Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hunter Ethics and Long Seasons

Hunter ethics and long seasons

  • 14 min ago
Helena IR
Jim Posewitz: Ethics and Conservation Hunting
Popular conservationist and author Jim Posewitz poses for a photograph in this IR file photo.
As we approach the 2018 hunting season, it is worth taking a moment to address our ethical relationship with the animals we pursue. To begin with, it must be acknowledged that Montana does an excellent job of hunter education; addressing both firearm safety and ethical hunter decision making.
In the process, hunters are taught there are two parts to the definition of an ethical hunter, in addition to respecting the animals hunted. One is: a person who knows and respects the law, and the other is; a person who behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of him or her as a hunter.
When hunters take to the field in 2018, they will be presented with a growing complexity of extended seasons. In some, and perhaps many circumstances, these season options may preclude a person’s ability to satisfy all the requirements of being an ethical hunter.
Montana’s general big game hunting season traditionally sent hunters afield when animals were in their peak condition and sport hunters were offered a generous five week season to pursue them in the context of fair chase.
In times past, when land and wildlife managers concluded they needed special seasons to reduce the public’s wildlife, options put hunters and hunting in unsustainable positions. Past examples of that were: killing elk on the ”firing-line” north of Yellowstone Park in the 1950s and 60s; and, more recently, the buffalo liquidation north of the Yellowstone Park boundary in the late 1980s.
The hunters followed the law while the managers of our public trust in wildlife, put them, and hunting, in a socially unacceptable position. In both cases, the public’s tolerance was exceeded and changes were made.
In the more recent buffalo killing episode, game wardens and park rangers led shooters to every buffalo that set hoof in Montana and killed it. Public outcry was intense, and the anti-hunting movement filled their coffers.  Sport hunting was vilified along with the mandated buffalo killing. As far as the general public was concerned, we were back in the 1880s, and hunter ethics was nowhere to be found.
A quick scan of the 2018 hunting regulations verifies that in many hunting districts there are now "shoulder seasons" added to the old list that includes ‘regular seasons,’ ‘extended seasons’ and ‘management seasons.’  
For the most part, this variety of options for killing big game is usually done to accommodate private landowners. In the case of the new shoulder seasons, there seem to be few concessions the landowners are required to make, for example finding a way to allow public access to hunters during the regular season.   
The 2018 result of this growing complexity is that cow elk can be legally chased for up to six months.  The time window stretches from the dry heat of mid August to the period of late winter stress in mid February. That does present ethical hunters with a dilemma.  This seems to meet the first standard of ethical hunting, which is to hunt within state regulation.  However, from the elk’s point of view, can six months of ‘chase’ really be fair?     
When these shoulder seasons were initially proposed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks a few years ago, Montana sportsmen objected to a number of features of the program that would have facilitated the commercialization and privatization of our fish and wildlife. To its credit, the state responded to those concerns and bull elk, and their ability to attract a private revenue stream, were removed from the formula.
Perhaps it is time for the land and wildlife management agencies responsible for the public trust management of this precious resource to address the ethics of micro managing to facilitate killing wildlife and focus on issues at the core of the problem. Issues including: improving habitat quality and security on public lands, accessing private lands during the general hunting seasons, and educating all parties on the beauty of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. 
When this is done, it might put us all on the same ethical page. That could produce a relationship between us and those wonderful wild animals that belong at the center of every discussion of hunter ethics.  
Jim Posewitz of Helena spent 32 years with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, leading the agency’s ecological program for 15 years. He then founded Orion the Hunter’s Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of ethical hunting and wild resources essential to that purpose. Posewitz has published five books on those subjects and also served as executive director of the Cinnabar Foundation from its inception in 1983 to 2010.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What Can Dark Money Buy IN Montana

Great words by our good friend Dr. Don Thomas.

Guest opinion: What can dark money buy in Montana?

  • 16 hrs ago

Don Thomas, outdoor writer
The Ravalli County Commissioners signed a letter to Attorney General Tim Fox calling for an investigation into seven Montana conservation organizations, including some of the state’s oldest and grassroots advocates for public lands and wildlife. The commissioners claimed that they had been “attacked by well-funded organizations who engage in blatant and extremely misleading political activity.” The letter provided no specifics about the “attacks.”
The “evidence” for these allegations consisted of screeds provided by the Montana Outdoor Coalition and the Green Decoys advertising campaign. This material originated from the Environmental Policy Alliance, created by notorious Washington, D.C., lobbyist Rick Berman, which has a long history of organizing front groups to promote the tobacco industry, oppose environmental regulation, and support climate change denial.
Much of the funding passes through a web of nonprofit front groups created by Berman. In 2014, the New York Times reported on one such group, the Employment Policy Institute (EPI): “The EPI has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, ‘bills’ the non-profit institute for the services his employees provide the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman.”
Berman is recognized for his ability to use dark money to manipulate public opinion and local elected officials. In 2014, the New York Times reported remarks Berman made to an energy trade association meeting: “We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.” This sounds like just the kind of dark money influence that now concerns the Montana Outdoor Coalition and the Ravalli County Commissioners.
The complaint to the Ravalli County Commission came from Keith Kubista of Stevensville, who has held leadership positions in Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife as well as the MOC. It’s hard to know much about MOC, since its own website contains no meaningful information and there is no record of public disclosures. For a group concerned about dark money, MOC doesn’t show much interest in transparency.
Utah-based Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife has a long record of promoting the sale of public lands and the commercialization of wildlife. In 2011, the NRA and Safari Club International — hardly environmental extremist groups — censured them after they falsely claimed NRA and SCI support for their position on a controversial wolf management issue: “Due to the blatant misrepresentation in the press release circulated by these two groups (SFW and another spinoff, Big Game Forever), any claims they make in the future should be independently verified and confirmed.” The Ravalli County Commissioners failed to heed this advice. Hopefully, Attorney General Tim Fox won’t make the same mistake.
The commissioners’ letter prompts several questions. Can any “local citizen” demand an investigation into grassroots Montana organizations whose policies they oppose with no valid evidence of wrong-doing?
Why are the commissioners paying attention to information from a Beltway operative of proven unreliability?
County commissioners and the attorney general are elected officials operating at taxpayer expense. Surely, they have better things to do with their time and resources.
If the concern is really the impact of outside dark money upon Montana politics, wouldn’t an investigation be better directed toward Green Decoys, the Environmental Policy Alliance, the Montana Outdoor Coalition and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife?
Don Thomas is a longtime outdoors writer who lives in Lewistown.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Billings Gazette BLM prescribed burns helped land and minimized fire impact.

Eastern Montana rancher says BLM prescribed burns helped improve land, minimize wildfire's impact

Lodgepole unburned forest
BLM fuels specialist Paul Pauley talks about the thick forest in an unmanaged area during tour of the Lodgepole Complex fire recovery.
Northwest of Sand Springs where rancher Kenny Rich makes his living, the log cabin built from hand-felled trees and insulated with sod by his ancestors still stands more than 100 years after the homesteaders arrived in Garfield County.
In a landscape where fire is an inevitability, part of the family ranch's survival story on their slice of the Missouri River Breaks includes an adversarial relationship with wildfires based on the knowledge of how fast things can go wrong when fire touches timber and grass.
“Ranching in this country’s a bit of a gamble,” Rich said of fire danger in the region. 
The temporary fire suppression gains in protection of property and well-being are undeniable, but around 20 years ago Rich began to wonder about the long-term effects on his land as a result of fighting all those fires.
Acres of overly thick stands of ponderosa pine had gone unchecked due to wildfire suppression, choking out the chance for grass to grow and smothering valuable land with pine needles and canopy shade. 
"When it gets like this," Rich said, gesturing towards a thick grouping of pines, "that's when I realized back quite awhile ago that we had to start doing something. It's pretty much stagnant."
The decision wasn't an easy one, Rich said, but on Easter Sunday in 2000, he and the Miles City Bureau of Land Management's Fuel Treatment Office partnered on a 3,600-acre burn across his land and government land, one of the first major burns by the BLM's Miles City office in cooperation with an Eastern Montana rancher.

A devastating prairie fire

What may have seemed like a risk nearly 20 years ago appears to have paid off in the wake of the Lodgepole Complex fire, which last year burned across 270,723 acres of land in Garfield and Petroleum counties, destroying structures, killing cattle, damaging fence lines and temporarily depriving ranchers of the grassland and hay crucial to their livelihoods.
All of Rich's land could have burned. Both the Bridge Coulee and Barker fires — two of the four that merged to form the complex — made runs on his property. At one point fire was within 100 yards of his home.
Rich said he thinks he slept just seven hours over seven days while trying to protect his land. 
Standing on his porch in early July with a fire intensity map laid out on a wooden table, Rich pointed to what he believes to be one of the difference-makers in the effort — thousands of acres of fire-treated land where in some cases the fire extinguished itself with barely a hand lifted or found itself stymied by small two-track cattle trails.
Elsewhere, the fire jumped 80-foot bulldozer lines. 
"It didn't seem to matter what you did," Rich's wife, Linda, said. "The fire just did what it wanted to do."
If it weren’t for the protection his fire-treated acreage provided, Rich suspects that the Lodgepole Complex could’ve jumped Highway 200 east of Sand Springs and wound up at least tens of thousands of acres larger than it did.
Paul Pauley, fuels management specialist for the BLM's Miles City office, said he didn't want to minimize the immediate and damaging impacts major wildfires can have on local producers but wants the public to know wildfires are critical to the ecosystem and are unavoidable in Missouri River Breaks Country.
“This country is set up to burn. We know it will happen," Pauley said.
Research has shown the ponderosa pines covering parts of the Missouri River Breaks Country need to burn every seven to 15 years to stay healthy, Pauley said. 
Prescribed burn treatments helped remove fire fuels that can lead to a wildfire behavior called “crowning,” which occurs when flames climb to the canopy level of trees.
Crowning can produce 100 foot flame lengths and allow embers to “spot,” or travel on the wind ahead of fires and above containment lines.
In extreme cases like the Lodgepole Complex, it's possible for embers to spot a mile or more ahead of a fire. 
"When you're talking over 100 foot flame lengths, that's so hot and so aggressive that you can't do anything with fire engines or hand crews or hand tools," Pauley said. "With a sustained crown fire there's very little you can do from a suppression point of view."
With un-managed lower ponderosa pine branches, thick needle cover on the ground and low-hanging species like juniper present, fires are more easily able to fuel their upward climb and begin crowning.
Part of what exacerbated the behavior of the Lodgepole Complex fire was how dense the fuels were in the area. 
"This country between here and the Musselshell River, in my lifetime it has brushed up so much it's unreal. And I knew it was coming," Rich said of the big blaze. "You just don't know when for sure."
Prescribed fires on ponderosa pines simulate what Pauley described as a natural “pruning” process by which the trees shed lower branches. This leads to needle growth concentrated toward the top of the tree, giving the pines a paintbrush-like figure.
A healthy, mature ponderosa pine can have a trunk diameter at breast height of 10 inches or more.  In areas where wildfire has been suppressed, ponderosa pine trunk measurements might be half that, making the trees unattractive for logging. 
Still, they demand groundwater and moisture, which limits grass growth and alters the landscape by drying up small streams and creeks, Pauley said.
Fire suppression in parts of the Missouri Breaks has allowed a high density of ponderosa pines. In parts of the Missouri River Breaks Country there are up to 1,200 ponderosa pines an acre. Pauley said ideally there should be 10 to 15 mature ponderosa pines over the same sized area.
Without prior fire treatments, it’s possible Rich would’ve been left after the complex with almost no grass at all, he said. Instead, the rancher said he was able to continue to graze some cattle after the fire and was recently baling hay for the first time in years.
"A lot of people don't like burning up a little bit of grass, but on the other hand, it is unreal the production you get a year after a prescribed burn," Rich said. 

Working together

For some ranchers prescribed burns are a deviation from tried and true methods. Back when he was working with BLM on the first burn, Rich said his father was still alive and was initially skeptical but came around after seeing the results. For other ranchers in different circumstances, sacrificing grass temporarily isn't feasible in an industry where natural events outside human control can rapidly alter profit margins.
Landowners that cooperate with BLM on prescribed burns are expected to put up an "in kind" match of labor on private roads to help facilitate the burn, Pauley said.
BLM finds landowner burn partnerships desirable in part because of increased cost efficiency and environmental impact, Pauley said. Pieces of BLM land and private land in Rich’s part of Montana are often interspersed like the squares on a checkerboard.
But when it comes to prescribed fires, they may seem more like squares on a chess board.
Planning begins two to three years before a burn and includes wildlife habitat assessments, soil testing, vegetation monitoring, cultural surveys and other studies of the land in order to inform a prescribed burn plan and set goals. 
Prescribed fires are controllable to a certain point. Partnerships with land owners gives BLM the ability to treat larger tracts of land, creating more widespread consistency in land conditions. If BLM can’t reach an agreement, efforts at tightly containing the fires can be counterproductive to their intended purpose.
Fire lines cut by bulldozers and other heavy machinery are disruptive to the land and can create conditions for weeds and invasive species to take root. If the area is too difficult for a limited prescribed fire, “mastication” becomes the next best option. “Mastication,” in BLM-speak, refers to the removing fire fuels with machinery and tools. 
Pauley estimates that mastication can cost around $300 an acre, prescribed fire treatments can cost less than $100 an acre, and wildland firefighting can reach well above $1,000 an acre in costs. But prescribed fires aren’t a silver bullet for every rancher and every situation, Pauley said.
The planning is extensive, the operation is intensive, and there is a range of outcomes.

Flames, then renewal

Just as there was little sleep during the Lodgepole Complex last summer, sleep was also in limited supply up to Easter Sunday 2000, when Rich and the Bureau of Land Management finally put into action the burn plan they’d devised during months of planning.
"You think about it a little bit," Rich said of the days leading up to the burn. 
A prescribed burn can include 30 to 40 firefighters with hand torches and tools, brush rigs and water pumpers, and a helicopter dropping nitrogen-infused incendiaries resembling ping pong balls. 
In the years since then, Rich and BLM have continued to conduct prescribed burns on the land in a partnership they believe to be mutually beneficial by reducing land management and firefighting costs and improving habitat and grazing land. The burns are an ongoing project, and more are planned for either 2019 or 2020, Pauley said.Rich said part of his original intention was to increase his grass to improve the quality of his cattle, and leave himself with more options to feed them, which he said has worked out.
"I like to have some grass in the bank. That's the way I am, because that's the only thing I've got on this ranch. I don't farm," he said.
One of the added benefits is how the land has begun to transform and return to a form he's only heard about in family stories and seen in old photographs. Gesturing past the hills, Rich said he’s seen a spring start flowing where he’d only heard his grandfather tell of one flowing in decades past. Chokecherry bushes Rich remembers from his youth are beginning to take hold on hillsides and fallen ponderosa pines could begin to create habitat suitable for elk, which have been scarce for a long time. Woodpeckers come in droves to pound on charred snags and turkeys have been known to group on land after a burn.

Referring to another area treated with fire in 2015, Rich laughed as he talked about how a beaver showed up within a week after the spring started running.
"First beaver I've seen on this creek in 50 years," he said.  “I wish I was 25 years old, so I could tell 50 years from now what it will look like."

Monday, July 23, 2018

Missoulian Zinke and Gianforte – Montana’s extinction enablers

It came as no surprise late last week when the Republican-dominated Congress and the Trump administration announced their intention to gut the Endangered Species Act despite the fact that it enjoys a stunning 80 percent support among Americans.
It is nothing short of embarrassing for Montanans that the administration’s deregulatory efforts are being led by none other than Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke — a guy who still claims to be a Montanan. Zinke is aided and abetted by Montana’s lone congressman, Greg Gianforte, who is backing a package of House bills from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who has said he “would love to invalidate” the Endangered Species Act.
There’s no doubt that the industrialization of America has had devastating impacts on a host of native plant and animal species across the continent. From tiny snail darters in the Appalachians to the once-abundant runs of salmon up the mighty rivers of the West, logging, mining, oil and gas drilling, road-building, dams and rampant industrial development have fragmented and destroyed the habitat essential to the very existence of thousands of species. Humans are now held responsible for what is being called “the sixth great extinction event” on the planet. In simple terms, it’s estimated that species are now going extinct at a rate 100 to 1,000 times faster than natural background rates.
What makes Zinke’s and Gianforte’s efforts to gut the Endangered Species Act even more egregious is that Montana and the Northern Rockies still have almost all the native species that were here when Lewis and Clark’s expedition rolled through more than two centuries ago — even if some of them, like lynx, bull trout, sage grouse, white sturgeon and wolverines, are struggling to survive.
One might think Zinke and Gianforte would take pride in Montana’s unique status and work to preserve and restore our native species. But instead, Gianforte facetiously claims the House bills are an “opportunity to modernize the ESA with targeted reforms… and bring some common sense back to protecting endangered species” — the exact opposite of what will actually happen.
Among many other things, the moves will let Zinke block petitions for listing or agency actions protecting species; block critical habitat designations on water bodies already considered disturbed; defer agency scientific findings to state data; force the federal government to consider the economic impact of saving a species rather than making a decision based solely on science; and concentrate efforts on places where species currently reside rather than designating the critical habitat necessary for their survival.
Given that many of the threatened and endangered species are victims of habitat fragmentation, destruction and/or interference with traditional migratory or spawning routes, it’s easy to see that concentrating recovery efforts on smaller landscapes will be futile for the species that require large, intact and connected habitats — be they forests, rivers or plains. Likewise, if you put the continued existence of endangered species up against the economic potential of extractive industries such as logging, drilling and mining, the heavy thumb of corporate interests is sure to tip the scale.
It’s ironic that Republicans claim to be “pro-life” —  but apparently reserve that stance to telling women what they can do with their bodies rather than preserving the life of threatened and endangered species. Being in thrall to extractive industries, it’s not surprising that profits take precedence for Zinke and Gianforte. But if we want to keep our precious and unique native species around for our kids and grandkids, it’s time to tell Montana’s extinction enablers in no uncertain terms “hands off the Endangered Species Act.”
George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at

Carol Gibson Fairbanks Daily News

Really nice story about Carol & John Gibson! John serves as Mentor to MSA. Carol was highly respected by all who knew her!
Trip to Alaska honors memory of Carol Gibson
Carol Gibson seemed to have the magic touch when it came to catching salmon when she lived in Alaska. Here she poses with a 51-pounder she landed.
Courtesy of John Gibson
They met in California, fell in love and married.
Soon, John and Carol Gibson began looking for somewhere new to continue their lives together.
“Let's go to Alaska,” they said.
But where?
“We actually put up a big ... map of Alaska and threw darts at it,” John said. “And the darts hit close to Ketchikan.”
The Gibsons wrote letters to potential employers in Ketchikan and were hired — she as an elementary school teacher and he as a log scaler with the U.S. Forest Service.
Jobs secured, the Gibsons moved north. The year was 1957.
Although they would end up staying a short time before relocating to Montana, Ketchikan became a special place for the Gibsons — not least because they did a lot of fishing. And as good a fisherman as John continues to be, Carol was better at catching big king salmon.
John is now 86. His voice remains deep and full, although it broke when he spoke of Carol, who died this past December in their hometown of Billings.
In June, he returned to Ketchikan with their daughter, Teal, to spread some of Carol’s ashes in a place she’d loved.
“I am here to honor her — she was the light of my life for 61 years,” John said before reciting a song verse he’d written for his late wife. “I'll spread her ashes in the mountains; I'll spread her ashes by the sea; in special places where we lived and loved each other; during 60 years she shared her life with me.”
Early years
John grew up in northern California near the Klamath River, which he described as having been an excellent salmon and steelhead river back then.
When he got out of the Army he went to work scaling logs at Happy Camp, California. That’s where he met Carol, who was working in an office compiling timber scale data during her summers off from college. They hit it off.
At that time, John also worked fighting forest fires.
“I remember, she left for college and I was on a forest fire and I saw her car go down the highway and I was way up on the hill, fighting the fire,” John said. “But (the relationship) lasted, I don’t know why she picked me when she had all of those other college men to consider, but she did.”
Carol was 23 when they married. She was intelligent, pretty, musically talented and a hard worker.
John recalls that she stood out in Ketchikan.
“I'll tell you when the halibut fleet was in town and you went downtown with her, it was an adventure because she got hit on a lot — and some of them were pretty serious,” he said.
John himself continued to fall further in love with his bride. The compatbility was enhanced by a fact that was becoming crystal clear in Ketchikan
“She could fish,” John said. “Don’t sell that short.”
Although they didn’t have much money when they arrived in Ketchikan, they soon purchased a boat and started chasing salmon. He remembers a learning curve.
“Learned some lessons — lost some big fish because we thought we ought to use just 15-pound test (line) and be sportsmen,” John said. “And about the first time I lost a big salmon because he broke me off, I went to 30-pound test.”
He said he always ensured that Carol had top-quality fishing gear: “All I did for her was to make sure that her equipment was good.”
Carol made good use of the gear. In 1958, for example, she had remarkable success fishing for king salmon.
Two stories stand out. One involves a fish she caught solo near Carroll Point.
Well, mostly solo. She’d gone fishing with the couple’s 5-month-old, 50-pound Labrador retriever pup.
She’d decided to go fishing in the couple’s 14-foot skiff with just the dog because John was fighting a forest fire on the Kenai Peninsula, she couldn’t find anyone else to go with, and it was Derby Days in Ketchikan.
“I wouldn’t consider not fishing at all, so I decided to go alone,” Carol wrote about her adventure in a story that appeared in "The Alaska Sportsman" magazine in 1960.
At around noon that day — and with a downpour on the horizon — a king salmon struck the bait.
“I forgot about the rain gear as I grabbed the rod from the rod holder and gave a jerk, setting the hook,” Carol wrote. “The salmon, furious, peeled line from the reel in a long run of a hundred to a hundred and fifty yards.”
Over the next several minutes, the king salmon would twist, turn, jump, pass under the boat, and run again. Carol worked it back to the boat, but had to untangle the excited pup from the net before taking a couple of tries to haul the king salmon aboard.
“I made a cautious pass for him with the net but he ducked under and I thought for sure he would catch the hooks in the net’s webbing but I was lucky,” she wrote. “The next try I got him. I dropped the pole, grabbed the net with both hands and heaved him into the skiff. At that point my rubbery legs gave out and I simply sat down — limp.”
John Gibson has long been a force behind the Public Land/Water Access Association in Montana.
But she didn’t run the fish in to the weigh-in station right away. Not quite realizing what she had, she went to Joe Lewis’ marina (now Hole-in-the-Wall) to meet a friend who wanted a boat ride. While Carol had coffee with her friend, she told Lewis that she’d caught a big fish.
Lewis went out to weigh the salmon.
“A minute later he popped back in,” Carol wrote.
“Get this fish to the weigh-in station before he dries out and loses any more weight,” Lewis told her.
Carol, her friend and her friend’s two children hopped in the skiff and off they went. As they neared the ramp by the weigh-in station, the motor cut out and they had to paddled the rest of the way in.
“I’m sure they thought we were just two silly women who had only a ‘woman-size’ fish to enter,” she wrote.
The king weighed in at 43 pounds, 10 ounces — worth fourth place in the Derby Days and earning a prize of a Winchester Model .77 semiautomatic rifle. Carol managed to get in touch with her husband.
“She called me up and said, ‘Honey, I caught a big fish today,’” John recalled.
Salmon 2
The other story involves a fishing trip with Ernie Eggers, who’d won the seasonal king salmon derby in 1955 with a 65.2-pound king salmon. Eggers was retired, and loved to fish and wager on the day’s catch.
“He had won the derby, so he saw himself as a great fisherman,” John said. “So he would say, ‘Alright, here’s the way it is today. We’re going to have a dollar for the first (fish), a dollar for the biggest and a dollar for the most.’”
They usually beat him, and they ended up listening to Eggers talk about his derby-winning fish many times.
Eggers would describe how his big king salmon, instead of running on the surface, went down like a halibut and stayed on the bottom.
That’s what happened for Carol on one particular day.
She, John and Eggers had gone out fishing at the mouth of Carroll Inlet. Also along was a little girl Carol was babysitting.
“I can remember that she was telling stories to this little girl, ... (and) every time we went past that rock she caught a salmon,” John said. “And I heard a guy say — sound carries over the water you know — the guy says ‘For Christ’s sake, I can’t catch a big herring, and every time that woman goes past that rock she hooks a salmon.’”
Big hit
One of those salmon hit hard, and the reel spun as the fish went deep. Then it stayed deep.
“He was one of the those that sulked on the bottom, and (Eggers) just said, ‘Well you just hold on to him and he'll come up sooner or later. ... Just keep the pressure on him.’”
It took Carol about two hours to bring the salmon to the boat.
“It was really tough,” John said. “She was very tired when she was through.”
That fish weighed in at just under 51 pounds.
When asked whether he or Carol was the better angler, John responded quickly.
“Well, at catching big salmon, she was,” he said.
Green water
John and Carol Gibson moved to Montana after their first child arrived. He earned a degree in forestry from the University of Montana, and returned to Ketchikan for a couple of summers to continue working with the Forest Service.
He still recalls traveling aboard the agency’s ranger boats, specifically the Ranger 7.
“I tell you I still have nightmares of some of the storms we went through on those boats,” he said. “I've been on those when we were trying to come down Clarence Strait and the wind was coming one way and the current was going the other way, and when they said green water over the cabin, they meant it.
“Those big waves, we’d dive into one and you couldn’t see anything but green water for 30 seconds and then you'd come up, and I still have nightmares over that,” he said. “That's scarier than anything just about, that I’ve ever done.”
The Gibsons would settle in Montana.
Carol continued to work as a teacher in various communities, and later served in the Montana Legislature. She also helped John in his service as president of the Public Land/Water Access Association.
They visited Ketchikan on a cruise about 10 years ago, taking a cab to Hole-in-the-Wall to see where they used to keep their boat.
“That was the last time that she saw Alaska,” John said.
John continues to fish. When he talked with the Daily News he still had a sunburn from fishing on a pontoon boat in Montana’s Mission Lake. His daughter, Teal, said he could go on any body of water and catch fish when no one else can.
John smiled at that, and said, “Well, it’s not quite that way, but I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fisherman. I'm still fishing at 86, so that tells you something.”
While his eyes would brighten when he talked of fishing, it was nothing compared to the range of emotion that surfaced when he spoke of Carol.
“She was everything,” John said.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Montana Sportsmen Alliance Endorses Kathleen Williams

Montana Sportsmen Alliance Endorse Kathleen Williams for U.S House

BOZEMAN, MT - The Montana Sportsmen Alliance (MSA) announced today its endorsement of Kathleen Williams for the U.S. House of Representatives. Citing her support of access to public lands, streams, and rivers as well as opposition to the transfer or sell-off of public lands, MSA said the choice to endorse Williams was clear.

"Kathleen Williams will be a strong ally to preserve Montana's hunting and fishing heritage," said Joe Perry, President of MSA from Brady. "Future generations are relying on what we do today and Kathleen won't back down from the special interests threatening our outdoor way of life."

"I have a proven record of working to protect our public lands while reaching out to private landowners to find real solutions," said Williams. "With the help of Montana Sportsmen Alliance, I'll work hard to protect our hunting and fishing heritage not only because it's the right thing to do, but because I'm a hunter, too."

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance is comprised of Montana hunting, angling, and conservation minded individuals who are committed to insuring the effective representation of rank and file sportsmen in public policy matters. The Alliance works to continue the core values of public ownership of public wildlife, and public access to public resources. MSA works with public officials and agency personnel to promote sound stewardship of natural resources and to preserve Montana’s hunting and fishing heritage.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Montana Sportsmen Alliance endorses Jon Tester for Senate

Montana Sportsmen Alliance Endorses Farmer Jon Tester for United States Senate

Billings—Today, the Montana Sportsmen Alliance endorsed farmer and United States Senator Jon Tester for his proven record of relentlessly defending our public lands and Montana’s outdoor heritage.
Tester has always been a strong champion for Montana’s outdoor economy, which supports more than 70,000 jobs annually. And he has consistently opposed efforts to sell off or transfer federal public lands, has fought to reduce barriers to public access of land, and has worked to protect public land from development.
“There’s no doubt about it—keeping public lands in public hands is a Montana value,” Tester said. “With the help of groups like the Montana Sportsmen Alliance, we can fight back against outsiders who are hell-bent on taking our public lands and fundamentally changing our Montana way of life. I’m proud to stand with them and I’m proud to have their endorsement.”
“Jon understands that here in Montana, being able to use this state’s natural resources for hunting, angling, and recreation isn’t just our hobby, it’s our heritage,” said Joe Perry, President of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. “We owe it to the next generation of Montanans to preserve our public lands so they can enjoy the same kind of access we do. Jon Tester is a proven fighter, and we’re proud to endorse him as the best candidate to represent our core values to Washington.”

Paid for by Montanans for Tester