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Ted Turner’s Vague, Quixotic Quest to Save the West

The shining mountains and rolling green hills at Turner’s Flying D Ranch, located just south of Bozeman, Montana. Photo courtesy Turner Enterprises.

The shining mountains and rolling green hills at Turner’s Flying D Ranch, located just south of Bozeman, Montana. Photo courtesy Turner Enterprises.

Turner’s brand of privatization-for-preservation contradicts Montana’s hard-won land ethic

By Brent Zundel
For the Bozeman Magpie
February 25, 2014

Turner stalks the banks as he fishes a stream flowing through his property. Photo courtesy Kurt Markus, Outside Magazine.

Ted Turner fishes a stream flowing through his property. Photo courtesy Kurt Markus, Outside Magazine.

Everyone from United Nations admirers to global environmentalists lauds Ted Turner as a hero. “Last Stand,” Bozeman-based author Todd Wilkinson’s in-depth biography, subtitled “Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet,” purports to delve into this “fascinating and flawed” man, but the result is more adoring prose than objective journalism.

Apart from recycling tired and easily brushed-aside criticisms of Turner’s brash “Mouth of the South” style and Montanans’ initial annoyances with him, Wilkinson’s biography does not delve deeply into Turner’s interactions with and impact on the people living in this state.

If Turner is saving the world, why then doesn’t he enjoy that unabashedly positive reputation in Montana? Read More…

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Can I Pay for that Whiskey with Dark Money?

Fly rod and whiskey flask — the perfect Montana combination. Photo courtesy Bozeman Spirits Distillery

Fly rod and whiskey flask — the perfect Montana combination. Photo courtesy Bozeman Spirits Distillery

By Brent Zundel
For the Bozeman Magpie
August 25, 2013

Author’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Bozeman Magpie. Mr. Art Wittich did not respond to multiple requests for comment until after this piece was published. The piece below has been updated to reflect his statements.

A lawsuit that was filed against the City of Bozeman in June could have wide-ranging impacts on Montana’s burgeoning distillery industry. The law firm of Montana Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, is leading a suit against the City of Bozeman for allowing a new microdistillery to open its doors in Bozeman’s historic downtown.

In May, the Bozeman City Commission approved a conditional use permit that would allow Bozeman Spirits Distillery and Tasting Room to open at 121 West Main Street, the property previously occupied by Schnee’s, a footwear and outdoor clothing retailer. That would put the new distillery within Bozeman’s historic downtown, right next door to the landmark Baxter Hotel. Jim R. Harris, III, is the would-be proprietor of Bozeman Spirits, a man who’s lived in Bozeman for over two decades and helped co-found the popular Outside Bozeman magazine.

Brit Fontenot, Bozeman’s Directory of Economic Development, welcomed the potential addition of a microdistillery to downtown. Read More…

Educating Montana’s Sons and Daughters

Photo by Kate Juedes, MSU Exponent

Photo by Kate Juedes, MSU Exponent

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
April 25, 2013

He just deferred a position with Teach For America (TFA) to accept an English teaching position in Germany with the Fulbright Program. His new fiancé is going to Germany with him — on a Fulbright of her own. They both graduated with high honors from the University of Montana in fall 2012.

By all accounts, Paul Asleson and Alice Krebill are exactly the type of people our state needs: intelligent, driven, successful and passionate about educating future generations. Read More…

MSU Confessions: Internet Hate Machine or Community Forum?

The MSU Confessions Facebook page. Photo by Brent Zundel

The MSU Confessions Facebook page. Photo by Brent Zundel

By Pat Hessman and Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
April 18, 2013

“Gotta love being a little drunk in class. So much more willing to answer questions.”

“I don’t get it, all these girls are like I just want a cowboy, but when I ride the electronic horse in the Walmart for an hour none of them come and hit on me.”

“i wish i knew anyone else my age here at MSU who has cancer too, it’s often really lonely having no one to relate to when you’re hurting.”

That was a sampling of posts on the Facebook page Montana State University Confessions (MSUC.) Read More…

A Beer Drinker’s Manifesto

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Author Brent Zundel

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
April 18, 2013

An old aphorism claims beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. And when one adds to Montana’s world-class beer offerings the breathtaking diversity of our landscape, from the eastern prairies to the western mountains, one could be forgiven for believing that Providence has especially favored our state.

If the state legislature maintains its sometimes wavering support of our homegrown microbreweries, Montana will be well on its way to establishing itself as the Napa Valley of beer within a few short years. Boasting the second most breweries per capita in the nation, we already have 38 breweries — with nearly 10 more in the works — that are adding value to the agricultural products that comprise the backbone of the state’s industry. Read More…

Montana GOP Outlines Strategy during Weeklong Retreat in Mordor

By Brent Zundel and Pat Hessman
For the MSU Exponent
April 11, 2013

Note: This column originally appeared as part of the Exponent’s Sugarbeet page, a satirical biweekly feature that attempts to stimulate discussion of critical community issues.

Members of the Montana GOP outline their strategy during a recent weeklong retreat in Mordor. Illustration by Pat Hessman, MSU Exponent

Members of the Montana GOP outline their strategy during a recent weeklong retreat in Mordor. Illustration by Pat Hessman, MSU Exponent

The Dark Lord Sauron’s index finger was conspicuously bare as he stabbed at a Billings Gazette article about Gov. Steve Bullock’s plan to fight dark money in Montana politics.

“What do we need to do to better spread our cold grip across the state?” he bellowed as the savage roar of Republican legislators rose all around him. His thunderous words were well-received, with those in attendance firing assault rifles into the air, beating their foreheads with Bibles and knocking back shot after shot of Roughstock Montana Whiskey.

Speaking from behind the Black Gate, the Dark Lord led Republican legislators during their annual strategy retreat in Mordor. Throughout the weeklong event, Republicans from across the state looked at ways to move their party forward into the 19th century, from resisting any federal attempts to enforce gun control to fighting for lower taxes. Read More…

The Case for Ending Coal

A coal mine in the Powder River Basin. Photo courtesty itsgettinghotinhere.org

A coal mine in the Powder River Basin. Photo courtesty itsgettinghotinhere.org

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
April 11, 2013

For generations, American Indians considered the arid rolling hills in the Powder River Basin sacred. From time to time, the ground would naturally catch fire, spewing smoke into the air.

The ground itself didn’t really catch fire, of course; rather, the coal locked up in it did. Today, that land is still sacred, though to a vastly different demographic. Read More…