Picking

In the Bob spring comes first to the junctions, where flat grass melts on the south and ten steps north snow lingers, hollowing into unwalkable with a crust on top nothingness.  Deer and elk pack into the sweet spots, and feed into the 3 percent of that 3 percent of valley, cliffs to cobbles, picking root and bark through the cold.  Walkers, human or hooved, play the angles of warmth as the season beats back the frozen default.

In one such meadow I came across a spread of fur, spangled around a 30 foot circle of mud and wolf tracks.  The rest of the story was a midnight slick faint with blood and hashed clean with grizzly claws, snaking around logs and just over the hump.  Down the hill, the creek.  Under the huge old what used to be ponderosa, a bear on 80% of an elk.  Up the valley as I walked and then skied towards the cornices, visible from 10 miles, the retreating wolves. 

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Early that evening wind, snow, and my nerves betrayed me.  I made the lake, long in the mind, impatience having turned an early side-hilling error into a skin glopping, out of water battle against inefficiency and haste.  The lake itself was a perfect custard drop, monolithic in the midst of pines and the high ridges, blown craggy.  The lake was, as hoped, chocolate split at the inlet by 3 inches of open water, flowing for 15 feet over dark gravel.  Rehydrated I made the ridge, but the final thrust into the strafed teeth of the alpine was steep and guarded, hollow in the pockets between the rocks.  I probably could have made it up.  I was less sure about making it back down, so I transitioned tentatively next to a ragged tree and hacked back down, fear tinkling away as drove the outside ski hard through each turn, the snow crust shattered and rattled down ahead and along.

I refilled at the magic drip I was sure would freeze into nothing by morning, melted snow to add to my pool of life, and had more minutes as the blue tent faded away to consider beyond the obvious; where my mind had traveled that long day along and apart from my legs and arms and body.

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The next day dawned blank, skin and sky only set apart by the opposing line of tree and cliff.  I went down, and like all things in the mountains the matter of factedness held risk.  The trail, which I was determined to hold, moved between aspects, enveloped in old growth fir.  The fear of yesterday passed through, not just turn to turn, but minute to minute.  Skins on, then off.  Boots locked, then open.  Efficiency in complex terrain comes in choices sacrificed to the big picture, in allowing inevitable mistakes to melt in the face of flow and miles.  Confidence, stacked moment to moment. 

And thus, safety.

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I counted ripstop that night at the lake, and had the weight of the moment and the last decade come together.  Should I be out in the wilderness at all, given the weight of the moment?  More personally, should I be out here, holding on to ambition and learning, when the familiarity upon which that safety is stacked is, increasingly, in the past? 

When I thought back to Isle Royale, mug bogging around the reservoir snow blowing into my face, the answer was easy.  Especially in a world gradually and suddenly shifting forever, the constant process of reminding and refinding me and my place in the world is hard to imagine in any other venue.

What hasn’t changed

In short, a great deal.

Friday March 13th ended up being the last day of school here in Montana, very possibly for the school year.  I recall it being a busy day, I got to my office around 950 after the usual Friday morning therapist meeting, and had a session each hour until school got out at 250.  I squeezed in an emergency session with a client who was having a resurgence of PTSD-related flashbacks, and on the way out chatted briefly with the guidance staff about how the Friday the 13th superstition was a bunch of crap.  Late Sunday afternoon I got word that school would be canceled for the next week, by the end of the week my colleagues and I had official guidelines on doing therapy via Zoom.  By the end of the following week the state had expanded Medicaid rules to include sessions over the phone, and we had word that due to reduced clients visits decreasing revenue we’d all be taking a 20% percent pay cut.  This past week, week 4, was the first doing distance psychotherapy where my sessions were close to 80% of what they used to be, the first where I was doing my job in the way I want.

Much of the teeth-grinding about schools being out across the US (and, I assume, the world) goes back to all the implicit functions of public education.  Being a psychotherapist in a school works both because school is the mechanism of socialization backstopping parenting, and thus the mechanism of stress of children as they begin to find that their upbringing will fall short of what society demands of them.  On a pragmatic level, this means that I’m seeing clients who due to family issues probably wouldn’t make it to office appointments consistently.  By extension, it can’t be too much of a surprise when many of them have struggled to keep regular Zoom or phone appointments, even in the face of lots of reminders.  Some of my families have truly risen to the occasion.  One client, still in state custody, returned to living with her mother mere days before Friday the 13th, and has with no external structure logged on to virtual middle school exactly at 8am every day since.  Others have foundered; kids waking at noon and doing nothing but gaming and youtube, or parents descending back into substance abuse by means of coping with the anxiety they can’t yet say out loud.

These families, and many of my friends and colleagues, have in my less stressed and myopic moments given me profound appreciation for how little our family life has changed in the past four weeks.  We did decide, in the face of my salary reduction and an uncertain future, that M should go back to work.  We found ease in her old employer taking her back gladly and in a matter of days, and security in mitigating any financial uncertainty, but also anxiety in that her job exposes her to the general public.  So that last few weeks I’ve been waking as usual, or often a bit later, and using that extra rest to manage the many things I can’t control in my professional life.  I end work early in the afternoon, so M can go in to her job, and I can take over management of Little Bear, Little Cloud, and their endless enthusiasm for running in circles, noise, and stealing each others toys.

We are happy every day to have a generation background that put us on the path towards stable housing and a healthy, easy marriage.  We are grateful for and enjoying more time around each other, having bought a house with generous space and a good yard, and most especially it being spring in our less busy part of the world.  This past week the days were sunny and for the first time all year, into the 60s F.  With kind weather, daylight until nearly 8pm, and empty public land in all directions the boys and I have been doing just what we would have done normally, except with a start several hours earlier.  In the past week we had creek time, canyon time, saw carp spawning inches under our packraft, and I got a bright cold morning to ski a local peak.  The small people have each other for company, aren’t yet in school, and as long married, natural introverts M and I feel the social constraints but lightly.  If the current state of affairs continued for a few months, I wouldn’t much mind until well into summer.

This is more than I can say for my clients.  For most the removal of outside structure has laid bare just how thin and ill-practiced are their internal coping skills.  This has cut across class lines, though my more affluent families can more readily purchase external supports (e.g. distractions).  It will make good fodder for discussion, with those who survive the closure of their world with their basic needs far enough intact to be able to look beyond bare essentials.  My broader concern has in the past week evolved into a certainty; that nationally and globally these months will see an escalation in familial trauma that when combined with academic and social delays and higher levels of disease and death within extended families will resonate for the rest of my life, and likely beyond.

That the Bear and Cloud will likely, hopefully only recall this as a peculiar episode their own kids might read about in history is an object equally of comfort and guilt.

The perfect winter

April had a good trick for us here in Montana, 4 inches of snow in our yard, and twice that in the mountains, with a nice wind chill well below zero.  The skiing was fantastic, the snow sifted light enough that the air of skinning moves waves before you, the air cold enough for visible sparkles of enthusiasm to grow on the way up, and freeze into permanence on the descent.  After the previous two winters, both relentlessly snowy down to the valley floors, last year record breakingly cold, it has been pleasant to have a dark period give us the best of both.  Those distant mountains have been cold and stormy enough to stack up snow, while storms have mostly steered north or south of town, and sun has dried out yards and backyard trails.  This winter we got ease down low, less shoveling and icy walking, while keeping the potential of a proper winter off in the abstract realms of daily visibility, the horizons in all directions growing more clear in their toothiness as the feet of snow accumulate.  

It has reminded me of the easy winters of Colorado or Utah, with sunshine drawing an almost geometric line between civilization, and the build-up of life above, the thing which for the other half of the year will keep civilization possible.

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Ideal winters begin in January but only graduate in April.  Cold holds old snow within the forests and keeps rain away from the summits, making June skiing, July greenery, August boating, and September deer into memories whose edges stay clear for decades. 

It seems that we might have just such a summer, with the complication naturally being that we won’t know for perhaps a month or more what kind, what freedom, of summer we’ll have; as well as the current shelter-in-place rule.  How skiing fits into this, and indeed if it does at all, is a question of the moment.  All the moreso because of the generous, cold, spring storms falling on a finally solid winter base.

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Our local hill has taken a firm stance on the issue, and the above photo, taken 48 hours after 8+ inches of fresh fell, gives good evidence that the locals agree.  My personal compromise has been to skin and ski the local hill often.  It’s a mellow place, with limited avalanche terrain even under un-ideal circumstances, and cruising untouched 28 degree pow is pretty great.   The hope, tentatively expressed in Great Divides new signage, is that around here we can avoid what Colorado, Red Lodge, and the Alps did not, and be able to get out regularly more than 1 or 2 kilometers from our house without falling too easily into old habits. 

The ideal winter demands ideal tools, and my $75 score at a ski swap back in the fall has quickly become the favored over-snow tool.  I’m late to the rocker, center mount, big radius party.  Occasionally it has felt like too much ski, but heavy detuning of the tapered section of the tail and some shifts in technique have over the course of a few hours made me a much better skier than I was last year.

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So I was naturally bummed when at the end of routine waxing I looked closer and noticed a ~16 inch delaminated section.  Judging by the sidewall dent this had presumably got started last month during the big wreck, been hardly noticable at first, and grown over the subsequent days.  So, some shaving, prying, injection of glue, and sealing with Aquaseal was in order.  Hopefully the ski will be good as new, and highlights again why I prefer to buy used skis at fractions of MSRP.

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I certainly missed them this morning, when aspect hunting for good snow resulted in a few misses of wind effect and crust before untouched powder was found.  It all serves to provide gratitude for the here and now, and the backyard.  Six years ago I wrote that I could then retire from backpacking and be content, having expressed my potential as far as would ever be practical.  That is still true, but in those six years I’ve had a lot of fun hunting, learning how to be in the backcountry with our kids, and filling in the gaps.  New places polish old skills, a mirror clarity the fog of the daily cannot provide.  Familiar places build new skills because intimacy provides comfort which in turn allows one to look at things from the other side. 

Since moving here I’ve resolved to embrace this, after 15 years prior spent driving far from one amazing place or another to pursue a specific skill and thus, experience.  Today, it is impossible to not both celebrate and rue this.  My list of questions within a 45 minute radius is years long.  And yet, months of planning, had it run uninterrupted, would have had me hiking out of the Escalante today.  The clarity of novelty would be a nice haven these days.  In its absence I cherish the unexpected opportunities I did take this winter, and resolve to not let this spring and summer get away, no matter what form they take.

A scare

Little Cloud, Aka Littler Bear, turns 2 in a few weeks.  As with all toddlers, the aspects of his personhood attributable to his life outside the womb have become reasonably distinct from those which formed within it.  His time spent outside and younger sibling life of perpetual catch-up were recently in evidence when 2 days of contemplation were enough to see him going both up and back down the wooden ladder into our treehouse, with the supposedly toddler-proof big step up at the bottom.  Unlike many toddlers, and due not entirely to the need to catch-up on communication, he displays an excessive amount of personality for someone well under 3 feet tall.  Good for stealing your hat and making friends at the brewery (above), or while out getting ice cream (below), and rather less useful when his analogue ways of refusal number into the dozens.

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Yesterday morning the cloud wanted to follow me outside and lurk underfoot in the garage, as usual, but was noticeably cranky, and by late morning, lethargic, which is unheardof, enough that we took his temperature.  103F.

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Toddler time outpaces that of the adult several times over, so his temperature could have been due to his last two molars coming in, or to a cold his buddy had given most of us last week, or to something more evidently sinister.  M took him to the doctor, which involved calling them from the parking lot and being seen in a tent in the yard, with samples sent off.  In a few hours we had the flu result back, in 25 hours the test of coronavirus.  Both negative.  And now we can go back to spending more time at home than back before the world changed, while still being able to walk around the block without fear.

Montana social distancing update

On Saturday, the first day of our shelter-in-place order, we hardly left our yard.  The day was blue and in the fifties, we oiled lawn furniture and laid a brick walk, and generally waited for our hearts to catch back up.  Yesterday, Little Bear and I ventured forth in the face of the warmest day thus far in 2020.

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There were a lot of people out in the woods.  Far more than just the nicest weekend of the year, or the first where dries might catch something, would suggest.  On the way home we visited the grocery store, my first time in a number of weeks, and there too it was difficult to stay 6 feet away from others.

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There were plenty of families out wheeling and casting, but a near majority were folks I struggled to believe all live in one house.  The profusion of 3 thirty something guys in a nice boat and one Kuiu item each suggested that for many, significant aspects of life were no different than last week.  I’ve been reading lots this week, trying to get a grasp on the future, something which has included some sharp criticism of American leadership and the American reaction to the corona crisis.  It is difficult to not think that our odd combination of individualism and sociability may well cause my country to struggle, to both follow directions and put the short term under the priority of the long term.  In the store I thought about this cliche, how the new ideal of personal space would suit me fine by default, and what lessons might be learned by months hence by comparing the American reaction to that of a country like Sweden.

 

Today

We all use repetition to structure our lives.  Wearing the half-mask of routine, this is habit.  Draw with the straight line of intention, it becomes ritual. 

Ritual, axe edged with hope, splits the now equally between past and the future.  Habit, for all its unconscious-ness, does not lack for emotion, only awareness.

Since joining the world in community isolation the erosion of our rituals has been as a rock rolling out of a cutbank into a long pool; singular, and because of our less divided attention, full of portent. 

Friday afternoon my ritual walk downtown and back with the kids was as full of distraction as usual (top picture).  2 miles round trip, two errands, two hours.  Training, both adult and child, for future wild walks.  I explained why we could not go to the playground, why we had to stand 6 ice cream cones apart from others, why we couldn’t stay at the brewery for popcorn. 

This morning, Little Bear and I went for a bike ride.  Sunday mornings in our part of town are very quiet; the parking lots empty and rife for skill building.  Our ritual has been to stop at the apex of our route for doughnuts, a tangible reinforcement for channeled energy.  Today there was perhaps a bit less traffic than usual, and I explained the economics which had, sudden creeping and in plain sight, led the doughnut place and the bagel place to be closed. 

Kids don’t think of it as such, but now we all must be wondering what can change such that life will have to be reinvented.

Panic

This began two days ago as a hopefully un-trite post about how parks, mainly national, should not be closed during the current Coronavirus crisis.  I wanted to point out how both explicible and sad it was that Yellowstone closed Tuesday.  How parks, however grand, are generally in someones backyard.  Moab had an entirely reasonable request last week when they asked the Governor of Utah to shut down tourism, and how current Moab locals also have an entirely reasonable ability to be out in their greater yard.

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For my part, I left home in the dark this morning and skinned a few laps of our local ski hill.  The surface, ungroomed for almost two weeks how, hadn’t frozen solid yesterday evening, and was covered in two inches of light fresh.  The turns were exceptional, the sunrise and brisk wind enliving as for me only the touch of the wild can be.  I arrived home and continued the arduously ambiguous task of moving all the bargains and history and tenuous emotional bridging I’ve built in my office to the virtual world, and did so with a lightness, having reaffirmed that the world was only so writhingly mutable on a human scale.  Our president excepted, there shouldn’t be too many people on the planet with many illusions left about what it will take to manage this crisis.  Where the illusions remain seems to be in how long life may be altered.  And for that reason I think wild parks should, in the vast majority of cases, remain open.

I was not the only one at the hill at dawn.  A few folks had carpooled up, hiked (rather than skinned) the hill, and on their way down ducked into the terrain park for a few jumps, two things the hill had after the mandated closure asked people to not do.  There has reportedly been a drastic uptick in avalanches in the Colorado backcountry in the past few weeks.  Earlier this week, on a bike ride around town, I had to explain to Little Bear why we could not go play on the equipment which was in the spring sun swarming with other kids.  And this is why, apparently, we can’t have all the parks open during our duress.

This afternoon I was doing what so many have done recently, having a Zoom meeting with my colleagues, discussing how to keep translating our job into a new medium, when word came down that Montana was joining much of the rest of the world, with a shelter in place order.   Nothing stressed me more, until an hour later I tracked down the document itself, and read the clear exception for wide varieties of outdoor activities.  During that search, Little Bear looked over my shoulder, saw the above photo (from our hike this past weekend) and asked when we could go again.

My desire, and its urgency, is in this matter quite trite and thoroughly myopic.  But if this is trite, then almost anything is.  Living after all is made possible by being alive, but does not consistent of it.  Over the weeks to come we’re all going to become more intimate with this.

The Open 2020

I updated the information for the 2020 Bob Open just now.  Removing the mass start option seemed to be the most responsible solution for the uncertainty surrounding the virus.  This means that I encourage everyone for whom the circumstances in two months time make it safe to do the walk, be it the circumstances of ones family, community, or the extent one must travel.  Or in 6 weeks, if such a thing suits them better.  There is a robust snowpack up high, and it could well be a good year for an early May ski traverse.  I also emphatically encourage anyone for whom this trek seems a stretch to stay home this year.  All reasonable guesses point to the public systems in Montana being busy two months hence, making 2020 a poor year for the Open’s first rescue.

There has been much written in the past few weeks about how acceptable it may or may not be to go out and adventure, while Coronavirus is waiting to run through society.  In the last 9 days, since school and then much public business, was largely shut down in central Montana I’ve been so preoccupied with waiting, adapting, and then waiting again that a matter so far distant as the Open escaped me until today.  I’ve yet to form my own opinion, but have from the beginning been struck both by how socially entangled backcountry pursuits seemingly are, as well as how remote they are from the evident pillars of contemporary life.

The mass start has always made for great fun, and as the survey demonstrated Memorial Day is popular both for the holiday and for the conditions.  My fear since the beginning has always been that the Open would be the victim of its own success.  The fulfillment it has given me, through the learning and achievement of others, has been extreme, but further disbanding what little organization exists has always been the sustainable future.  This year will tell all us fans of the Open what that might look like.

Things I’ve broken lately

Last month Little Bear and I went backpacking.  In and of itself this was not unusual, though it was the first time just the two of us had walked in to camp under a tarp.  It was noteworthy because it was February, and we were in shoes, walking over a inch of crusted snow and ice.  In sharp contrast to our first two winters here, this one has fulfilled our valleys reputation as an oasis of brightness.  Which I do not mind at all, as it gives the choice of driving east and hiking, or driving any other direction (including further east) and skiing.  It makes my life easy, and those with short legs easier still.

That afternoon we walked a few miles up a canyon, didn’t slip on the ice, explored a cave, and with a little futzing found a flat spot at last light.  Setting up our big tarp proved complicated, with almost desert-pure dirt frozen solid with the days melt.  On that, or on the many limestone cobbles, I broke a Groundhog, the first time in over a decade of using them.  That heightened the dis-ease of the evening, as Little Bear stood watching me hammer as the deep cold of the dark crept quickly down the hillside.  My fire skills remained sharp, and that warmth did what it has done for tens of thousands of years; put those only newly at ease out under the sky to sleep.  Once in his bag Little Bear’s eyes closed within seconds, and he slept for 12 hours.

The next weekend, as further evidence of our southwestesque winter, the Bear and I went on a bike ride.  It was snowing fast, but the flakes stuck to dry dirt and pavement and impacted traction not at all.  We made our way down to the bike park, and on our second run over the big rollers I felt a click, which I assumed was the basic drivetrain being cranky.  It was in fact my right pedal spindle cracking partway through, damage which completed itself a minute later when I went to spring up the hill at the start of the jump line.  My pedal detached completely, with my shoulder going into the handlebar and knee into the dirt.

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It had been a long time since I’d crashed that hard, on anything.  Sadly, it would not be the last such incident this month.  It had also been a long time, and by that I mean never, since I had bothered to regrease my pedals, or to replace the dust cap which on that pedal shook itself loose riding Little Creek 6 years ago.

Mechanical neglect was not to be blamed for my crash the weekend after, rather personal imprudence.  That same lack of big snow which has been so good for walking and biking in 2020 made the first big storm in months a matter of fervor at the local ski hill.  It also reminded me that resort pow is the most overhyped medium in outdoor recreation, as a foot of blower over icey bumps and rock mainly means you can’t see the potential obstacles.  So it was with me, and while looking to gap down to the cat track on my second run I stuffed a tip into a rock or stump and side slid down a short slope whose powder was a veneer over boulders.  If you were riding the right lift at the right time you might have seen my haste-induced poor form.  I nicked the arm of my fancy shell, broke the leash on my right ski (which it is supposed to do in a nasty fall), and bruised my whole left side in a way which made it hard to walk for the next three days.  I now realize I was quite lucky to not break any bones.

All of that is quite trivial compared to the last week, as Coronavirus precautions have broken the routines whose significance most of us had little cause to understand.  In Montana we have thus far felt a lesser impact than many.  I can still for instance drive 30 minutes and hike for laps at that same, now closed, ski area.  The volume of walking and jogging traffic past our house has neither increased nor decreased, with perhaps only a few fewer cars at the busy times.  Schools are closed for at least a few weeks, and likely longer, so we’re watching a colleagues son and I’m learning how to do therapy remotely.   It’s something our company ought to have had in the repertoire a while ago, so the silver lining of persistent uncertainty is new and unexpected skills, along with a hopefully enduring awareness of how much the innocuous runs our lives.  With bumps being unexpected, though perhaps less so in retrospect, I can only hope that this batch has run through.

Hunting the future

Exploring the underbelly of any subculture via internet forums is invariably equal parts fascinating and revolting.  Diving into the graininess of people at their most unfiltered teaches a lot, about a particular subject and about humanity generally.

If you dive not far into American hunting culture, you’ll become acquainted with the narrative of how liberal elites are engaged in a conspiracy to end the practice entirely.  The variations are several, and include a combination of wolf reintroduction, firearms restrictions, and overcrowding serving to, from a variety of angles, make hunting all but impossible to regularly practice, or so socially looked down upon that no kid or young adult will want to do it.  The sentiment is, in the end, one of many symptoms of the current generational and demographic sea change in the United States.  Hunting is in danger of dying out significantly in the next few decades.  The unpleasant fact is that hunters themselves and the policies they’ve grown up with and come to experience as background noise have given birth to most of the threats to hunting’s future.

The data is clear, assuming the Fish and Wildlife survey is sound; as the population of the US has increased the number of hunters have decreased, both as a percentage and in absolute terms.  In 2016 11,453,000 people in the US hunted.  The overwhelming majority were white men, with a heavy bias towards the 45-65 age group, and rural residents.  4% of the total US population hunted that year, which can be broken down to 3% of the urban population, and 13% of the rural population.  Including anglers, the total number of “extractive” wildlife sportspeople was in 2016 39.6 million.  Wildlife watchers, by contrast, numbered 86 million, though only 23.7 million of those did so “away from home” via specific outings 1 mile or more away from home.   Those wildlife watchers accounted for not quite half of the almost 157 billion dollars spent by all “wildlife related” recreation-ors.  Of particular interest, while that figure increased only a few billion from 2011 to 2016, the share of hunting expenses dropped from 36 to 26 billion, while the wildlife watching share increased from 59 to 76 billion.  The survey attributes most of the later increase to including photography equipment, and the former decrease to less money towards leasing private land for hunting, though hunting trip and equipment related expenses both trended downward markedly.

All of this is concerning for a number of reasons.  Most obviously, hunting is an aging pursuit, and for that and/or other reasons, eventually dying habit.  The most obvious issue emanating from that has nothing to do with hunting directly, and everything to do with the majority of wildlife funding on the state level coming from hunting license fees.  Fewer hunters buying fewer licenses, especially (in the western US) few out of state hunters, means much less money for wildlife management.  Those who are not hunters might be surprised at just how much more a nonresident will pay for the pleasure of hunting in another state. This table is dated but mostly still accurate, though Idaho and Wyoming both voted significant increases for the coming year, with Idaho directly acknowledging that increased fees are designed to keep a reduction in tag numbers (for elk, mostly) revenue neutral.  By way of example, by resident Montana Sportsman’s license (which includes fishing, upland bird hunting, general elk, deer, and bear) will this year cost me 77 dollars with the base hunting license and conservation license another 18 dollars.  A nonresident will pay $25 for the base licenses, and a cool $1046 for the deer and elk combo (which includes upland and fishing, but not black bear).  Montana is the most disparate in this area, but hardly in a different category.

The fairness of charging so much for people who live in other states to hunt what is often federal land is a circular world (though state’s rights to govern wildlife is well established as nearly absolute), and while I find the argument that the expense of out of state hunting puts the future of the pursuit in jeopardy (on both practical and PR levels) compelling, the supporting data is as of 2020 mixed at best.  What is certain is that the vast majority of wildlife management dollars, in states in the western US, come from a small (~1.3 million, total) pool of hunters who ever hunt out of state.  The fish and wildlife survey does not parse out region or demographics for out of state hunters, but it is easy to imagine an impending and precipitous drop in numbers, and thus, revenue.

The largest concern with hunting is that as license revenue begins to dry up, management decisions will become increasingly biased towards shorter term dollars, as opposed to longer term landscape health and integrity.  A few states, noteably Missouri, pay for wildlife management out of the general fund.  Which seems appropriate, especially if the above-mentioned trend of “nonextractive” wildlife recreation continues to grow.  This is the point where the backpack tax, a complement to Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson, comes into play.  P-R (hunting) and D-J (fishing) tax gear and directly fund conservation projects, and have over the years provided a certain buffer against political winds.  A backpack tax thus has virtues, and fits with the ethos of user fees which have since Gingrich become the norm in US public lands.  It also promises both a broader funding base for wildlife management and to capture a more complete share of those who “use” wildlife in a recreational capacity. Which just might, eventually, with a slow revolution in tags and access for urban folks, bring hunting back to a broader portion of society.