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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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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…

Montana Legislature Lacks Land Ethic

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
March 7, 2013

This week marks the halfway point of the 63rd Legislature. As that milestone blows past us like a half-bent mile marker on a poorly patrolled Montana highway, examining the progress so far proves very telling.

If one thing has become painfully obvious, it is the startling lack of a land ethic informing our legislators. Both this and the 2011 session have contained slews of bills designed to weaken access to public lands, damage the integrity of our wildlife populations, and privatize our rights to a clean environment in favor of industry profit.

On Monday, Feb. 18, sportsmen crowded the Montana Capitol in support of House Bill 235, which would have allowed corner crossings on public land. Photo by Eliza Wiley/Independent Record.

On Monday, Feb. 18, sportsmen crowded the Montana Capitol in support of House Bill 235, which would have allowed corner crossings on public land. Photo by Eliza Wiley/Independent Record.

And let’s be clear: Only one party consistently opposes reasonable solutions to many of these problems. The most recent example of the GOP’s unyielding opposition is the failure of House Bill 235, known as the “corner crossing bill.” Read More…

Wolves, Bison and Beer: What to Watch for in the 2013 Montana Legislature

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
January 24, 2013

Beneath the specter of a sluggish economy, the Republican-controlled 63rd Montana Legislature convened Monday, Jan. 7, under the watchful eye of newly elected Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Exponent is covering many important issues in this week’s edition, but I’d like to highlight some issues that, though they may fly under the radar of the university’s steady “fund us!” drumbeat, will also impact students.

Public lands and wildlife policy

The 2011 session considered a record 110 bills related to fish, wildlife and land issues. At best, most of these were simply misguided, but some would have devastated central aspects of what it means to be a Montanan. Read More…

The Last Best Hunting Grounds

A bow hunter gazes out across a ridge. Photo by Samantha Katz, MSU Exponent

A bow hunter gazes out across a ridge. Photo by Samantha Katz, MSU Exponent

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
October 18, 2012

The most important season of the year

When cool winds turn Montana’s leaves shades of gold and red and the year’s first snows dust our mountain peaks, a special time of year has arrived in Big Sky Country: hunting season. For many Montanans, this is the most important season of the year. It is deeply embedded in our state’s culture and identity, even though it can seem bizarre and, perhaps, barbaric for the uninitiated. Read More…

The Right to Roam: A New Land Ethic for Montana

Space to roam in the backcountry of the Crazy Mountains, north of Big Timber, Mont. Photo by Brent Zundel

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
October 11, 2012

Montana has a strong tradition of public lands access. Our lands have united generations of hunters, anglers and hikers, but they’ve also bitterly divided private landowners, out-of-staters and just about everyone in between at some point.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) currently estimates that private landowners and businesses own a jaw-dropping two-thirds of the entire state. One need only try to find a patch of public land to hunt deer or elk in the Crazy Mountains or cast a fly in the Ruby or Shields Rivers to feel the stinging immediacy of this dilemma. For a state so firmly rooted in wild places, accessing those wild places can be an exercise in maddening frustration. Read More…

Maintaining Montana’s Open-Access Heritage

Bridge Over Troubled Water: James Kennedy has blocked access from the public bridge at Seyler Lane to the public waters of the Ruby River below. Photo by Nick Gevock, Montana Standard

Bridge Over Troubled Water: James Kennedy has blocked access from the public bridge at Seyler Lane to the public waters of the Ruby River below. Photo by Nick Gevock, Montana Standard

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
September 20, 2012

Montanans cherish our hunting and fishing heritage almost as much as we resent seeing California license plates parked at the trailheads to our favorite sagebrush hill or river hole. In this case, though, the out-of-stater is James Cox Kennedy, an Atlanta media mogul worth around $6.5 billion.

Kennedy’s long and complicated relationship with Montana centers mostly on eight miles of riverfront property on the Ruby River, a small tributary of the Beaverhead River in southwestern Montana. Read More…