Understanding Multiple-Use Landscape

A Sheild photoPhoto and story by August Schield

The first time I entered the Big Snowy Mountains, I met a cowboy. His tired eyes starred into me with curiosity from under a dirty wide-brimmed hat which drooped lazily over his left shoulder, as if to ask what I was doing here. I remember feeling alien, dressed in my clean blue puffy jacket with a map and compass clutched in my hands, and a backpack bulging with food, extra layers, and a tent. He towered over me from atop his horse. His wrinkled face told stories of these woods, stories I yearned to know but couldn’t quite understand how to ask for.

He asked me if I’d seen any lone cattle roaming the valley. I hadn’t, I said, and before I could ask his name, he had started off down the trail. I watched him quietly disappear into the dark conifer forest, like a mountain lion stalking its prey.

A young and naïve public lands advocate at the time, this experience was eye-opening for me. It was clear that this mysterious man knew the Big Snowies landscape better than anyone. His dated and beaten appearance, and his slow calculated movements resembled an old guard of the western forests. A time when wilderness had more of a mystical meaning than a political one.

This experience set course in my mind a new perspective towards approaching public land issues: Different people are driven to public through different desires. All of these values, utilitarian at best, rest on the same pedestal. These landscapes are managed for multiple uses for a reason. Given the current state of decline of native species and their habitats amongst the west, I wondered how much of an impact the American rancher has on today’s landscapes, and if wilderness was truly right for this mountain range?

The Big Snowy Mountains have received a lot of attention recently. They are listed in a state-wide legislative action to release 29 Wilderness Study Areas, nearly 800,000 acres, to a less protective management directive. A little background is necessary to understand why this is happening.

In 1977, the Montana Wilderness Study Area Act was created. Designating 9 regions in National Forests state-wide for possible inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Around this same time, an additional bill outlined a similar directive for Bureau of Land Management regions and was also passed.

These bills tasked forest managers with a 5-year study period, in which they were to report their findings to congress. During this time, forest managers were to manage these lands in accordance to their Wilderness characteristics until congressional action was made. This not only placed new limits on the types of activities that could persist in these areas to only foot and stock traffic, but they also inadvertently limited who could access these landscapes. Not everyone is physically able to hike the 10 miles into these Mountains, like I had. Nor does everyone own a horse.

Wilderness has its stigmas throughout the conservation world. Often, it’s seen as exclusive, and benefits a niche group of people. Point in case, me: the backpacker. I’m am not here to argue against that. In fact, it’s true, but only to the false realities of a small and select group of folks who want wilderness solely for quiet recreational opportunities. Although I may dress the part, I fight for a cause far greater than that because wilderness stands for far more than exclusive recreation.

I am a public lands advocate studying at Montana State University where I co-lead a club called the Montana Wild Collective. We focus on facilitating opportunities for students to get involved in outdoor recreation and public lands advocacy. My first goal with this club is to break down the negative stigma’s folks have with the national movement towards protecting public lands. My second goal is to guide students in outdoor settings who generally don’t have an outlet to do so.

For our first club outing of the semester, I led a group of students into the Big Snowy Mountain’s Wilderness Study Area. I suggested the Snowies as a high priority our first multi-day outing not only because of a threat to their WSA designation, but because I knew a teachable moment existed in a landscape that was far removed from the recreation bubble of Bozeman, Mt.

The valley was cold, and silent. Aspen stands boomed with vibrant fall colors. A light snow covered the leaves dampening their rustling sound in the wind. Barbed wire fence lines exposed their rusty forms amongst the snow-covered grass. This barrier only enticed some of the students to walk up to them with handfuls of grass to pleaded with the cattle to eat from their hands. As we continued deeper into the conifer forest, the silence of the wilderness deepened as the canopy sheltered us from the wind. We found flat ground to call basecamp, and we began gathering firewood.

We set up tents, built a fire, and started dinner. Everything dehydrated, was rehydrated, and stuffed into tortillas. As we grazed over our backcountry burritos, I began a discussion about the diversity of people who visit this landscape, starting of course with my story of the lone cowboy.

I explained this diversity by listing the user groups that find value in these mountains. The ranchers do not take an opportunity to lease a forest service grazing allotment for granted. Many ranchers, like the one I met on a previous trip, summer their cattle here, allowing their private rangelands to rest and regenerate. The Snowies also harbor a vital watershed which is critical for cattle operations and other animals living within the Big Spring Watershed basin. The Snowies are its head waters.

I then discussed the recreational perspective, which was us. We found immense value in this place because outdoor adventures filled our souls. The allure to climb Greathouse peak and walk along the Knife Blade Ridgeline was worth more to us than working our second jobs, or catching power hour at the Crystal. Time spent with friends and self-reflection without the distractions of society helps us grow as individuals. Yet, the value we placed on this experience, has its costs, as does every other found use for public lands.

The outdoor recreation economy was worth $887 billion in the year 2017, according to reports from the Outdoor Recreation Industry Association. That being said, it is still an industry. Although our presence isn’t physically marked in the Big Snowies, like fence lines and 4×4 roads are. We share the same environmental impacts as any other extractive industry in existence. Ironically, the industry our club is most closely associated with, engages in litigation with the industries that have helped create our lifestyles. I often spend a lot of time explaining this relationship to students, because I feel it brings these stigma’s many of us struggle with full circle. Wilderness, as the legacy of the environmental movement shows, only happens through cooperation.

The next morning, we woke up early and hiked to the summit of Greathouse Peak. We couldn’t see much due to the blustery winter storm we were in. Another fence line guided us through the stormy hills to the base of the mountain where the grasses turned to shale. We located the trail, and began to climb, trees became caked in snow, our footprints grew deeper, and our cheeks redder. We followed the ridge to the top where we couldn’t see more than 15 feet in front of us. I assured the students that this was the best view in Montana… A local told me that on the drive in.

Forty years have passed since the enactment of the Montana Wilderness Study Area bill, and no congressional action has been taken towards the designation or release of any but 2 of the original 44 proposed Wilderness Study Areas (WSA’s). Currently the Big Snowies apart of the Helena Lewis and Clark National forest plan revision where locals and state-wide stake-holders have made comments as to what management directive they want to see in the future.

Many Montanan’s, especially those who live closest to these WSA’s have grown disgruntled with the thwarted management status these public lands have remained in. Randy Barta, a local rancher living in the lowlands of the Big Snowies was eager to share his side of things regarding the current forest management directive.
“When I first moved up here years ago, I would see every walk of life enjoying this mountain. The elderly would putt around on their 3 wheelers, the snowmobilers could bring their whole families up to tour the mountain in the winter…All these people, along with the hikers and cross-country skiers, got along. Now, no one is allowed in besides hikers” Barta said to us in an email.

“I saw one fire do more destruction to this mountain in four days then all those people did in over 70 years… Now 20 some years later, because of no management, you can’t even walk through the forest. So much dead fall and the dog haired timber regrew that it’s impassible,” he continued. The forest service often takes a “Let It Burn” policy to wildfires in wilderness areas, restoration work rarely follows due to lack of budgets and a more preservationist management directive.

Another rancher near the Big Snowies had A bit more to expand on from Mr. Barta’s point of view.

Robert Lee and his family run a cow-calf operation that they began 1969 just on the south end of the mountains. He leases a small grazing allotment from the forest service, and visits the Snowies almost every day.

“I love to hunt and I love these mountains. I love the personal well-being that they bring. It’s just a very special place”. He said to us extatically over the phone. His main concern for the Wilderness management of the Snowies was very ecologically oriented.

“We’d like to manage the forests for wildlife, and for habitat. Grazing helps forest management, it also opens up areas for sunlight to perpetuate the grasses. If you don’t graze it, it becomes decadent, and that’s not healthy. Too much grazing, however, is not good. I am concerned about the weeds that people bring in when they visit. We don’t need to prohibit access, but we need to manage the weeds. They’re like a cancer, if they come in and take things over, its game over. I’m a public lands advocate, all I ask is that we take care of them. I want weed and fire control, and timber and grass management”.

Lee’s desires of forest management are not unrealistic. As one of the individuals living within close proximity to the mountain, what happens in the wilderness affects not just him, but his whole community.

“There is a lot of concern by the community about fire management, however the Inventoried Roadless Area adds another layer of protection that limits road building.” Mentioned Deb Entwistle, team leader for the forest plan revision for the Helena—Lewis and Clarke National Forest. However, forest service officials can still operate motorized fire fighting equipment in wilderness as described by exceptions permitted under the special provision section of the wilderness act of 1964. Although with the current condition of the forest in some sections, wildfire would be difficult to fight.

“The whole range is their water supply”, she added, “It helps water quality. Because it has been protected for so long, outside groups [such as the Montana Wilderness Association] see it beneficial to protect the ecology here.”

“We believe Montanans need a say when it comes to managing public lands. Daines and Gianforte have only held two public meetings for these bills, however they were able to choose the attendees. We agree a permeant decision needs to be made here, but these decisions need to be made from a collaborative voice” said Noah Marion, policy and advocacy director for the Montana Wilderness Association.

The students we guided on this trip gained not only perspective of this landscape, but respect for the ranchers here too. “Going to the Big Snowies opened my eyes not only to a unique wild in Montana, but to a unique, complex relationship between recreation and ranching interests. Going on this trip gave me a deeper understanding of the people, the land, and the future of this state I call home” said club member Taylor Burlage to me during our long drive home.

H.R.5149 & S.2206 currently propose the release of nearly 800,000 acres of Wilderness Study areas. Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte are the authors of these two bills, of which they both share a similar name: Protect Public Use of Public Lands. Yet their reasons for wanting to release these bill seam not to resemble an overall voice of Montana, rather they speak for private interests.

Federal designation or not, people are a part of these ecosystems. The diverse voice of Montana and this little club I’m apart of may not be able to change a public policy, but we sure can impact the way people diverse communities can co-exist to reach the same management goals.

 

The drums heard throughout Bozeman

 

By Claire Knox

April 1, 2018

 

BOZEMAN, Mont.—The land has a heartbeat. Put your ear to the ground and listen. The land has a heartbeat, and we forget to listen. But sometimes, something compels us to listen. Something simple and driving draws our hearts and minds to the constant beating heart of the land.

 

We Americans often forget our roots. Our country is young; the 240-plus years since the signing of our constitution pales in comparison to the history of many other nations in the world.

 

But the land our country exists on did not rise from the ocean on July 4th, 1776. It has existed for millions of years, and our ancestral European colonists were by no means its first settlers.

 

The American Indian peoples have been systematically robbed, cheated, killed, and pushed from their lands. Their culture has been attacked and their way of life forever changed. But once a year in Bozeman, Montana, they host an event that takes any person willing to attend and reminds them of the surviving American Indian culture and the heartbeat of the land.

 

The drums.

 

The drums are the first things I notice as I enter the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University Campus on March 30, 2018 to watch the 43rd Annual American Indian Council Powwow. I’m sure that the drums are the first things anyone can notice. Their steady and strong pulsing resonates through the building and can even be felt through the concrete steps outside. I entered the event just in time to witness the Grand Entry.

 

The drums started it all.

 

As their rhythm and the accompanying singing echoed through the massive wooden dome, dancers began to enter. I did not know of the various types of American Indian dance styles and their accompanying clothing types. The styles represented included Traditional, Fancy Shawl and Jingle, and every category of dance had participants from toddlers to adults.

 

People in all sizes and shapes danced into the room. Toddlers bounced along behind parents and teenagers proudly sported the regalia of their people. Some types of dress had hundreds of glinting golden bells which shook in rhythm with the drums and dancing, adding a shimmer to the air. Some highlighted large ornate shawls that flew through the air with every twist of the dancer’s form. Some championed ostentatious feathers meticulously arranged. All dancers were clothed in unapologetic color.

After the Grand Entry, dancers split into categories and the competitions began. A panel of tribal judges presided and one enthusiastic emcee provided commentary, humor and even tribal facts during the event.

 

 

The Junior Girls Fancy Shawl dance event caught my eye. The contestants climbed down from the stands, and girls of all sizes answered the call. Girls from three feet tall to five feet tall took the stage. The youngest contestant could not have been older than four years old. Her clothes were white and purple, with enough sparkle sewn in to make any four year old happy. She clutched one end of the shawl in each of her fists and waited for the drums.

 

The girls started dancing in unison. The older girls possessed slightly more coordination and sense of rhythm, but every dancer on the floor was full of spirit. The girl in the white and purple flung her arms in the air, her shawl spreading behind her like wings. Her dance started as somewhat of an excited bounce, but a careful study of the older girls reminded her of her rhythm and technique. A smile stuck to her face as she danced around the floor, swirling in and out of her competitors seemingly without a care or a thought towards the competition.

 

After watching a few dancing competitions, I wandered into the shopping area of the event. Many different people had tables and stalls set up, much like a farmers market or craft fair. People and stalls packed the area, making it feel like a street market.

 

Rabbit skins hung from above, entire fox skins—including the nose—watched me from eye level, and individual cougar claws sat below glass with an accompanying price tag of $30 per claw. Handcrafted jewelry covered tables, intricately beaded clothes, purses, and other accessories stuck out, and there was even a table of hand-carved wooden pipes.

 

While I browsed the aisles, a young boy beside me paid $3 for a rabbit’s foot “for luck” and a woman purchased a bundle of braided sage and a few pieces of sweetgrass for another few dollars.

 

Even while I wandered through the maze of the market, the drums did not stop. The constant pounding was spotted with sudden accents, but the underlying heartbeat drove on, carried from one drum circle to the next.

 

Throughout the whole event, the fieldhouse filled up with a palatable air of camaraderie and respect. Tribes from across the nation were represented, but no detectable ill will tainted the event. The competitors stepped onto the floor in their proud colors with no identifiers besides their competition number, and all danced together. They moved as one, spinning around each other, staying out of the others’ paths while confidently making their own.

 

This appearance of unification may only exist under the eyes of outsiders, but I could never hope nor wish to penetrate the unified front. The dancing had a joy that shone brighter than the competition. The powwow dancers danced with one spirit, and seemed powered by that ever-present drumbeat: the heartbeat of the land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klusmeyer Memories

pexels-photo-42278.jpeg
Favorite places, lighthouses of America.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my dad, mom, two sisters, and a ten year old me walking the wind tormented beaches of Point No Point beach near my portside hometown of Poulsbo, WA. In contrast to the peaceful tourist laden streets of Poulsbo, Point No Point is filled with buildings that are held up more by salt blown in from the Puget Sound than by their original cement and nails. I can still feel my eyes watering in the wind and smell the subtly putrid stench of low tide. In my memory, everything is just slightly in disrepair and coated in steely grime that the Sound so graciously provided. I can hear the seagulls calling back and forth with high pitched bugles.

Where Poulsbo is always filled by warmly dressed tourists snapping pictures of neatly kept and brightly colored store fronts, the beach is always full of tourists of a different sort. Men with coolers sunken into the sand behind them would engage in a particular kind of irrationality and wade knee deep into the surf clad only in flannel and waist high waders. Further out into the water, the occasional oil slick seal head would slide from beneath the waves to look inquisitively at the fishermen who were so far away from land. After all, the fishermen knew full well the most they would catch might be a piece of driftwood or a dogfish covered by sandpaper skin.

My family and I always began our visits by moving past the loose sand, down the beach, and past the rocks brought in by the high tide onto the darker, stronger sand left by the encroaching tides. With the parking lot on one side and a white spraying expanse of the Sound to the other, we would venture as a group down the beach to search determinedly for a place of refuge from the constant gusts of wind. My dad wading ankle deep in the surf with a backpack strapped to his back and a spotted green Coleman thermos in his right hand. The rest of us trudged resolutely along closer to the rock line that marked high tide, alert for the slightest glimpse of a water spout coming from around the tidal pools scattered intermittently across the darkened stretch of sand before us. The first wet squelch and miniature geyser erupting would have the same affect as the crack of a staring pistol on my sisters, one older ̶ one younger, and we would shoot forward like Olympic athletes. Stomping the sand around us vainly; hoping to trigger a second miniature eruption.

Next to the parking lot at Point No Point a preserved and decommissioned lighthouse squats in a way that is decidedly less majestic than the spiraling, towering structures that christen common conception. Instead the lighthouse exists in a manner that is decidedly more colonial. A square white house bisected by a tower with a focal height of only twenty seven feet. The lighthouse, while now mostly gutted and no longer functioning, still gives a taste of its past to visitors as a well-cared for nautical museum. Walking through the expertly preserved doorway the house opens up into tables covered in artifacts and pictures of the lighthouse in its hay day. In fact, the lighthouse is so well preserved that its countless layers of varnish have laminated the originally concrete structure within a hard plastic shell.

Venture further into the Lighthouse’s bowels and you’ll come upon a ladder leading up into the light tower. The lighthouse lamp was first lit with kerosene in 1880 and was

eventually automated in 1977. By the time that it was automated, the house was equipped with a fourth order Fresnel lens and lit by a massive electric bulb that illuminated out to fourteen nautical miles.

Despite its diminutive size, the upper level of the lighthouse commands a surprising view of the coast line and out into the water. Along the horizon kites bob and weave through the breeze in what my dad would describe as “a kite flying paradise.” Simply walk around the human sized clear glass bulb and through the door into the wind. From up on the lighthouse balcony the coastline opens up to you like a kingdom opens up to a king glancing over his domain.

From the time I was a toddler up until now at twenty three, I have loved going to the top of the lighthouse. I would walk out from the musty tower interior into the salty tang of a sea breeze and let the wind fill my consciousness. It fills my mouth and nose and before stealing the sound from my ears, leaving them empty of everything but natures’ labored breath.

Just down the beach, a massive rock alternates between an island and a monolith as the tides ebb and flow. Point no Point’s rock, though it could have been a boulder if it was on a mountainside, used to be one of my favorite places to play. My family and I would gather around the rock to listen to the barnacles covering it burble.

If you’ve never heard a barnacle covered rock make noise before it’s like nothing else. Thousands of small shell trapdoors moving open and shut, releasing water trapped during high tide. Altogether, the barnacles sound like a combination of soft rain falling onto the ground and fallen leaves crunching beneath booted feet. The bottom of Point No Points’ resident boulder creates a safe haven for sea life during low tide within small tide pool left behind by receding waves. Starfish drag themselves slowly beneath the water or cling like stickers onto the sides of their rocky home.

My siblings and I, and sometimes my parents, would splash quickly through the pools. We would reach down to touch the starfish, though not too much because a starfishes’ skin is bumpy and awkward. Afterwards I would lean in close to the barnacles to hear their music better.

After getting bored of rocks, barnacles, and starfish we’d skip old white sand dollars and flat rocks until our arms felt like they were about to fall off.

On the way back to our car we’d help my dad fill up the plastic bag that he always brought for trash. We would balance on drift wood and challenge each other to reach the end of the beach without falling off of the logs that had become piled up next to the grass by high tide and by industrious, fort building, families. After we reached the parking lot we would hobble barefoot over the rough combination of asphalt and gravel between us and the car. If our feet had dried off, we would brush the sand off before stepping into the car. If our feet were still wet my sisters and I would wait for the towels our parents carried to scrub the course, sticky sand off before piling unceremoniously into the car. Our pockets filled to bursting with bits of glass ground smooth by the waves and interesting rocks that never managed to stay as mesmerizing after they had dried.

For the rest of the day, my body stayed sticky with salt and I continued to find sand in my clothes and hair for days afterwards. Point No Point was remembered from then on in the vases throughout our house filled by us with our collections of rocks, shells, and sea glass—our pirates’ treasure. We would store the kites we had flown without bothering to scrub them clean of dirt, only stopping to shake them. After all, what was the point if they would just become equally as dirty the next time we flew them? I didn’t understand then, but the beach was bound to become part of my identity for forever.

As my sister puts it, “whenever I leave, I feel like my soul has been scrubbed clean.”

To this day when I head back to my hometown, and if I have the chance, I still drive the thirty minutes out to Point No Point’s gusting beaches. I bring a Thermos of hot chocolate, like my dad, and a plastic bag to hold any trash that I find during my walk. I balance on logs cast up high next to tough sticky blades of grass. I walk barefoot through sand so full of salt that it squeaks, looking for an abandoned driftwood palace.

It’s comforting to watch the passing transport ships stocked full of shipping containers stacked like children’s Legos. It makes me smile watching dogs throw themselves face first into the waves: creating foaming V’s of ocean spray on either side of their bodies. I watch as they swim otter like out to a thrown stick or out to a particularly interesting floating piece of debris. Parents lounge alongside me as their children play Frisbee or dig pointless holes. In front of me, teenagers throw wakeboards into the shallows, skimming across the waves or falling flat onto their faces with a meaty splat. Above the water and above me, seagulls wheel through the air training their hungry eyes onto anything that looks even suspiciously like food.

The same seagulls shriek split the air as I lean back into a rudimentary driftwood fortress, sip my chocolate, and let the sharp tang of the air carry me back. Or I bring nothing, and I let the wind whip and tear at my clothing. I bask in the eye of the storm.

Samuel Klusmeyer is a Montana based freelance writer currently writing for WRIT 373. The ocean will always be with him.

Montana State News

Welcome to the news site of Montana State University’s class, News and P.R. Writing (WRIT 373), Spring 2018. Students in this class will publish their semester’s work on Montana State News.

New Editor Announced for MontanaStateNews.org

MontanaStateNews.org announced in June 2017 that long-time editor, William Wilke has retired, citing plans to “travel to Santiago, Chile and other foreign lands.” He has turned over the the reins for the news site to fellow Montana State faculty member, Jean Arthur.

Burger maker settles for nothing but the best

By TYLER BARTON/Montana State News

It’s the end of a busy day. Jonathan Heap is wearing a black chef’s coat, still greasy from the day’s service. A bandana is tied around his forehead to keep the sweat out of his eyes. Athlene Heap is wearing a white coat, along with a tidy chef’s cap. Both are cleaning up after a hard day’s work, scrubbing grills and scouring dishes. The kitchen still sizzles with the residual heat of cooking, signaling only hotter days to come as the summer approaches.

There is not much room to maneuver inside the kitchen. It is, after all, only a school bus that has been refit with cabinets, drawers, grills, and more. Jonathan’s head nearly touches the ceiling as he stands over the stove, cleaning away.

They are tired but satisfied.

Jonathan and Athlene, a married couple and owners of the Heap Burger, have one mission: to make the finest burgers in Bozeman.

The Heap Burger bus is hard to miss. If you’re driving down Oak Street, you can spot it with even the most casual northward glance, resting in the Kenyon Noble parking lot where it permanently resides. It’s big, bold, and unmistakably bright red—a school bus repainted and repurposed into a restaurant. Continue reading “Burger maker settles for nothing but the best”

Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

The 2017 Montana legislative session rejected two bills directed toward fighting human trafficking when worries arose over complicating issues for which laws are already in place.

House Bill 378 was written to revise criminal laws which regard minors and human trafficking, while House Bill 379 set to revise laws requiring escort services and similar industries to verify identities and store records of employees at the risk of a penalty for non-compliance.

House Bill 379 specifically addressed people who advertise on websites such as Backpage and Craigslist with photos for the purpose of marketing. House Bill 278 would have made a change in specifying that exposing a minor to prostitution in any form is illegal.

While trying to crack down on human trafficking in Montana as much as possible, opposition to the bills were centralized around the idea that these revisions needed further revision, and that they didn’t add anything of real value to the existing legislation on the issue. Continue reading “Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation”

Human trafficking is a Big Sky country problem

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State news

Montana has seen 315 phone calls to the Human Trafficking Hotline since 2007 from witnesses reporting alleged cases of the crime. The most prevalent form of trafficking taking place through prostitution. The Human Trafficking Hotline has been taking in phone calls and generating statistics on the subject since its inception on Dec. 7, 2007. In 2016, the hotline received 52 separate calls, 15 of which were reports on human trafficking cases.

Looking through the available hotline statistics from 2012 to the present reveals an interesting trend. In 2012 there were 30 calls, 2013 saw 41 calls, 74 calls in 2014, 66 calls in 2015, and the aforementioned 52 calls in 2016. While a steady rise in calls is obvious through the progression of calls over time, the transition from 2015 to 2016 shows a drop in the amount of calls as well as reported cases of human trafficking. Continue reading “Human trafficking is a Big Sky country problem”

We are shaped by the places we inhabit

By BAY STEPHENS/Montana State News

The way humans change the places they inhabit has been a constant topic since the West began to be settled by Europeans. Towns were built, rivers were dammed, native tribes were pushed out. What tends to be thought of less is the inverse: how the environments we inhabit shape and mold us.

Each individual is shaped and molded by family, community, physical buildings and the wider landscape as a whole. All of these influences contribute to what Mark Hufstetler calls “a sense of place.”

Hufstetler is a historian and Montana adventurer who carries a sense of indomitable optimism. Despite being fresh off a four-hour drive from the Flathead region, he was chipper and conversational as the din and bustle of Bridger Brewing carried on around. The Acony Belles string trio playing bluegrass ballads behind him.

“It’s not necessarily always fashionable to say that you are a product of your environment,” he said between sips of his McTavish Scotch Ale, “but in a lot of ways, you really are.”

It can be seen in his own life. Born in Ogden, Utah, Hufstetler’s father worked for the Forest Service living mainly in Idaho and Wyoming. “I grew up in a series of small towns in the West, basically,” he said. Continue reading “We are shaped by the places we inhabit”

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