Written by The Herald-News
Since February, Montana’s Sage Grouse Advisory Council has been working overtime to create a management plan for the bird whose habitat spans central, northern and eastern Montana.
The urgency? This upland game bird has been declared “warranted” for listing as an endangered species by the federal government, but “precluded” from that designation while the feds deal with other matters. Montana is one of the Western states with significant sage-grouse populations that have not crafted a plan acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bottom line: If Montana doesn’t do something to improve sage grouse numbers, it’s just a matter of time before the feds do.
A federal endangered listing would do to the booming oil and gas industry, and to traditional economies like grazing and farming, what the “endangered” status of the gray wolf, the grizzly bear, and the northern spotted owl did to natural-resource industries further west.
The 40-page state plan, released in November, has a lot of actions that it recommends be taken “where possible.” Hopefully, that wiggle room plays to the advantage of productive land use. But there is always the risk at being called onto the carpet by whichever bureaucracy ends up enforcing the plan.
It’s clear that the state plan is not as onerous as what the feds would concoct. At the same time, it’s stricter than the plan adopted in Wyoming, which was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for implementation in 2011.
From the perspective of someone responsible for utility rates, there are aspects of the plan which, I believe, could cost Montana consumers a large amount of money. Those should be reworked.
One key example is the plan’s recommendations that pertain to power lines. Raptors, eagles, ravens, really most types of birds, love to perch on power lines. From there those higher up the food chain have a better vantage point in otherwise treeless areas to identify their quarry, including sage grouse—a bird that is mostly defenseless and not particularly bright. The solution? According to the state management plan, it’s to underground power lines “when possible.” Or require them to have a one mile berth from sage grouse leks, as the bird’s breeding grounds are known.
This is highly unrealistic. Undergrounding lines costs many multiples of constructing overhead lines. It’s a practice that usually occurs only in dense, urban areas where there are many thousands of customers to spread the costs over. That’s not the case in rural Montana.
Re-routing power lines to avoid the minefield of sage grouse leks is similarly costly. A rule of thumb for the cost to construct significant transmission lines is $1 million per mile. When an otherwise straight line on a map begins zigging and zagging, the cost increase is breathtakingly rapid.
Oil and gas exploration would also face substantial new regulations in core habitat areas, which cover millions of acres in about a dozen counties. There, the plan calls for restrictions on the seasons and time-of-day during which operations would be permitted, as well as on surface occupancy and noise. Wind energy would be excluded entirely from core habitats.
In its restrictions on energy development, the state plan is symptomatic of the mixed messages that abound regarding land use in rural America. Nearly every politician lists independence from foreign oil as a national priority, but that priority disappears pretty quickly when wildlife management is involved. Government policies encourage renewables, but then preclude wind farms and transmission lines from locating in areas where the wind resource is bountiful.
On a very local level, Montana’s utilities have spent a lot of time and energy attaching special structures to power lines that allow raptors to perch without being electrocuted, but now their perching represents a threat to predation of sage grouse so great that those power lines are suggested to be buried. You just can’t win, can you?
I hope Montana can craft a plan that strikes an appropriate balance for land use, and keeps the feds from exercising the nuclear option of listing the sage grouse as an endangered species. At the same time, let’s be vigilant not to unilaterally bargain away the economic development opportunities that exist in rural Montana.
(R., Great Falls)
Public Service Commissioner representing 19 counties in northern, eastern and central Montana
* * *
The Hi-Line District of the BLM is, right now, developing a management plan that will determine what happens to some of the very best intact and undeveloped public lands for decades to come.
This “Resource Management Plan” will include about 2.4 million acres of publicly accessible land that stretches from the Missouri Breaks all the way north to the Canadian border.
This is a hunter’s dream country — from Ponderosa pine coulees to sagebrush plateaus. Good habitat for elk, mule deer and antelope and spectacular habitat for multiple species in a thousand other such places.
Sportsmen across Montana are asking the BLM to conserve these lands to maintain the unique hunting opportunities they provide. They’re requesting that BLM managers sustain existing public access and focus efforts on conserving and improving the abundant wildlife habitat that exists here and protect these areas from development that would fragment these last intact backcountry landscapes. Fragmentation would reduce the quality of the hunting and other outdoor opportunities.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 09:01
Written by The Herald-News
Each week, the Wolf Point Junior/Senior High School chooses Students of the Week. The honorees for last week are Ryan Barrett and Mandi Martin.
Barrett, 13, an eighth- grader, was picked by the SFA Superteam and Read and Respond Return classes as the Student of the Week.
She is the daughter of Eva Gray and Troy Barnett. She has six siblings: Marissa, 22; Jorda, 21; Kori, 20; Kyler, 19; Mi’Eisha, 16; and Andrew, 14.
Her favorite subject is math and her favorite teacher is Mrs. Anderson. Her role models are her older sisters.
Her extracurricular activity is being a football manager and her hobby is playing basketball.
She hopes to attend college at Montana State University - Northern and wants to join the National Guard.
Martin, 15, is a freshman who was picked by the math and psychology classes as Student of the Week.
She is the daughter of Cam and Jodi Martin. Her sister, Mecaila, 17, is her role model.
Her favorite subject is psychology and her favorite teacher is Mrs. Sweet.
Her extracurricular activities are volleyball and basketball and her hobbies include playing sports and hanging out with friends.
She wants to attend college at Carroll College and hopes to become a dental hygienist.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 08:52
Written by The Herald-News
Sierra Hanks staples stockings underneath the window of the Wolf Point Junior/Senior High School lobby office. Hanks, a student council member, also helped with setting up the Christmas tree in the middle of the lobby.
Christean Holen hangs an ornament on the Christmas tree in the Wolf Point Junior/Senior High School lobby. Holen was one of several members of the student council who decorated the school for the holidays, Nov. 25.
Shelby Hanks tries to untangle the lights before placing them on the tree.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 17:11
Written by The Herald-News
Doc’Z Turkey Trot
Several runners, dressed in sweats, sweatshirts and sweatbands, gathered outside of Doc’Z moments before the first Turkey Trot 5K Pub Run, Nov. 23. People who participated in the event were given T-shirts. After the runs, the pub served bratwurst and beer.
Southside Students Visit Seniors
Students from Southside Elementary School visited residents at Faith Home, Nov. 25, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The students performed a small concert for the residents and gave them cards.
Library Ornament Night
The Roosevelt County Library held its annual ornament night Nov. 25. Children, adults and librarians decorated several ornaments throughout the evening. Near the end of the event, there were was a sing-along with Christmas carols.
Elks Memorial Service
Sunday, December 1, 1:00 p.m. Wolf Point Elks Lodge Honoring Richard Hansen, Leroy Rensvold, Edwin Huso, Lyle Green, Sally Dewayne and Louis Krone. The Public Is Invited To Attend.
Please join family and friends of Frank and Doris Whitmus Jr. In celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary, Nov. 30 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Vida School House. Vida, MT.
Joy Aguilar, formerly Lack, and family Toni and Rod Lund, Tracie Aguilar, Pete Aguilar and Joaquin Leonard Aguilar wish to publicly express our gratitude to the Wolf Point congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and to Ed Hennessey and all those who personally provided for the care of Mack Lack during these last difficult years. A special thanks goes out to Tom Smith Jr. especially for spending most of the night at Mack’s bedside with Leonard and myself the night before he died.
Gamers’ Night Planned
The first-ever video game convention in Wolf Point will be held Saturday, Nov. 30, co-sponsored by the Optimist Club.
The brainchild of Paul Gysler, the non-alcoholic event will kick off in the upstairs ballroom of the Wolf Point Elks Club, with build time at 6 p.m.
Entry is free for up to two people for those bringing a game console and TV and arrive before 7:30 p.m.
General admission is $10 and begins at 7:30 p.m.
Mario Kart and Halo Tournaments start at 8:30 p.m.
Children 14 and under need adult guardian to remain with them at the event.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/wolfpointrezcon or call Gysler at 650-6292.
Heirloom Quilters annual Christmas potluck
The Heirloom Quilters will have their annual Christmas potluck on Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Glasgow Senior Citizens Center.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 10:06
Written by The Herald-News
Small Business Saturday is coming up this weekend and the representative group for Main Street, mom-and-pop shops is calling on Montanans to turn out in force.
“It forever needs pointing out that it is small businesses, not big businesses, not big box stores, that employ the majority of working Montanans and generate almost every new job,” said Riley Johnson, Montana state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, the Voice of Small Business. “These pillars of their communities feed the families of their employees while operating on the thinnest of profit margins, so any little boost they receive, tens of thousands of others benefit from.”
NFIB helped launch the campaign to “shop small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2010. Since then, millions of Americans have spent billions of dollars in small and independent firms and stores during the holiday season. Research conducted in partnership with American Express found that consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion.
“Small-business owners contribute to their communities all year long by creating jobs, providing unparalleled products and services, and keeping communities economically vibrant,” said NFIB president and CEO Dan Danner. “Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for each of us to give back, to invest some of our hard-earned dollars into Main Street. This has the potential to have economic benefits locally and nationally. I encourage every American to shop small this coming Saturday.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 10:02