Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

a special place

In July, we were at the high country in Wyoming and Montana for a Yellowstone vacation. I am sorting photos and that will take a while to figure out how I want to share them, in what groups, to kick out the bad ones, and refine the ones I love into something others can also enjoy. It breaks down into various parts of Yellowstone, what we chose to do when there, and then Western Montana, the Missoula area where we spent four nights before heading back to our Oregon home.

While I am sorting, I wanted to share one of Missoula, Montana's special places for me-- Nine Mile Road, which this time included Six Mile Road. It's a land of ranching, those who love the wilderness and, wait for it, wolf country. I became interested in Nine Mile after reading [Rick Bass' The Ninemile Wolves].

This time, besides driving the gravel roads and watching for wildlife, I wanted photos of cabins because I'd love to own one someday (unlikely to ever happen). A purpose, I will be able to use, is as inspiration in writing my books. The right cabin or house can inspire a lot about the nature of a character. When I can find a home online, see its decor, exterior, it helps give a hero or heroine depth of personality. Photos, I take, like this one, require using my imagination for what it might be like to live there (unless I find one of them as a vacation rental and can actually experience being there for a moment in time).

After I got home, I became curious about the country up there. Who owned it? Would it someday be turned into a huge resort? My research found that several of the properties, including large ranches, have put their places into conservation easements. I found a map showing the parcels thus protected. I couldn't figure out how to share the pdf from the Missoulian but finally photographed it from my desktop to give an idea of how much this matters to protecting this special place.

Some have the mistaken ideas that ranchers are all about abusing the land. It's simply not true and for the few who do operate that way, they aren't in business long. Ranchers love their lands and many have done what they can to protect it for future generations.

Conservation easements enable landowners, sometimes in partnership with conservation groups, to protect natural habitat for perpetuity even if someday the land must be sold. It can continue to be ranched and managed for agriculture. In my view, it is a good mix of what individuals can do along with private and government programs. 

This is some of what I found:

Having ranched and lived on a piece of land on a creek since 1977, I understand the love of place, the desire to see it protected, to be wisely used. When you love the land, you never actually own it. It owns you.


Tabor said...

I donate to local environmental groups that continue to purchase land in our area for conservation and recreation. It is expensive with the growth of the county population but necessary for the health of the planet.

Rain Trueax said...

And for the cities to have open space around them where people can go and connect with nature. It's also only fair to the landowners, who often bought their land as investment, that their land is not confiscated but instead purchased for parks etc. This one was done for the animals, which to me is also important. Every time, I go to Tucson more land close to town is being turned into townhouses, and I wonder where are the javelina, bunnies, coyotes, snakes, and birds to go as those developments are often walled off as the desert is cleared. I understand we, as a population, are growing in numbers, and Tucson doing that is part of why its housing is still quite affordable, but it's sad for the creatures who get no advance warning.

Brig said...

As you say most ranchers are good stewards of the land, those who aren't don't last long.
Conservation groups are not the best answer. Inheritance taxes and laws need to be changed so that farm and ranch families can afford to keep their places on their own. When some eco outfit, like the Nature Conservancy (a quasi-non-profit) comes in it impacts the local tax base, there by taking funding away from the locals.
The Federal government should not be able to take ground, nor make westerns feel that their only recourse is to sell out to eco groups.

This article explains it better than I can: http://www.rangemagazine.com/specialreports/range-wi12-our_federal_landlord.pdf

Rain Trueax said...

I agree on inheritance taxes as it can force a family to lose the farm/ranch, often to a rich banker/financier/hedge fund owner from back east who only wants a vacation home and it no longer is productive, or the original family must work for the new owners.

Estate taxes are one thing that to me has not made sense. It's all about leveling out the wealth-- something we aren't supposedly all about.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the ones that helped that family keep their ranch intact is funded by hunters who want to see habitat not turned into resorts-- the likely result in a place like Nine Mile. Oregon has a lot of rules in place to protect agricultural land but in the end, estate taxes can still cost the family continuity.

Brig said...

Both Dad & I was/are members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. A good outfit.