Montana Editorial Roundup
Billings Gazette, Feb. 20, on Montana’s bear management strategy:
Nine-tenths of a grizzly sow and 5.9 “independent male” grizzlies will live another year in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem without being pursued by trophy hunters.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission made the decision last Thursday to forego a Yellowstone grizzly hunt in 2018.
The fractions of bear allocation were derived from an agreement between Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The three-state pact sets up a structure for determining how many Yellowstone grizzlies must survive to maintain the species and how many could be hunted now that the bears have been removed from the federal endangered species status. Based on an official 2017 estimate of 718 bears in the management region, the agreement would allow a possible hunting quota of 17 males and 2.5 females. Montana’s share of the quota is 34 percent because that’s the portion of the management area in the state.
“This is not a decision to not ever have a hunting season,” Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion of Livingston said. “There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved before our department spends a significant amount of resources setting up a season. This retains maximum flexibility moving forward into an increasingly difficult situation.”
The commission followed the recommendation of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“Our focus, now they are delisted, is managing the iconic species for long-term recovery and at the same time having the ability to respond to conflicts in the Yellowstone ecosystem,” Montana FWP Director Martha Williams said in a news release before the commission meeting.
“Holding off on hunting for now, I believe, will help demonstrate our commitment to long-term recovery and at the same time allow us the science-based management flexibility we need,” Williams said, adding that FWP is working to prevent human-bear conflicts and to educate people in bear country how to be bear aware.
If the commission had approved a hunt, the taking of even one female grizzly would have ended the season for all. The hunter opportunity would have been very limited.
Multiple lawsuits filed by conservation and Native American groups are challenging the delisting. At this point, plans for a hunt could get entangled with efforts to get the bears relisted.
Now that the states are in charge of Yellowstone area grizzly management, they must show that they are capable of maintaining the population at a healthy level. Montana is demonstrating that it will make balanced decisions that prevent the bear population from dwindling in the park and in the vast, mountainous national forests that surround Yellowstone.
So far, Idaho hasn’t decided whether to have a Yellowstone grizzly hunt this year. Wyoming Game and Fish Department is drafting hunting regulations at the direction of its commission, which is expected to consider final hunting regulations at a May 23 meeting in Lander, Wyoming.
Kudos to Montana’s wildlife managers for having the wisdom to avoid rushing into a hunt in the first year after delisting. The grizzlies living in Yellowstone, who sometimes range out of the park, are valuable for millions of park visitors who arrive from all over the world wanting to see wild animals in their natural habitat.
Montana is staking out a smart start on successful long-term grizzly management. Wyoming and Idaho should follow its lead.
Montana Standard, Feb. 18, on upgrades to Butte’s infrastructure:
Butte got its first look at the latest in a stunning line of community capital improvements recently, and the view was stupendous.
The new $10.5 million airport terminal, financed largely with federal dollars, is a knockout. It will provide visitors with a great first impression, and make flying in and out of The Mining City a far more pleasurable experience.
When we think about the new $30 million-plus water treatment plant, the new $34 million wastewater treatment plant, the new $7.4 million Uptown parking garage, and the coming water park, carousel building and transformed Stodden Park, we realize that the quality of life in Butte is being dramatically enhanced before our eyes.
The inevitable result will be increased economic development — particularly if a restored creek and completed Superfund cleanup is factored into the equation — and growth.
While it’s great that all of these amenities will play a role in attracting new residents, the best thing of all is that the benefits are accruing right now to those of us who already live here.
We are grateful for the hard work, vision, and generosity of so many in the community who are contributing to all of these projects, but we offer a particular tip of the Stetson to the Butte-Silver Bow planning, community development, and parks and recreation teams, who all have had huge roles in these improvements.
We should remember, the best thing we can do with the new airport terminal is use it. In today’s hypercompetitive regional aviation environment, we see frequent notices about improvements and expansion to service in Helena, Missoula and Bozeman. It’s vital that we patronize our airport as much as possible so that its financial future is assured and more flights to and from Butte become a possibility.
Butte’s central location and the airport’s free parking make it a great portal to Montana for visitors and a gateway to the rest of the world for us. As the flight attendant says at the end of the trip, “We know you have choices when you fly.” But the more often you and your friends and family can choose an itinerary that includes Butte, the better.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feb. 18, on celebrating 125 years of Montana State University:
As Montana State University celebrates 125 years of higher education, we all have reason to join in. From the humblest of beginnings, MSU has grown to be the state’s largest university with a national reputation for research. And that has yielded incalculable benefits for all Montanans - not just those who attend the school.
In the nation’s darkest hour — the Civil War — Congress was able to pass the Morrill Act, the legislation that sparked the establishment of land grant universities. The act recognized there was a growing middle class and a need for wider access to higher education beyond wealthy aristocrats.
MSU became Montana’s land grant university in 1893 and it has lived up to the promise of the Morrill Act. Today more than 16,000 students are enrolled — a majority of whom are Montanans. And those in-state students receive some of the most affordable higher education in the country.
But not only do the students and their families benefit from MSU. Graduates staff the state’s workforce with some of its most qualified employees. Graduates have also started companies - notably in the tech sector — that provide high-paying jobs. MSU research has helped farmers and ranchers increase crop yields and find new national and international markets for their products through the help of some 60 extension offices throughout the state. MSU engineering and research has gone into making our roads and bridges safer. The university’s education and nursing programs have churned out teachers for our schools and health care professionals for our hospitals and clinics.
And, as a side benefit, MSU brings us high-quality concerts, theater and sports to add to the menu of local entertainment.
The political dialog in the state and nation has not been all kind to higher education in recent years, with a significant segment of our elected leaders regarding universities as elitist and voting to pull back funding. But through it all, MSU has thrived, growing its enrollment by 37 percent over the last 10 years. And it has done so with its stellar reputation for the highest quality education and by keeping costs to students as low as possible.
As part of the celebration of its 125th anniversary, a statue of Abraham Lincoln — the president who signed the Morrill Act into law — was unveiled on the MSU campus. That was appropriate. Were he here today, he would be pleased to see what the federal aid provided for the establishment of MSU has yielded.
And so should we all.