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.

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