Montana Justice? Slap on the Wrist for Wolf Poaching!

Our home away from home for many years.

We got excited last week, as my wife and I scrambled to get ready to go camping.

After a long winter and cold early spring, as of a week ago we had a favorable weather forecast and we decided it was time to de-winterize our camping trailer and head out for a weekend of camping and flyfishing. 

We talk, occasionally, about getting a newer trailer with some newer features, such as slide-outs for extra room, but we agree that ol’ faithful does what we want it to do, and some RV mechanics tell us that newer trailers aren’t built as well as ours was. So, we stick with what we have and keep things up so that everything works as it should.

I’m also excited about the fishing prospects, because I love evening fishing, and that’s something I’m mainly able to do when we’re camping. I’m also hopeful that predicted warm weather will get the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch going. 

 It’ll be nice to get away from the 24/7 news cycle for a few days. We’ll just worry about weather and whether fish are biting.

This is all against the backdrop of other things going on in the outdoors.

A month ago, I wrote about the curious case of Governor Greg Gianforte and the slap on his wrist for failure to complete an online wolf trapping class before supposedly trapping and then shooting a collared wolf on a ranch north of Yellowstone National Park.

The most recent wolf travesty was of two young men who, in early March, hired a helicopter and in the course of a flight shot two wolves from the air. Their story was that they did have a Department of Livestock permit to hunt coyotes from the air. 

Poached wolves – Billings Gazette photo

The catch, however, was the wolf hunting season ended several days before their flight. They didn’t have permission to hunt on the private land where they shot the wolves, and they didn’t have wolf hunting licenses. They also didn’t report their wolf shooting to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for mandatory inspection and tagging. They were caught because wardens had a tip on the incident.

In other words, they did a whole lot of things wrong and violated a whole bunch of laws. Nevertheless, in a Beaverhead County Justice Court, the two men paid fines of just over $400 each—a slap on the wrist.

I talked to Warden Phillip Kilbraith, who works out of FWP headquarters in Helena, for background information. He said that hunting without a license usually involves a fine of $500 to $1,000. Hunting private land without permission on a first offense involves a fine of $135. A second offense rates of fine of $500 to $1,000. Offenses often result in forfeiture of hunting and fishing privileges for a period of time.

In any event, however, he says the job of game wardens is to “investigate and report” and then it’s up to the county attorney and county court to prosecute and adjudicate the case.

Of course, all this took place when the state legislature was in session and enacted laws to extend wolf seasons, allow trapping with snares, and even to allow organizations to pay rewards to successful hunters and trappers to defray their expenses—though they warn: don’t call it bounties.

Frankly, from the standpoint of a lifetime of hunting and trying to be ethical and legal in the process, I’m angry and disappointed by this case of willful disregard of laws and ethics in the taking of these wolves. 

Unfortunately, with the current atmosphere of lawmakers who regard wolves as vermin and openly express frustration that they can’t just wipe ‘em out as was done back in the good old days, I’m afraid that cases like this will become more and more common. 

What the heck, shoot them from airplanes, trap them, poison them, look for wolf dens and kill the pups. 

What’s the worst that can happen? A slap on the wrist and go do it again. Who cares?

I do—I hope ethical Montanans agree that we’re better than this.

Too Cold! Too Hot! Never Satisfied!

Bright sunshine makes the Big Hole sparkle.

I’m getting tired of this cold weather. 

 Oh, wait a minute, I said that last week, too. In any event, I meant it both weeks. I really am tired of unseasonably cold weather. It’s getting to be time to plant some hardy plant seeds in the garden. It’s time for some bug hatches on the rivers.

 In fact, I did plant a row of peas in my garden on April 15. Peas are really hardy so if they emerge in cold weather, they’re up to the challenge. I scattered spinach seeds in a little garden patch last fall, before freeze-up. They were up in early April, though mostly hunkered down during the cold weather we’ve had. They weren’t hunkering down enough, however. I checked them a few days ago and those little green spinach shoots were neatly clipped off just above the ground. I didn’t have to look too far for suspects. Cottontail rabbits live in the neighborhood and those little bunnies know where to go for choice fresh greens.

 Happily, we did have a couple days of nice weather on that middle weekend of April, before another round of wintry weather hit us again.

 Along with many others, I headed for the Big Hole River, and lots of people had the same idea. It was fun to see people floating the river, wading the shorelines, having picnics, or just sitting on lawn chairs and watching the river flow by. For those of us who get to live in this part of Montana, the Big Hole River, and the tributaries that feed the river, is one of the best parts of our backyard. It’s an internationally known river, but it’s our home waters.

 While cold weather put a damper on spring runoff, it took just a day or so of halfway decent weather to get runoff going again. A surge of meltwater stirred up sediments, so the river was rather murky.

 I threw out some San Juan Worms and large nymphs into the current in a couple different spots. I managed to hook some rocks or driftwood and lost a couple flies before I decided that the fish weren’t in a feeding mood if, in fact, they were even aware of my flies. Kiri, our Labrador retriever and my steadfast hunting and fishing partner, and I shared a sandwich, then packed up and went home, getting back in time for an hour of tennis, as it worked out.

 We’re now almost at the end of April and, hopefully, we will start having some seasonable weather, including some spring rains to revive our grasslands and woodlands. And, as it works out, these last few days of April will be the warmest of the year, so far.

 While I might complain about April’s chilly weather, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with that, it would be incorrect to say that April’s weather disproves climate warming, or climate change, to be more correct.

This past week there was a “super” typhoon in the west Pacific Ocean that barely missed the Philippines. It was a Category 5 storm, with 190 mph winds. The storm intensified from a Category 1 typhoon, with 90 mph winds to Category 5 in just 36 hours. It’s considered the most intense typhoon ever for the month of April, and stronger than a 2015 typhoon that created widespread devastation in the Philippines. Scientists believe warming seas are responsible for the intense storm systems.

 At the same time, scientists are predicting another active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, likely as severe or more severe than in 2020, when we ran out of alphabetical names for the tropical storms that repeatedly battered the southeastern states and Caribbean. Current forecasts are for a 70 percent chance of a major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland this year. In normal years, there’s a 50-50 chance of a major hurricane to hit the U.S.

If there’s a bright side to all this, January, world-wide, was a bit cooler than expected, so 2021 is not expected to be the hottest year on record, though it will no doubt be among the top 10 hottest years.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Spring Cleaning

Madison River Quicksilver

According to weather forecasts, the weather today should be better than it was a week ago, when I started drafting this column. I hope the forecasts are right because last week I was getting downright tired of freezing weather. 

I just got back from a local store. It’s April so the store put out a display of live plants in front of the store. It was 33 degrees and snowflakes were in the air. The plants did not look a bit happy about their outdoor environment.

I took advantage of a rare mild day to take another jaunt to the Madison River. As expected, the wind was blowing. It was fairly gentle when I stepped into the current, but as the day wore on the wind increased, making flycasting a challenge. Fortunately, one pretty rainbow trout took my fly and put on an acrobatics display, making the day a success. A modest success, but on a day when the wind is blowing and no insects are hatching, it’s important to celebrate success, however humble it might be.

With an expected return to more springlike weather, it’s time to do some spring cleaning, so that’s this week’s theme.

First off, while many of us have been complaining about the cold weather this past week, there are benefits. For one thing, the freezing weather put spring runoff on hold, and area streamflows have dropped accordingly. Last week, the Big Hole River at Maidenrock Bridge, for example, was running at 803 cubic feet per second (CFS). A week earlier, streamflow spiked, temporarily, at around 3,000 CFS. Considering the relatively dry winter we had, the longer we can hold that mountain snowpack in the high country, the better off we’ll be. That applies to many things, from fishing, floating, irrigation, and municipal water, to summer water temperatures, fishing closures, and other complications from reduced water flow.

Varying waterflows are nothing new, of course. During the spring runoff period, streamflow can go up and down like a yo-yo, as cold and warm fronts come through. As insect activity picks up and weather gets more conducive to fishing, I’ll be following the USGS Montana Streamflow reports on the internet when I plan my fishing outings. 

The Montana Legislature will soon be finishing up its work, such as it is. The current Legislature has been, to put it mildly, a disappointment. I have praise for our local legislators, who have worked hard to kill some of the dumber things to emerge from the sausage factory, even if it has been like trying to suck the Missouri River dry with a soda straw. 

In last fall’s elections, Montana voters voted, in a landslide, to approve a pair of initiatives to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. Legalized marijuana will possisbly be big business; some $200 million annually, according to a news report last week. It will also generate a lot of tax revenue. Measure I-190, approved by 57 percent of Montana’s voters, specified that a large portion of marijuana tax revenues would be earmarked for funding public lands, as well as assistance for veterans, and other beneficial uses. 

The Legislature is doing its best to ignore the will of the voters. Currently, it looks like the Lege wants to put 88 percent of the tax revenue toward the general fund, presumably to partially replace money lost by tax cuts for millionaires. A paltry $1.95 million would be split in three accounts to fund state parks, recreational trails, and non-game wildlife. Nothing would be available for Habitat Montana, a conservation program managed by Fish, Wildlife & Parks that was expected to reap revenues from pot taxes. 

I wonder how many bills from this legislative session might end up on a future ballot to send a message to the Lege that it shouldn’t ignore the voice of the people.

On the bright side, there are just another 14 days, spread over the next three weeks, left in the legislative session, and we’ll again be able to sleep at night, without worrying about what the yahoos in Helena are up to.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

A “Virtual” Public Lands Rally

A scene from the 2019 public lands rally at the Montana state capitol building.

Yet another victim to the Pandemic was the big public lands rally that is regularly held under the rotunda in the state capitol during legislative years. The presence of citizens from around Montana gathering for a central idea, the protection of public lands in Montana, made a difference in the Legislature. 

It’s hard to throw our heritage of public lands and public fish and wildlife under the proverbial bus when thousands of citizens are in the building, rallying in support of those values.

 There was, nevertheless, a public lands rally last week on April 6, or as some call it, 406 Day, even if it was a “virtual” event, with some 600 people checking in rather than busloads of people flooding the rotunda. The event was promoted by a number of organizations, such as Montana Wilderness Association and Montana Conservation Voters.

 Rachel Schmidt, former Director of the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, was the moderator of the event, and cited a handout package for the Legislature noting that 5.1 percent of Montana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from the outdoor economy, second-highest in the nation, as well as about 10 percent of Montana’s job are related to the outdoor economy. In addition, some 81 percent of Montana residents enjoy outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation is also considered the number one reason that businesses locate in Montana.

 Francine Spang-Willis, a board member of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Association, a Native American, and also a descendant of early Montana pioneers. She presented an indigenous peoples’ perspective, and the common bonds among Montanans who are connected through the outdoors.

Andrew Posewitz, a hunting ethics advocate, as well as the son of the late Jim Posewitz, talked about the importance of wild places. “Wild places are our souls, and without them, we are dead.” Looking back to the early 20th Century, after commercial hunting and other excesses, wildlife was almost non-existent. Citizens of Montana agreed that it was necessary to restore wildlife, and through the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, wildlife is flourishing. He asserts that the American Model is in more peril, because of the greed, in the form of public policy makers who represent people who seek to profit from the public trust. “They’re no different than the commercial hunters of the late 1800s, only now they’re smart enough to use terms such as ‘ranching for wildlife’ or promote ‘landowner-sponsored tags’…They’re the same breed as those who brought Montana wildlife to oblivion.”

 Posewitz referred to legislation that has been introduced in the current session, without the moderating influence of governors who truly believed in public lands and wildlife. He says, “That job is now ours and ours alone…to influence policy makers and, if necessary, to change the policy makers.” He closed by telling of his father, who said about citizen involvement, “I’ve testified in the halls of Congress, as well as to the regulars at Trixi’s Saloon. The latter is far more important.”

 Conrad Anker, a world-renowned mountaineer, talked about Montana’s headwaters, with waters east of the continental divide that flow into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and waters from west of the divide that end up in the Columbia system and, eventually, the Pacific Ocean. “We’re the crown of the continent. Our waters feed the nation and we have to take care of that.” He concludes, “Reach out to your circle of influence and share the story of our public lands. What brings us together as Montanans is our public lands. We can go to a trailhead, start walking, and we can experience the world in its natural state.”

Here’s a link to virtual rally program: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/2021-virtual-rally-for.

 Appropriately, on the heels of the virtual Montana Public Lands Rally, next week, on April 22, is Earth Day, an annual tradition going back to 1970. Credit goes to Sen. Gaylord Nelson, then a junior senator from Wisconsin, who was concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States.

 From that first Earth Day, this is now a global event, the largest secular observance in the world, with over a billion people observing a day of action to create policy changes for a cleaner environment.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

The Curious Case of the Guv and the Park Wolf

Park Wolf 1155 – in happier days. NPS photo.

The case of Greg, the Mighty Wolf Killer, keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.

 In case you’ve been hibernating and just emerged from your cave, a couple weeks ago Boise State Public Radio (yes, you read that right) broke the news that Governor Greg Gianforte got a warning citation from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for harvesting a wolf that had first been trapped, then shot, by the governor. The citation was for not having completed an online class on wolf-trapping, as required when someone purchases a wolf trapping license.

 The incident occurred in mid-February, though nobody in Montana knew about it until Boise State Public Radio, and other members of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaborative of a number of western public media agencies, reported on the governor’s brush with the law. Within a day or two, the case made national news, including the Washington Post and New York Times.

 To complicate the case, the wolf that fell victim to the Guv’s trap and rifle wasn’t any old wolf, it was a Yellowstone Park wolf, Number 1155, bearing a radio collar. It was a wolf that had been followed for at least several years, a wolf with a documented history, had been photographed many times, and had its own fan base. Ol’ 1155 had the bad judgement to wander some ten miles out of the Park before blundering into the Guv’s trap.

 As it happens, while the case was first reported by out-of-state media, a Montana journalist, Nate Hegyi, of Missoula, was the reporter who developed the story. He told Slate, an online news magazine, that he had gotten a tip that the governor had trapped and killed a Yellowstone wolf on February 15, Presidents Day, and had been issued the warning citation for not completing the trapping course.

 The wolf trapping and shooting happened on private property, a ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, an executive with Sinclair Broadcasting Group which owns, among many other outlets, the NBC Montana TV stations. He has also been a financial supporter of Gianforte’s political campaigns. The ranch manager is also vice president of the Montana Trappers Association, and his name, as well as Gianforte’s, is on the trap’s required tag.

 Slate raises some questions about how it all happened. Did the Guv make a quick trip down to the ranch for the federal holiday weekend, set out a trap or two and 1155 immediately blundered into it, conveniently meeting his demise before the Guv had to go back to the capitol? Another scenario might be the ranch manager setting traps, finding a catch and then calling the Guv to come down to the ranch to dispatch the critter. If that was the case, it would be in violation of regulations, as an uncollared wolf must be dispatched immediately. A collared wolf must be either released or dispatched immediately.

 The New York Times reported that Gianforte told a news conference that he has been trapping wolves since he was a “tot.” This is remarkable, considering he was born in California and grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before going to college in Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s no wonder that he was almost 60 years old before he finally found success.

 Of course, all this happens in the middle of a legislative session in which a multitude of bills have been introduced to greatly increase harvest of wolves, as well as try to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list. Nothing ever happens in a vacuum.

 We might also wonder who got to issue the warning citation to the Guv. Will there be books written about the warden? There is a best-selling series of mystery novels by Wyoming author C. J. Box about a fictional Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett, who, as a rookie warden, fearlessly issued a citation to the governor for fishing without a license.

 On a personal note, I’ll mention that, back on the Minnesota farm where I grew up, I occasionally ran a trapline for pocket gophers.

It was not one of my more successful endeavors.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Early Flyfishing amid Mass Shootings

Trophy of the day.

There’s something special about that first fishing trip of the season.

 While we’ve had a relatively mild winter, it was still cold and snowy, and there’s a season for everything, and since January, after hunting seasons dragged to a close, I’ve been happy to build cheery fires in the fireplace after fun days of skiing at Discovery.

 As the days lengthen and get warmer, however, I start looking at weather forecasts and making plans for fishing, not skiing. Writing about flyfishing in Ireland, as I did a couple weeks ago, certainly put me in a mood to quit thinking about fishing and actually go and do it.

 Part of the rituals of that first trip is to collect gear from its various storage areas in the garage and house and then to organize my collection of fly vests, gadgets, rods, reels, boots, waders and all the other paraphernalia we think necessary for fishing. I like to think that flyfishing is simpler and less complicated than other types of fishing. I don’t have a boat, motor, fish-finder, and other such toys that a bass or walleye angler might consider necessary. Nevertheless, after many years of flyfishing, the pile of stuff continues to grow.

Over the years, the Beartrap Canyon area of the lower Madison River has gotten to be a favorite for early season fishing. The river gets a lot of pressure; I’ve never been there when there weren’t other people fishing, whether wading or boating. Still, it’s remarkably productive, especially when we consider how warm the waters get in summer. The canyon is also notorious for poison ivy and rattlesnakes in summer, but in March and April that’s not an issue.

 The Madison River is also notorious for wind, and that was the case on this first outing. The weather forecast was for breezy conditions and so it was, with gusts that make one question the whole enterprise. The temperatures were actually pretty mild, but the wind coming off the icy river was cold.

Canada geese keeping an eye out for me.

 My expectations for fishing success were low, as these first trips of the year are more to get out than to expect a lot of fish action in the icy waters. It was a pleasant surprise, after about ten minutes of casting, to feel a fish on the end of my line, a small rainbow trout that grabbed my beadhead pheasant-tail nymph. About ten minutes later I caught a small whitefish. The trophy of the day was a 14-inch rainbow that put a nice bend in my 3-weight rod.

 I caught my first fish about 11 a.m., and the third fish just before noon. After that I never had a nibble.

 Still, I had enough action to call the outing a success. I got out on a favorite river, caught some fish, and my waders didn’t leak. Can’t ask for much more than that.

 Alas, since that happy outing, the news has been dominated by mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. While those events drew the most headlines, there were also mass shootings in Stockton, California, Gresham, Oregon, Houston and Dallas, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They didn’t have the death toll that the Atlanta and Boulder had, but that’s small comfort.

 According to Wikipedia there were 35 mass shootings in January, 41 in February, and 31 in March (as of March 23), with 122 deaths and 325 wounded. A mass shooting is defined as when three or more people are killed or injured by firearms violence.

 The Boulder shooter reportedly used an AR-type rifle, purchased the same day as the Atlanta shooting. Ironically, Boulder had, for the last two years, a ban on AR-type rifles, following the Margery Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Less than two weeks before the shooting, a judge barred the City of Boulder from enforcing the ban, because of an older state law that barred municipalities from making their own firearms rules.

 The National Rifle Association cheered the ruling, “A Colorado judge gave law-abiding gun owners something to celebrate.”

Tell that to the ten grieving families.

 Paul vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Winter Reading Book Report

The vernal equinox happened last Saturday at 3:47 in the morning, meaning that most of the world had approximately 12 hours of daylight, marking the beginning of astronomical spring. From now until June 20, our days will continue to get longer. We’re currently gaining time of daylight at the rate of about three minutes per day.

 One of my gauges of the arrival of spring is when the garlic I planted last October begins to emerge, and, sure enough, I saw the first shoot of garlic bravely make its appearance on March 4. A couple days later I heard the calls of a robin from somewhere in the neighborhood. Both were right on schedule.

 I went skiing on March 12, and when I got home I put my ski equipment away for the season, not because the skiing was bad, but because I decided that on my next outings I’d rather be standing in a river with fly rod in hand.

 During the winter months I’ve been doing a lot of reading, as usual, and I’ll share some notes on some books.

 Over the years, there have been a lot of books written about ruffed grouse hunting, and most of them have been set in eastern states, especially New England. A new exception is Idaho Ruffed Grouse Hunting by Andrew Wayment. In his day job, Andy is an attorney, based in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He also has serious hunting and fishing addictions and loves writing about it. While there is quite a bit of variety in upland bird hunting in Idaho, he is first and foremost a ruffed grouse hunter. Over the years, he has found a number of favorite spots, or coverts, where he finds ruffies, plus blue grouse, sharptailed grouse, even some occasional pheasants and quail.

Andy pays tribute to the traditional grouse writers such as William Harnden Foster and Burt Spiller, but his stories of dogs and birds are solidly set in the West. It’s published by The History Press.

 On the other hand, I had some interesting reading from author Jerry Hamza, who is definitely from the East, upstate New York, to be specific. He has a somewhat unusual background for an outdoor writer, as he spent some 30 years as a road manager for the late comedian, George Carlin. During those years of almost incessant travel he generally packed fishing and hunting gear, and in the process accumulated a lot of experiences. He also put in a stint as president of the Cat Fanciers Association, and in that position got to hunt and fish around the world. Yeah, who knew? I wasn’t kidding about his unusual background.

More to the point, he’s a heckuva writer and has written a couple books.  His first was Outdoor Chronicles – True Tales of a Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing, and more recently, The Zen of Home Water. This guy can write! In Zen, there’s a chapter about his joining a golf club just to get access to a golf course that has a pond on the 15th hole, known to have big largemouth bass. That story, alone, is reason to get his book. It’s published by Skyhorse Publishing.

 I’ve also been re-reading some older books, including A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, which I referenced in a recent column. Leopold’s writing bears up well, even after over 70 years since his death. One certainly gains an appreciation for his recognition as the father of scientific wildlife management and as an early thinker on ecology.

 I also re-read Hill Country and Mostly Tailfeathers, collections of essays by Gene Hill, who was a longtime editor and contributor to Field & Stream magazine, after years as an advertising copywriter for several Madison Avenue advertising agencies. He died in 1997. I had always regarded his writing as some of the best there was. Sorry to say, his writing back in the 1970s, when those books were published, actually seems dated. Excellent writing, but it seems out of date.

 Of course, I’d best not complain!

 Paul vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

For St. Patrick’s Day – Go Fish!

A modern day angler latched on to an Irish Atlantic salmon. (photo by flyfishinginIreland.com)

On this St. Patrick’s Day, and every other St. Patrick’s Day in recent memory, if you check TV listings, there’s a good chance that on one or several channels, you’ll find yet another showing of the classic John Ford movie, “The Quiet Man.” It was made in 1952, and tells the story of Sean Thornton, an Irish-born retired boxer, played by John Wayne, who returns to Ireland to buy the family farm, and, of course, falls in love with the beautiful redhead, Mary Kate Danaher, played by Maureen O’Hara. The movie was filmed on location in County Mayo, on the northwestern coast of Ireland.

One of the characters in the movie is Father Lonergan, a Catholic priest played by American actor Ward Bond. Father Longergan is a dedicated fly-fisherman, and in a memorable scene, the priest has finally hooked a big salmon, only to lose it during an angry confrontation with Mary Kate. 

So, if you’re inspired to go fishing in Ireland, what will the traveling angler find? Assuming, of course, that one of these days Covid will be under control and international travel will, again, be feasible.

The traveling angler should find an angling paradise, if the Irish angling websites aren’t grossly exaggerating the opportunities.

The island nation, the western edge of Europe, is, first of all, a wet country, with a lot of rain. There are many lakes, rivers and small streams all across the country, and that includes Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland, even in downtown Dublin. 

An Irish brown trout. Photo by flyfishinginIreland.com

The native trout of Ireland is the brown trout, with half a dozen subspecies or watershed variations on brown trout. Some brown trout go to sea and return to rivers and estuaries as big, well-fed, strong fish. Some lakes have an American import, rainbow trout. Atlantic salmon return to coastal rivers and tease anglers such as Father Lonergan.

Pike are another important sport fish in Ireland, and Ireland is known for large pike, that grow relatively quickly in the country’s mild climate. There is also a whole set of non-game native fish that have their devotees.

Of course, as the country is an island, the surrounding ocean waters open up another whole set of fishing opportunities.

There are many options for the traveling angler. If you want the luxury experience of full-service lodges and guided angling there are services that provide those amenities. 

If you’re on a smaller budget, do-it-yourself angling is also quite feasible. 

An Irish travel writer and angler, Eoin Bassett, in a 2013 Huffington Post story, says that the traveling angler can do quite well just by asking around for information. He says, “Start in the local tackle store. In Ireland these are more like private clubhouses. And if you’re a fellow angler you’re a member.” He goes on to say that if you’re visiting a town without a tackle store, stop at the local pub.

Keep in mind that access to rivers and streams is generally not free. However, it’s fairly easy to buy a day license from a local fishing club. Again, start at the local flyshop or pub to find local contacts.

Bassett also suggests to not worry too much. If you’re crossing over a bridge and decide to look down to see if any fish are feeding, and you just happen to have some time to kill and have angling equipment, just go fishing. The worst that can happen is that someone might come along and ask you to leave.

He tells of making one of those stops, and an elderly farmer came along to run him off. They actually have a pleasant conversation, ending with the farmer giving him some favorite flies and inviting him to fish his favorite pool. He told the farmer he saw feeding fish and couldn’t resist, and the farmer, a fellow angler, understood.

Incidentally, Ireland’s trout season begins today, on March 17, which seems altogether appropriate. Many Butte people make pilgrimages to Ireland to reconnect with their ancestral roots. Why not go fishing, too?

Legislating Wolves!

Wolves – always controversial.

Last year, Montana said farewell to Jim Posewitz, a much-loved biologist, ethicist, angler, hunter, and philosopher. 

Poz, as he was widely known, literally wrote the book on hunting ethics, Beyond Fair Chase. Poz also founded Orion, the Hunter’s Institute, which, as is stated on the organization’s website, “exists to protect the future of hunting by providing leadership on ethical and philosophical issues and to promote fair chase and responsible hunting.”

There’s also a famous quotation from Poz, “I wanted people to know what a great privilege hunting is, and how much work it took to restore America’s broken wildlife system. By the time I was born, we had cleaned this place out of wildlife. Now we have urban deer, bears in orchards and goose poop on every golf shoe in Montana. That’s no accident. It was a choice people made.”

Another hero in wildlife and hunting ethics is Aldo Leopold, considered the father of modern scientific wildlife management, and author of A Sand County Almanac, a book published posthumously after his death in 1948.

As a young man, Leopold worked for the Forest Service, and part of his job, while stationed in Arizona, was to kill predators.  In a short chapter, titled “Thinking Like a Mountain,” he tells of spotting a wolf with pups and opening fire on them, mortally wounding the mama wolf. 

He writes, “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes…I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”

Now, I wonder what Poz or Aldo Leopold would think about the Montana Legislature and an apparent effort to push wolves back to endangered species status, if not extirpation. 

Last week, at the halfway point of the legislative session, there was a pair of wolf bills, SB-267 and SB-314. 

SB-267 has been described as a “bounty bill,” which would allow groups to pay successful wolf hunters and trappers a fee to reimburse them for expenses. This is modeled on a program in Idaho, where an organization raises money to pay successful trappers $500 to $1000 per wolf.

SB-314 directs the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider more aggressive actions to reduce wolf populations, such as unlimited harvest by hunters or trappers, use of bait for hunting, and, on private land, night hunting using artificial light or night vision scopes.

Supporters of the bills point to several elk units in northwest Montana where there has been a decline in elk hunting success, and blame wolves for having a major impact on elk populations. As reported by Tom Kuglin of Lee Newspapers, elk populations in other units are stable or over goals, and biologists have not drawn a definitive link to wolves and reduced elk harvest in those northwest units. I suspect Chronic Wasting Disease may be a bigger factor.

Currently, hunting for wolves is permitted from September 15 to March 15, and trapping from December 15 to February 28. Except in a few units, primarily in areas adjoining Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, there are no bag limits or harvest quotas, other than a five tags per person limit. While baiting is not permitted, hunters may use scents to attract wolves. Night hunting is not allowed.

In short, for six months out of the year, Montana already has a long and liberal wolf hunting and trapping season across the state. The rules, while liberal, are within a kind of loose definition of fair chase.

If hunters think wolves are the reason they can’t find elk, they already have the tools they need to harvest wolves to their heart’s content. They shouldn’t need or expect payment, either. 

The essence of fair chase hunting is the privilege and opportunity to be in the great outdoors and participating in the hunt, and we shouldn’t expect further reward other than organically-grown food, or, in the case of wolves, the animal’s pelt.

Fish & Wildlife Board Issues

Andrew McKean (far left) with some of his hunter safety class students

As people often like to point out, “Elections have consequences.”

And how!

People who presumably consider themselves a hunter or angler, and might have voted for Greg Gianforte for governor last fall, because of campaign commercials showing him in hunting regalia, and boasting of his stances on gun rights, will now have four years to watch Montana’s famous hunting and fishing resources go down the tubes. 

Before the election, Gianforte’s opponents warned that Gianforte would accelerate trends to privatize wildlife and turn the management of hunting and fishing over to big landowners and outfitters.

Those fears are materializing.

There have been rafts of bills in the legislature that clearly go against the interests of rank and file hunters and anglers. One bill would have permitted outfitter-guaranteed hunting licenses, though later modified to allow early application for non-residents for an additional fee. Another would give up to ten elk permits to large landowners to sell to hunters. Still another would transfer supervision of fishing access sites and wildlife management areas from the fish and wildlife managers at FWP to the Parks people. So far, there have been no indications that the governor would veto these bills if they arrived on his desk.

The latest, however, is Gianforte’s appointments to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the public board that provides oversight over Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Of particular interest is Andrew McKean, of Glasgow. Former governor Steve Bullock nominated McKean to the commission to replace a previous member from Region 6 who had moved. Bullock’s nomination needs senate confirmation and the new governor first signaled that he supported McKean staying on the board.

Andrew McKean is a uniquely qualified person to serve on the Fish and Wildlife Commission. He worked six years as the FWP Region 6 information officer. He has been a newspaper editor, a Fishing and Hunting News editor, and is a former Editor in Chief of Outdoor Life magazine. He’s a hunting and bowhunting instructor. He was one of the founders of Highline Sportsmen, a volunteer organization dedicated to conservation and improving communications between sportsmen and landowners. I’ll note that I met Andrew at an outdoor writers conference, though I’ve never gotten any magazine assignments from him. McKean has a passion for the prairies and rivers of northeastern Montana, and the wildlife resources of the region.

Governor Gianforte has reversed his previous support and now wants Leslie Robinson of Dodson, Montana for the Region 6 member of the Commission. Ms. Dodson is a landowner and politician, a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and a county commissioner. She was Gianforte’s running mate when he first ran for governor in 2016.

Gianforte’s other nominees include KC Walsh, Executive Chairman of Simms Fishing Products, Brian Cebull a Safari Club International-Montana board member and an oil and gas executive, and Pat Tabor, a retired accountant turned outfitter and outdoor business consultant. Pat Byorth of Bozeman, who was confirmed in 2019, is a holdover member. Cebull and Walsh were major donors to Gianforte’s campaign.

According to a story in the Missoula Current, Tabor has five FWP citations on his record for illegally using state land. There have also been complaints of Tabor’s business dumping manure from his corrals and other garbage on public land. Tabor has also been accused of failing to submit accurate reports to the Board of Outfitters.

Brian Cebull’s affiliations with the petroleum industry make him suspect in my eyes. His affiliation with Safari Club International doesn’t necessarily make him an advocate for rank and file recreationists. Safari Club International is a big promoter of trophy hunting around the world, and that describes Cebull, too. He is on record as an opponent of the Endangered Species Act, especially regarding grizzly bears and sage grouse.

While I’m not enthusiastic about what might happen to Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, I will note that it’s now March, and it’s time to get that new fishing and hunting license for the 2021 license year, as well as to apply for special deer and elk permits, or apply for moose, sheep, goat and antelope licenses. You can do it all online.

Snowstorms & Blizzards!

Aftermath of the great North Dakota Blizzard of 1966

So, it turns out that we do get snow this winter.

Until that snowy first weekend of February, things were looking pretty bleak for winter snowpack. We needed snow, though it was a nasty surprise to get up on Sunday, February 7, with a foot of snow. We’d had snow the day before and we got things cleared and then had to start all over again on Sunday.

I took it easy that morning, having a better plan. I’d crank up my snowblower, which usually gets used about once a year, and move the snow without the big workout. 

I had it gassed up and ready to go, but the machine didn’t get the memo, and for the first time in the 30+ years I’ve had it, it refused to start. So, it was back to Plan A, and shoveling, with that Kenny Rogers tune, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, “ running through my head.

Not too much snow for Kiri, our black Lab, to want to play ball.

The biggest snowfall we’ve had during the 32 years we’ve lived here in Butte was the Christmas Eve of 1996 snowstorm that dropped an official 16 inches, though it seemed more like two feet.

When it comes to heavy snow, I vividly remember a storm that hit southern Iowa in December 1961. We were living in Des Moines for three months while I was going through a new employee training course with the Social Security Administration. I drove to work on a Friday morning at the end of that three-month period. It started snowing in the morning and it snowed all day. There was even thunder and lightning during the storm. At the end of the work day I tried to drive out of the parking lot and promptly got stuck. I gave up on that and started walking towards home. Luckily, somebody picked me up and gave me a ride. 

It stopped snowing by morning and my wife and I walked several miles to downtown. I was able to buy a snow shovel in a pet store, of all places, and found our car where I’d left it, with snowdrifts just about up to the level of the hood. It took a couple hours, but we shoveled a path out to the street. Then we went to a tire store and got a set of chains so I’d be able to drive into our apartment house, three blocks off from the nearest through street, with the U-Haul trailer we’d rented for our upcoming move to Fargo, North Dakota.

We spent the weekend packing and on Monday, Christmas Day, we ate a can of chicken noodle soup, right out of the pot, for our first Christmas Day dinner together, then got in the car to leave town. Six blocks later, I took the chains off and never used them again.

The biggest storm we’ve experienced was in March 1966, when a monster blizzard hit North Dakota. I was on crutches at the time, having fractured an ankle on my first try at downhill skiing a few weeks earlier. On a Wednesday, it started snowing. Co-workers gave me a ride home after work, promising they’d pick me up the next morning. The next morning, the snow was knee deep and nothing was moving. Then the wind started blowing, and for several days we could barely see across the street. 

Strange things happen in blizzards. Our landlord had a basement apartment in the house we rented and his son, who lived in California, was visiting, and parked his new Ford Mustang in the driveway. He’d grown up in Fargo and was there for a reunion with old high school friends, and while the winds howled, he stood by the back door looking out, muttering, “I’m never coming back here again.”

On Sunday, the winds subsided and people started digging out. As for that Mustang, the wind had blown the driveway clear, but the engine compartment was packed solid with wind-blown snow. 

That wasn’t bad. At married student housing at North Dakota State University on the northwest edge of town, drifts were up to the rooftops. 

Beating the Covid!

Your intrepid reporter, getting a Covid shot.

While many in the country were watching or listening in on the opening of the second impeachment trial of former president Trump, my wife and I were able to get our second covid-19 immunization. 

There are advantages to being geezers, in this case being near the front of the line of Phase 1B of the covid-19 immunization program. Even better, assuming we’ve survived whatever after-effects of the shot, and I did have some, we are now pretty confident that the coronavirus isn’t going to get us. We know we won’t live forever, but we’re now pretty sure that we won’t be hooked up to a respirator in an ICU, gasping for air, wishing we’d gotten those shots.

I’m all too aware that some people resist the idea of vaccinations—any vaccinations—for a variety of reasons, most of which are, in my opinion, ridiculous. 

For those of you who pass on vaccinations, especially now the covid-19 vaccinations, I’ll point out that this is the way out of what we’ve been going through this past year.

If you’re sick of wearing masks, tired of social distancing, missing out on hugs and handshakes, the lack of a social life, not being able to go to athletic events, or church or concerts or family reunions, and every other thing you’ve hated about this past year, as have I, this is our way out. 

If you’re tired of living in fear that you might catch it, or that a loved one might catch it, or that a loved one might catch it and not survive, this is our way out.

Our local health departments are the heroes in this long uphill slog to make us safer during the pandemic. My advice is to follow their instructions and don’t try to crash the lines as they work their way through occupation, age and health groups. This race to immunize our local communities, our nation and the world is not a sprint; it’s a super marathon. It’s a super marathon in which all of us can be winners.

Moving on to the latest from Montana’s loony tune legislature, I have to echo comments from my good friend, and former Montana Standard reporter, Nick Gevock, the Director of Conservation for the Montana Wildlife Federation.

Nick wrote about, and it was widely printed in Montana newspapers, one of the dumber things (and there are many!) to come out in the session, House Joint Resolution No. 5, introduced by Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Lolo. Mr. Tschida’s proposed resolution asserts that taxes on firearms constitute an unconstitutional infringement on American citizens’ right to bear arms. 

Mr. Tschida’s bill is, first of all, nonsense. A state cannot unilaterally declare a federal law unconstitutional. It’s an attempt at nullification, a notion long discredited through our nation’s history, though the idea never really goes away.

Second, his bill attacks one of the nation’s great success stories, the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, often referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act, in which a federal excise tax is levied on firearms and ammunition sales for wildlife conservation. The Act was later modified with the Dingell-Johnson Act to also levy a tax on fishing equipment to help fund fisheries projects.

Sportsmen and women, over the years, have proudly pointed to those excise taxes as something we are happy to pay because it helps fund wildlife management, acquisition of property for wildlife management, and to provide public access for outdoor recreation.

A few of the many pheasants I’ve successively hunted on public lands funded by Pittman-Robertson revenues.

Over the years, I have spent many happy days tramping across public lands in Montana and North Dakota that have been acquired or improved, or managed through Pittman-Robertson funds. Some signage has noted the property was a P-R Project, which I once thought it meant it was a public relations project. Nope, it was from the Pittman-Robertson excise tax that we hunters have cheerfully paid so that, hopefully, wildlife could thrive on these lands.

I’ll close with a quote from Nick’s article. “Don’t let anyone who supports this measure tell you they’re for hunters. In fact, they’re working to destroy our sporting traditions.”

Enjoy the Great Backyard Bird Count!

We have a big weekend coming up. Sunday is Valentine’s Day; don’t forget to do something special for that special person in your life. Monday is the Washington’s birthday holiday, or Presidents’ Day, as many of us call it. 

Those landmark days mean that this weekend, Friday, February 12 through Monday, the 15th, is also time for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).

This will be the 24th annual GBBC, when citizen scientists around the country and around the world break out of the house and take a walk around the neighborhood, or to a local park, and see what birds are out there, and then go online to report sightings.

Last year’s Bird Count set records for the event, with some 250,000 lists of birds submitted, from more than 100 countries, identifying nearly 7,000 of the world’s estimated 10,000 bird species.

We’re having an unusually mild and warm winter, or at least it was until last week when I started writing this column. That means there’s a chance we might find some birds that aren’t often around during a more typical winter. 

There was a morning, back in January, when I was surprised to hear the sound of a robin calling in my neighborhood. As far as I could tell, it was alone, because no other robins were returning its calls. So, I don’t know whether it was late to the southward migration, or if it decided to stay the winter, or if it was taking an early flight north.

About a week ago, I heard some different birdcalls coming from high in an aspen tree next to our house. It was mostly white with some black markings. I’m afraid this one stumped me, as I couldn’t find it in the field guides on my bookshelf. 

At any rate, the GBBC is designed to get a snapshot of where the birds are at this point of late winter, before spring migrations start. 

It’s easy to participate in the GBBC. Go for a 15-minute or longer walk in a favorite area, perhaps taking a camera or binoculars. Keep track of the birds you see and, hopefully, identify. Then go online to birdcount.org and submit your list. 

It’s a good project for a family, or a Scout group, or a class. Naturally, during this pandemic year, if you go out in a group, wear a mask and maintain social distancing. 

The Presidents’ Day holiday, again, is officially Washington’s Birthday, and is observed on the third Monday of February. 

George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731 on the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, Great Britain and the British Empire, including the British colonies in North America, adopted the Gregorian calendar, which had the effect of changing Washington’s birthday to February 22, 1732. 

George Washington served as Commander in Chief of the fledgling new nation’s army in our revolt against British rule from 1775 to 1783, with rebel forces eventually wearing down the resolve of King George and the British Parliament to continue hostilities.

Washington was among the first leaders to recognize the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and urged a constitutional convention to come up with a strong constitution. He became our first president, and later set the precedent of serving just two terms as president.

Unfortunately, like many of the Founding Fathers, Washington left a mixed legacy as he was a Virginia landowner and counted his wealth in the value of his land and slaves, and there were over 300 slaves at Mt. Vernon at the time of his death, though under the terms of his will, they were all freed by 1801.

Nevertheless, George Washington is the only Founding Father who was regarded as “godlike,” and was referred to as “Father of his country” as early as 1778, long before the end of the revolution and his later service as president. After almost 250 years, he is still considered among our best, if not the best, presidents. 

So, this weekend it’s Hail to the Chief, kiss your special Valentine, and check out some birds.

NRA Files for Bankruptcy

AP News photo

So, this business owner was going broke. He was losing customers, and creditors were circling like a flock of vultures. In desperation he went to his pastor for counseling.

The pastor listened to his tale of woe and then advised him, “Sometimes, when I’m troubled about something, I’ll go to the beach with my Bible, sit down, close my eyes, and open the book and let the wind blow the pages, and when it stops I’ll look down and read. You may find your answer that way.”

So, the businessman followed his advice and a year later he came back to the pastor with a big donation to the church, as well as a gift certificate for dinner at the finest restaurant in town. He explained that his business was now thriving and he wanted to express his appreciation for the wise counsel he got the year before.

So, the pastor, overcome by the generosity, asks, “So, when you went to the beach, what did you read when the wind stopped?”

The businessman smiled and said, “Chapter 11.”

I doubt that Wayne LaPierre came on the idea of Chapter 11 for saving the National Rifle Association in quite that way, but that is the NRA’s tactic right now, as the gun lobby group tries to cope with lawsuits filed against the organization from New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James.

A.G. James sued the NRA in August, seeking to dissolve the non-profit corporation because of mismanagement and corruption. Accusations of corruption, I’ll note, are not just from so-called gun-control advocates, but from former NRA president Oliver North, as well as other disgruntled board members.

The NRA announced, in January, that the organization would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect its assets, and then seek to re-charter the NRA in Texas. In a New York Times report, Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman and NRA board member, commented, “It has nothing to do with the NRA’s financial posture, which is very, very strong. It is simply a legal vehicle to move under protection of federal laws to escape the abuse by the New York authorities.”

The Times story notes that the NRA isn’t “under water,” with more debts than assets. The NRA reports assets worth $50 million more than its debts.

David Dell’Acquila, a former NRA supporter and donor, is suing the NRA and would presumably try to intervene in the bankruptcy proceedings. His lawyer said, “We believe that the NRA’s bankruptcy case is a bad faith attempt to block New York State’s effort to monitor the NRA’s corporate governance.”

I will continue to follow the developing NRA story, but back here in Montana, we have a different kind of firearms issue at the Montana legislature. HB 102, which appears to be steamrolling its way through the Republican-controlled legislature, would largely repeal almost any and all kinds of restrictions on firearms in Montana. 

The bill, carried by Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, would reduce legal restrictions governing open and concealed carry that supposedly reduce Montanans’ ability to defend themselves.

The bill further restricts the Montana Board of Regents and the University System from regulating the carrying of firearms on college campuses in Montana.

From what I’ve seen, about the only restriction that the bill would put on a college student having a gun on campus would be consent from a roommate to have firearms in their dormitory room.

The University System’s current rules go back 30 years to when a Montana State University student shot and killed another student. 

From what I’ve seen, University System administrators and faculty widely oppose the idea of students packing guns around on campus. The ASUM, the student government of the University of Montana in Missoula, has gone on record opposing it.

From my standpoint as a lifelong gun owner, hunter and shooter, I really am disturbed by this push to have everybody carrying guns around. Would you feel comfortable having people carrying assault rifles in the state capitol, such as happened in Michigan last year, or college students, full of beer and testosterone, carrying concealed handguns?

I certainly don’t.

Let Keystone XL Die!

Protesters in Lincoln Nebraska in 2019. AP Photo.

The announcement, a week ago, that one of the first actions President Joe Biden would take would be to reverse the previous administration’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, received a predictable reaction from Montana’s politicians.

For better or worse, Montana politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, have, by and large, supported the Keystone XL pipeline project, primarily from the jobs standpoint, temporary as they are. There was also the possibility that the pipeline would carry some crude oil from the Bakken oil field of North Dakota and eastern Montana.

The pipeline has had a controversial history. The Keystone pipeline system plan came into being in 2010, and it’s co-owned by TC Energy, a Calgary, Alberta energy company, with a presence in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., and the Government of Alberta. 

Several phases of Keystone are operational, with a pipeline running from Alberta, through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, then entering the U.S. in eastern North Dakota, going south through the Dakotas and Nebraska, where it branches off to route crude oil to refineries in Illinois and the Gulf Coast.

The Keystone XL pipeline, if completed, would run a larger pipeline through a shorter route, crossing across northeastern Montana, with a connection in Baker, Montana, where it would also take on crude from the Bakken oil fields. 

While crude oil from the Bakken is part of the project, crude oil from tar sands in northern Alberta would be the main product.

The XL project has been controversial, with many starts and stops. Issues have included giving TC Energy rights of eminent domain to run the pipeline through private property, over objections from private property owners. In 2015, Congress approved construction of the line. President Obama vetoed that action. In later developments, Secretary of State John Kerry determined that the project was not in the public interest, and President Obama denied a federal permit for XL.

In his first week in office, President Trump issued a memorandum to revive the XL pipeline, and in March 2017, he signed a presidential permit to build XL. Despite this, there have been numerous legal challenges and the most recent court decision came when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request from the Trump administration to allow construction of parts of the pipeline that had been blocked by a Montana federal judge, Butte native Brian Morris.

While Keystone XL may currently be stalled because of court actions, economics may be a larger factor in the long run.

According to a New York Times story, economists estimate that producing petroleum from Canadian tar sands is only profitable when global oil prices range between $65 and $100. In 2020, global oil prices averaged around $40 a barrel, and are projected to stay below $50 a barrel through 2022, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration, the statistics office of the Energy Department.

The Times story quotes Kevin Book, of ClearView Energy Partners, a research firm, who says, “The Keystone XL has been pending for a decade. If you can go one decade without it, investors might reasonably question if you can go three.”

While the Biden Administration was expected to cancel XL approval from the standpoints of climate change and of moving away from an oil-based economy, reversing Trump policy, there are many issues with XL. 

The pipeline would cross both the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in Montana, with serious risks of oil pollution in both Montana and North Dakota if a pipeline ruptured. In 2019, the existing Keystone pipeline ruptured and caused a big mess in Walsh County, North Dakota, where we lived prior to our move to Butte in 1988.

Producing petroleum from the Alberta oil sands involves injecting steam and chemicals deep into the tar sands to melt and extract petroleum. It’s costly and environmentally damaging.

Something I often wonder is why can’t Canada refine the petroleum and export the gas and oil, instead of sending crude all the way to the Gulf Coast?

In short, I applaud the new Biden Administration’s actions to let Keystone XL wither on the vine. It’s not worth it.