beings I am in a recovery zone, I would have to purchase all of the building permits..

        I gave up, and bought a 12′ x 20′ tent building at Costco for $169.00, of course it feel down this year due to heavy snow load, so will have to pick another one up this year, I just hope it didn’t damage my boat!

      • JB Says:

        SB:

        Thanks, that helps. I think it is instructive to separate our opinions for the general facts at hand. Outside of the takings clause, there really isn’t much in the Constitution that provides for any “rights” of property owners. That is fact. The existing case law in the area is complicated but, as your experience with the ESA shows, the Federal government’s powers are vast.

        My *opinion* on this matter is that much of the controversy with respect to the ESA is the result of rural residents’ outdated views of property rights. You might disagree with this notion, but I would argue that, as a greater proportion of our population grows up in urbanized settings, they will become accustomed to the notion of govt. regulation of private property. This is a good thing, because protecting habitat, imperiled species and rare ecosystems is only going to get harder as populations increase.

        – – – –

        In reality, we are all “renters” of property anyway (unless you’ve figured out a way to cheat death?) so allowing someone to take actions that degrade the land for years to come really runs counter to the long-term interest of the public.


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