While bouncing over dusty Montana dirt roads recently in search of wily sharptails, Hungarian partridges, and sage grouse a humorous example of (federal) governmental “do as I say, not as I do” occurred to me.
Most of Montana, like most of the West, is a patchwork-hodgepodge of public/private land ownership. Bureau of Land Management, National Forest, National Park, and National Wildlife Refuge lands abut the County and State roads along with ranchers, farmers, retirees, and other rural residents. While the ranchers, farmers, retirees and other rural residents pay County and State taxes of various designs to construct clean and maintain the roads; federal land ownerships (often the majority in a particular State or County) do NOT pay taxes to State or County governments.
The federal government pays what is called “Payment-in-Lieu-of Taxes” or PILT. PILT is distinguished in that The Federal Government determines if, when, and in what amount PILT will be paid to State and Local (defined legally as “inferior” governmental units). Congress can and has paid less than the amounts initially or formerly paid when the lands were first bought or condemned by federal agencies. You see, whatever they pay, it is always less than the amount paid by the rancher, farmer, et al. In such periods as today where federal deficits are imperiling the “careers” of all federal politicians what do you think the chances are of getting what was initially or formerly paid or promised?
As I read the local papers, there were lots of references to the need for “more” State and County taxes as unemployment and business revenues have crashed. So while the local residents face higher taxes to maintain roads in particular in these rural environs, the federal land overseers have no such concerns. They will just pay what they want, even as they plan for and buy and condemn more and more private land to increase the federal estate.
If you fail to see the humor in all this, look toward Washington as this election approaches. As the federal government has spent Trillions and built Trillions in federal deficits, they (like their State and County counterparts) are demanding that all citizens pay more in income taxes, that home sales be taxed, that the Estate Taxes be renewed, that businesses and “the rich” pay “more, ad infinitum. In other words the federal gangsters demand that everyone pay more and more to both decrease the deficit AND give the federal gangsters more and more to SPEND while telling all the States and Counties with federal lands that they “must eat cake” if they need more tax revenue! If you don’t find this funny, you can only cry.
Lesson # 2:
Few things have evoked sneers and guffaws from people at talks I have given than to point out their stake in destroying the ability of the federal government to establish precedents to do ever-more outrageous things with their increased authority over more and more of our lives. Everyone like to think that they can somehow carve their own particular interest (dog ownership, ranching, hunting, farming, etc.) in their own particular state out of the federal maw. The idea of taking on the Animal “Welfare” (my quotes) Act, or the Endangered Species Act, or The Wilderness Act, or even regulations like “Roadless Areas”, etc., etc. seems about as daunting and overwhelming as taking on Islamic Terrorism.
When I tried to tell dog owners that they had a stake in federal laws aimed at game fowl breeders, I was rejected as crazy. When I tried to tell hunters, farmers and ranchers that unless they could modify or repeal the Endangered Species Act, the wolf-precedent would lead to free-roaming buffalo in their rural areas; the looks and snickers made it clear that they could not accept such nonsense as possible.
Well as I travelled around Montana there were big green signs saying “Treasure State – Not Treasured Lands, Thanks Sec’y Salazar, but No Thanks”. A young lady in a Cenex Farmers Coop station explained that the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks was partnering with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to “introduce free-ranging buffalo in Montana”. Think about a black, 1,000 lb. buffalo on a County, State, or federal road at 11 o’clock at night as you or your wife or your family are driving home from town. Think about fences (ever notice how they have to build and maintain big, heavy fences to keep buffalo IN) to keep buffalo out of your crop or pasture or even your yard. Think about hungry buffalo in winter – where they go to find food or salt (on winter roads) or to get out of the wind. Think about your kids on a bike or walking or riding a horse or ATV when nearby buffalo get scared or upset for things we would never know. Think about livestock diseases like Brucellosis. Think about dogs of all kinds that get too near buffalo. Think about your family or home or vehicles if a buffalo herd decided to stampede.
Is there anyone left out there that does not realize that NONE of these federal or state bureaucrat/”scientists”, that NONE of the environmental/animal rights outfits, that NONE of the disgusting politicians enabling all such abuses of governmental powers will be responsible (or even evident) when lives, families, and communities are destroyed? Is there any one left out there that does not see how so many other agendas (rural clearance, rural family destruction, rural economy ruination, gun control (competition with other game animals that are already being eliminated by non-management on public lands and predation by protected wolves and cougars, etc. will be just another “nail in the coffin” of hunting), government abandonment of the protection of all rural residents’ unalienable rights and property rights are being not only eroded but destroyed?
Failure to stop Endangered Species abuses have led not only to the Kelo Decision that has eroded private property rights and the end of big game hunting over ever-widening swaths of the West, it has led to the acceptance of government preference for animals (in this case buffalo) OVER American Citizens, American Families, and American Communities. Hank Snow described all this best 60 years ago in his Country and Western hit “Ninety-Miles An Hour Down a Dead-End Street”.
Finally, as an aside from this Montana trip:
One evening I was watching some elk herds in a Montana area not yet infected with wolves. There were about a dozen trucks along a dirt road with binoculars and cameras watching the bulls keep “their” cows together while they bugled and kept away other bulls. I had happened to meet two young men from Louisiana that had driven to Montana to hunt ducks and sharptails and partridges and pheasants while the Louisiana oil fields were shut down by Washington. I recognized my own youth and how I made some similar trips to hunt different things and see different country with two brothers I used to hunt with in Illinois many years ago.
Suddenly, as we were talking behind my truck, a US Fish and Wildlife Service vehicle with a uniformed driver and the window down braked next to us in a cloud of dust. The driver said, “What lies are you telling these guys, Beers?” Before any of us could say anything he roared off, laughing, while his window went up.
The two Louisiana guys asked what that was all about. I simply said they would have to ask him.
In case he hears of this article, I was talking to them about where to hunt “Specks” or white-front geese in Saskatchewan. I was telling them about how I banded ducks there many years ago and they were interested in going there to hunt next year. God bless ’em and good luck to them.
Had the public servant in uniform and a federal car stuck around for a few minutes I would have liked to hear his reaction to what I told a doctor from Washington. I told him that once the wolves reached this area in any numbers, this elk-watching thing will be but a memory. Wolves will be drawn to such elk concentrations and bugling like farmed catfish to a commercial feeder being turned on and the elk will both dwindle and adopt habits not conducive to “viewing” the few that will remain. Is that a lie?
Maybe the elk will be replaced by buffalo and maybe we could watch wolves in the spring kill buffalo calves since we will be told that doesn’t happen and even when it does it is “natural” and doesn’t affect buffalo. Sure, just like wolf predation of moose cows and calves or elk cows and calves isn’t responsible for the demise of these species or California cougar predation on the bighorn sheep ewes and lambs in the Sierras isn’t responsible for the near-extinction of that species. Yeah, just like the fact that Russia and European nations don’t have any children anymore isn’t responsible for the predicted extinction of those people as the Moslems in those lands will overwhelm them simply because they continue to have lots of children.
19 October 2010
Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting at [email protected]