It's Sure Nice To Be Loved!

It really is nice to be loved. I'm not sure there is a greater gift we can receive than the unconditional love of another person. Child to parent. Parent to child. Spouse to spouse. Siblings. Friends. Our lives are enriched by other people's love. However, my use of the statement today is actually intended to be a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

With the continued controversy raging around snowmobile access in Yellowstone National Park, it is more than a bit frustrating to hear absolutely NOTHING about how this affects the businesses surrounding the Park. You'd think it would at least matter!

After all, with all the dire predictions related to economic downturns and recession which populate the news these days, you'd think there would be a least a 'hint' of concern about how these yo-yo decisions are going to effect the local businesses. Besides, we just elected a president who said, loud and clear, he is for the little guy (that means me, right?). So this implies the American public, as a whole, is concerned about the little guy (me). Right??? And, with the bottom expected to drop out of our financial world, they are naturally concerned that as many businesses as possible (especially the Mom and Pop - little guy types) survive. Right????

With all this love, compassion and concern floating around, I really expected to feel more warm fuzzies!

All it really proves is: Talk is cheap. Words are weapons. Rhetoric is a lot of hot air. The reality is - no one who has a voice in this battle over winter access to Yellowstone National Park gives two-cents whether one or a dozen businesses fall under the axe of 'environmental protection' or whatever the politically correct catch phrase is here.

And, should West Yellowstone, Island Park, Cooke City, Gardner, or even Jackson Hole businesses fall under the trampling feet of 'progress' or 'conservation' will the government be there with the needed funds to bail them out? Get real! Those of us in the trenches know better. We are on our own!

Before you think I'm in a major funk, I'm rubbing together my last two dimes, or I'm scared for my future - let me clarify. I'm frustrated by the injustic which surrounds me. I'm tired of all the empty rhetoric. I'm sick of working my butt off so the government can 'spread my wealth' around. And what is happening in Yellowstone National Park is just a micro-chasm of what is happening across our once-great country.

I thank God every day our business is still doing fine. We aren't asking for handouts. Instead we are trying to make wise financial deicisions which, Lord willing, will carry us through this mess that our government, in all its 'corporate' wisdom, has gotten us into.

While the storm rages around, I am thankful daily I can live surrounded by the peace, quiet, and beauty of Elk Lake. Now more than ever I am blessed to be the

Lady of the Lake


Lions and Wolves and Bears, Oh My!

All the rhetoric surrounding the fight against delisting wolves is almost overwhelming. Especially when you look beyond the overflowing words and see the mis-representations and outright lies which we call 'news' these days.

After all, while some would have us believe the future of wolves in the lower 48 is still uncertain, where is the scientific 'proof' to support the conservation groups' claims wolves may become inbred? They seem to consist mostly of speculative rhetoric. On the other hand, there are plenty of facts, the ones we never hear, suggesting just the opposite.

In the areas surrounding Yellowstone National Park, much work has been done to create wildlife corridors - particularly moving north betweem Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park and on into Canada. These corridors ensure animals the opportunity to move freely throughout the tri-state area with little to no restrictions. Therefore, the wolves in and around Yellowstone are by no means cut-off from the rest of the world as some would have us believe.

Furthermore, the offspring of the three original packs planted in YNP just 13 years ago have now spread throughout much of the west. In July 2008, Washington State confirmed it had a resident wolf pack. A pack has been confirmed in Union County, Oregon. A wolf pack was spotted earlier this year in NE Utah. And, of course there are numerous confirmed wolf packs in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Thus, the wolf, itself, has proven not only its reproductive abilities, but also its ability to travel where it wants when it wants.

Since wolves were only eradicated in the lower 48 through intense hunting by bounty hunters paid to do the job, it seems highly unlikely the occassional killing by a rancher, even an occassionally illegally killed wolf combined with controlled hunting situations (where the hunter pays for the license instead of being paid for the deed) as have been proposed in the Rocky Mountain Region will seriously (or even modestly) threaten the future health and existence of wolves in the lower 48.

Sadly it seems the loudest voices are often the only ones heard. In addition, we all know money talks. Thus, whether the voice of the 'common' man is heard, or not, is still in question. However, I would like to suggest a way to balance our country's understanding of the wolf's resiliance.

I propose we transplant three wolf packs intp Central Park (or the Appalachians, if Central Park is a little to close to 'home'). Given the same degree of protection they have enjoyed in the west, I believe they would find the local pets would supplement the lack of wild game quite well. This plan would certainly give our east coast friends the chance to hear, and see, a wolf in their own backyards - something they apparently find very appealing. Besides, I do not believe anyone can argue the wolf is native to that portion of the country as well.

While my above comments will probably get me labled as cynical (at best) and a wolf-hater (at what I hope would be the worst name-calling), neither could be further from the truth. Unlike many who are crying 'wolf' when it comes to the Rocky Mountain area's delisting efforts, I've yet to hear the east coast majority factor begging to have the animals released in their backyard.

Furthermore, the whole wolf re-introduction process, from the start to present, has been fueled by underestimated numbers, half-truths, and outright lies. Name-calling and plain old rudeness have dominated both sides of the debate. Few have looked at the science - the facts - behind the scenes. That is what I'd like to see.

But, in keeping with the 'new' American science, it isn't the 'facts' which count. It isn't reality we're looking to find. It isn't even an educated guess we want to hear. Instead our wildlife management has taken on the look of a two-ring political circus!

For example, did you know there are over 765 Grizzlies in NW Montana alone? This is more than 2 1/2 times the amount previously estimated to live in the 7.8 million acre Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. This is a scientific fact proven using DNA testing.

As this area makes up less than 12% of the state, how many do you suppose are in the state? Maybe a whole lot more than we've been led to believe?

Here's another scientific fact! When you read there are about 650 wolves in Idaho, for example, that is an estimate! In other words, no one has gone out there and counted the number of wolves.

Currently estimates are determined using the numbers of wolves which are radio-collared or the numbers in packs which include a radio-collared animal. So I ask, what happens to the un-collared pups, yearlings, and wolves which peel leave these packs? Do you really think the ground opens and swallows them up? Of course not. Where do you think the 'surprise' packs found in previous non-wolf states like Washington and Oregon are coming from? Seems plain to me.

Two studies in Alaska, where not surprisingly, there is increasing pressure to shut down aerial wolf hunting are very reveling. Remember, these are facts based on valid and intelligent science. (By the way, have you ever been to Alaska? A lot of it looks kinda like NW Montana - thick. If we can loose that many Grizzly in NW Montana, what makes us think we'd be able to keep track of the wolves?)

The first study conducted in Denali National Park has shown just how far estimated numbers are from reflecting reality. Biologists (scientists not activists or lawyers) found that by using the method described above (the one used in the lower 48 based on collared wolves) they were actually underestimating the actual wolf numbers by 50%!

Furthermore, the results of a six-year study in Alaska's Central Brooks Range conducted by 5 scientists showed even with a liberal hunters' harvest (around 29%), the wolf population suffered no impact.

These are the facts, folks. These are proven. They were conducted by qualified professionals. They are available for you to read. So, why aren't they common knowledge? Why do we still see video clips of cuddly little wolf pups, bear cubs, or mountain lion kittens (another animal whose numbers are surrounded by half-truths and outright lies) as if they were no different from the puppy or kitten your child cuddles to his chest? Why do conservation groups want us to treat these animals as 'special' 'wild' animals while presenting them as friendly, cute backyard pets?

I have decided, in general, American's have been trained to prefer the sensational. We like the to be entertained. We like to 'feel' involved - even if it is just in mud-slinging and empty talk. Sometimes I fear we do not even care whether we are given the facts - just as like as we find it interesting.

I am afraid most of what we are given is just a slight-of-hand. A faster-than-the-eye-can-see trick. A Red-Riding Hood's wolf dressed in Grandma's clothes. A lie as old as time. Sadly, it is also the force shaping the future of the west. It makes me wonder what kind of world, in spite of our good intentions, we are shaping for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I suspect it is far from what they would want.

As I continue to relish the benefits of living in nature's real world, I sure hope the rest of mankind will awaken from their stupor and start working to preserve everything I consider to be the best from my viewpoint as the

Lady of the Lake


Boys Should Be Boys!

I am sure it comes as no surprise, at least to those of you who have read many of my past blogs, when I say, "Boys should be boys"! In fact, I will go a step further, "Children should be allowed to be children".

It also will not surprise those who know me when I clarify that to mean - children should be allowed to run and play and scream and yell and have loads of wild and crazy fun - within the boundaries of safety and courtesy.

The sad thing is, I think we've grown so accustomed to seeing our children (and others) playing quietly with their gameboys, sitting at their school desks, watching their movies, or whatever "quiet and controlled" activities they are currently pursuing we think this is normal.

BUT, think about it. What do we want these children to be when they grow up. Overweight? Under motivated? Non communicative? Lacking drive? Passion? Imagination?

Certainly not! And, yet, isn't that the world we are consigning them to? Granted there are places for movies, school desks, and, yes, maybe even gameboys, however, I truly believe this should be the rarity, not the norm - especially among our young children. Yet, when I hear someone call a normal, active, inquisitive young child "overactive" or even "ADHD" it makes my hair stand on end. Granted, I believe children need to exercise self-control. As parents we are responsible to teach our children self-control, courtesy, kindness, and concern for others. But, this does not remove or reduce their need for pure and natural imaginative play. Nor should it. The two are not polar opposites!

That means there is a place to be loud. There is a place to run, jump, skip, climb, yell. There is a place for mock sword fights, pretend gun battles, and even imaginary wild horse ropings! Our children NEED this kind of play. It feeds their imaginations, strengthens their bodies, relieves their stress (yes, our children feel stress, too) and opens their minds.

After all, if we want our boys equipped to fight real world battles, they need to win a few imaginary ones in the great outdoors. If we want our girls to stand strong in a world looking to exploit them, they need to have faced a few child-sized challenges in the world outside their doors.

The focus is not to 'be seen but not heard'. I thought we'd cleared that up in our parent's day. Apparently not. It is back wearing a politically correct face - and more dangerous than ever. Childhood is about playing hard - getting muddy - climbing trees - chasing squirrels or rabbits or the dog - winning imaginary battles! It is about being a child!

Of course, in my mind there is NO better place to be a child (or adult, for that matter) than surrounded by the pure nature and fresh air here at Elk Lake. So, I have yet another reason to be glad that for this time in life I have the privilege of being the

Lady of the Lake