Tongue River Railroad Co. will have to backtrack a bit on plans to build a new rail line to haul coal from Otter Creek.
The federal Surface Transportation Board has directed the company to reapply for a permit because the project has changed, and court rulings found the review of possible environmental impacts wasn’t complete.
Tongue River rancher Mark Fix says it gives his family a reprieve, since their property was targeted for the project - without their consent.
“The way it sat before all of this happened is basically, they could have come out and condemned me at any time,” he said.
The Tongue River Railroad was first proposed in 1980 when coal mining was expected in the Ashland area. The proposed route was changed to serve shipping of Wyoming coal – and, more recently, coal from Otter Creek – eventually reaching ports in Oregon and Washington for shipment to Asia.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:32
On April 23, the science journal Nature published a paper titled “Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture,” by Verena Seufert et al. The mainstream press waded into the paper’s implications but had a hard time packaging them in a headline. CNN announced “Organic yields 25 percent lower than conventional farming,” while the Los Angeles Times proclaimed “Organic farming, carefully done, can be efficient.”
Pundits have used the paper to support contrary arguments in the ongoing debates about organic agriculture. Such cherry-picking isn’t a huge surprise, given the issue’s divisiveness, said co-author Dr. Navin Ramankutty of McGill University.
“We made everyone equally unhappy,” he told me by phone.
The paper is a meta-analysis of previous studies comparing organic and conventional agriculture, and purports to be the second of its kind. The first, by another team in 2007, concluded that organic agriculture could outperform conventional agriculture, but parts of that study’s methodology were criticized. Seufert et al took those criticisms into account, hoping to avoid similar challenges, and considered 66 studies that compared the yields of 344 different crops.
In this sample, conventional techniques outperformed organic methods in terms of overall yield.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:31
Every book season at the Outpost brings a pile of assorted books by aspiring authors, self-published authors and, occasionally, talented authors. We do our best to weigh through them all, but don’t always make it.
From the leftovers of last week’s book issue, then, comes a quick overview of three books, one worth your attention, one that might be, and one best left alone.
The one worth a read is “Unbroke Horses,” a second novel by D.B. Jackson, a former Montana resident who now lives in California. The publishers thought enough of the book that they sent out an uncorrected proof prior to the July 24 publication date.
The novel isn’t perfect, and some of the imperfections may be cleaned up when the final edition comes out. But it is a novel of unquestioned power and an all but irresistible read.
It’s really two stories in one. The first opens with a Confederate general near the end of the Civil War, ordering his men to disband and head for home. When a captain resists, the general fires a round from his revolver “between the buttons of the captain’s field coat.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 09:09
“Hand Raised: The Barns of Montana,” by Chere Jiusto and Christine W. Brown, with photographs by Tom Ferris. Montana Historical Society Press, Helena. Softbound, 305 pages. $27.95.
A coffee table book about barns? Really?
When I was growing up in South Texas, barns were vaguely disreputable. Leave your jeans unzipped, and someone would tell you the barn door was open. Commit a breach of etiquette, and someone would ask if you had been raised in a barn.
True, barns had that musty, ancient smell, but they also had rats and snakes. When we stacked bales of hay on a summer day, hay dust in the barn was so thick it would create boogers the size of Ping-Pong balls.
So this fat volume entitled “Hand Raised: The Barns of Montana” made a rather unwelcome appearance in my mailbox. I didn’t really even want to look a pictures of barns, and I sure didn’t want to read about them.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:32
“Fish Tank: A Fable for Our Times,” by Scott Bischke. Mountainworks Inc., 150 pages. Paperback.
Defying all rationality, global warming science is still being questioned and – even more frighteningly – roundly ignored. As a result, our level of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has risen nearly 30 percent in the past 200 years – coincidently, the same 200 years that witnessed the industrial revolution and its skyrocketing rise in the use of fossil fuels.
Some folks are trying their best to prevent or reduce the impact of this ominous change. But the move towards a more environmentally benign energy system is happening too slowly.
Is there still time? We all survive, deep down, on hope itself. Hope keeps us going whenever we face challenges; I believe it is inextricably intertwined with our very survival instinct.
Hope is both the reason for, and one of the main themes of “Fish Tank,” an entertaining and captivating fable by Bozeman author Scott Bischke that offers a cleverly crafted metaphor for the planet-transforming situation we find ourselves (or, more accurately, have placed ourselves) in.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:31
“Images of America: Beartooth Mountains,” by Patty Hooker. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C. Softbound, 127 pages. $21.99
“Images of America: Beartooth Mountains” is a book of photographs but not the lush images of towering peaks and roaring creeks you might expect. Instead, the photographs are all in black and white, and the text is confined to extended captions that accompany the photos.
This is another in a series of books by Arcadia Publishing that use archival photographs and local writers to convey some history of various places in America. Patty Hooker, who wrote the “Columbus and Stillwater County” volume in the series, also wrote the text that accompanies these photos.
Some of the photos are familiar, such as those of Chief Joseph and Chief Plenty Coups. But many were new to these eyes. They show mining camps, early tourists, cowboys, horses, sheep ranchers, construction of the Beartooth Highway, historical characters and, yes, panoramic views of the Beartooth Mountains, all in a tightly packed 127 pages.
It’s a quick but entertaining look at a time not so long ago that can easily now feel inaccessible.The difficulties these early explorers and settlers faced are hard to imagine, but the beauty that drew them is all too evident.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:29
“Shanleya’s Quest,” by Thomas J. Elpel. Hops Press. Hardcover, 32 pages.
Myths and fairy tales are a founding element of the body of work that makes up children’s literature. If there remains any doubt that myth “supplies models for human behavior and by that very fact, gives meaning and value to life,” (Mircea Eliade from 1963’s “Myth and Reality”) our continued reliance on them for conveying values to our children through popular, colorful picture book retellings should dispel it.
Following in that ancient story telling tradition, a widely respected Montana author, publisher and expert on all things outdoors, Thomas J. Elpel, created “Shanleya’s Quest.” Subtitled, “A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99,” it is a creation story and fairly tale with an excellent and memorable botany lesson at its core.
At the request of a group of grandchildren whom we meet in its opening pages, Shanleya’s tale is told by a grandmother who we find out at the end was Shanleya’s granddaughter. We are first regaled with a lovely story of the origins of life itself – with an emphasis on plant life in particular.
Then we join Shanleya on a journey she makes at her grandfather’s behest. She is told to learn the secrets of the plants and sets out to do so with a map and a canoe within the mythical world she inhabits. Along the way we learn the fundamental characteristics of eight plant families with her. Shanleya’s quest is ultimately successful, and both she and we are the richer for it.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:28
“When We Wake in the Night,” by Tami Haaland. WordTech Editions, Cincinnati. Softbound, 93 pages.
“When We Wake in the Night,” Tami Haaland’s new book of poetry, is such a tiny thing. So why does it weigh so heavily on me?
I have heard Ms. Haaland, an English professor at Montana State University Billings, read from her work. I even saw a whole production of her poetry put together by local artist and promoter Ian Elliott. But encountering a whole book, even one weighing in at a slender 93 pages (plus a gorgeous cover by Jean Albus), with many pages far less than full, was a bit overwhelming. These little poems pack an awfully large punch.
If you think poems stopped being good when they quit rhyming, then you might find this volume worth a look. These are real poems, deceptively simple but filled with hard and sometimes unpleasant truths.
Ms. Haaland has a knack for carving to the bones of ordinary life: a kids’ baseball game, a friend who gets trapped on a train as she heads to the McCormick Café, fights between children, a catalog filled with models. The plain language, the familiar settings, the quiet flow of the pen all seem to promise something easy and comfortable.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:27
“Nothing to Tell: Extraordinary Stories of Montana Ranch Women,” Donna Gray, Two Dot/Globe Pequot Press. $18.95.
By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost
In “Nothing to Tell,” Donna Gray has compiled and edited the oral histories of women ranch and farm pioneers, some born on the homestead, others coming out west as preschoolers on the emigrant trains or even in prairie schooners. Their memories are woven out of hardship, perseverance and resourcefulness, embroidered with family, neighbors and simple gatherings.
Ms. Gray’s ability to duplicate various dialects, as well as regional pronunciations, like “crick” for “creek,” adds color and strength to her transcriptions. She also chose women of varied backgrounds, from the college trained teachers to those who didn’t make the eighth grade. Many family names are familiar: Hart, Jeffers, Mehlhoff, Cosgriff.
But whatever their roots, these were no delicate parlor lilies, but rather strong women, proud of their ability to work alongside their men, able to stand the isolation. Milking a few cows often tied them to the homestead. Men drove to town, turning the butter, eggs and cream they’d produced into store-bought goods.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:25
“As the Crow Flies,” by Craig Johnson. Viking, New York. Hardbound, 308 pages. $25.95.
C.J. Box isn’t the only Wyoming mystery writer who has been on a roll.
Craig Johnson, who lives in Ucross, has just published “As the Crow Flies,” the eighth in his series of novels about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire. “Longmire,” a TV series based on the novels, made its debut this month on the A&E Network. His books get solid reviews in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times Book Review. C.J. Box has even read one of his books.
The appeal isn’t hard to understand. As noted here in previous reviews, the protagonists in these two mystery series have a lot in common: They are both involved in law enforcement; both work in small-town Wyoming; both have Indian sidekicks.
But important differences also exist. Where Mr. Box’s Joe Pickett is dedicated and a bit of a worrier, Walt Longmire, while no less dedicated, has a sense of humor that punctures even the most serious situations. And while Mr. Box sticks to imaginative but solidly constructed plots based on tracking clues and evidence, Sheriff Longmire often wanders far afield.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 June 2012 11:24