Friday, December 15, 2017

On the Wild Edge: A "Must Watch" for Hunters

I sometimes feel like an anti-hunter who hunts.

I recently felt that way when I watched a popular celebrity hunter claim that “we hunters” brought wildlife back from the brink of extinction, and therefore it’s ours, and nonhunters have no right ruining everything with actions such as “bringing wolves back.” Another so-called hunting hero claims to hunt for meat while traveling the world and paying guides to help him kill more animals per-year than Disney's Gaston himself could consume. Both hunting "reality-show" hosts are spokesman, of sorts, for one of the better hunting-conservation organizations, which claims to be “the sportsmen’s voice” for hunters.

They don’t speak for me.

Neither do the more popular groups who claim wolves are annihilating elk herds; hunters are being “shut out” of our public lands because we can’t ride ATVs everywhere; we need to kill grizzlies, and there’s “anti-hunters” hiding behind every tree, out to stop our “God-given American heritage and way of life.” They tend to focus more on and defend hunting opportunity rather than conservation.

Despite bragging about a successful “North American Model of Wildlife Management,” with tenants against the commercialization of wildlife and in support of “sound, scientific” management, hunting has become tremendously commercialized and many hunters only support “scientific management” when the science supports their preconceived notions (such as slaughtering wolves to maintain artificially high populations of elk for hunters to kill).  Even the most conservation-minded hunting groups go with the flow to appease the masses – or, what the famed hunter-conservationist Aldo Leopold called “the lowest common denominator.”
Like an accused communist of the McCarthy era, an employee of "the Sportsmen's Voice" insults “enviros” and “greenies” to reassure their members he’s not “one of them!”

Among the so-called “conservation organizations” that a giant sporting-goods chain boasts about giving money to is the National Rifle Association – apparently because they “conserve” our “right” to hunt with weapons designed for war, capable of killing, say, 20 kids and seven adults at an elementary school kids in less than five minutes; 49 people at a nightclub, or 58 at a concert?  

Although I’ve pursued, killed and eaten numerous elk and deer from the backcountry of Montana over the past 30-plus years, I belong on the Island of Misfit Hunters; I just don’t fit in.  

Aldo Leopold addressed such issues more than 50 years ago. One of his conclusions: “The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport; it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer. Wildlife administrators are too busy producing something to shoot at to worry much about the cultural value of the shooting.

There are, however, leaders (Leopold himself being one of them). They just don’t appeal to the corrupted culture of hunting – they don’t bring in the money like the hunting equipment and entertainment industry does.

When people new to hunting ask me for good learning material, I don’t send them to the Outdoor Channel or Outdoor Life. I suggest they read “A Sand Country Almanac” by Aldo Leopold; “Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethics and Traditions of Hunting,” by Jim Posewitz, and “A Hunter’s Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport,” by David Petersen – an anthology of writers who are leaders regarding the moral and ethical challenges of hunting.

After watching a film produced by Christopher Daley, called “On The Wild Edge:Hunting For a Natural Life,” I now also recommend it not only to new hunters, but all hunters; a “must watch” if ever there was one. I never thought I could enjoy a hunting video. I was wrong. Then again, calling “On the Wild Edge” a hunting video is like calling “A River Runs Through It” a fishing story. It may be true, but doesn’t quite to it justice, perhaps could even come across as an insult.

The film focuses on writer, philosopher and hunter David Petersen, “taking us along on the most difficult hunt of his life, revealing the intimate connection to the wild place and wild experiences that define him as a person and informs his strict code of ethics.” He, too, is a hunter critical of hunting. “I want the good part to prosper,” he says. “But I hate what our culture has done to that.” With people seeking easier, faster, more high-tech ways to find and kill animals, we lose the kind of hunting that “bonds us to this world,” he says.

During the 67-minute video, we see a lot more than David Petersen hunting. We hear elk bugling, yes, but we also see and hear ravens, jays, bears and watch a chipmunk attempt to rob him from his hunting pack – all seemingly unaware of his presense. In other words: We see and hear (and can almost smell) what hunters often see, hear and smell -- the wilds.  But we also get to hear Petersen's informed thoughts and philosophies on hunting. He says his “Zen-like” approach allows him to spy on the "intimate, relaxed side" to wildlife. “Hunting often has nothing to do with killing, and everything to do with an honest engagement with life.”

We also meet his friend Thomas, who he calls “Mr T.” and Thomas’ father and grandfather, three generations of hunters, “who value meat and dignity over macho, and deeply respect elk and elk country.”

What we don't see or hear is just as telling: We don't watch an elk get shot and die, and we don't see or hear promotions for hunting gadgets, products and profit. This film is NOT sponsored by the NRA or the Sportsman Channel. It's a real hunting video.

Petersen is an articulate, thoughtful hunter whose carefully-chosen words reflect knowledge and wisdom that comes from living a life so close to the land. “Ethically-hunted wild game offers huge, moral and health-advantages over chemically-polluted, production-line meat products,” he says. “Wild meat is organic, local and, done right, cruelty-free -- a gift from nature that sustains a bond of reciprocity between thoughtful hunters, our food and the wild landscapes that nuture us all, predator and prey alike. “

Petersen talks as passionately about his love for his wife, Carolyn, as he does for the land, which he makes clear is all interconnected. With cancer soon to take her away, he talks about how it “increasingly reminds me of life’s bittersweet fate -- Carolyn, the elk and me.” He hopes his ashes will someday be mixed with hers among the aspen groves he so loves, and the bones of elk he has killed. (In the film we visit one such spot. “I don’t keep skeletans in my closet,” he says, as he talks about his strong, mixed emotions about killing wild animals. “They are scarred through the mountains.”) He hopes someday his remains will nurture the lives that nurtured him.  “It’s deeply personal,” he concludes. “Every aspect of this isn’t pretty. But it’s real, it’s natural, it’s the way life works. In the end, all thing pass. That’s the song of life.”  

Filmmaker Christopher Daley says his hope for the film is that it captures David and Carolyn Petersens’ “exemplary commitment to living honest, uncluttered lives not merely ‘close to nature,’ but as active players in and courageous defenders of wild nature.” He succeeded!

To purchase a DVD, or rent or purchase a digital copy, click here: ON THE WILD EDGE.

Click on THIS to watch the official trailer

Friday, September 29, 2017

Semper Fi?

Paul Olenski: A Real Marine or Stolen Valor? 
Once again I attempted to have a rational, reasonable, respectful discussion with some others who claim to have been Recon Marines, on a Force Recon Association Facebook Page. Last time I did that the topic was gays in the military. Some of the so-called "Marines" on the site were bashing gays, expressing every homophobic insult you can think of. When I mentioned that I am gay, yet served honorably in 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, several of them -- including a guy from Arizona named Paul Olenski -- accused me of being a "phony," not a "real Marine," a "fake." Seriously. Some people's brain-housing groups are so tiny they can't even comprehend that there are gay Marines. It seems beyond their mental capacity. They can't respond respectfully or intelligently, so they fall back on insults to boost their fragile egos and comfort their insecurities

The more recent topic was NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. Some Marines expressed their understandable disapproval, stating that they think it's disrespectful to our nation and those who served our nation. I respectfully disagreed and stated my opinion on the matter: I don't think it's disrespectful to symbols of freedom to exercise freedom. Freedom is hardest to accept when people do things we may not like. Patriotism can't be forced upon others; there's a fine-line between patriotism and nationalism. Several so-called "Marines" berated me for my view, including (once again) Paul Olenski, who claims to have been a Recon Marine in Vietnam. He couldn't handle a rational, reasonable, respectful discussion so instead pitifully, childishly and humorously attempted to dig up "dirt" on me. He searched and found an old article about a time I was arrested for assault and posted it on the public forum in an apparent attempt to discredit and shame me. (It didn't work: I don't regret hurting a guy who robbed the store I was working at and threatened me and my family. Fortunately, all charges were dropped when the Judge witnessed the store's video tape and said my actions were in self-defense and justified.)  Paul Olenski didn't care about the facts; he just wanted to insult and attack me in anyway he could because I view a topic differently than he does. He apparently hates disagreement. He apparently hates freedom. He apparently hates our Constitution. He apparently hates what our nation stands for. While complaining about what he perceives as people being "disrespectful" to veterans, he insults and disrespects veterans.

(Interestingly enough, as an aside, a quick online search reveals that a Paul Olenski who fits his description and lives in his neck of the woods is on a sexual offender register. He's no Marine.)

Later, a Marine friend of mine posted a heartfelt story about a fellow Marine who lost his life saving his life. It so happens that Marine hero who save his life was gay and black, and had shared numerous stories with my friend about the hate, discrimination, racism and bigotry he had experienced throughout his life. My friend then related the story to the current protests by some NFL players regarding hate, discrimination, racism and bigotry, and concluded by saying all Marines should speak out and support their rights, freedom and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution we took an oath to defend.

The response? Several so-called "Marines," including (again) Paul Olenski, posted hateful, derogatory, bigoted comments about the gay, black Marine hero. Seriously. Some of them then defensively claimed to not be racist. (They're so ignorant and incapable of self-reflection that they don't even know they're racist.)

Sadly, people like Paul Olenski seem to dominate the Force Recon Association site. They bully others. The majority, who are good people, seem to remain quite -- and with people like Paul Olenski on there, I can understand why.  There are too many like him who can't comprehend diversity; who don't really understand the principles of liberty that are the bedrock of our nation and Constitution.

I served with some great men, and a lot of good, smart people have served in Force Recon. unfortunately some of them, like Paul Olenski, are ignorant, mean, racist, bigoted, miserable men who seem to hate diversity and freedom. They think because they served to protect freedom, they can dictate the values, beliefs and behaviors of others. Ironically, they work against the very nation and Constitution they profess to cherish.

Hardly what I would call Marines.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Wake People Up!" (The Horrors of Nuclear War)

When John Hersey's story "Hiroshima" was first published in the New Yorker in 1946, one of the magazine's editors, William Shaw, said the importance of the piece was to "wake people up" to the reality and horrors of nuclear war.

Hersey, then a war correspondent, was one of the first Americans to see the devastation caused by the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. His story (later published as a book) focused on six survivors, and describes in horrific, gruesome detail the aftermath of the bombing --including men, women and children with melted eyeballs, or vaporized, leaving only their shadows etched onto walls. The story provided Americans with a different view of the Japanese people than the demonizing propaganda generally portrayed in the media during war time. These were real people, not so different from us, most of them innocent of the atrocities committed by leaders they did not choose, victims of circumstances beyond their control. According to Hersey's account, most of them did not blame the United States, but rather blamed their own government.

The bombing of Hiroshima destroyed 5 square miles of the city. An estimated 180,000 people died. Another 100,000 died when another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Thousands more suffered and died from cancer, birth defects, deformities and other tragic results of radiation poison.

In Hersey's words:

"Their faces were wholly burned, their eyesockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks.”  

"The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns—of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. Many, although injured themselves, supported relatives who were worse off. Almost all had their heads bowed, looked straight ahead, were silent, and showed no expression whatsoever."

"The scene inside was so terrible and so compelling that it had not occurred to him to ask any questions about what had happened beyond the windows and doors. Ceilings and partitions had fallen; plaster, dust, blood, and vomit were everywhere. Patients were dying by the hundreds, but there was nobody to carry away the corpses."

"They did not move and he realized that they were too weak to lift themselves. He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slipped off in huge, glovelike pieces. He was so sickened by this that he had to sit down for a moment.On the other side, at a higher spit, he lifted the slimy living bodies out and carried them up the slope away from the tide. He had to keep consciously repeating to himself, These are human beings."

“The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?”

In regards to Hersey's story, Time magazine published this:

“Every American who has permitted himself to make jokes about atom bombs, or who has come to regard them as just one sensational phenomenon that can now be accepted as part of civilization, like the airplane and the gasoline engine, or who has allowed himself to speculate as to what we might do with them if we were forced into another war, ought to read Mr. Hersey."

Perhaps we all ought to read (or reread) Mr. Hersey. It's time, once again, to "wake people up."

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Volatile Brew of Plausible Deniability

It's 2017. Are we seriously anxiously awaiting for the so-called president of the United States to denounce white supremacy, and act relieved when or if he actually does?

"They're thugs," he says.

They're not thugs. They're not hoodlums. They're not hooligans. They're fucking racists. Terrorists! They think they're better than others because of the color of their skin, and they use bullying, threats, intimidation, fear and violence in an attempt to subdue and control others.

They think they're better than others because, in large part, the GOP leadership, for years, has told them they're better than others. They tell them that minorities hate them. They tell them that non-whites are all on welfare and living off their hard-earned tax dollars. They tell them that non-whites rape, rob and kill. They tell them that non-whites are sneaking across our borders and taking their jobs. They tell them that non-whites are turning their religious beliefs into law and supplanting U.S. law. They tell them that those who don't believe them hate America and are part of the problem. They tell them they need guns, lots and lots of guns, to defend themselves and America. They tell them all this and more, lots more, to feed, instill and incite fear, anger, hate and win votes.

In the meantime it is they, the GOP leadership, taking their money and health care and jobs and brain matter and souls to increase wealth and power for a relatively small percentage of elitists.

And people believe them. People fucking believe them! People who think they are superior to others do not have the brain power of critical thinking to see the obvious; to see what's right in front of their noses. They could be drowning in the hot floods of climate change and if the GOP leadership tells them it's the fault of non-whites and gays and liberals and refugees and only they, only the GOP leadership, the only real Americans, can throw them a lifeline  . . . they actually fucking believe it!

And so they flood to the polls and vote Republican. They wave American flags and evoke the name of Jesus while ranting against refugees, the poor, the sick, the libtards, the snowflakes, the non-whites . . . the 'others'.  They want to make America great again.

This volatile mix of frustration, confusion, ignorance, half-truths, lies and, yes, stupidity boils over to anger, rage, hate and violence. Some now wave Confederate flags, and Gadsten "Don't Tread on Me" flags and Nazi flags. Nazi flags! In the United States of America.

Some drive their cars into hordes of peaceful protesters.


These people think they're true Americans. The only Americans. Patriots! And they're dangerously dumb enough to think they're superior.

It's a recipe for insanity, and GOP leaders are the master brewers, adding a potent dose of plausible deniability, while continually feeding the monsters of their creation growing out of control.

They call these monsters "Thugs." 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Extremely Extreme Huntress: Get Out of Bed and Get Some!

Extreme Huntress Kristi Puts the Hammer on a Coyote 
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has organized a "get in shape for hunting with fellow hunters hike" up to the "M" on Mount Sentinel in Missoula, Montana, early Monday and Tuesday mornings ("Hunting season's just around the corner . . . so get out of bed and get some!"). You don't want to miss it, I am told, because Kristy Titus will be on the hike!

Not wanting to miss anything big, and not knowing who Kristy is, I looked her up.

Kristy is an "Extreme Huntress" who apparently wears a lot of make-up while traveling the world and sometimes paying guides to help her kill a variety of animals for profit, entertainment and amusement. She represents the wolf-hating Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as part of "Team Elk," and hosts "NRA Women" while appearing on a variety of hunting shows (including "Pursue the Wild") to promote and defend our "hunting heritage," which nowadays seems to mean supporting an industry of high-tech gadgets as well as policies that diminish our wildlife and wild places while waving a "conservation" flag, quoting Aldo Leopold and pretending to be Theodore Roosevelt.

"Stand and fight with NRA!" she says. . . you know, the gun-industry's public relations firm and branch of the GOP that helps fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- which is leading the push to sell our public lands -- as well as backing politicians who deny climate change and other science, and want to gut the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and other laws, regulations and agencies that protect the wildlife and wild places we claim to cherish -- all so we can focus on the more important, bogus, fear-mongering claims of fictitious boogeymen (and boogeywomen) who are surely going to take all of our guns away . . . one of these days . . . you'll see! 

But hey, she extremely pursues extremely dangerous game in extremely rugged, extremely dangerous, extreme places while looking extremely good, just like all the famous macho-men hunting heroes who kill for profit, amusement and entertainment. That's pretty extremely cool, dude . . . right? 

In one of her "Out West with Kristy Titus" live-blog videos -- sponsored by RealTree, Swarovski Optik, RMEF Team Elk, Trophy-Taker, Cabela's and "Always Lethal" Under Armour -- she shares tips from the Titus family ("excellent sources of information for coyote and bobcat hunting") on killing predators. As a bonus, she puts "the hammer" on a coyote so we can all watch the animal die as many times as we want in regular and slow motion.

In another of her shows she shoots and wounds a bear from 450 yards. Then she shoots and wounds it some more from 300 yards. The bear retreats to its den where she eventually kills it. You can watch this extremely exciting, extremely daring, extreme "hunt" right from the comfort of your recliner while eating chips and drinking beer. (I recommend a RealTree camouflage chair and Busch special hunting-season beer in camouflage cans.)

Perhaps we can soon watch Kristy, Randy Newburg, Steven Rinella and other extremely rugged, extremely fearless and extremely amazing backcountry hunting entertainers share their extreme grizzly-killing tips while putting the extreme hammer, and the big extreme kibosh, on an extremely rugged, extremely deadly, extremely dangerous extreme Montana griz hunt! Stay tuned (and be sure to have extra chips and cammo beer on hand).

Commercial Message: In the meantime, be sure to head to Cabela's and get Kristy's "Pursue The Wild" elk call line by Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls -- The "Wild Frenzy Bugle," "Wild Fury Diaphragm" and "Ignite-Her-Wild" external reed cow calls, available now! (I hear rumors there's a new one coming out: "The Whining Crying Baby Calf Calling For Mommy Which Infuriates the Huge Bully Bull Who Will Come Running In Fast -- Whether He wants to or Not -- Diaphragm Elk Call Extreme!")

Hunting season's just around the corner: Get out of bed and get some!  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Freedom is Freedom: Practice it. Enjoy It. Respect it.

Late one dark August night in 1983, at Camp Lejeune,  North Carolina, I sat in an old concrete bunker on Onslow Beach with my friend and fellow Marine Michael Sauls, sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels and listening to the rhythm of crashing waves from the Atlantic.

We’d gone through boot camp together at Parris Island and Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger. We both excelled and were invited to compete, along with dozens of others, for three available slots in Force Recon. I came in third place and went to Force; Michael came in a close fourth and went to Recon Battalion -- but only because he sprained his ankle on an obstacle course. He held a grudge against me for awhile. I was where he should have been, and he was where I would have been.

It was a strange twist of fate that occasionally haunts me to this day.

On that particular summer night I was jealous; he and his unit were readying to ship out, somewhere far across the vast, dark ocean in front of us. Training was over, and it was time to put it all to the test.

We talked a lot that night, about anticipation, fear, excitement, war and what separates good warriors from bad. We also talked about fishing. I told him about a photo I had of my dad fishing off this very beach, in the 1940s, when the base was known simply as “Tent City,” before he shipped off to fight on Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
 Now it was our turn. Well . . . at least his turn. At some point, when the bottle of Jack went from half-full to half-empty and beyond, we talked about patriotism.

“Everyone should have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning,” I said.
“I don’t think so,” Michael replied.

It surprised me, and irritated me a bit.

“Freedom is freedom,” he said. “People should do whatever they want if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Nobody should be forced to do what they don’t want to do, just because others think they should. I believe in freedom. That’s why I’m a Marine.”

Two months later Michael Sauls was killed when two separate suicide bombers – part of a group calling themselves “Islamic Jihad” – drove trucks full of explosives into the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
 He was among 220 Marines (241 American servicemen)  who died that day.

I thought of Michael a few days ago when I saw a meme on a USMC Force Recon Association Facebook Page depicting a photo of actor R. Lee Ermey looking angry and threatening, playing the role of fictitious Marine Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the movie “Full Metal Jacket.” The fictitious caption, attributed to the fictitious Gunny Hartman, reads: “THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: When it plays you get off your ass, put your hand over your heart, remove your headgear, and render the proper respect!”

“HELL YEAH!!! OOORAH!!” wrote the person who posted it.
“Damn straight!” responded another.
“Bullshit!” I responded.

“I served in Force Recon to help protect the American ideals of freedom and liberty for all, including freedom of choice,” I wrote. “If someone doesn't want to stand for the national anthem, that's their choice. In a free country, they should not be compelled to do so -- not even by an actor who pretended to be a DI in a movie. I support and will defend with my life such freedom.

A fellow Marine dared me to say such a thing at the next Force Recon Reunion, “and see how fast you get your ass kicked!”
  He called me a “traitor,” and questioned if I were truly a Force Recon Marine. He said my friends who died – including Michael Sauls – “are rolling over in their graves.”

It’s an attitude growing dangerously prevalent in our society. People love “freedom” as long as you think and act just like they do. If you don’t, you can’t truly be a real Marine, or a real American, or a real patriot.
 It seems those who most adamantly defend the Constitution, the principles of our Founders, and the American way know and understand the least about it.  Some people seem to think they have a monopoly on patriotism. Those who don't agree with them "hate America,” they say. “Love it or leave it!”

How about this one?
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The fellow Force Recon Marine who called me a “traitor” asked me: “
What would make you post this unpatriotic crap on this weekend especially?

Personally, I don’t think freedom is unpatriotic. Neither did my friend Michael Sauls.

Wave the flag, visit veteran cemeteries, decorate the graves of heroes, hit the Memorial Day sales, cook up some hot dogs, stand for the National Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. If you want. Or not. That’s up to you. But remember this – those who died for this nation died because they believed in freedom. Practice it. Enjoy it. Respect it.

“Freedom is freedom,” Michael said. “People should do whatever they want if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Nobody should be forced to do what they don’t want to do, just because others think they should. I believe in freedom. That’s why I’m a Marine.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Stop Persecuting our Fellow Predators

Everything we hunters love about elk – their speed, wariness, agility, intelligence – was shaped and honed through thousands of years of coevolution with wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes. Predators helped make elk what they are, and predators help keep elk what they are.  In the wilds, everything is intimately connected; the health of the whole depends on every part. When I merge into the wilds to hunt, I feel part of the whole -- not merely a visitor to the wilds, but a participant; a predator.

I love wild elk meat, but also see myself as a vegetarian of sorts -- living off the wild grasses, sedges and forbs that grow near my home in western Montana. Most of these plants are not palatable to humans, so I let elk convert them to protein for me. Perhaps someday I will travel through the digestive system of a grizzly and fertilize the vegetation that elk eat: Seems only fair considering all the elk I've killed and eaten. We’re all connected.

Unfortunately, many hunters don’t see it this way. They show disdain and disrespect for our fellow predators. They see them as “competitors” killing and eating what they arrogantly and selfishly think is “theirs” instead of trying to understand the vital, ecological role they play in shaping and maintaining what they claim to love. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the ongoing war on wolves.

Idaho Fish and Game recently hired a paid bounty hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in a wilderness. Idaho hunters have organized wolf-killing competitions and co-ops to pay trappers to kill wolves. The state legislature and governor declared wolves a "disaster emergency" and allocated $2 million to killing wolves. More recently Idaho Fish and Game conducted secretive aerial shootings of wolves from helicopters without public knowledge or input; they spent $30,000 to kill 23 wolves. Idaho Fish and Game is doing this and more in an ongoing effort to appease hunters to protect livestock and maintain artificially high and unhealthy numbers of elk for hunters to shoot.

Elk populations are increasing in most of the West. State wildlife departments are expanding elk hunting to reduce elk populations while simultaneously killing wolves under the guise of protecting and boosting elk numbers. Where elk populations do appear on the decline there are plenty of factors to consider in addition to wolves: Changes in habitat; a natural reduction in numbers where, prior to the return of wolves,  populations were artificially high; lack of mature bulls and low bull-to-cow ratios in herds (often resulting from early season hunting and too much hunting pressure on bull elk) which influences the timing of the rut and breeding behavior, the timing of spring calving influencing increased vulnerability of elk calves to predation; influence of other predators including mountain lions, black bears and grizzlies; unanticipated impacts of various hunting regulations and hunting pressure, and changes in behavior and habitat use by elk in the presence of wolves.

Where I hunt, the growing presence of wolves has changed the behavior and habits of elk. Elk bunch up more for safety, and move around more to evade and avoid wolves. They are a lot more wary. I have adapted and adjusted to these changes and have no problem finding elk. This is part of the beauty and value of hunting within wilderness -- to adjust, adapt and be part of the landscape; to be, as my friend David Petersen put it, part of the "bedrock workings of nature." We render the wilds a diminished abstract when we alter it to suit our own needs and desires and, in the process, make it less healthy and whole. There are those who espouse the virtues of backcountry hunting and yet seem apathetic or supportive towards the destruction of backcountry integrity. Those who understand the wilds know how critically important predators are to the health of the land. To remain silent about the nonscientific, politically-based killing of wolves in the wildest of places is to be complacent towards the degradation of what we claim to cherish.

One of the cornerstones of our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that wildlife be managed based on good science.  That good science shows the return of wolves to much of the western United States has resulted in significant, long-term benefits to wildlife and the habitat that sustains them -- including the species we love to hunt.

Predators are rarely managed based on science or for the benefit of predators and healthy ecosystems. They’re rarely managed in accordance of what most Americans accept. Hunters and anglers pay the bills through licenses and excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear and (along with governor-appointed commissioners) have lopsided power and influence over how wildlife is managed. Thus, wildlife management often leans more towards animal husbandry – producing more to catch and shoot sometimes to the detriment of other wildlife. Predators get a bad deal.

A recent report about the flaws of the North American Model summed it up this way:
"The scientists also express concern that the interests of recreational hunters sometimes conflict with conservation principles. For example, they say, wildlife management conducted in the interest of hunters can lead to an overabundance of animals that people like to hunt, such as deer, and the extermination of predators that also provide a vital balance to the ecosystem."

More than half a century ago Leopold wrote: "I personally believed, at least in 1914 when predator control began, that there could not be too much horned game, and that the extirpation of predators was a reasonable price to pay for better big game hunting. Some of us have learned since the tragic error of such a view, and acknowledged our mistake."

We still haven't caught up to Leopold.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fired (Farewell MWF)

The Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) has had a huge influence on my life. I strongly believed in their values, mission and goals. It has shaped my thoughts, beliefs and actions ever since I left the Marine Corps and moved to Montana in 1985. I used to volunteer for the organization. I helped lead the organization. I served two terms as the organization's president. I helped lead the organization's efforts to ban game farms in Montana. I received the organization's Les Pengelly Professional Conservationist Award. Many of the good folks involved in the organization are like family to me. (See Preserving a Tradition.) More recently, I worked for the organization as their western Montana field representative.

I was fired.

I did the best I could. I strengthened relations with affiliate clubs; I revived an affiliate club; I was in the process of getting a new affiliate up and running; I helped advance protection of the Badger-Two Medicine area; I helped create awareness and support for the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act; I rallied hunters and anglers to comment on the draft revisions of the Helena-Lewis and Clark Forest Plan; I generated OpEds and letters-to-the editors advancing our mission and goals; I developed and strengthened relationships with partners and members; I wrote numerous articles and essays for MWF's newsletter and blog; I represented MWF at fairs, brewery events, film festivals and sportsmen shows, and I helped advance the mission, goals and objectives of an organization I have long been part of, and been passionate about, in an honest, credible, professional manner. I put in long hours and I worked hard. Affiliate leaders, partners and members seemed happy with my work. 

When I received my 6-month evaluation and workplan review, my boss, the executive director, made valuable suggestions on how I could improve, but said I was doing a good job. I followed through on his suggestions. By all indications, he was pleased with me and my work.

I first sensed a change when I posted an article regarding ballot initiatives on my own time and on my own personal blog. This was while the Montana “trapping” initiative I-177 was up for a vote, which would have banned recreational trapping on public lands. I was careful not to take a stance on the issue in that personal essay, but rather discussed how – through poor behavior, denial of science, and ignoring and even often ridiculing other citizens who should have a say in how public lands and wildlife are managed – we can sometimes bring these initiatives upon ourselves. It resonated with a lot of people, including fellow hunters. It did not contradict MWF policy, but I could understand how it could be perceived that way. We almost lost an affiliate because one of their leaders was upset. Understandably, my boss was not happy. He told me to immediately remove the blog and sign a note stating I would not write or post such things again. I understood, admitted to a lack of judgement, signed the note and thought all was good.  I even patched things up with the disgruntled affiliate and its leaders.

A month or so later, the boss became upset about a photograph I posted on my own, personal Facebook Page of me with a blackeye. He claimed that a “funder” had complained about the photo and said it portrayed a “negative” image of MWF and could hurt MWF’s ability to accomplish its mission and goals. I told him I would be more careful in what I post on my personal page and blog, and I was.

At this point, I believe it became personal for the boss; he simply did not like me. It no longer had anything to do with my performance. His entire attitude towards, and treatment of me became akward and uncomfortable.

Then I missed some conference calls for legitimate reasons (on the road and out of cell range; in the hospital with my son) with our partner organizations in regards to the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act and the Upper Blackfoot Campaign. One of the partners was upset with me, so I met with him and worked things out. I agreed to a list of tasks he wanted me to accomplish. It was a good, honest, airing of grievances of which I was not previously fully aware of, and served to clarify my role and what I needed to do.  Our partners seemed fine with our resolution; the boss was not. He had me sign another note outlining specific goals and expectations. One of those was to not miss any more conference calls.  I took it very seriously. I posted it over my desk and read it every morning. I did my best to meet all goals and expectations – although I felt like the boss was setting the stage to fire me and waiting for me to fail.

A few weeks ago, I asked the boss if I could take some time off to go on a spring-break road trip with my son. I assured him I would be on all scheduled conference calls. He gave me the go-ahead. We were in East Glacier on the day of one of the conference calls. Cell coverage in East Glacier is iffy, so my plan was to drive atop a hill between East Glacier and Browning where coverage is usually strong and where I have parked and participated in conference calls before, while working on the Badger-Two.  Cory and I drove to the spot. Unfortunately, a storm had blown in and I kept getting cut off the call, and missed the conference call. I drove to Browning and sent an apology to our partners and explained what happened. They seemed fine. In fact, one partner wrote back: “No worries, enjoy your break.”

I explained the situation to my boss. His response: “If you really wanted to be on the call you would have been on the call.” (Apparently, he’s never been between East Glacier and Browning during a storm.)

He fired me.

That’s my story. I have talked to a lawyer about a possible “wrongful discharge” suit. We’ll see. I have mixed emotions; it’s a tough thing to prove, and I still strongly support the mission, goals and objective of MWF.  However, I doubt I will be actively involved anymore unless the current executive director leaves.  He's an arrogant, bureaucratic number-cruncher who cares more about perception, image and money than wildlife and wild places. His every move is dictated by the foundations he's good at soliciting money from.

It may be a good thing. I’m a stubborn, passionate, opinionated guy and my views on a few things – such as wolves, grizzlies and trapping – are not always in-line with MWF (and therein lies the likely roots of it all). I am already enjoying my freedom to once-again write about those issues. I’m going to make a go of writing and photography and see what happens; it’s more suited to me and my wild ways.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

Grizzlies: A Renewable Resource?

I just read an article in Petersen's Hunting called "Should We Hunt Grizzly Bears?" by David Hart. He quotes Mac Minard, Executive Director of the Montana Outfitter and Guide Association: "They should be hunted because they are a renewable resource."

A "renewable resource"?

Grizzly bears? Rugs? Claws?

A commodity?

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." -- Aldo Leopold

Grizzly bears . . . a "renewable resource"?

There's no love and respect in that.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

We Don't Need to Hunt Grizzlies (Nor Should We)

Photo from a hunting-guide service called the "Grizzinator."
"Nothing good will ever come from killing a grizzly bear. Much good can come from respecting its right to continue to roam the land.” – Phil Timpany

Many hunters and wildlife professionals say we need to hunt grizzlies to “manage” them, and that grizzly hunting-tag revenue is needed to pay for the management. I don’t buy it. 

We should manage bears like bears, not deer and elk. Deer and elk evolved as prey; they produce high numbers of fawns and calves because they feed a lot of animals above them on the food chain, including many of us humans who hunt. Grizzlies evolved as predators; they don’t produce a lot of cubs. Their populations are tenuously self-regulating (something we should learn from them). We should manage them accordingly.

We should manage grizzlies in a manner best for the bears; we should manage them based on science, ethics and social desires; we should manage them to allow for the space they need and deserve; we should manage them by improving people's knowledge of grizzlies and how to best prevent conflicts; we should manage them by allowing them the benefit of the doubt and erring on the side of caution; we should manage them by giving "troubled" bears every chance we can, and we should manage them by occasionally (as a last resort), killing certain individual bears if they become a socially unacceptable danger.

Who will pay for this? The American people should, all of us, because a huge majority of Americans want, support and appreciate that we still have wild grizzlies and the wild places to sustain them. Most Americans are fascinated with grizzlies, a fascination that has existed since humans drew pictures of them on rocks. Grizzlies are different. Myth, fear, awe, reality, science . . . all of it and more always has and always will influence the powerful mystique and perception of grizzlies.

For a long time we killed them. We killed them to near extinction. (Some subspecies are extinct, existing now only in our imaginations or places like the California flag.) I assume most Americans agreed with such a policy, until leaders like Theodore Roosevelt came along. We’ve winnowed them down to a tiny fraction of the once-immense territory they historically roamed. I suspect all people with empathy and compassion in their hearts are saddened by this. They should be. I am.

Most Americans respect grizzlies. Most Americans will not accept or tolerate the killing of grizzlies for trophies, amusement and ego. Most Americans feel disgusted to see hunters proudly standing over dead bodies of a once-powerful living presence they killed for no legitimate, no acceptable justification. I’m one of those Americans, and I’m a hunter. 

When I kill an elk or deer, I feel grateful, humbled and saddened but happy to be part of the wilds -- to kill my own meat in a respectful, ethical, sustainable way. Nonhunters I know understand and support that. They accept hunters killing deer and elk to fill freezers; they don’t accept hunters killing grizzlies to fill egos.

We should not manage grizzlies to boost numbers of prey species so we have more to kill. (I’ve heard fellow hunters say that we need to kill elk and deer to keep populations in check, but we need to kill predators to boost the number of animals we need to kill to keep their numbers down.) We should not kill grizzlies to raise money to protect them.

That is not wildlife management based on good, sound science or social acceptability.

Predators are rarely managed based on sound science or for the benefit of predators and healthy, functioning ecosystems. They’re rarely managed in accordance of what a majority of Americans accept. Hunters and anglers pay the bills through licenses and excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear and (along with governor-appointed commissioners) have lopsided power and influence over how wildlife is managed. As a result, wildlife management often leans more towards animal husbandry – producing more to catch and shoot sometimes to the detriment of other wildlife. Predators usually get a bad deal.

We’re stuck in a wildlife-management paradigm that attempts to justify indefensible death; it’s time for change.

All Americans should help pay for and influence how wildlife is managed. We don’t need to sell grizzly-tags to fund the management of grizzlies. Let’s get an excise tax on all outdoor gear – not just hunting and fishing equipment. Let’s create a license for nonhunters who want to buy one. Let’s create a grizzly stamp to sell and raise money much like we do with duck stamps. Let’s try something different. Let’s take some power and influence from those who wrongly insist we need to hunt grizzlies. 

Grizzlies face enough uncertainty with impacts from human encroachment, habitat loss and degradation, and climate change. Warmer temperatures, less snow, earlier snowmelt and more drought has already caused a decline in white-bark pine nuts, berries and other bear food. To err on the side of caution we should not even be considering delisting grizzlies from federal endangered species status and turning management over states eager to kill them. Not yet. But if we do, we don’t need to hunt them.

There is no biologically or social justification to hunt grizzlies. We should manage them with the respect and reverence they deserve. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ballot Box Biology?

Last year, Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands launched a noble, but unfortunately failed, ballot initiative called I-177 that would have banned trapping on public lands. Trappers responded with the usual slew of lies that many Montanans always seem to swallow, claiming that the initiative was backed by “out-of-state animal rights extremists” who “are uninformed about wildlife and are trying to destroy our way of life.”  And the old slippery slope fallacy:  "Once they stop trapping, they will come after hunting, and fishing, and ranching, and logging and Tiddlywinks!" Many of my fellow hunters came to the defense of trappers, repeating the same tiresome, easily-refuted lies.

Such is the simple-minded, ignorant responses I often see from fellow hunters, particularly in regards to predators. It’s all black and white to them; you’re either “one of us, or one of them.” There is little, if any room for civil, rational, reasonable discussion and debate; if you don’t agree, they attack with Trump-like, childish fervor.

A lot of hunters and hunting organizations also dusted off the old “ballot box biology” defense – that such decisions should be made by wildlife professionals based on good, sound science, not by citizens based on emotions. We hunters love to claim wildlife management is based on good, sound science. One of the very tenants of our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (which is tossed around nowadays and interpreted by many hunters who don't actually understand it like the Bundy crowd talks about and interprets the Constitution) is that wildlife management be based on good, sound science. It should be, but it’s often not.

In Idaho, the fish and game department conducts aerial shooting of wolves and sends bounty hunters into wilderness areas to eliminate wolf packs despite the good, sound science and what we know about wolf behavior, ecology and biology.

That’s not management based on good, sound science.

Throughout the West, we continue to carry out a war on coyotes and wolves despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that such actions disrupt the social and breeding behavior of these animals and can, ironically, result in even more coyotes and wolves. (
See "Killing Wolves: A Hunter-Led War on Science and Wildife")

That’s not management based on good, sound science.

I remember when Colorado proposed a ban on the baiting and killing of bears, based on scientific evidence that the baiting of bears was having negative impacts on bears by habituating them to human handouts and changing their natural habits and habitat use. The state’s chief bear biologist at the time, Tom Beck, penned a piece in support of the baiting ban for Outdoor Life. Before it was published (and before anyone even read it) hunters and hunting organizations rallied against Outdoor Life and successfully prevented the publication of the piece. Two editors left their jobs over the incidence. (See
"Hunters Close Ranks and Minds" by Ted Williams.)

That’s not management based on good, sound science.

In the Clearwater region of Idaho several years ago, black bears were killing an unusually high number of elk calves.  Research showed that the calves had become more susceptible to predation because a lack of mature bulls in the herd, from hunting, had changed elk breeding behavior and timing, causing calves to be born late, missing the flush spring forage, and not gaining enough strength quickly enough to evade predators. Researchers recommended changes in hunting regulations and motorized access to reduce bull elk vulnerability, increase habitat security and boost the number of mature bulls in the herd.  Idaho citizens didn’t buy it. They demanded more bears be shot and killed. Idaho Fish and Game appeased the hunters.

That’s not management based on good, sound science.

Wildlife management decisions are often and largely based on public needs and desires, and that should be part of it. But sometimes those needs and desires go against good, sound science. Trappers, hunters and the agricultural industry have a lot of power over our legislature and wildlife management.  Other citizens often, and justifiably, feel left out of the decision-making, and they are often ridiculed and attacked by ignorant, arrogant hunters and trappers. Many hunters and hunting organizations tend to either avoid these controversial issues or take the side of hunters to appease their base (or, as Aldo Leopold put it, to satisfy the “lowest common denominator.”)  Our system, with all its tremendous achievements, has some flaws, and those flaws can lead us closer to animal husbandry than good, sound, science-based wildlife management.

A recent report about the
flaws of the North American Model summed it up this way: "The scientists also express concern that the interests of recreational hunters sometimes conflict with conservation principles. For example, they say, wildlife management conducted in the interest of hunters can lead to an overabundance of animals that people like to hunt, such as deer, and the extermination of predators that also provide a vital balance to the ecosystem."

But hunters tend to circle the wagons and defend the indefensible out of paranoia and fear of anti-hunters and the slippery slope (“but if we let them stop bear-baiting, or game farms, or drones, or trapping, they will surely try to stop hunting, take our guns, and destroy America and the universe!”) But as my friend Jim Posewitz likes to say, “circling the wagons is not a good defense when there are far too many people already outside that circle.”

And some of those people outside the circle are good, knowledgeable, informed people who care about our wildlife and wild places. Some of them are fellow hunters. We alienate them by dismissing their concerns and attacking and insulting them. We turn people against us when we circle the wagons and defend the indefensible and insult intelligent people who disagree -- informed people who sometimes have more good, sound science on their side than we do.

I recently heard a guy who makes hunting videos -- and hunts for amusement, entertainment and profit -- criticize the “animal rights extremists” who file lawsuits to protect wolves, claiming such lawsuits went against “sound, scientific management” and our “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”  And yet those citizens – many of them informed by good, sound science -- filed those lawsuits in response to states doing things such as gunning down wolves from helicopters and sending in bounty hunters to eliminate packs in wilderness areas. 

That’s not management based on good, sound science.

The executive director of a large, influential hunting organization has repeatedly called wolves “the worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison,” and claims wolves and grizzly bears are “annihilating” our elk herds. (See, "A Once Proud Conservation Organization Has Lost Its Way")

That’s not promoting or supporting management based on good, sound science.

Our behavior and actions can bring about lawsuits and ballot initiatives. Some of these ballot initiatives are, indeed, “ballot box biology” in the sense that they defend and demand good, sound science when state wildlife agencies won’t.

We’re our own worst enemies. We bring these ballot initiatives on ourselves. If we don't change our ways, we best get used to it.

The famed ecologist Aldo Leopold, widely considered the "father of wildlife management," changed his ways after killing a wolf when he was hired to hunt and trap mountain lions, bears and wolves for the Forest Service early in his career. In an essay called "Thinking Like A Mountain" he wrote:

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; 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.”

From his experiences grew what he called a "land ethic," that acknowledges the importance of all living things in an ecosystem. In his 1949 classic, "A Sand County Almanac," he defined it as such: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Nearly 68 years later we still haven't caught up.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keep Public Lands in Public Hands!

Like people everywhere, we Montanans don’t always agree. We often engage in spirited debates and disagreements about how our wildlife and wild places should or shouldn’t be managed. But one thing that unites most all of us: Our love for public lands.

Setting aside these lands is one of the greatest things our nation ever did. It's a unique American heritage that, particularly here in Montana, shapes and enhances our lives. For many of us, it defines who we are. What would life be like without the freedom to hunt, fish and roam our public wild lands?

If some folks get their way, we might find out.

There is a bill under consideration in Congress that would lead to the sale of our public lands throughout the West, including Montana. Several Montana state legislators support and promote efforts to sell or transfer our public lands. There are powerful, influential organizations, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the American Lands Council, pushing for the sale or transfer of our public lands.

We won’t let them have it.

We Montanans get pretty riled up about proposals to sell or transfer our public lands. Yesterday, January 30, more than 1,000 of us, from all walks of life -- Democrats, Republicans, hunters, anglers, environmentalists, bird watchers, hikers, photographers, loggers, ranchers, Native Americans, and others, from all over Montana -- converged on the Capitol in Helena to convey a loud, clear, unified message: KEEP OUR PUBLIC LANDS IN PUBLIC HANDS!

As Governor Steve Bullock succinctly put it at yesterday’s rally in the Capitol: “Every one of us owns these public lands, and the beauty is we don’t need permission to go on them, do we? Efforts to sell or transfer public lands have no place in this building and no place in Montana.”

These are our lands; we plan to keep them.

Thanks to the groups who organized and sponsored this great rally:
Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Audubon, and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers -- and thank you to everyone who showed up.
If you'd like to show your support for Montana's public lands, please sign this petition:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

These Lands Are OUR Lands: Let's Keep It That Way!

On Tuesday night, January 24, 2017, several hundred people gathered at the Radisson Colonial Hotel in  Helena, Montana, to learn about the recently-released draft Forest management plan revisions for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. This was the second of nine public hearings being held throughout western Montana during which we citizens -- local citizens -- could participate in and influence the future management of OUR public lands.

Contrary to what those who want to sell and transfer OUR public lands claim, there were no bureaucrats from Washington D.C. there, who know nothing about the land, dictating how the forest will be managed. However, there were local Forest Service wildlife biologists, foresters, engineers, fisheries biologists, timber specialists and other experts there, folks who live here, who are our friends and neighbors, who know and study the land, all there to share their knowledge and recommendations based on good science.

There were no "out-of-state environmental extremists" there, as opponents of public lands would have you believe, "forcing their agendas" upon us poor local folk. However, there were a diversity of local Montanans from all walks of life -- hunters, anglers, hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, off-road vehicle enthusiasts, bird watchers, photographers, loggers, ranchers, miners, business owners, community leaders and others -- sharing their views and opinions on how they'd like to see OUR public land managed.

We don't all always agree. Some of us locals would like to see less logging, less motorized use and more wilderness. On the other hand, some of us locals would like to see more logging, more motorized use and less wilderness.

The professionals who work for the Forest Service listen, consider all views and opinions, and strive to strike a balance that protects fish and wildlife while meeting their multiple-use mandate, supporting local communities, and meeting the needs and desires of local citizens and all we Americans who own OUR public land.

Compromise is key. Not everybody gets everything they want. That displeases some folks in the extractive industries -- who would like to see all of OUR land open to unsustainable logging, grazing and mining regardless of its impacts to fish, wildlife and recreation -- people who put greed and profit above all else.

So they make up lies. They tell people that all decisions regarding the management of OUR public lands are dictated by bureaucrats in D.C., and "out-of-state environmental extremists," so they can rally people to support misguided efforts to transfer and sell OUR public lands.

Ironically, most of the people leading the attack on our public lands are out-of-state representatives of extractive industries and their corporate lobbyists in D.C. They want OUR public land, and they perpetuate and disseminate lies, myths and misconceptions in their fear-mongering, deceptive efforts to take away what belongs to all of us.

They want to steal OUR public lands.

We won't let them have it. These lands are OUR lands, and we all have a say in how they're managed. Don't let greed and profit consume OUR lands. Get involved; keep it public.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Buy L.L. Bean

For the first time I can recall, I agree with something Donald Trump Tweeted (although for very different reasons): “Buy L.L. Bean.”

Yes, it’s unethical and inappropriate for an incoming president to be endorsing and promoting a company. Yes, Linda Bean should be held accountable if her personal donation to a Political Action Committee (PAC) supporting Trump exceeded the legal limit.  But to take that out on the L.L. Bean company is almost as misguided and childish as Trump’s usual behavior. 

L.L. Bean is a great company.   

As a child growing up along the coast of Connecticut, I got excited when the L.L. Bean catalogs arrived in the mail from the company’s headquarters in Freeport, Maine. The north woods of Maine had a strong, alluring mystique to me in those days, and I was eager to grow up and explore the wilds (wearing L.L. Bean gear, of course – like the rugged outdoorsmen portrayed on the covers and throughout the catalogs).

I read all about Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967), a hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman. I read his classic 1942 book, “Hunting-Fishing and Camping.” 

Leon was frustrated he could not find a good, light boot to keep his feet warm and dry on his wilderness adventures, so he made his own, with leather tops and rubber bottoms.  In 1911, with a $400. loan, he began making and selling them out of his brother’s basement, and offered a 100-percent money back guarantee if people were not satisfied – a policy the company sill remains known for.  His boots became (and remain) popular, and grew into the huge catalog and retail company known as L.L. Bean. 

During my first excursions into the wild -- particularly during damp, cold, chilled-to-the-bone New England winters -- I wore L.L. Bean from head to toe; Wool hats, shirts, jackets, gloves, pants, long-johns and, of course, the classic “duck boots.” The customer service was, and remains, excellent, and the products are tough, durable and dependable. 

Linda Bean is Leon’s granddaughter. She is one of 50 people who serve on the company’s board of directors. She has little involvement in the day-to-day operations of the business. She owns her own business, called Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, which includes selling lobsters. She has pushed for the sustainable harvest of lobsters. She is a Republican. She made several failed runs for Congress. She has contributed a lof of money to Republican candidates. She once compared President Obama to Hitler.  She reportedly donated $60,000 to a Super PAC supporting Donald Trump, which exceeds the $5,000 limit.  She has a cousin who was one of the largest contributors to President Obama.

The Bean family, like many American families, is apparently a large, extended family with a diversity of opinions and views.

The L.L. Bean company itself does not get involved in politics. They do not endorse or contribute money to any candidates.  From all I’ve read and heard, it’s apparently a great place to work: Fair and competitive wages, great insurance policies, same-sex benefits, generous employee discounts, ample vacations and time off, and they even have an employee outdoor club that encourages workers to get out and enjoy the wild places they also help protect. 

They helped protect Katahdin Lake and the forests surrounding it. They donated $1 million to help the Trust for Public Lands purchase and protect land that expanded the size of Baxter State Park. They gave $1 million to the National Park Foundation. They support the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Woods Initiative to protect and expand public lands and recreational opportunities throughout the state. In the past 10-years they have donated more than 30 million to a diversity of nonprofit outdoor-recreation and conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, The American Canoe Association, the Maine Islands Trail Association, Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited.

They support sustainable forestry. They're part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Initiative. They seek and implement ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. They converted their fleet of delivery trucks to biodiesel. Their headquarters in Freeport is a model for sustainable, "green" design, construction and efficiency.

They fully support the Constitutional right of freedom of speech for their diverse employees and board members – and their rights to support any political candidate they want on their own time and with their own money.  As it should be.

L.L. Bean is a great company.

I don’t agree with Linda Bean’s politics. That’s her business. It has nothing to do with her grandfather’s business.

Buy L.L. Bean.