January 12, 2020

Wolf Reintroduction Makes Colorado Ballot — Who Will Pay?

 
In the video, wolf teachers encourage a grizzly sow to reduce her carbon footprint by not having too many cubs.

Last month, supporters of wolf reintroduction on Colorado's Western Slope said they had the necessary 200,000-plus signatures to put a measure on the ballot, and Colorado voters will make their choice on "Initiative 107" in November 2020. The initiative begins,
(a) Historically, wolves were an essential part of the wild habitat of Colorado but were exterminated and have been functionally extinct for seventy-five years in the state;

(b) The gray wolf is listed as an endangered species on the commission’s list of endangered or threatened species;

(c) Once restored to Colorado, gray wolves will help restore a critical balance in nature; and

(d) Restoration of the gray wolf to the state must be designed to resolve conflicts with persons engaged in ranching and farming in this state.
Item (c) is essentially a nature-religion theological statement. Scientific ecology has moved beyond the "balance of nature" thinking to more dynamic and complex ideas of constant change. Even the "trophic cascade" model, as applied to predator/prey relationships by Aldo Leopold in the early 1900s,  is now questioned by some researchers.
"It's a really romantic story," Utah State University ecologist Dan McNulty said. "It's a story about a world that doesn't really exist."
A year ago, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted 7-4 against wolf reintroduction. This month, former CPW commissioner Rick Enstrom, who served on and earlier "wolf working group," offered a negative opinion.
Predation [of elk herds] is hardly the only problem with wolves in Colorado, says Enstrom. The biggest issue is money. The proposed initiative calls for wolf management and predation compensation to be paid out of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) wildlife cash fund “to the extent that they are available.”
The wildlife cash fund pays for all wildlife operations of CPW. It’s replenished primarily by hunting and fishing licenses, and it’s always over-budgeted says Enstrom.
Where compensation for livestock losses will come from when there is no money available in the wildlife cash fund is left unstated.
The initiative states that the General Assembly "shall make such appropriations as are necessary to fund the programs authorized and obligations, including fair compensation for livestock losses that are authorized by this section but cannot be paid from moneys in the wildlife cash fund, imposed by this section."

In other words, costs created by the wolf-reintroduction would have to compete for funding with highways, social programs, universities, prisons, and everything else that the state has to pay for.
 
And the perpetually stretched-thin district wildlife managers (wardens), techs, and biologists will not have another huge responsibility dumped on their plates.

I hate to bang on about money, but 90 percent of the voters probably do not realize that Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not funded by the taxpayers — like the Dept. of Corrections, for example. CPWis funded mainly by license sales, user fees, some federal excise-tax money, and donations (the state income tax-refund donation).

And what license fee brings in the most money? Out-of-state elk licenses. So not surprisingly, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is against re-introduction.
“To be clear, RMEF strongly opposes the forced introduction of gray wolves to Colorado,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We have witnessed 20 plus years of lies and litigation in the Northern Rockies concerning wolves. This Colorado effort is driven by the same groups using the same tactics to accomplish their agenda.”
Cat Urbigkit is a writer and an internationally known authority on livestock guardian dogs, which she and her husband (and others) use to keep wolves and coyotes away from the sheep on their western Wyoming ranch. She bluntly accuses the pro-wolf group of wanting to create a wildlife Disneyland, and she notes that the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project is funded mainly by the Tides foundation, rather than grassroots donors.
If one were to believe the spiel, wolf advocates are benevolent custodians of the public interest, and ranchers suffer from “the myth of the wolf” and “a fear deeply ingrained” that can be cured with education. A few recent examples of this custodial role show that the advocates propose “a wolves for thee, not for me” landscape – one in which decisions are made by unaffected residents of population centers on behalf of uneducated rural serfs (serfs whose work feeds the nation and are most impacted by ever-expanding wolf populations).
Anti-reintroduction groups, such as the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, are organized at Stop the Wolf, where they have plenty of photos of what wolf attacks look like as well as information on political opposition.

For a longer take on the pros and cons of wolf re-introduction, you should read this Colorado Politics piece from September 2019, "Is It Time to Bring Gray Wolves Back to Colorado?

Actually, if the billionaire-funded Tides foundation wanted to do it right, they would offer to pay for the reintroduction, instead of sticking an always-underfunded state agency with the job.

January 09, 2020

CPW: New Wolf Pack Appears in Colorado

Wolves -- our spiritual teachers (stock photo).

I have a longer blog post in the works about the upcoming Colorado ballot measure on the reintroduction of wolves. Meanwhile, they are again reintroducing themselves, says this Colorado Parks and Wildlife news release.
MOFFAT COUNTY, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say an eyewitness report of six large canids traveling together in the far northwest corner of the state last October, in conjunction with last week's discovery of a thoroughly scavenged elk carcass near Irish Canyon - a few miles from the location of the sighting - strongly suggests a pack of gray wolves may now be residing in Colorado.


According to the eyewitness, he and his hunting party observed the wolves near the Wyoming and Utah borders. One of the party caught two of the six animals on video.



"The sighting marks the first time in recent history CPW has received a report of multiple wolves traveling together," said CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. "In addition, in the days prior, the eyewitness says he heard distinct howls coming from different animals. In my opinion, this is a very credible report."



After learning about the scavenged elk carcass, CPW initiated an investigation which is still ongoing. At the site, the officers observed several large canid tracks from multiple animals surrounding the carcass.

According to CPW wildlife managers, the tracks are consistent with those made by wolves. In addition, the condition of the carcass is consistent with known wolf predation.

"The latest sightings add to other credible reports of wolf activity in Colorado over the past several years," said Romatzke. "

In addition to tracks, howls, photos and videos, the presence of one wolf was confirmed by DNA testing a few years ago, and in a recent case, we have photos and continue to track a wolf with a collar from Wyoming’s Snake River pack.



Romatzke says from the evidence, there is only one logical conclusion CPW officials can make.

"It is inevitable, based on known wolf behavior, that they would travel here from states where their populations are well-established," he said. "We have no doubt that they are here, and the most recent sighting of what appears to be wolves traveling together in what can be best described as a pack is further evidence of the presence of wolves in Colorado." 


Romatzke adds CPW will continue to operate under the agency's current management direction.

"We will not take direct action and we want to remind the public that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As wolves move into the state on their own, we will work with our federal partners to manage the species," he said.


The public is urged to contact CPW immediately if they see or hear wolves or find evidence of any wolf activity.  The Wolf Sighting Form can be found on the CPW website.

January 04, 2020

Hunter Steve Rinella Takes Down Movies' Hunting Scenes

I

"If you like animals, you like being out around animals and experiencing animals, you fall in love with the way nature is.

"Then you watch film renditions of it, and they don't love what it is. They wish it was different.

"And I'm like, Who are you to wish nature behaved differently than it does when it in and of itself is perfect?'"

Noted hunting writer/podcaster/ etc. Steve Rinella takes apart Out of Africa, Jeremiah Johnson, and other movies in which hunting is key to the plot. 

On Elmer Fudd-style cartoonish movie hunters:

"I don't hunt with anyone who puts an ear-flap cap on when it's warm out."

And then he goes into The Revenant, which I could not finish because it was just so inconceivable bad and improbable. As Rinella says, the actual story is one of resilience and forgiveness, but not the twisted Hollywood version  . . . 

The Deer Hunter: Everything is good, "and then [the movie makers] do the thing where they insert the wrong damn animal!"

Enjoyable!

December 30, 2019

Blog Stew by Reservation Only

Too many things to blog about. So try some blog stew with these ingredients! 

• Will you find a campsite? Beginning in 2020 all Colorado state park campsites will be available by reservation only. And yes, I think that's progress.
Log in from your computer or smartphone or by calling 800-244-5613.
Bigfoot, however, cannot be reserved. You just have to be there.

• PEEGS!! I can say that they are already here, although not in large numbers.
Feral pigs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage each year, especially to crops. Now concern is mounting they could be at the doorstep in parts of the Mountain West.
The pigs — which an expert at the USDA has called "one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States" — could come across the Canadian border into Montana, or traipse into Colorado from the feral pig stronghold of Texas.
Once Texas was the Comanche Empire. Now it's the Pig Stronghold. Progress?  To continue:
In Canada, where feral pigs are now firmly established in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, a University of Saskatchewan researcher described wild pigs as "ecological train wrecks." A recent study conducted in Mississippi found that species diversity is 26% less in forests that have been invaded by swine.
Apparently some landowners welcome them, maybe so that they can charge hunters a trespass fee. 

Where have I seen them? Around Pueblo SWA, just a couple of times.

• And then there is this: People who spend more time outdoors lead more fulfilling lives, new research shows."
Those who got in two to three hours in nature[a week] were about 20% more likely to report high overall satisfaction with their lives than those who spent no time outdoors at all. The benefits to physical health were even greater, with those who met the outdoors benchmark being 60% more likely to report being in good health than their cooped-in counterparts.
You know what to do.

December 28, 2019

Where My Sunflower-Seed Money Goes

I buy sacks and sacks of black oil sunflower seeds for the birds — "It's like ice cream for them," as an Audoboner friend says. (A shout-out to D & K Feed and Ranch Supply in Penrose —super-nice people.)

But some of it always gets, um, diverted. La mordida at the birdfeeder.

No, I don't go for elaborate squirrel defenses. There are not that many of them. And sometimes nature takes care of the situation.

December 25, 2019

A Sawmill Helps a Small Town, Elk, and a Private Forest

Workers at Blanca Forestry Products (Colorado Sun photo)
I visited the huge Trinchera Ranch once, in the early 1990s, when it was still owned by the Forbes family—I had wrangled a free trip to "observe" their hunting program (Ranching for Wildlife plus a "public hunt" for the locals) because I was writing for the Colorado Wildlife Federation's newsletter.

I actually had met Malcolm Forbes, the publisher, while on a journalism fellowship in the '80s; frankly, he did not seem like the outdoor type. Now the ranch's new owner, Louis Bacon, is doing some large-scale ecological restoration:
These kinds of projects at Trinchera regularly draw scientists, land owners and federal land managers seeking insights into fire mitigation, fire recovery, pest control and protecting wildlife alongside hunting, grazing, logging and other resource development. 

“I think Trinchera is managing at the cutting edge of a lot of science in forest management. In many ways, ranches like Trinchera are really creating new science,” says Lesli Allison, the executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, whose members have attended several workshops on the ranch in recent years. “When a ranch like Trinchera shares the knowledge they have developed and experienced through the lessons they have learned, it saves time, money and unnecessary mistakes for other landowners.”

Scroll down to the video of the small but high-tech saw mill now operating in the San Luis Valley town of Blanca. A few dozen industrial jobs in Blanca is a huge improvement. What was there to do before, clerk in the liquor store?

As today's mills do, this one relies on artificial intelligence to pick the best cuts from each cant. No more husky guys moving the logs with cant hooks (I still have one!), nor even what I remember seeing as a kid — a sawyer sitting in a little booth positioning the log ahead of the saw with hydraulically operated hooks. Now, lasers! 

December 11, 2019

Sheriff Porter Gets His Man, Part 2: Moonlight Subterfuge

First you should read Part 1: The Trip to Babcock's Hole
Babcock Hole, in 2004, looking south, before the forest fires of 2005 and 2011.

Babcock Hole, looking east, 2019. A ranch is in the farthest meadow, center,
and that was probably the site of Goodnight's line camp as well. In terms of tree cover,
this might be more similar to the 1877 version. The stage road came ran at the base
of the farthest ridge (right to left), passed the ranch site, and then passed out of the frame
at left.


On June 29, 1877, the moon was three nights past full. If Sheriff Porter and his companions left Greenwood at 10 p.m., they would arrive at Aikin's cabin about when a still-bright gibbous moon was rising.

The printed account suggests that storekeeper Morgan guided them over the saddle between the Hardscrabble Creek drainage and the small valley known as Babcock's (or Babcock) Hole, then turned back. Although Porter needed a guide — he was in unknown country and it was nighttime — the group was probably just following the Siloam Stage Road, which started in Pueblo, ran southwest to the community of Siloam, then into Babcock's Hole, and thence up Hardscrabble Canyon to the mining town of Silver Cliff in the higher Wet Mountain Valley.

Charles Goodnight, about 1880.
Babcock's Hole itself was part of the Rock Canyon Ranch, owned by the famous cattleman Charles Goodnight (1836–1929), who lived near Pueblo from 1868 to the mid-1870s, when he returned to Texas. He had established a permanent camp in the Hole, one of several "line cabins" used by his cowboys on the open range.

There was also logging in the Hole by at least 1873, with trees being cut for railroad ties, among other uses. A small stone foundation, possibly for a steam engine or boiler, still survives.

So the Hole was not exactly the deepest wilderness. Porter could probably have ridden into the valley in his wagon, but that was not his plan.
Learning that Aikin had a large family, Porter determined that it would be better, if possible, to get him away from his house before making the arrest, thereby avoiding the risk of hurting other members of the family.

It was therefore agreed that they should represent themselves as a party from Chicago who, in looking around the country, and desired to be piloted out to Greenwood. Going up close to the house, which was a low double-log cabin, Porter called until Aikin came to the door and inquired what was wanting. History of White County, Illinois, 1965 [1883].
Aikin agreed to guide them for $5. Porter assumed that he was armed with a revolver. They started out of the hole, "guided by the uncertain light of the moon, which was just breaking over the huge mountains and down into the dark valley."
When the party had gone about a mile from the house and reached an open glade where the moonlight fell full upon them, according to prearranged programme, one of the assistants walking behind suddenly, in a deep, stern voice, cried "Halt!" The prisoner turned to see what it meant, and at the same instant Porter, presenting his gun to his [Aikins'] head, ordered him to throw up his hands, which he did, and the shackles were put upon him and he was informed that he was arrested for murder.
One of the deputies returned to the Aikin cabin to inform the family that the man of the house was never coming back and also to procure additional clothing for him. Once he returned, the group walked back to Greenwood, retrieved their wagon, and rattled into Cañon City about six o'clock the following morning.

Then, with Aikin handcuffed to his wrist, Sheriff Porter retraced his rail journey to Carmi, Illinois.
The prisoner at all times denied his identity, refusing to recognize men with whom he had been acquainted for years, and while admitting that his name was John Aikin, denied that he was the man that had formerly been arrested for the murder of Stewart, until several weeks after he had been placed in jail his sister-in-law visited him, and seeing that was impossible longer to deny it, admitted his identity.
After trial in a neighboring county, he was found guilty and given a life sentence in the prison at Joliet (now a tourist attraction and concert venue).

My one remaining question: how did Sheriff Porter's no-doubt-modest budget cover this trip? Or did citizens of White County engage in a little 19th-century crowdfunding?

December 10, 2019

Sheriff Porter Gets His Man, Part 1: The Trip to Babcock's Hole

White County is in SE Illinois, part of "Little Egypt."
On the evening of March 19,1864, a prosperous farmer in White County, Illinois named Augustus Stewart was murdered in front of his family by home invaders. These were two robbers who, as it turned out, had a man on the inside, an apparently lone traveler who had arrived earlier and asked permission to stay the night. The three fled together.

Stewart's neighbors tracked the robbers' horses for some distance the next day. Two of them, the Glide brothers, escaped, but the "inside man," John Aikin, was captured and confessed. Held for trial, he broke out of jail and disappeared.

"Thirteen long years had passed away, the wife of the murdered man had gone to her grave, the children scattered, and the awful crime had almost faded from the public mind amid the ever-changing scenes and busy strife of the world." History of White County, Illinois, 1965 [1883].

The "old" White Co. courthouse, built
in 1828. Presumably Sheriff Porter
knew it well.

Then White County Sheriff Thomas I. Porter learned from one of Aikin's cousins that Aikin was in "the southern part of Colorado" and set out to bring him to justice. In June 1877 he left for Colorado, maybe on the Illinois Southern Railroad (later calld  the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad), which passed through the county seat of Carmi, according to the map above. It was a trip of more than 1,000 miles, back when trains poked along at 25 mph or so.

After reaching Denver on June 28, he procured "necessary papers from the authorities of Colorado" and started for "Cannon City" (Cañon City, that should be), presumably on yet another train with a change in Pueblo. He arrived on June 29th.

He learned from the Fremont County sheriff there that Aikin "lived about twenty-five miles southeast, in a place called Babcock's Hole, up among the Rocky Mountains; and to effect his capture the greatest caution and vigilance would be required, as he was considered a dangerous man."

Babcock's Hole is actually in Custer County, but Custer County had been carved out of Fremont by action of the legislature only three months before, and most of its population was up in the Wet Mountain Valley to the west.

How did the Fremont sheriff know Aikin was so dangerous, if he was living peacefully? Or is the author just exaggerating? At any rate, Sheriff Porter decided to make his move at night.
Taking two Fremont deputies with him, he rented a spring wagon and team and departed about three in the afternoon. The drive might have taken him four or five hours, presumably on dirt roads that approximated today's Colorado highways 115 and 67. Or maybe longer: the text says he arrived "about dark" in the settlement of Greenwood, south of Wetmore, three miles short of the Hole. The officers "put up" their team and ate supper themselves.
Greenwood in the 1880s, a decade later. Note store building in center distance.
Taking Mr. Morgan, the storekeeper, as their guide, they set off on foot about 10 p.m.

November 29, 2019

What Does the Fox Say? Fox Says, "Which Way is North?"



Maybe you have seen a fox diving for rodents under the snow or in tall grass — coyotes do something similar.

"They hear their prey under the snow," you say, and you are right — but there is something more going on, something that I personally never ever would have guessed.

Read all about it: "'You're Invisible, But I'll Eat You Anyway.' Secrets Of Snow-Diving Foxes"

Pop culture reference here. (Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!)

November 28, 2019

What Would a Mountain Lion Eat for Thanksgiving?

A wintry view of the riparian area in or near Santa Ana Pueblo,
photographed from Amtrak's Southwest Chief on November 20th.
Brokenleg (Pueblo of Santa Ana DNR)
Deer, you say? That might be a good answer, insofar as a common formula is that an adult must eat a deer-size animal every week to ten days. But down on the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque, researchers at the Pueblo of Santa Ana Department of Natural Resources collared and tracked one male who specialized in badgers.

And here I thought badgers were difficult game for any predator, given their ferocity and ability to dig in.

The lion they called Brokenleg (because of a visible old fractured that had healed and calcified) was monitored for 15 months. Here is what he killed for food:

He was no cripple, as you can see: he took down 17 elk as well.
Brokenleg was one of six lions that the pueblo's Department of Natural Resources collared and tracked. On their Facebook page, they wrote,
We recently posted a graph of Brokenleg's kills that generated a lot of great questions and responses. This graph might do the same and is intended to show the varied diet of 5 lions (3 males and 2 females) that we GPS-collared and followed over variable time spans. The 3 males (months collared in parenthesis) are Big Tom (6), Brokenleg (17), and Lefty (15). The 2 females are Notch (12) and Little Girl (16). We documented 155 kills across 20 species, which are color-coded for individual lions. While Brokenleg's dataset is mostly complete, there are gaps in the other lion datasets because we did not have permission to enter onto some lands to verify kills. Despite not having a complete dataset for all lion kills, the graph clearly illustrates the varied diet of the 5 individual lions. Furthermore, we believe that Big Tom and Notch probably killed at least 15 more feral horses based on kill locations and amount of time at kill site, but because we didn't have permission to verify the kills, we can't confirm this. This is an ongoing project, so we expect we will add some species to the list in the future. (October 14, 2019)
The pueblo controls 73,000 acres, and I have always been told that a lion in the Rockies hunts  territory of 70–100 square miles (640 ac. per square mile). But since mountain lions do not care about human boundaries, obviously a number of them hunt partly on and partly off the pueblo lands. And it is risky to be a badger, a coyote, or a feral horse along the Rio Grande.

November 24, 2019

Colorado State Parks Free on Friday, Nov. 29th

News release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife

DENVER- Reclaim Nov. 29 by avoiding the shopping hysteria and getting outside for a breath of fresh air! On Fresh Air Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife welcomes visitors to any of our 41 state parks by providing free entry in what has become an annual tradition of encouraging Coloradans to get out and give thanks.

“Studies have shown that spending time outside, no matter the activity, is great for your health,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We’re actively encouraging folks to enjoy their natural surroundings with family and friends rather than participate in the usual shopping frenzy. After all, the Colorado outdoors are the best deal out there.”

However you decide to get outdoors this Fresh Air Friday, CPW has the tools to make it an easy, stress-free experience for the whole family. Discover your new favorite state park with our state park finder, plan a short stroll or thorough post-Thanksgiving workout with our free COTREX trails app, find a secluded fishing spot with our CPW Fishing App, or have fun with the kids with Generation Wild’s 100 Things to Do Before You’re 12 list.

To help conserve our natural spaces and keep them wild while recreating, please be sure to follow Leave No Trace Principles. Be Colo-Ready with common-sense practices such as sticking to the trails and packing out all trash (including peels and cores), visiting less-visited and off-peak destinations, and keeping wildlife at a safe distance (use your zoom for photos and never feed wildlife!).

Several Colorado state parks will also have hikes planned for the day for those looking to walk off that Thanksgiving dinner and to connect with others in nature. Plan your visit to
Ridgway
Chatfield
Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area
Mueller
Barr Lake
For more details on these activities, or to get more ideas on how to Live Life Outside, visit cpw.state.co.us.

As you enjoy a day of outdoor adventures, make sure to share it with us by using the hashtag #FreshAirFriday on your social media posts.

Most importantly, no matter where you go, get out and turn Black Friday into a blue skies Friday, a great views Friday, a green trees Friday… a Fresh Air Friday!

November 16, 2019

Ma Boyle's Amazing Outdoor Retailing Concept

Gert Boyle (Outside).
Reading a post in Outside online about Gert Boyle, who built Columbia Sportswear from a little hat company to what it is today — and who passed away November 3 at the age of 95, still involved with the business — I came across this observation from a competitor:
“She and [her son] Tim did something no one else was even trying,” says Jim Thomsen, co-founder of outdoor brand Wilderness Experience. “All the other real outdoor companies, including mine, looked at ourselves as so cool, making products for the elite. And we sold them only to the coolest stores. Then along came Gert and Tim and they made really good products, but they did something none of the rest of us would ever think of doing . . .  they sold products to sporting goods stores, those non-cool places that sold to people who didn’t even know how to climb. And they started selling a lot.”
Selling to the non-elite outdoors person. Not being a prisoner of "coolness." What a concept.

One of Columbia's first new products when they branched out was a fishing vest that Gert designed. Probably worth a bit if you have one, which I do not, but I like my Columbia upland hunting vest.

November 13, 2019

Pine Trees, Electric Lines, and Fire Fears

A small Stihl saw dangling from his harness, Jesse nips bits of the problem
branch from between the electric lines.
All summer I had been noticing that some branches from one of our pine trees were becoming entangled with the electric wires coming from the nearest pole to our meter. Some heavy wet snow, and the branches might force the wires into contact with each other.

In early October, I took a photo and emailed our local electric coop. I heard nothing until today, when I got a phone call, and 40 minutes later a truck pulling a wood chipper rumbled up the driveway.

The two young guys aboard were tree-trimmers, not properly "linemen." They both said they were waiting for lineman apprentice positions to open up. They wanted to become qualified—one said he hoped some day to be an engineer, and his buddy laughed and said, "Nah, you'll be a lineman."

"Get that certification, and you will never be unemployed," I said.

They grinned and agreed.

There are miles and miles of electric lines running through pine forests in southern Colorado. You have heard about PG&E lines starting fires in California — we have had the same problem on a smaller scale.

I have seen scorched branches on my place, and helped to put out fires started by electric lines. The worst one, seven years ago, took out fourteen houses nearby — not exactly Paradise, California, but still pretty shocking in a smaller community.

The then-fire chief of Rye, Colorado, once told me he lost count of how many fires they have had started from power lines (none really bad so far).

Unfortunately, my pruning saw is only 12 feet long, and I lack professional tree-climbing gear, not to mention the aptitude. So I was happy to see Jesse and Bill arrive, do the job, chip the limbs (biomass, always so much biomass!), and head off to their next assignment.

One less thing to worry about.

November 12, 2019

Should I Throw Away this Water Bottle?


If you buy something from Backcountry.com,
you get a mountain goat sticker with your order. 
You may have seen these on gear like 
my water bottle, on car windows, etc.

If I had a retail company called "Mountain Sports, Inc.," and someone else made skis, let's say, under the trademark "Mountain High," could I sue them for infringing on my right to the word "Mountain"? Seems ridiculous, right?

Using that strategy, big Utah-based mail-order retailer Backcountry.com has been threatening dozens of smaller businesses and forcing them to change their names or be ground into the courtroom carpet.

"Backcountry Denim" got the letter threatening a lawsuit. So did the "Backcountry Babes" avalanche-safety clinic and the maker of the Marquette Backcountry Ski, among many others.

Not surprisingly, a lot of outdoor types who cherish those little gear companies have been angry with Backcountry.com, which while it was started by mountaineers, is now owned by TSG Consumer Partners. The "Boycott BackcountryDOTcom" Facebook group has more than 21,000 members.

Faced with the backlash, the company is backing down, kind-of sort-of, the Colorado Sun news service reports:
Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in an open letter that the retailer’s attempts to protect its brand “were not consistent with our values.” Not everyone is buying it. . . .
Nielsen said the federal lawsuits filed this year against the nonprofit avalanche education provider Backcountry Babes, the one-employee Backcountry Denim Co., Utah’s Backcountry eBikes and Marquette Backcountry Ski were “a last resort” that followed attempts to resolve the trademark disputes “amicably and respectfully.”
So do I believe that corporate-speak, or do I peel their goat off my water bottle? Their website under "Our Values" lists "Take ownership." Yeah, like they own the word "Backcountry"?
David Ollila, who founded Marquette Backcountry Ski in 2010 and trademarked the name in 2013, laughed at the notion that the company’s initial petitions for cancellation of his trademark, filed through the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, were respectful. 

He points to emails the company’s trademark lawyers with the IPLA law firm sent to business owners like Boulder’s Jenny Verrochi, who was bullied into abandoning her registered trademark for Backcountry Nitro coffee and ended up rebranding her canned cold brew as Wild Barn Coffee.
The law firm that was in charge of bullying smaller companies has been fired, but what could is that to people who had to spend money changing their trademarks and losing name recognition?

I would say, do your holiday outdoor-gear shopping elsewhere until we see how this shakes out.

UPDATE: The hashtag is #scrapethegoat

November 10, 2019

The Walls of the Old Ones — Old Cowboys, That Is




Not too far from where I live, a steep ridge crowned with rimrock separates two drainages.  On the right hand side (upper photo) or left side (lower photo) was ranch land controlled by famous cattleman Charles Goodnight in the 1870s.

At some point, someone — more likely, several someones — rode up there  (it's easier from the other side than the Goodnight side) and stacked slabs of the native sandstone to make drift fences where there were breaks in the rimrock. Evidently, they did not want cattle drifting from one side over to the other.

For a variety of reasons, I think this was done in the early-to-mid-twentieth century, not in Goodnight's day. A generation after him, in the 1890s, the whole area was being logged — but by the 1950s it was grazing land again, thanks to a Forest Service grazing lease.

As is typical all over the West, there were drastic changes from one generation to the next. No one figured out a life that was truly sustainable.

Maybe this needs a longer blog post, so I can tell the tale of Sheriff Thomas Porter of White County, Illinois, who tracked an escaped murderer all the way here and arrested him by clever subterfuge. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the rock walls — never really finished — remain. There are others lower down. Think of someone grunting with the effort . . . slipping around in smooth-soled cowboy boots — maybe he just ran out of suitable stones that he could lift.