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: mtgreatoutdoors.org

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.