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Bigfork & the Swan Valley (c466)

Idaho Doesn’t Deserve Delisting

Last Thursday, the so-called Idaho Sportsman's Day, was a sad day for hunters--and not just in Idaho; all of us, everywhere. But at least young people now understand why and how the wolf was wiped out in the early 1900s. They say we should understand history so we don't repeat our mistakes, but are political hysteria and irrational, factless hatred once again turning the wolf into a four-legged devil in the public consciousness? Under these circumstances, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not move forward with delisting the wolf from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, not until Idaho can display some sense of rationality and guarantee we can expect professional, balanced wolf management. Right now, Idaho does not deserve delisting.

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What Happens Next? Outdoor News Predictions for 2007

This time of year you see lots of writers reflecting on what happened during the year just ended, but how hard is it to look into the past and be a visionary? Being a forward-looking sort of guy, I prefer to look ahead and predict what will happen instead of looking back to predict what did happen. As far as wildlife and outdoor issues in the New West, and in particular to the subjects I've covered in my column, I predict the following will be the biggest stories of 2007--and what will or will not happen in the coming year.

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New Year’s Resolutions for Fun Hogs

You've probably heard about people who never do today what they can put off to tomorrow. Well, I've been guilty of that of late. I’ve been putting it off for months, but I finally made myself go back and look at my new year’s resolutions, posted precisely a year ago, to see how I was progressing in my self-improvement efforts. And it seems like a good time to make a few more resolutions that really matter for 2007. First, as promised a year ago, here are last year's New Year's Resolutions for Fun Hogs and my truly honest status report.

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Comments Worth Repeating, 2006

As I'm sure many of you have noticed, NewWest.net has engaged readers who take the time to make excellent comments that frequently add value to stories. This week, I read through the hundreds of comments I've received on my weekly columns this year and picked out some gems worth repeating. The hard part was narrowing down the list of insightful, well-written comments to a manageable size. Even though there are obviously many more comments worth repeating, here, in chronological order, are some of my favorites from a whole year of Wild Bill columns. Enjoy.

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The Most Pro-Wolf State of Them All

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. What is the most pro-wolf state of them all? What state has done more for wolf recovery than any other? What state made it possible to have twice as many wolves than even avid wolf fans expected? What state wants the feds to keep the wolf on the endangered species list for years longer than expected. What state prevented state agencies from unleashing aerial gunners to kill more than half of the wolf population? And most of all, in a wolf lover’s dream-come-true, what state is making it possible for the wolf to expand its range into Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah where it will be considered endangered for many years into the future? My answer might surprise you.

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Rocky Mountain Front Not “Saved”

Last week, the old purple Congress did something unusual. They actually worked on Friday. December 8 was the last day of the 109th Congress, so I guess it seemed like they should actually do something. Our political leaders passed a tax extender bill with a load of riders and earmarks on it. One rider banned fossil fuel leasing on public land on the famed Rocky Mountain Front in west central Montana, which is great news for anybody who enjoys outdoor activities on the Front. Immediately after passage, the main ball carrier, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had this to say: “We finally got it done,” Baucus proclaimed in an interview with the Associated Press. “We finally protected the Rocky Mountain Front forever. Thirty years from now, our kids and grandchildren will thank us." Yes, Max, I’m sure our grandchildren appreciate what we will not do to the Rocky Mountain Front, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have not saved it forever. Not yet.

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Park Fee Media Coverage Sparks Concern Among Agency Reps

Lately, there has been a barrage of news and concern about new and increased fees charged for access to public lands, particularly national parks. I have suggested that high fees contribute to serious declines in national park visitation, but instead of seeing fees as a big factor, the agencies have, it seems, gone the opposite direction by increasing fees, with special note to the introduction of the $80 American the Beautiful Pass for annual access to national parks and other federal lands. Or is the perceived increase actually a decrease? After posting several articles on NewWest.net and receiving many insightful and critical comments from the engaged readers, the National Park Service (NPS) contacted me and invited me to have a conference call with key agency reps to clear up what they view as “misinformation.” I’m always for that, too, so I had a long phone chat earlier today with Jane Moore, fees specialist for the NPS, Ben Simon, an economist for the Department of the Interior (parent agency for the NPS) and Daniel Jorjani, chief of staff for Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, all set up by NPS public affairs specialist, Joan Moody.

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America the Beautiful Pass Goes On Sale in January

Last week, I wrote about not believing in coincidences, but it is purely coincidental that five days after my column on high fees contributing heavily to the decline in national park visitation, the National Park Service (NPS) and other federal agencies officially announce the America the Beautiful Pass. The ATB Pass replaces the National Parks Pass Pass, which sold for $50, as well as the Golden Eagle, Golden Access and Golden Age passes. The new annual pass goes up 60 percent to $80 per year. The new pass gives you more for your money, but you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the increase.

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The Real Reason National Park Visitation Has Declined

If you read murder mysteries or watch cop movies, you’ve heard it several times. After looking at seemingly unrelated clues, the protagonist rubs his or her chin and says, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” That’s sort of how I feel when looking for clues to solve the mystery of why visitation to our national parks has declined. The NPS has finally--and somewhat reluctantly, in seems--confirmed that the number of people going to national parks has been on a steady decline since 1996. Well, something else happened in 1996 that may have started the downward slide--unless you believe in coincidences, that is.

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Cabela’s Coming to Montana, Finally, But Not Fast Enough

If you aren’t into huntin’ and fishin’ like I am--along with the majority of Montanans, I might add--you might not know about Cabelas’s, so let’s start there. Cabela’s is the superstore of all superstores for people who hunt and fish. People like me have “Cabela’s problems” and need support groups. Cabela’s fans drive hundreds of miles to the nearest store and spend hundreds of dollars on every trip. Once in there, we can’t get out until our spouses threaten divorce or at least to drive home by themselves. As the lights start to go out, clerks come up and say, “Sir, we’re closing now. You have to leave. We can call you a cab.” Cabela’s stores run about 132,000 square feet, which is larger than some Wal-Mart Supercenters, and bring 200 good-paying jobs into a community, not counting want comes in through satellite development. Such a store automatically becomes an economic windfall for a small community, and Cabela’s often goes into small towns. It’s actually more than a retail store; it’s a tourist destination with gun libraries, displays of trophy racks and fish tanks full of lunkers. And finally, Cabela's plans to come to Montana.

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