I remember doing the radio show in the nineties. The Hi Line Sportsman it was called. I did an anti-environmental commentary for five to ten minutes a couple times a week. Back in those days I was a pissed off permittee of the Unites States Forest Cervix, and pissed off and pissed on I was. Truth be known, I did most of the pissing and in fairness to the whole deal I was, how should I put this, given a whole lot of latitude. But that was then and this is now although I do recall taking lots of shots at the University of Montana or as I not very fondly referred to it as “the school of nuts and raisins.” Between the professional apparatus at the U pumping out up and coming bureaucrats into the system and my inability to survive as a servant of that mentally vacuous machine I lost the war. I still get pissed off thinking about that but time does have a way of softening past blows and things change.
Like, here I am, in Missoula, Montana, a bunch of years later (doing graduate work) and it ain’t as bad as I thought it might be. Granted, I’m not ensconced in the bowels of the school of natural resources every day listening to the drivel of the environmental aristocracy lecturing to their worshiping, brainwashed pupils. Thank God. Truth be known, I do have relapses of PTSD as I work my through the smattering of mare hippies waiting for their sushi and latte in the UC cafeteria. I can smell ’em a mile away. That said, I’ve mellowed, I can live with ’em, at a distance! I shudder to think they’ll be part of that corporate natural resource intelligentsia, that part of which is still so foreign, and yes, repulsive to me. But, I’ve mellowed, changed. Nevertheless, the following are some thoughts on the whole matter and more.
I’m still a huge fan of “Range” magazine, the bible of the American West. There isn’t a day that goes by when an issue of some critical nature, whether it be wolves, climate change, private property rights, endangered species, etc. and although I may listen to any number of opinions myself, and even have a few, I ultimately lean back on the words of wisdom of “Range.” “Range is an award winning quarterly devoted to the issues that threaten the American West, its people, lifestyles, lands, and wildlife. Range is a leading forum for opposing viewpoints in the search for solutions that will halt the depletion of a national resource- the American cowboy.” Range is where I go to when I’m confused, angry, or even bitter. I can’t look to books, lectures, and the pontification of professional intellectuals for wisdom. I look to the working men and women on the ground on the front lines. The search for true wisdom comes from the men or women who’ve battled in the trenches of real life on farms and ranches from coast to coast. Their stories are written on the pages of “Range” magazine every other month. I urge you to google them up and see for yourself.
The wolf issue in the American West has died down quite a bit. I can recall the subject first getting broached with me at a meeting some Forest Service officials in the backcountry in the late 1980’s. I think they thought I was of a new breed of cat, forward thinking, and probably amenable to the new world order of wolf reintroduction and recovery in the American West. That evening may have been the beginning of my undoing as a new, fresh faced permittee of the corporation. I’d only seen a few wolves up to that point in my entire life and it wasn’t the wolf itself that initially ran shivers down my spine, it was the attendant flood of bureaucracy that I knew would follow. The wolf issue has always been as much about the role of an alien societal presence and role of government in our lives as it has been about just the presence of the wolf itself. That conflict still rages, even when it isn’t making headli>nes. That’s further reason why you should always go to bed with the “bible” of the American West on your nightstand.
And back to the county and town of Missoula, Montana. Prior to my first school year in town I did have some apprehension about the liberal bias and makeup of the community, and certainly the university. My nervousness hasn’t been justified by the experience I’ve had in “Zootown.” With only some to be expected exceptions, living in and going to school in Missoula has been a pleasure. I’ve found the town to be a hardworking, middle class enclave surrounding a university that hasn’t lived up to the wacky reputation I gave it. I’m all for good discussion and intelligent discourse on almost any issue and a university atmosphere is the perfect place for that. I’ve met quite a few students and professionals from every discipline the college has to offer and have yet to have a heated, unreasonable discussion with anyone. Missoula is growing at a reasonable rate, real estate prices seem to be in the norm, and trophy homes and gated communities haven’t yet found fertile ground for germination. Yeah, there’s always a rub. That lack of uber-wealth in Missoula and the surrounding area is a good thing. Take a look at Gallatin County and the town of Bozeman and you’re staring at a phenomenon that is as much a threat to the quality of life in the American West as the advent of wolf generation was twenty years ago.
It wasn’t too many years ago and a ranch was worth what a ranch was worth. That is, it was worth the price of the buildings, the number of cows, and the amount of land. Oh to be sure, there were other items of value like water rights, hay meadows, road access, and the like. That’s changed. Have you taken a look at the value of working ranches now, in 2015? Well, once they’re sold, the majority of them won’t be working ranches anymore. The working ranch and the families that have operated them for more than two centuries are slowly but surely disappearing, the casualties of the erosion of the family farm and ranch to the mega wealth of American society. I know that’s a tough one to get your head wrapped around. Success has always been wrapped up in the American dream, work hard and get rich. I see that but I don’t get it. The plain fact of the matter is that large farms and ranches are being bought up, fenced off, and taken out of production, In many cases, the owners become absentee landlords, hire a caretaker, and visit when the weather is good, the trout fishing is at it’s peak, and the skiing is at its best. Now how in the hell does that square up with the very wisdom we were looking at when I started this rant? It doesn’t. And all I can hope is that you get yourself a copy of Range magazine right now. Then get a subscription, and get a real job.