News and Musing from Elk Lake
Although it is officially the 'off-season' life does still go on here in the southwestern corner of Montana. In fact, while life has slowed to a casual pace in the valley, things are heating up in some of the surrounding areas.

Wolves and Bison seem to be the 'hot' issues right now. A long standing argument may finally be reaching something of a compromise as a 6,000 acre piece of property just north of the YNP boundary owned by the Church Universal Triumphant may become available for bison habitat.

The agreement which is 'very close' to reaching the final stages according to the Billings Gazette, would clinch the bison's grazing rights on the land owned by the church. Seen by proponents as an answer to the continued killing of bison which wander outside of the Park's boundaries, the plan is being praised by many.

In other news, wolf numbers in the tri-state area continue to rise as covered by another article in the Billings Gazette. In fact, the wolf population has grown at a whopping 26% per year for the past decade. With at least 1300 wolves now roaming the area, conflicts with livestock owners are sure to continue to rise. This, of course, will increase the conflict between the two parties.

And, if the animal conflicts aren't enough, the USFS has announced its decision to move forward with its controversial travel plan for the Gallatin National Forest. This, in face of 112 appeals which requested the USFS rethink its position. However, according to a March 22nd article in the Bozeman Chronical, Forest Supervisor, Becki Heath, has said she will implement the controversial plan this summer, unless ordered to do otherwise by the courts.

Sadly, the plan has closed more USFS land to motorized public access. As much as I love the wild wide open spaces for which Montana is famous, I still find it hard to understand why it is necessary to close off more public land to motorized public access. I guess I'm just one of the few who still define public as 'owned by the people' and still think the public should have access to the land for which they pay taxes.

I realize closing roads does not necessarily remove public access - in theory - but, closure of public roads into public lands DOES remove public access in reality. Think about it. If only the tax paying public which 'could' access the public lands closed to motorized access were required to pay for those lands, the tax burden upon the young and healthy in our nation (under 50 - with all their limbs attached and in good working order - and a healthy infastructure to support their body) would be attrocious.

Just look. How many people do you see walking, driving, sitting around who could actually 'walk' into these public lands? I know many in my family who could not. And yet, their tax dollars go to support these lands to which their access is now denied. And, we are ALL going to end up in their position, at some age or another.

Although many 'say' we are doing this to 'save' the land for our children, how many are actually taking their children (on foot) into this sacred territory? Remember, the children have to be able to walk (if there is more than one child) and carry at least a little load. I suspect there are very FEW families who are actually taking advantage of the existing wilderness and roadless areas.

Why? I suspect at least two reasons. One, the parents, themselves, are uncomfortable getting off the beaten path. Two, the difficulty in taking a family camping into an out of the way pack it in and out on your back place (when the children are young) is daunting. And, by the time most modern children reach an age they could actually contribute to lessening the challenge of such a trip - and are of an age their parents might feel it safer to take them in - their interests are directed in other directions. Thus the 'purpose' for such a trip is greatly diminished.

As much as I enjoy getting away from the crowds, and as much as I wish to see the large sections of our beautiful countryside which remain unchanged, I challenge anyone who would say otherwise to the above - for they are proven facts! So, who are we saving it all for, anyway?

Lady of the Lake

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