I took advantage of a halfway decent day last week to practice social distancing on the Big Hole River. I enjoyed the outing and my usual partner, Kiri, really enjoyed it, as she scampered around riparian woodlands along the river.
The fish catching? Let’s just say that the trout were also practicing social distancing, as far as paying attention to the flies I was casting in their direction. Some fish were occasionally rising to midges, but not my humble imitations.
While outdoor recreation is permitted under the current “stay home” policies, we’re going to find some restrictions.
First of all, the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest has closed all Forest Service campgrounds in southwest Montana. Campgrounds in the Lolo and Lewis & Clark National Forests are also closed, so I surmise that all other National Forest campgrounds are closed until further notice.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced changes to FWP recreation areas. State parks, fishing access sites and wildlife management areas remain open for day use only. Overnight camping will not be allowed. Bathrooms at many locations may be limited because of current lack of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Group use sites and visitor centers and playgrounds, where applicable, are closed. FWP also suggests that if a fishing access site or state park parking lot seems crowded, people should find another place to recreate.
Currently, both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are closed, and discussions are underway about whether to close all the Parks, as the National Park Service reports that seven employees have tested positive to the virus.
Bureau of Land Management recreation areas remain open for fishing and camping, according to a Butte BLM spokesman. While facilities are open, services, including outhouse cleaning, may be limited, and people should maintain social distancing.
The current novel coronavirus or covid-19 pandemic dominates the media like few things we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. With print, broadcast, cable, internet, and social media, we are inundated with news and controversy to a level unprecedented during any prior major event in our nation’s history.
Make no mistake; what is happening right now, from a local, state, national, or international perspective, is a watershed moment in history.
The current pandemic has prompted many of us to look back at the so-called Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, an event that became entwined with the other great event of the time, the Great War, or World War I, as it became. Here in the U.S., the epidemic spread like wildfire in military training camps and troopships. According to Wikipedia, there is evidence that influenza was present in Europe as early as 1915. That pandemic raged around the world through 1920, and the final death toll ranged from 17 million to 100 million.
The current pandemic started in China and in just a few months it has spread around the world. Here in the U.S., we went from one case in Washington in January, to, as of a week ago, over 186,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths, and those numbers will likely be substantially higher by the time anybody reads this, and experts forecast that the death toll could be between 100,000 to 200,000—in a best case scenario.
As we close down businesses, church services, concerts, and everything else involving any kind of gatherings of people, as we try to “flatten the curve,” our economy is going into recession and it’s hard telling whether we’ll experience another depression like we had in the 1930s. It’s heartbreaking to think of the many small businesses that may not survive.
Of course, all this is happening in the middle of a presidential election year, as well, and how the country was managed or perceived to be managed, during this time will most likely determine how many Americans will vote in November.
Meanwhile, as our attention is distracted, the Trump administration is busy selling oil and gas drilling leases on BLM lands, throwing air and water pollution safeguards under the bus, suspending criminal penalties for corporate actions that kill birds, and rolling back auto gas economy standards.