It has been brought to my attention by a mutual acquaintance that county commissioner, Lee Livingston, feels I maligned him in a recent column. The one concerning bear spray. Apparently he felt that, by my use of a quote ascribed to him in the three news articles I read on the matter, that he was misrepresented. That is possible as I have been in those shoes before.
Newspaper staff writers are notoriously overworked and constantly up against a deadline. When interviewing or even simply attending meetings, many reporters, attempting to cover as much information as possible, tend to scribble their notes down and try to make sense of them later. Trust me, even though this sounds like I’m giving every politician who ever lived a lot of wiggle room, it can happen and occasionally does.
If that’s the case here, then, while relying on the integrity of an unknown reporter and on the strength of three printed newspaper articles, I may have inadvertently misrepresented what Lee actually said. Guess we’ll never know, eh?
That said, you may say whatever you think about my last column, pointing out that the rich, not the meek, appear to be inheriting the earth. But you should know one thing. The gist of that particular column is the result of requests from local sportsmen.
These are locals, I might add, who are older sportsmen and either native to Wyoming or had been residents here for over 30 years or so. They’ve seen what used to be, wildlife-wise, and how diminished our resources have become. Big game hunters and sportsmen or anglers who’ve arrived here from different shores, as it were, constantly marvel at what they consider a plethora of game sopportunities. All of which is probably true compared with whichever overpopulated state they moved from and in which, during their tenancy, they allowed their fish and game departments to virtually destroy their wildlife-based opportunities.
In the lightly populated western states, notably Wyoming and Montana, there exists a select few of the long-term ranchers and larger landowners, some native to the state and some transplants, who feel they have a virtual fiefdom and can exercise control over the wildlife that frequents it in much the same manner as feudal lords. So they feel they can run their properties, regardless of our state laws, as they darn well please.
Fortunately there are exceptions to that mind set. Hunt Oil has been, as long as I’ve been around, very hospitable about hosting sportsmen on their properties. There are other large ranches, like the Pitchfork, which strive to accommodate sportsmen and smaller ranches like the old Hogg ranch, that are also hunter friendly – or have been in the past. Still, times change or should.
What really chaps my cheeks is the piracy by private interests of not only our wildlife resources, but also our public waters in Wyoming, all due to laws which actually precede statehood. Frontier era water law, if you will.
In Wyoming, when any stream passes over private land on its journey to Nebraska or points south and west, it is illegal to set foot on the stream bottom or to access the adjacent stream banks unless you have trespass permission from the land owner. That’s whether the stream originates on public land like forest service land, or is flowing through private land situated inside the forest service or the BLM. You can boat through, over and even fish that water, but if you stop to rest and touch bottom, they’ve got you.
Montana, on the other hand, even as screwed up as many of their laws are, says you can access public water, with some caveats, from high water line to high water line and even do so across private property in some instances. In the last several years, groups of rich transplants buying small, medium and very large ranches and other properties, have spent a fortune trying to get the Montana legislature to void those public access laws and to make their public access laws even more restrictive than Wyoming’s.
Simply put, in order to cash in on the explosion of millennials who have discovered fly fishing, camping, rafting and all those assorted disciplines and have the coin to pay for their pleasures, these plutocrats want the laws changed to favor their bank accounts at the expense of the working public.
Fortunately for Montanan’s sportsmen, Montana’s governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has vetoed those bills. It appears to me Montana’s Republican-dominated legislature wants to strip the average sportsman of his long-standing rights to access those public hunting and fishing opportunities. Apparently the only obstacle to their plans is their Democrat governor.
Aren’t you proud? A Democrat stepping up to defend the average sportsman right to hunt and fish in a state that made it’s reputation as a destination vacation spot for outdoors people while Republicans are trying to restrict or even strip the working class of its traditional rights to hunt and fish so they can make more money from them. How novel.
Maybe Wyoming could learn something from this, besides electing more politicians intent on the preservation of the “Good Ole Boy” club and the arbitrary and despotic feudal system of wildlife resource management – especially regarding fishing access.
And, as if that scenario isn’t enough to tax the patience of a saint, now the Supreme Court has apparently upheld the right of a Crow tribal person to hunt and fish anytime, anywhere they decide on in the Bighorn National Forest.