Tag Archives: Montana

Battle over ownership of dinosaur fossils could upend paleontology research

A dispute over the land rights on a property where several significant and valuable dinosaur fossils have been discovered could completely change how future fossil digs are run.

The fight is between the ranchers who own the surface rights to the property in question, and the owners who possess the mineral rights. The latter are claiming, and have won in federal court, that fossils are minerals and thus belong to them.

That court decision however upturned more than a century of practice, where fossils were always considered part of the surface rights only.

The ruling sent shock waves through the paleontology world, threatening to upend the way fossil hunters have operated for decades.

It would make searching for fossils extremely complicated, said David Polly, a former president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, based in Bethesda, Maryland, because paleontologists would need to navigate both surface ownership—to get to the dig location—and mineral ownership of a parcel. Often, mineral rights are hard to find and frequently change hands between large corporations.

The article says this decision could threaten previous finds, but I think that is hyperbole. On issues like this the statue of limitations would apply, and would make almost all challenges on earlier fossil finds moot.

Nonetheless, the issue is still before the courts. The federal court has decided to vacate its decision and has instead let the case shift to the state supreme court in Montana, which is expected to take up the case later this year.

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MTNS – Lost track of time

An evening pause: The song, which is really nice, is really just background music to a beautiful video of what it is like to fly fish in Montana. As always, I want to note the sophistication of the human engineering and design that makes this activity possible. It is as beautiful as the countryside and the music.

Hat tip Rocco.

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Federal government moves to seize water rights from Montanans

Under the radar theft: The federal government, in league with the Montana state legislature, is moving to seize the privately-held water rights of 100,000 Montana citizens and hand those rights over to the Flathead Indian Reservations, after which the rights would be controlled and administered by the federal government.

The tale of woe begins with the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 that created the Flathead Indian Reservation. Article III of the Treaty is the point of contention, as it states the Indian tribes have an established “right of taking fish” in waters not on the reservation. The article has been selectively interpreted and further manipulated to this end: the tribes must be able to ensure water quality of their fishing sites; therefore, the water rights in 11 counties must fall under the Tribal jurisdiction.

Enter the EPA to set standards of water quality, the Water Compact Commission, a board that is relentlessly pushing the compact on the populace, the Department of the Interior, the bureaucracy that will collect and manage revenue “on behalf” of the tribes, and the DHS, the enforcement arm of compliance. Should the tribes and the aforementioned players win this fight, all surface water and wells (private wells, mind you) within the boundaries imposed by the Compact will be metered and taxed.

The whole thing is a travesty and should be a moot point in reality: Article I of the same treaty ceded, relinquished, and conveyed (by the tribes) all rights or claims to any land and waters except the Reservation. The State Senate just voted on it a few weeks ago. The Senate holds 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats; however, 11 Republicans voted for the Compact and the measure passed, 32-18. The bottom line: there was not one dissenting Democratic vote on the whole measure.

The conflict here is obviously complex, but the result seems pretty simple. While before private citizens owned their own private wells (dug with their money and sweat), afterward those wells would be controlled by government bureaucrats, who will use that power to tax and regulate the use of those wells. As the article notes, if this should pass it will “set a precedent for the courts throughout the United States by the Federal Government to deprive us of our water rights.”

But who cares? Let’s instead go ga-ga over a stupid ill-advised publicity campaign from a stupid overpriced coffee company.

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Congress removes wolf from endangered list

Congress removes the wolf from the endangered list. From Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana):

“Right now, Montana’s wolf population is out of balance and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with state management. Wolves have recovered in the Northern Rockies. By untying the hands of the Montana biologists who know how to keep the proper balance, we will restore healthy wildlife populations and we will protect livestock. This provision is best for our wildlife, our livestock and for wolves themselves.”

I don’t know if Tester’s description of the situation in Montana is accurate (though I tend to rely on local expertise in these matters). However, to get an opposing viewpoint the article above goes to the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization I do know something about. In caving matters relating to white nose syndrome, CBD has pushed extremist and outright ignorant policy positions (trying for example to have all caves and mines on all public lands closed in order to protect bats, even though there is literally no evidence that such an action made sense). I would not trust their opinions under any condition.

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