The Billings Outpost

Ecostar winners named

BOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension honored 22 recipients with Ecostar Pollution Prevention awards in a ceremony held in Helena in April.

The Ecostar awards are coordinated by MSU Extension’s Housing and Environmental Health Program and funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There were 22 EcoStar award winners representing 17 communities from across the state. The Ecostar award program recognizes small businesses, institutions and non-profits that are leading efforts in Montana to voluntarily focus on pollution prevention and create a more environmentally sustainable model.

The award focuses on those taking environmentally responsible steps to reduce solid and hazardous waste, maximize efficiencies, conserve energy and water and improve air quality.

The 2012 EcoStar Award winners by area include (* indicates repeat winner):

Multiple locations: Mackenzie River Pizza Co. * in Billings, Bozeman, Belgrade, Butte, Helena, Great Falls, Missoula, Whitefish and Kalispell

Billings: St. Vincent Healthcare *, Sage Spa Living *

Hinsdale: Hinsdale FFA & Hinsdale Public School

Lewistown: High Plains Horse Blanket Repair

Livingston: Gadanke/Katie Clemons Inc. *, Livingston Healthcare Farm to Cafeteria Program

Missoula: Bayern Brewing, Jackson Contracting

Red Lodge: Red Lodge Mountain

West Glacier: Glacier Guides & Montana Rafting

Yellowstone National Park: Delaware North Co. Parks and Resorts *


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:10

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$500 million needed for trail maintenance


MISSOULA – The Fourth of July holiday means many Montanans will head for the hills. Those hitting the trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding or motorized recreation in the National Forests may notice some repair work that needs to be done. In fact, the cost to get trails across the country up to basic standards will run to more than $500 million, according to a new GAO report. 

Paul Spitler, Montana-based director of wilderness campaigns for The Wilderness Society, said it may be difficult in these difficult budget times to seek more funding, so creative solutions are needed to maintain public access.

“We know that use is increasing on our trails,” he said. “This is really something that touches Americans of all stripes. Virtually everyone loves the great outdoors and trails are the conduit to the great outdoors.”

Spitler said collaborations and volunteer programs can help leverage repair funding. Trail maintenance projects include clearing trees and brush, improving stream crossings, and preventing erosion. He adds that about $80 million is dedicated to trail maintenance each year, and it’s estimated that that those trails contribute more than $80 billion a year to the recreation industry. 

Acording to Mark Himmel, chairman of Back Country Horsemen of Montana, his group’s chapters are among the largest volunteer-based trail organizations in the country. He said volunteer time is a great resource to help get trails on track, but relying only on volunteers isn’t realistic because of money and time.

“With diesel at $3.81 a gallon, it’s always a $40 to $50 day, you know, when you volunteer, and we only get about eight weekends to volunteer,” he said.

The GAO report also found that only about one-quarter of all trails are kept up to standard. The Wilderness Society and Back Country Horsemen requested the report.

The GAO report is at

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:09

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Grizzly euthanized

A 3-year-old male grizzly bear was euthanized at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks state wildlife lab in Bozeman on June 25, a news release said.

The bear was captured June 24 on private land north of Red Lodge after two separate incidents of depredation occurring Thursday, June 20, and Saturday, June 22.

On Thursday, the bear killed one sheep, then returned on Saturday and killed seven more and wounded two others. Both USDA-Wildlife Services and FWP investigated the incidents and found the bear had been within the confines of corrals and close to buildings.

This was the third time this bear had been captured. The bear was in overall good condition for its age and time of year and weighed 200 pounds.


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:09

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Havre ranch recognized

The Montana Stockgrowers Association has announced that the LaSalle Ranch of Havre has been selected winner of the 2013-2014 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award, sponsored by MSGA’s Research, Education and Endowment Foundation and funded by Montana Beef Producers with Checkoff Dollars.

LaSalle Ranch is a cow/calf and yearling operation mostly located within the boundaries of the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation. The LaSalles are members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and the first Native American winners of this award.

Each year, MSGA honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within the beef industry. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers. LaSalle Ranch was selected for this award by a committee that included two past national Environmental Stewardship Award winners from Montana.

“The whole LaSalle family is very proud to have been selected for this award,” said Leon LaSalle, president of LaSalle Ranch. “We understand that if we take care of the land it will take care of us. Our ancestors lived in harmony with their environment and we try to do the same. This award means a lot to me personally, not for myself, but for my father who has spent a lifetime improving the environment—not only for us, but for numerous other farmers and ranchers throughout North Central Montana.”

LaSalle Ranch is operated by the LaSalle family: Leon and his wife Shannon, his father Robert L. and mother Jenny, and brother Robert W. and his wife Susan are all involved in the operation. Leon and Robert W. represent the third generation to ranch in the area. Their grandfather, Frank Billy, was one of the first Chippewa Cree Tribal members to enter the livestock industry after World War II.

LaSalle Ranch has partnered with the Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Natural Resource Department, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to implement conservation practices and a planned grazing system to protect environmentally sensitive areas on the ranch. They have installed over seven miles of stock water pipelines, 25 wildlife-friendly watering facilities, and 10 miles of cross fences.

A major focus of the LaSalle family’s efforts has been Beaver Creek, which flows into Beaver Creek County Park, the largest county park in the U.S. This park is a very popular summer recreation area for Hill County and surrounding county residents who enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The park is located on the downstream border of the LaSalle’s grazing allotment. The LaSalles have worked to keep cattle off the sensitive riparian areas of the creek by developing eight off-stream water developments, utilizing solar energy to pump livestock water to higher elevations to take grazing pressure off riparian areas and allow even grazing use of the pastures, and installing 3.5 miles of riparian area protection fences. These efforts have resulted in improved water quality in the headwaters of this watershed.

 and a more pleasant environment for recreationalists.

MSGA will work with the LaSalle Ranch to prepare its application for the regional and national award competition. Since 1992, MSGA has honored 20 state winners, nine of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:08

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Soldiers cross ponderous Rockies – by bicycle

By SCOTT PRINZING - For The Outpost

Like author Kay Moore, I first learned of the Black Bicycle Corps when a documentary of its mission was on PBS. I recorded it on my VCR, but never got around to watching it.

As I am lax about writing what is actually on each VHS tape, it is probably in a pile of other intriguing programs I’ve yet to see.

So I was pleased to learn of “The Great Bicycle Experiment: The Army’s Historic Black Bicycle Corps, 1896-97,” by Mountain Press Publishing. It is short (just 86 pages) and is filled with historic photographs on almost every page.

Written for a juvenile audience, it is a quick but fascinating read. Thoroughly researched by Ms. Moore, it has a complete index, bibliography and information of further avenues of research for young readers.

While I was aware of this unique venture by African Americans in the post-Civil War era, I was unaware of its importance to Montana history.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, a certain Lt. James Moss, second lieutenant at Fort Missoula in Montana, had a revolutionary idea in 1896. He was convinced that bicycles, relatively new on the scene, could be employed by the U.S. Army in place of horses for certain operations.

Horses are self-powered as well as powerful, so why bikes? Bicycles did not need to eat, drink or sleep; they would not die (although they could break); they would never disobey; and they were nearly noiseless (compared to the shoed hooves of cavalry horses). Lt. Moss was determined to test this idea and prove the worth of the bicycle in Army campaigns.

The all-black 25th Infantry was a regiment stationed at Fort Missoula at the time. Lt. Moss chose an elite group from its ranks to form the Bicycle Corps and attempt a historic 2,000-mile journey from Missoula to St. Louis.

Ms. Moore chronicles this seemingly insurmountable (to the modern reader) journey, highlighting both the challenges and the triumphs of these remarkable soldiers as they pedaled, pushed - and at times carried - their bikes across the mountains and plains and into the history books.

Not to be stuck in the distant past, the last of the 10 chapters addresses the legacy of the Bicycle Corps, following the 25th Infantry after the experiment ended, visiting historical monuments, and discussing a modern day 2,000-mile reenactment of sorts (the cyclists had to worry more about traffic than the dangers of the Wild West).

“The Great Bicycle Experiment” is both a valuable historical resource and an entertaining adventure story for readers young and old. It is a highly recommended book for both the classroom and the home (or for the homeschooled family), as it packs a lot of incredible information into a tight package.

Priced at $12, it can be purchased online or in stores.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:10

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Justice at Cardwell Ranch

“Justice at Cardwell Ranch,” by BJ. Daniels. Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Ontario, Canada. Paperback, 216 pages. $5.25.

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

No matter how many books you read, whole genres can pass you by. My wife used to read a lot of romance novels and occasionally I would dip my nose into one just to see what was going on. They might as well have been written in Sanskrit. Nothing much there penetrated my brain.

So it came as a total surprise to me to learn that Montana has a bestselling romance writer right here in Malta. I am not even certain that “romance” is the right word because the genre seems to contain genres within the genre.

Anyway, her name is B.J. Daniels, and she has written 26 novels in the Harlequin Intrigue series, plus ebooks. According to press materials, her first book set on the Cardwell Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon was read by more than 2 million people, as opposed, apparently, to selling more than 2 million copies.

I don’t know how many people have read the sequel, “Justice at Cardwell Ranch,” but I am one of them – just another Outpost service to its readers.

Presumably, what goes on here will be familiar ground for Ms. Daniels’ fans. Jordan Cardwell is a hunk with a past who returns to Montana for, among more mysterious purposes, his 20-year high school reunion. When he is found standing over the fresh corpse of a high school classmate, he becomes a murder suspect. Investigating the case is an attractive deputy, who feels her heartstrings tug at the sight of him.

Meanwhile, his sister, who is holding on to the family ranch, is married to the marshal, who has the irresistible name of Hud Savage. She is profoundly pregnant when another sister shows up unexpectedly, fresh baby in hand.

Let’s see, what else? There are stuck-up old high school classmates, a car crash, ancient vandalism, a possible kidnapping, yet another family member who shows up, another new baby and so on.

Having made it to the end of the book, I’m still not quite sure what to make of all this. Ms. Daniels, who started as a newspaper journalist, certainly has the skills.

The novel trips along without a hitch. And perhaps it isn’t giving too much away to note that things turn out mostly OK for the principals at the end.

But what does it all mean? Guess I will have to wait for the Sanskrit version to come out.



Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:09

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Edward Adrift

“Edward Adrift,” by Craig Lancaster. Amazon Publishing, Las Vegas, Nev. Paperback, 320 pages. $9.99 digital.

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

I must confess that I wasn’t too excited about picking up Craig Lancaster’s third novel, “Edward Adrift.” His first novel, “600 Hours of Edward,” was an unexpected delight, a humorous but poignant look into the mind of a most unusual character.

His second novel, “The Summer Son,” seemed to me a step back, one that replowed much of the same emotional ground with a plot that was at once too predictable and too farfetched, a deadly combination.

That novel was followed by an excellent collection of short fiction, “Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure.” So a return to the main character of his first novel seemed to me like another step backward.

But, dang it, Edward sucked me in again. He is, for those unfamiliar with the first novel, a middle-aged Billings man with Asperger’s syndrome who is socially inept and a creature of strict habits, including keeping a daily weather log and watching old TV episodes on a strict schedule.

The first novel pulled Edward out of his solitary life with a series of unexpected events, including friendly new neighbors and the death of his father. In this novel, Edward is further extracted from the careful shell he has constructed.

His old neighbors, it turns out, have moved to Idaho, and the boy, now in seventh grade, has been expelled from school. Edward had struck up an odd friendship with the boy, and he is called upon to see if can help get the boy through troubled times.

The call comes at a fortuitous time. Edward is, as the title suggests, adrift. He has lost his job at The Billings Gazette. He has a new therapist. His friends have moved away.

Although his inheritance from his father has left him wealthy, his constricted lifestyle leaves him with little use for money.

His Idaho visit turns into a much longer trip, the result of a desire to revisit the town in Colorado where his father keeps appearing in his dreams. Along the way, Edward achieves further measures of human empathy, greater independence from his controlling mother and even the stirrings of romance.

This is all high ground for such a limited hero, and both the character and author put themselves at considerable risk. A slow journey to human development involves danger at every step, of excess sentimentality, of strained credibility, of false redemption.

Mr. Lancaster avoids each of these traps, handling Edward’s growing independence with skill and humor. While some of the character’s quirks can annoy even the most loyal reader, it’s difficult to avoid being pulled in by Edward’s candor, his intelligence and even his weaknesses.

Mr. Lancaster’s years as a newspaper copy editor also show through. Although the copy I read was an uncorrected proof, I found scarcely even a single typo, certainly something one cannot take for granted in today’s wide-open publishing world.

Mr. Lancaster has triumphed again. With remarkable speed, he has made himself into one of Montana’s most important writers.  


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:03

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Breaking Point

“Breaking Point,” by C.J. Box. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. Hardcover, 370 pages. $26.95.

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

Fans of C.J. Box’s 13 mysteries about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett know that Joe has been pushing his limits for some time now. Increasingly, the warden has been taking on crazed environmentalists, wacky laws and boneheaded bureaucrats.

He has found himself sympathizing more with this who break the law than with those the law is supposed to protect. He has taken on wind-power advocates and anti-hunting fanatics while finding himself sympathizing with survivalists who ignore game laws – and other laws, too.

In “Breaking Point,” as the book’s title indicates, Joe finally goes over the edge. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that Joe seems to become something other than the game warden readers have come to know.

Mr. Box plots his books with intricate care, and this one is no exception. It’s based on an actual case involving an Idaho couple who successfully battled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Mr. Box’s fictionalized account, corrupt EPA officials conspire to deprive a Wyoming couple of use of their land. Shots are fired, agents die, and most of the book revolves around efforts to track the purported killer, who is on the run in the Bighorn Mountains.

This is familiar turf for both Mr. Pickett and Mr. Box, who is a master at depicting chase scenes through the wilderness. This time, he throws a forest fire into the mix, compounding violence with sheer terror.

There’s a fine twist at the end, one that left at least this reader thinking that he ought to have seen it coming but didn’t. And the final pages are meant to raise doubts that Joe Pickett will ever work as a game warden again.

Mr. Box says he wrote “Breaking Point” in a “red-tinged fury” after hearing of the Idaho case. That may not be his best writing mode. He is compulsively readable, far too disciplined a writer to let his emotions get the best of him, but the same doesn’t necessarily hold for his characters.

Joe Pickett is the straightest of arrows, a dedicated family man, a reliable hand in a crisis, unswerving in his dedication to justice. If he decides that government service is too corrupt to deserve his talents, then what hope is there for real reform?

Let’s face it, Joe: Bad guys don’t just work for the government. They show up everywhere. No matter where you turn, you may find yourself working under some of them.

In a fistful of his recent books, Mr. Box has made villains of those who are supposed to be protecting the environment. Let’s hope he remembers that sometimes the bad guys are those who are out to despoil it.




Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 09:51

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Short Takes

Back in Beartooth Country

(Farcountry Press, Helena)

Gary Ferguson of Red Lodge is a distinguished writer, but his foreword for “Beartooth Country: The Absaroka and Beartooth Ranges” runs a scant two pages. This book lives or dies with the photographs by Mervin D. Coleman of Red Lodge, who has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years.

Fortunately for the the fortunes of the book, the photos are gorgeous, sometimes stunning. For the amateur photographer, it’s a good lesson in how pros manage to see things the rest of us miss.

This paperback book runs just 80 pages. For a coffeetable style book, it’s a bargain at $12.95. You are bound to find something here worth a look.

New children’s book

 (Farcountry Press, Helena)

“Have You Ever Seen a Bear with a Purple Smile?” is the question posed in the new children’s book by author Laura Budds. With charming art by illustrator Kadie Zimmerman, the rhyming tale follows two young bunnies on the hunt for a bear with a purple smile.

Bears get purple smiles from eating sweet, juicy huckleberries that grow in secret patches in the woods. The brave bunnies hop through the woods, learning about huckleberry picking and purple smiles along the way.

Ranch living with modern touch

 (Flying Diamond Books, Hettinger, N.D.)

Lay out your bedroll under a pine tree beneath the starry skies of Montana, as coyotes howl from the Rimrocks, cattle graze nearby, and horses nicker softly and stamp their feet in the darkness. The spirit of the West comes alive in the new book, “Montana Stirrups, Sage and Shenanigans: Western Ranch Life in a Forgotten Era,” as sisters Francie Brink Berg, Anne Brink Krickel and Jeanie Brink Thiessen write of ranch life through a legacy of pioneer values and traditions along with personal stories of working cattle, horses, wildlife and western humor.

New book on Yellowstone

(Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.)

More than 30 contributors, including several Montana State University Bozeman faculty members and alumni, were involved in “Yellowstone’s Wildlife in Transition,” a new book focusing on the changing ecology and management approaches in Yellowstone National Park.

The book describes in layman’s terms how management policies have evolved since Yellowstone National Park was created in the 1870s. Findings from studies over the past 30 years have influenced decisions and public opinion for the benefit of society, and the intent of this book is to translate that science into 21st century stewardship.


Montana mapmaker chronicles eastern Montana history

(Farcountry Press, Helena)

When Michael Bugenstein began researching the Kalfell family with intentions to write a short family history, he found a story larger than he anticipated. The result became “Since the Days of the Buffalo,” a comprehensive history of eastern Montana and a broader look into eastern Montana ranching.

Within its pages are accounts of tribal and military history, ranching and homesteading history, early railroading and outlaw history, an in-depth account of the 1920s Montana economic collapse, the effect of Roosevelt’s New Deal on Eastern Montana and the challenges the Kalfell Ranch has faced since the 1930s.


Get the Inside Scoop on the Best of All that Glacier Has to Offer

(Farcountry Press, Helena)

“Glacier is a landscape of superlatives,” states Alan Leftridge, a former park ranger and author of  “The Best of Glacier National Park.” The book describes the best day hikes, nature trails, backpack trips, boat tours, flora and fauna, historic sites, and more. With sections on activities for kids and further adventures in Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier’s sister park just across the border in Canada, Leftridge’s love of sharing his passion for the outdoors shines through.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:01

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Eating roadkill may be legal, but is it safe?


By ARI LEVAUX - @arilevaux

The Montana Legislature recently passed a bill legalizing the salvage, consumption, and/or donation to charity of animals hit and killed by cars-aka roadkill. Gov. Steve Bullock signed it into law in April, and it takes effect Oct. 1.

The law applies to deer, elk, antelope and moose, and puts the state in the company of Alaska, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Florida, and West Virginia in condoning the consumption of vehicle-tenderized meat.

With deer populations at all-time highs in many regions – and car vs. deer collisions skyrocketing as well – it’s possible other states will follow suit with roadkill bills of their own.

Salvaging roadkill makes sense for several reasons. Wild game is some of the healthiest meat there is, and it’s a shame to let it rot by the road. Eating roadkill could save families a lot of money they would otherwise have spent on meat, which might have something to do with why the beef industry lobbied against the bill, citing food-safety concerns.

In addition to feeding people, roadkill salvage would protect the lives of eagles, ravens, coyotes and other scavengers that typically feast on roadside carcass, and are sometimes killed themselves in the process. And the bill stands to save taxpayer dollars, as every carcass removed by a meat salvager is one fewer that road crews have to deal with - which typically entails hauling it to the dump for composting.

While the beef industry’s food-safety concerns may be motivated by the bottom line, there are, in fact, health issues to consider regarding roadkill consumption. Additionally, there are ethical issues to contend with, such as the possibility that some idiot might intentionally hit an animal as an easy way to harvest meat or collect antlers.

The way the law is written, a law-enforcement official must issue a permit to would-be roadkill eaters before a carcass can be legally removed from the scene. And the law specifies that the collision must be accidental. But it’s not out of the question – or unprecedented – that motorists might decide not to hit the brakes, especially if the animal has an impressive set of antlers. It’s amazing how irrational some people can act when a nice rack is involved.

But such behavior, while punishable by law, is also self-limiting by the survival instinct. Anyone who’s crashed into a deer knows how fun that can be.

As far as the meat itself is concerned, the deer you hit yourself is more likely to be salvageable, while eating a carcass you happen upon raises many unanswerable questions. The most important of these are when and how did the animal die?

The less you know about the answers, the weaker your ability to evaluate whether the meat is worth dealing with. This is especially true in warmer seasons and warmer regions, which is why I was surprised to learn that Florida and West Virginia allow the harvest of roadkill; heat is one of the main enemies of meat quality.

As a hunter, not only do I want my meat to be safe, I want it to be perfect. Putting perfect meat in the freezer is a bit like pitching a perfect game in baseball. Where in baseball if just one opposing player gets on base the magic is lost, with meat there is a long sequence of steps that must be completed correctly to ensure top quality.

Whether the meat is acquired via hunting or car crash, the forces that create bad flavor and spoilage are virtually identical. Despite my earlier joke about vehicle-tenderized meat, the part of the animal that took the brunt of the collision is likely to be ruined – resembling a wound more than something you want to eat. Spoilage and bad flavor can emanate throughout the body from the point of contact, especially in the heat.

But heat spoilage can happen even in mild weather, because a dead animal takes a long time to cool down. A hunter wants to open the body cavity as soon as possible to let the body heat escape, and the same would be true for roadkill.

Until you open it up, you have no idea what it looks like inside. It could be a total mess, with exploded guts and traumatized meat. Maybe the motorist who hit the deer managed to just run over the deer’s head, but it’s likely there will be some damaged meat. If the funk has not spread, you can probably cut away the bruised part. And if you’re too late, a trained nose will alert you of that when you open it up.

Montana Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, used a similar gauge to express his skepticism of the roadkill bill. “Despite its good intention, it doesn’t pass the smell test for me,” he told the AP, citing food safety concerns.

It’s find it funny that some supposedly freedom-loving politicians wanted to deny us a right that’s freely enjoyed by ravens, coyotes and other scavengers - especially when preventing waste could be considered a conservative approach. But in this case the majority were in favor of freedom – the freedom to be conservative, no less. “It really is a sin to waste a good meat,” state Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, told the AP.

If safety concerns truly motivated the opposition to the roadkill bill, it’s the meat itself that needs to pass the sniff test. And rather than make people drive by good meat so they can purchase their packaged pink slime at the store, it makes sense to educate the public on how to gauge meat quality as best they can, and allow the judicious eating of roadkill. It’s not a new idea, but is an idea whose time has come.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:39

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