Older residents will remember the incident of the disappearing helicopter. I call it that because, if you’re a conspiracy buff, the entire incident smacks of collusion between the rich and privileged and those entrusted to guard our state’s resources. And truthfully, it’s old news.
As best I can recall, the incident occurred when a Park County resident decided to go elk hunting out of his helicopter on Rattlesnake Mountain several years ago. If memory serves, he had his son along and used the lad as his justification for the stunt he pulled. As in shooting the elk from the chopper as it was the only way for the boy to fill his tag. Unfortunately for the duo, the transgression was witnessed and reported and the offending parties were issued citations.
This incident resulted in a fine for the offending party and the forfeiture of the chopper to the Game and Fish. After an interval of time, the chopper was listed for auction to the public. Unfortunately, when the helicopter was attached, nobody, not even the pilots, thought to mention the necessity of also taking the chopper’s maintenance log. By the time it was sought out, the helicopter’s previous owner and the log were long gone. Reportedly, no one knew where. Without that ledger, the chopper was basically unsaleable except for parts. Or so I’m told.
What follows is to the best of my memory, but should illustrate the facts in the story reasonably.
Apparently, due to the missing maintenance log, no one bid on the unit, but eventually, months after the fact, a bidder came forth. It was reported to be a lady and the aircraft was sold so quickly it astonished even me. To top that off, it was sold for mere pennies on the dollar, regarding what it was worth.
Later, it came out that the buyer of the chopper was the previous owner’s wife. Unfortunately, that family was then reportedly living in Alaska and the matter was swept under a rug.
That was the story I got, the matter was quickly squelched and I bring it up only to further illustrate the point I’ll be making later. According to a recent news release, another rich guy pilot has been caught breaking the law. This time by landing his helicopter in a wilderness area just so he and his passengers can go fishing. Talk about attitude. Plus, if this dude hadn’t been caught by some cowboy out chasing stock, the incident would have gone unreported.
Samual Schwerin, of Bozeman, Mont., decided to park his chopper on a gravel bar in the south fork of the Flathead River well inside the Bob Marshall Wilderness last May 16, to do a bit of fishing. I’ve heard, from sources, this is not an uncommon occurrence in Montana’s wilderness areas, regarding illegal landings by helicopters. Regardless, when all was said and done, Schwerin wound up pleading guilty and paying a $500 fine for what is considered a federal misdemeanor. He claimed he didn’t realize he was inside wilderness boundaries. And he’s a pilot?
Let’s see, this rich guy violated the Federal Wilderness Act, landed his aircraft on a sand bar in the middle of a pristine river for purely pleasure purposes and probably wound up fouling the pure water with oil leaks and fuel contamination from his machine endangering, among other species, the ESA-protected bull trout. And, by introducing that foul smelling, noisy, bucket of bolts he was implicit in destroying the solitude of nature that supposedly exists by weight of federal law and all he gets is a lousy $500 fine?
To me it seems that paltry a fine to a rich dude would be akin to fining me $10 for shooting a Boone and Crockett whitetail out of my truck window while trespassing on signed private property. Heck, a nun in a Catholic school would give a rap on the knuckles with a ruler that would mean more than that fine. Some $500 is what rich dudes pay to have a latte delivered to their camps. Or a pizza. (Do rich folks even eat pizza?)
Why am I writing about this? Simply because, after reading those news reports I experienced a severe bout of gastric flatulence at how people of privilege get by with virtually anything by virtue of their status and connections. I’ll bet my boots, in the Bob Marshall incident, the offending party is very well connected, politically, financially and socially and probably a Republican to boot!
For most folks, $500 isn’t really that much. For us social security pensioners, it’s a sizeable amount. Five dollars back in the day is about where $50 is today and currently most paychecks reflect those increases. That’s progress, or inflation, yet even our cowboy state is peopled with folks who go to bed hungry every night. Go figure.
Heck, the world is full of rich fools who’d pay $500 or even much more just for the opportunity to spend an afternoon enjoying the solitude of fly-in fishing in what is essentially their own private wilderness trout stream.
But they don’t have to. All they need to do is come to Wyoming and buy a ranch where public waters run through it and then they can legally keep anglers from trespassing on their land. In effect creating a private fishing preserve stocked with the tax-paying public’s fish. Or lacking that, they can pay a guide and drop a fly in one of the multitude of taxpayers-supported fishing lakes and streams (fishing licenses are a form of taxation). Bait-using, bobber-bouncing worm washers, with a family to feed and a weekend off, need not apply.
A final thought: If the resource is so endangered that exclusions and restrictions that are designed to inhibit the harvest have to be implemented and are designed to only let a privileged few utilize the resource, why not simply shut it down until the resource recovers? Until it’s available to all? Could the answer be money and that being the yardstick used by those in charge of our states angling and hunting resource? How much money do the elitist tackle manufacturers and tourist businesses stand to make from sympathetic regulations? Or maybe it’s more about politics?
You want to fish a blue ribbon trout stream? Go up to Bozeman and hire an outfitter for the Madison. Due to the combined greed and stupidity of their government and the commercial trades, its vaunted fishery is just about depleted. I would suggest we are headed down the same river.