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Mountain High

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The controversial “management” strategy devised to control the wild bison of Yellowstone continues unabated, and according to the watchdogs at the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), state and federal agents responsible for implementing the plan are continuing to cross the legal line. As part of their ongoing documentation of the capturing, hazing and/or slaughtering of wild animals leaving the park on long-established migration routes, the BFC accuses Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents of luring winter-weary bison into traps with fresh feed.

According to the group, this “baiting” of Yellowstone’s wild bison into capture facilities as they head to historic birthing grounds isn’t just illogical, it’s illegal.

“The agents have been plowing the area around and within the trap, which enables fresh green shoots of grass to sprout,” says BFC spokeswoman Stephany Seay. “They have been baiting the buffalo with fresh hay,” she says, and the bison are becoming accustomed to the easily acquired fodder.

“We have to plow to work around the trap, and nothing illegal is being done,” says DOL public information officer Karen Cooper. “We need hay available in case we have bison [in the trap], but we’re definitely not baiting them.”

Meanwhile, the BFC is trying to bait volunteers to assist in monitoring the bison as they leave the park to give birth, and interested parties can contact the campaign at 646-0070—room, board and wildlife sightings are provided. The DOL can also answer questions about bison management—call them at 444-7323.

Taking the lead in organizing Missoula’s disc golf community, the new “Garden City Flyers” are getting their discs in a basket and hosting a club meeting March 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Grant Creek Inn. Anyone interested in improving folf opportunities, reducing conflicts with other user groups and/or helping elevate the sport to a higher status is welcome to attend. Log on to www.gardencityflyers.org or call Brian at 880-4491 for more info.

The Native Forest Network invites the public to participate in a forest-monitoring skills-training course in the Ninemile Valley March 26. Veteran forest activist Karen Coulter of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project will lead the training. Bring appropriate food, clothing and footwear to Bernice’s Bakery at 8:30 a.m. to join a carpool. The trip will return by 3 p.m.; contact Ted at 542-7343 or ted@wildrockies.org to reserve a spot.

As part of the “Northern Rockies Nature Forum,” NFN will also host a public meeting March 30 at 7 p.m. in the Missoula Public Library’s large meeting room. “Logging the Bitterroot National Forest to Health? A Look at Montana’s First Healthy Forest Restoration Act Project” is a presentation on Montana’s first Healthy Forest Restoration Act project, a “fuel reduction” scheme located on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River. With more than nine square miles of industrial logging slated to thin this prime big-game habitat, NFN is concerned that alternatives protecting old-growth forests will be overlooked in a rush to protect the scattered houses lining the valley from the imminent inferno. Since the project is part of the Healthy Forests Initiative, that’s not unlikely, as a provision in the legislation disallows public comment.

NFN has been monitoring the site for months and will lead additional public-welcome watch hikes throughout the summer. The presentation is free and open to the public, so contact Ted at 542-7343 or ted@wildrockies.org to learn more.

Anyone looking for a good bike ride can join Missoulians on Bicycles for a couple of rides this week. Choose between a flat and chill jaunt to the Big Flat or a longer Easter Sunday ride. On March 26, join the leaderless group at the corner of Mullan and Reserve streets at 10 a.m. before heading out on a relaxing 35-mile ride past the Frenchtown mill and beyond. Or hook up with pedalmiester Shirley Braxton (728-4963) for a 55-mile all-pavement tour of Missoula’s five valleys. Meet at the Eastgate Albertson’s parking lot at 10 a.m. sharp.

The popular Spring League Ultimate is heading into its fifth season, and organizers are prepared for record numbers of competitors this year, with more teams and a longer season. Games happen every Wednesday evening March 30 through May 25. For $20 you’ll get a disc, a T-shirt and nearly two months of play, so join in the fun by logging on to www.springultimate.20m.com, or call 829-8398.

Big Mountain will end its winter season two weeks early, wrapping up a challengingly warm and dry season this weekend with a making-the-most-of-it “Rites of Spring Beach Party” at the Summit House March 26 and an on-mountain Easter Egg hunt at 5 p.m. the next day. The grand prize is a 2005/’06 season pass, so call Big Mountain at 862-2900 for more information.

Big Mountain is taking couch surfing to new levels March 27 at 5 p.m. as they host their 36th annual Furniture Race. This end-of-season event requires competitors to strap, glue or tape skis to the furniture of their choice and haul ass down the hill. There are multiple prize categories, and helmet-wearing folks age 21 and older can register ($40 per couch) March 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the bottom of Chair 3.

“Suitable steering and braking mechanisms” are required, and an awards ceremony follows on the deck outside of Moguls Village Pub. For more information on the Furniture Race, call 862-2911 or visit www.bigmtn.com.

Widely variable weather patterns are keeping the rest of Montana’s ski areas in late-season limbo, and many areas are hesitant to say for certain if they’ll be open this weekend. Last weekend’s two-foot surprise reopened Discovery Basin and gave lucky passholders face shots well into the afternoon—and base repairs into the night. Snowbowl is again staying open Friday through Sunday this weekend, a pattern that will likely continue as long as sporadic storms continue.

Conditions throughout the region are changing by the day, however, so be sure to call ahead to your ski area of choice before heading out.

Send your outdoor play plan to: photo@missoulanews.com.

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