30 September 2008

Yellowstone National Park: whistling elk, burly bears

Butte, Montana sometimes advertising itself as "midway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks." That's not exactly true, as it's just a few hours to Yellowstone National Park but a good half-day drive to Glacier. Still, we're close, and many residents of Butte America visit both each year.

Our favorite time for Yellowstone is late September or early October. With clear skies, the night-time temperatures fall to the mid-20s deg F and rise to the mid-70s during the afternoon. It used to be that the tourists had cleared out and the Park was mostly empty, but anymore it seems that all the boomers retired, bought RVs, and drove to Montana. But the park is beautiful in the fall, with meadows aflame with the color of turning willows:

The painter Thomas Moran joined the Hayden expedition to explore what is now the park in 1871, and some of his sketches became the basis for his painting "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone:"

Moran's artistic record helped convince Congress to establish the park, and Congress liked "Grand Canyon" so much that they bought it and it hangs in the Senate lobby to this day.

The park was originally established as a "pleasuring ground" primarily so that Americans could enjoy its geological wonders. We camped at Mammoth, where it is a short hike up to the Mammoth Terrace. Wonders indeed:

Most of the elk we saw were either hanging around the campground, where the bulls serenading us through the night with their whistling calls (aka "bugling") to the cows. Note how they like to bed just inside the cool, shady woods near the sagebrush prairie:

The biggest bulls enjoy the green lawns around the various park buildings and housing at Mammoth:

There seem to be distinctly fewer elk than in past years. The wolves have been a factor, although the wolf population is also down. Distemper epidemic? We failed to find them on an early morning jaunt through the Lamar Valley but not to worry, we joined others in the conversational art of non wolf-watching:

The buffalo are doing just fine, despite many being killed when they try to escape Yellowstone National Prison during the winter:

Back at camp, there were marshmallows to be toasted (Adler Patch, here):

Birthday cake to be eaten (Adler's birthday, but his sister Kenia seems to be enjoying the cake more than anyone):

Margaritas to be made--my portable drill gets a bigger workout on camping trips than it does on household projects! (Jeff & Celia Schahczenski):

The serious study of subjects such as "how to operate a 35 mm film camera" (Dave Carter teaching Allen "AJ" Puckett):

And a hike down to the "Boiling River" for a soak:

On our way home, Jan Munday, AJ, and I drove out through West Yellowstone via Norris. More wonders, ranging from steaming geysers:

To tiny mountains in hot pools:

To colorful bacteria that indicate water temperature:

There was also a big, lone grizzly bear. At a hundred or so yards distant, it seemed plenty close:

Oh, and a not-so-wiley coyote along the road:

Antelope hunting season begins in less than two weeks, the Yellowstone fall camping trip is behind us, so it can begin snowing any day now.

25 September 2008

Butte Montana in the Fall

It's fall: mornings in the 20s deg F sometimes with a dusting of snow, partly cloudy skies, pleasant 60 deg F afternoons. After growing up in the northeast, it took me some years to appreciate late summer and fall in a high, dry valley in the Northern Rockies along the Continental Divide. Gone the blazing scarlet colors of oak leaves, the impossible purple of maple, the burning orange of sassafras, the golden bronze of beech...

In the high valleys of western Montana, the green grass of spring fades under the withering sun of the endless blue sky days of July and August. The grassy open space of the Butte Hill, dotted with gallows frames, shows the faded look of late summer. On the hills, a tinge of color is creeping into the aspen stands:

Quaking aspen has not the range and depth of colors found in the eastern hardwood forest, but it too is beautiful in its simple yellow way. For the most part, the quakies are just beginning to turn:

Although you find the occasional early bloomer:

It's what we have as our predominant fall color, and we make do with this simple beauty--although on Alpine ridges you'll find larch and along some hillsides there are red osier dogwood and other autumn-colorful, shrubby species.

It's never too soon to think about cross country skiing. Cam Carstarphen and Mike Stickney put together a volunteer crew to clear trails at The Moulton. We split up into pairs, walked the trails with axes, bowsaws and other implements of destruction, and took out the trees and branches that have fallen over the trails. Here's Mike with some fine balanced-tree chainsaw work:

Some of us met up for lunch before heading home to more mundane tasks. Here's (left to right) Jim Handley, Rick Appleman, and Joe Griffin:

One quick stop for a pic on the way down the hill to Walkerville:

RolyTheDog stayed home, and spent this week with the Vet for a kidney infection. It's tough getting old, but like the turn of the seasons it is part of life, and the aged fate of an old dog awaits us all. She's back "home" now in my office, dreaming of skiing...

15 September 2008

Harvest Moon, Butte Montana

September has begun with a flurry of activities here in Butte Montana. The beginning of classes, a mining communities summit, home chores before winter sets in, and a few last camping trips. Saturday I was able to get out in the hills for a day of bird hunting (blue grouse, ruffed grouse, and Wilson's snipe).

Here's two panorama views of the valley from the high Forest Service road where we parked to hunt the first spot. The top view is the south end of the valley and the bottom the north (note the heavy fog/cloud bank). The red trees are lodgepole pines killed by bark beetles. It's still a gorgeous place to hike with a great view to the Pintler Wilderness, even if you don't bring home a blue grouse for the table:

Heading up to a steep ridge where the whitebark pines grow, not a half-mile from the truck, RTD walked up on a big blond bedded bull elk. Just 35 yards away from me in dense "dog hair" pines, the bull stood up slowly as RTD came over for a sniff, and I was worried he might horn or kick her. I shouted at her (she's deaf as a post), thinking that would put the bull to flight. Instead, the big 5X5 (at least; he had double browtines) stood for half a minute before ambling away. Here's the best photo I could muster. You can see how thick these wooded slopes are where I do most of my elk hunting. This bull is only 40 or 50 yards away at this point, and you can barely see him!

Angling further up the hill, we came to a boggy opening and this fresh elk wallow:

To the top and around the ridge and back down, never flushed a grouse. Blame it on a very wet, cold spring when the snow laid deep along this ridge until late-June.

Down in the broad creek valley, RTD and I made another hunt. Given the 20-some degree F mornings, I was surprised the Pleated Gentians (Gentiana affinis) are still blooming:

There was lots of grouse food, including Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries:

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus):

And Wild Rose (Rosa sp.):

There is usually a ruffed grouse or two along the edges of the aspen stands, but not this day. Fortunately, we did put up some Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) in the boggy areas along the beaver ponds. Along with their eastern cousin the Woodcock, I find them the tastiest bird I know:

Well, it is the harvest moon, so time to pick the Hops (Humulus lupulus) for beer brewing. Here's the trellis in the yard. Despite the cold wet spring, they did pretty well once they got going this year:

Here's a close up of the cones. You know they're ready to pick when the edges are tinged with brown:

But watch out! Until I've been into them for an hour or so, I never seem to remember just how irritating the bines (with a "b") and their natural essential oils are to my skin. Maybe that's because of its membership in the Cannabacea family, and the otherwise pleasant feelings that hops harvesting induces! I've heard some people smoke it, too. Hope it doesn't do this to the lungs:

Well, a good day done and waiting for the big event. Looking east from my front porch, here's the harvest moon rising over Butte's east ridge (Continental Divide) with the Lexington Mine headframe (aka "gallows frame") on the left and St. Lawrence church under the moon:

12 September 2008

National Summit of Mining Communities: Butte Montana 2008

Hundreds of mining community residents, agency personnel, and corporate representatives converged in Butte this week for the third annual National Summit of Mining Communities. The Summit began in Leadville, Colorado, to "focus on sharing experiences in order to help communities avert or reduce the severe econonic cycles associated with the boom and bust cycles of mining."

Though the real worth of the Summit lies in dialog among people from across the spectrum of mining & community, the Summit's structure revolves around presentations, roundtable sessions, and tours of local sites.

As an academic, I've been to a lot of workshops, conferences, and related meetings over the years. For the most part, they are not all that interesting. This was very different, in part because it's a topic I'm centrally interested in and in part because of the diverse participants.

With simultaneous sessions on local, regional, and national themes, there were a lot of sessions I wanted to here but could not. Ah, life is choices. Among the sessions I was able to attend, my favorites were presentations about Rico, Colorado (by both ARCO-British Petroleum the legally responsible corporation and local government officials), post-industrial environmental restoration & education, VISTA volunteers in hardrock mining communities, problems caused to communities by mining in Argentina, and a panel discussion by participants from various mine-affected communities. I'll explain each of these in more depth.

I've included lots of links in this blog entry--please explore them and learn more about each of these people and issues.

Rico, Colorado
Rebecca Levy(Mayor Pro-temp and newspaper editor) and Jennifer Stark (Town Planner) presented "Bust to Bust in Rico, Colorado." A small town of several hundred souls, Rico had high lead levels in residential soils, acid mine drainage, and piles of mine waste. Because the town is a bedroom community for upscale Telluride and real estate values are critical to the local economy, citizens feared the stigma of a Superfund designation. Also, as Becky put it, "Residents feared that EPA would set cleanup goals that were too high." For these reasons, Rico opted to work directly with ARCO-BP on an acceptable cleanup.

Chuck Stilwell, an environmental project manager with Arco-British Petroleum who has also worked in Butte, Montana and is now with BP Exploration in Alaska, was concerned about Rico and the Dolores River becoming a Superfund site. He stated that Superfund is an inefficient process that burns local communities, and that working directly with a local community can produce the same result. In this case, Arco-BP is working on yard cleanups, addressing lead pollution from local roads, the creation of a hazardous waste repository, and treatment of polluted water. Arco-BP and Rico have also created a non-profit organization for the ownership of mine properties and for institutional controls to protect the public.

Our experience in the upper Clark Fork River basin of Montana -- America's largest Superfund site -- has been very different. There is a general public consensus that Arco-BP often tried to subvert local government to accept less thorough (and much cheaper) reclamation projects as a substitute for more thorough cleanup. Superfund at sites such as Silver Bow Creek and Montana's Natural Resource Damage Program brought far more money and achieved results superior to collaborative (cf. Norwegian Quislings or the French Vichy) approaches.

The nature and extent of pollution at a relatively small and discrete site such as Rico is very different from the three large megasites that compose the upper Clark Fork River basin. And perhaps Arco-BP has learned from its mistakes in Montana. It is even possible that the corporate culture of Arco changed after acquisition by BP. I don't know how to explain it, but the western Montana experience with Arco-BP was certainly not pleasant.

Environmental Education
Justin Ringsak and Matt Vincent of the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program presented "Restoration & Education." They described how their program began with education about environmental restoration delivered directly to kids, but has broadened to a "teaching the teachers" model. From their presentation, other communities could learn how to build their own education program about environmental restoration.

Clearly, the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program has demonstrated that this place-based, outdoor laboratory approach effectively raises achievement in science education (standardized test scores, etc). As I listened, though, this presentation raised deeper thoughts stemming from the foundations of liberal education and citizenship established by philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and John Dewey. Above all, it raised a question that deserves further thought: What does it mean to be a good environmental citizen?

Vista at the Hardrock
Dr. T. Allan Comp, who like many great people can say he once lived in Butte, directs the Western Hardrock Watershed Team. A panel discussion by volunteers Torie Bowman, Grady Harper, Molly Smith, and Abigale Stangl explained some of the tremendous ways that smart, hardworking young volunteers can help improve and empower [i.e. "build capacity"] American mining communities. It was very empowering just to listen to this crew: there's not much that's wrong about the world that what's right about the world (incl. brains, youth, and energy) can't fix!

Mining Argentina
Wow. Just when you think the world is coming along pretty well, you look over the further hills and it scares the hell out of you. David Modersbach, a graduate candidate with National University of Rosario, presented "Social Insertion Strategies of Transnational Metals Mining Interests in Argentina." Corporations such as Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining Company, which often have a fairly good reputation of working with communities in the U.S. southwest, have a horrible environmental and social justice record outside the U.S. David described how mining has created a huge "sacrifice zone" in the mountains along the border between Chile and Argentina, where ecological functions have been totally destroyed, with great harm to local peoples. See YouTube Gold Link.

Mining Communities
More tears as I listened to the Community Panel by Gayla Benefield (Libby MT), Virginia Commack (an Inupiaq of Ambler, Alaska), Rebecca Levy (Rico, Colorado), and John Kill Eagle (Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana). No one can listen to the stories of men, women, and children coughing their lungs up from asbestosis in Libby without weeping. No one can listen to the stories of NovaGold Resources Inc. ripping apart the traditional "life in/with nature" of native Alaskan peoples without weeping. But as Bobbie D. taught us, "Take the rag away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears."


Thanks to Wendy Thomi (EPA), Kevin Mellott (Montana Tech), and all the other great folks who worked their butts off to organize and host this great Summit!

09 September 2008

Restoration Council Approves Plant Diversity Research

The citizen Advisory Council ("Upper Clark Fork River Basin Remediation and Restoration Advisory Council") of Montana's Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) voted today to fund Rick Douglass's (Dr. Richard Douglass, Montana Tech) research proposal for "Restoring Native Plant Diversity." The Advisory Council voted to approve $628,175 for the project. Though trimmed considerably from the original request for $848,244, it's still a chunk of change for a 3-year research project to develop weed resistant flowers for the Butte Hill Superfund site.

Greg Mullen and other NRDP staff did well working with Rick and Kriss Douglass to cut $220,000 from the original proposal. NRDP might also set annual targets to insure that measurable public benefits stem from this funding. This is, I believe, only the second research program to be funded by NRDP. Well, that is assuming that the Trustee Restoration Council (a body representing state agencies) and Governor Brian Schweitzer also approve the funding. Generally, the Advisory Council, Trustee Restoration Council, and Governor all rubber stamp whatever the NRDP staff recommends, so no worries.

Congratulations to the Douglasses. Kriss Douglass, a recently retired Wildlife Technician with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, has been appointed as a Research Professor at Montana Tech. The project includes tissue culture as a methodology for creating knapweed-resistant "super forbs" (i.e. flowering plants) that will allow revegetation of the Butte Hill Superfund site without using broad-spectrum herbicides. Kriss will reportedly play a major role in the tissue culture once a new lab for this experimental technique is established.

At today's meeting, University of Montana professor Ragan Morrison Callaway stated that it may take just one year to produce new "super forbs" and demonstrate enormous progress in revegetating the Butte Hill and other Superfund sites in the basin.

Despite concerns raised regarding the use of restoration funds for university-based research, such concerns were brushed aside by Chris Brick of the Clark Fork Coalition. As she said at today's meeting, "This project is exactly what NRD funds should be used for."

Previous concerns (yeah, that would be me and a handful of others) about funding research with restoration funds were misplaced: Given that there are tens of millions of dollars in Natural Resource Damage funds available for restoration projects, it is clear that there is plenty of money available for funding much more research like this. That's OK, I've been wrong before. Let me be the first to suggest: Montana NRDP should issue a national call for proposals. RFP: Restoring native plant diversity.

If $600,000 for research this year is exactly what we need, then more of it is better. The NRD fund could easily sustain 2 or 3 million dollars per year in research funding. Let's do it! No use letting that money all get wasted on buying critical habitat along the Clark Fork River, removing additional tailings from sites like Milltown Dam, and building efficient water distribution infrastructure in Butte.

In the 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency funded research by Dr. Frank Munshower of the Reclamation Research Unit at Montana State University and Dr. William Schafer of Schafer & Associates to develop revegetation methods for Superfund remedy and restoration. Munshower and Schafer developed STARS -- Streamside Tailings and Revegetation Studies -- as a method for revegetating impacted areas in situ (i.e. without the cost of removing tailings). STARS was rejected as a viable option for revegetation of the upper Clark Fork River basin.

Clearly, the Douglasses are on the right track. Munshower and Schafer were wrong in emphasizing a low-cost approach for remedy. We need to think big, and focus on restoration research even if practical results are never achieved or achieved only after many years. It is imperative that we invest millions in this goal, if necessary. Hopefully, many other revegetation scientists will follow the lead and apply for research funding. In the near future, the Butte Hill and other areas along the Clark Fork will bloom with the many native forbs that greeted explorers during the Lewis & Clark era. With enough money, we can create whatever sort of nature we want!

04 September 2008

Who is Sarah Palin? A Alaskan's perspective.

Like most Americans, my wife and I were stunned by Senator McCain's choice for VP candidate. We began calling and emailing friends in Alaska, asking for information. We received this reply from a friend of Jan's who is a Social Worker in Alaska. It was written by someone that knew Palin well. It is a fair, balanced, and honest assessment. - EcoRover


A note to all by Anne K.

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the
last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in
common: their gender and their good looks. :)

[Note: This was also posted on Washington Independent comments area,
with a controllable hotmail account, and was obviously meant by the
author to be read. ]



I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992.
Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a
first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her
father was my child's favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a
first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more
City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the
residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular
girl in middle school.
Even men who think she is a poor choice and
won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because
she is a "babe".

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She
kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents
for seven months.

She is "pro-life". She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby.
There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just "puts things out
there" and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a
champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly
sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his
work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or
so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their
major source of income
. Nor has her life-style ever been anything
like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She's smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000
(at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about
670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running
this small city was turned over to an administrator.
She had been
pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had
gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had
given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6
years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over
During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the
City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation
(1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a
regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she
promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they
benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration
weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed
money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it
with indebtedness of over $22 million.
What did Mayor Palin encourage
the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said
she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a
new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a
multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece
of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was
still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers
involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the
community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it
would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that
could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office
redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus
in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will
make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she
proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she
recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while
she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's
surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by
her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the
basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected
City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from
the library some books that Sarah wanted removed.
City residents
rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's
attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew
her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the
Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for
Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin
fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as
Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people,
creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs
and eternally
grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power
to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the
case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated”
she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top
cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure
and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that
an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't
fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation
for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen
contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she
later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to
replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded
for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew
her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in
The City Council person who personally escorted her around town
introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council
became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She
abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t
like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything
publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got
the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one
of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no
background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great
job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the
high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the
structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this
Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party)
engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some
undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all
her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and
garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a
gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit,
exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from
Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel
politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to
nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget
guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing
projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative
action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply
because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant
she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party
leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated
them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a
fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah.
They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and
predatory ruthlessness.
Before she became so powerful, very ugly
stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made
point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's
mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and
experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package
of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march
to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to
global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state
initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from
pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the
state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s
lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar
bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a
heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more
knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are
regretting it.

•“Hockey mom”: true for a few years
•“PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary
school, not since
•“NRA supporter”: absolutely true
•social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill
that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships
(said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
•pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to
promote it.
•“Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby
BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life
•“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has
residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska.
No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on
supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city
administrator to run town of about 5,000.

•political maverick: not at all
•gutsy: absolutely!
•open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at
explaining actions.
•has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
•”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores
and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
•fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
•pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city
without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built
streets to early 20th century standards.
•pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on
•pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city
government in Wasilla’s history.
•pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union
doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim
that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed
voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting
programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny +
Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local
government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "Bad things happen
when good people stay silent". Few people know as much as I do because
few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out
of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no
fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will
cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100
or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah's
attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to
say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in
spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor)
from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of
Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust
for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible
for a private person to get any info out of City Hall--they are
swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the
population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000", up to 9,000. The
day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the
current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was
5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to
2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

Anne Kilkenny
[email deleted because the author doesn't want to be contacted by all the "kooks on the Internet]
August 31, 2008

02 September 2008

Butte Montana and the End of Summer

July and August in the northern Rockies lull us into a belief that the long, warm, sunny days will go on forever. Then you wake up one morning and the frost has killed the petunias. This is life: a cycle of growth and decline, hopefully a cycle of renewal despite the fate of any individual.

Among wildflowers, it's the time for hardy Primrose (Oenothera sp.):

And on the porches, it's geranium time:

My wife Jan Munday likes to end the summer with a campout near Virginia City, Montana. A ghost town specializing in historical tourism, we like to take in theatre by the Virginia City Players or the bawdy Vaudeville at the Brewery Follies.

We take in the sights:

Stop at the candy store:

And sit out on the deck and have a pint or two with our friends Celia Schahczenski and Jeff Schahczenski at the Bale of Hay Saloon. Life is good:

After the show, we stopped for a steak:

While RTD and Sheikah patiently(?) waited for their leftovers:

And headed to our campsite as the sun set on the beautiful Ruby Valley:

This year, we camped at nearby Branham Lakes. We hiked up to the ridge, where Celia convinced me that we should gather some whitebark pine cones and extract the nuts (much like pine nuts) for Jeff's gourmet cous-cous recipe:

Nothing like some lunch and a nap on the ridge:

Well, not just any ridge, but a ridge with a view:

There are just a few, thin cornices of snow left from last year's winter storms. In the warm sun of a late summer day, they were quickly melting away:

But don't let the sunny, warm weather on the south side of the ridge lull you into complacency. On the north side, a weather front was rolling up the valley and over the ridge:

The next morning was cool and wet, and on the way back to Butte we drove over snowy Pipestone Pass:

And though the front passed quickly, it left snow on the higher peaks and reminds us that change is the nature of life: