Root balls facing into the current stabilize the river bank and allow recruitment of new vegetation.    Toe logs! Who knew! Toe logs were introduced to us during the reconstruction of the river through our ranch as part of the Milltown Superfund Project.  Previously the river was aggressively eating away the bank where there was little bank to spare.

     While the river was diverted, vulnerable areas of bank were peeled back and heavy logs with root balls attached were laid down into it and buried with about 1/3 of their length left exposed to the river. They were angled slightly upstream and often the root ball was placed to reach into the current.
     The job of these toe logs, we were told, was to protect the bank so vegetation could eventually stabilize it and to push the current away from the bank to stop the erosion that was happening. They would also collect drifting brush, etc., that would eventually add to the bank.

Frosty morning on the Clark Fork River"I’m especially thankful for the traditional stories handed down from my family about the importance of Mother Earth and the living and breathing things that have sustained us for time immemorial. Water has life giving properties as well as the rocks, mud, sand and earth."

 My name is Alice Whiteman and as President of the Friends of Two Rivers group, I’d like to take time to send friendly greetings to you and your family during this time of the year. 

On my third trip across the pasture on a breathless 97 degree summer day to fix a blowout in the main line of our irrigation system, I heard my Mother’s voice saying, “What your head won’t do, your feet must.”

I chuckled to myself. “Yep, exactly the case.”

The fact that I’d need to make two more trips across the stifling hot field before the system was satisfactorily up and running again was no one’s fault but my own. I’d rushed making my connections in the first place as I’d moved the big sprinklers around in three different pastures. I was annoyed when a connection totally blew out halfway across the hot field. I’d walked back, shut down the pump, walked out to the connection, stuffed the coupling back together and buckled it down to hold it shut. Off to the pump again, this time to discover that while the connection was holding, water was spraying out of it in a great fan in every direction and not much was actually making it to the sprinkler heads down field.......back to shut down the pump. Back out to the connection.

That’s when my mother’s admonishment from childhood came to mind and my head engaged in the process. Sure enough! The rubber gasket had blown out of the connection in the first blowout and was lying right where I had stood to hastily put the coupling back together. I knew better, but I hadn’t checked and I wasted a lot of time and energy that could have been better spent in the hammock in the shade of the back yard on such a beastly hot afternoon. But I did have this brief walk down memory lane to show for my carelessness. Mental note to self: Whenever a coupling blows out, make sure the gasket is back in place...before reconnecting.

“What your head won’t do, your feet must.” How true, how true!

To the no doubt endless delight of my children, I have been obligated to pass along some of the great quips mom used to inspire us to greater effort and to be more mindful of our actions. Another of my favorites still is “There is an easy way and a right way to do most everything, but the easy way is almost never going to be the right way.”

Following that line of thought was “Let’s just do it right the first time!” Do you detect a theme here? Well, the woman did have seven children to keep lined out with some form of accomplishment in mind! We’ve all been seduced by that sultry voice of the easy way: “Just do it and forget it.” “It won’t matter anyway!” “This’ll be good enough.” “No one cares......”

Oh wait! Hey! It does matter and I care!

That seductive, easy way was why I did not get the coupling back together correctly the first time. The right way, or doing it right the first time would have saved me a lot of unnecessary extra sweat. Okay, okay, I learned my lesson once again.

That easy way was once offered to our community when the seemingly incomprehensible obstacle of cleaning up the toxic Milltown reservoir was first under serious consideration. Doing it right the first time turned out to be an excellent choice to the great credit of all those within the immediate community and from the surrounding communities of these two rivers and around the state that insisted on it. It certainly wasn’t the easy way but so far it has proved to be the right choice.

We are blessed in this area to have many people committed to doing the “right thing” in the “right way” for the environment and the communities along these rivers that we love. Even when the “right thing” may be the undoing of something that seemed right in ages past but no longer works for today’s world, the simple economics of it requires that we get it right the first time. Easy to say, I know, and not so easy to do but it is the reality of our lives on so many levels that the “easy way” becomes more seductive as the price tag increases on the “right way.” It is a sad reflection that we are sometimes tempted to simply give in, give up and settle for less than the best. It is also true, that like me out in that hot pasture, we can get in a hurry and fail to discern what actually needs to be done. We miss the obvious, overlook the right thing for the quick thing and WHOOSH!!! blows apart and has to be done again at a loss of time and energy. Enthusiasm wanes with each wrong choice. The wait for the “right way” to be accomplished can be long and try our patience mightily as with the opening of the lower Blackfoot River. While its hazards may not be apparent, many lying beneath seemingly placid waters, they do exist and the right and responsible thing to do is to clean it up as much as humanly possible before it’s fully open. Is it an easy process? Not at all, but it is not insurmountable either, just time consuming. There is no easy way.

And so, to my Mom’s credit, I have learned those lessons (over and over again) and carry them forth with me to the annoyance of my husband and children (I’m sure) and occasionally to others around me, but I am compelled to keep trying to do it right the first time so that my feet don’t have to do what my head failed to do, and before the temptation strikes, remember that the easy way is almost never the right way to do anything.

Writing in the fall, 2011 issue of The Wildlife Professional the U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary begins with this statement: “Accelerating climate change poses the single biggest threat to wildlife in the United States.” Shifting temperatures, patterns of precipitation, violent storm events... altering entire ecosystems, habitats, and virtually all species...” The Interior Department’s answer? “...a first ever coordinated departmental strategy to address current and future impacts of climate change...” That’s no answer! It’s business as usual. Interior joins the lemming-like rush to the brink: “Let’s sidestep change and see how far we can go before greenhouse gasses make our planet uninhabitable.”

The accelerated rhetoric of this election year includes declarations that man-caused global climate change is a political or religious belief! Of course, beliefs are the unalienable rights of individuals. On the other hand, none of us has the right to ignore overwhelming scientific evidence because it defines a truth that is inconvenient and unpopular. Science operates differently than politics and religion. It doesn’t generate “belief” but uses a structured process to painstakingly discover sound evidence to establish fundamental truth.
Society has historically rejected unpopular science. Copernicus (1473-1543) used mathematical evidence to conclude that the center of the earth was not the center of the universe, flying in the face of that popular belief. In response, religious leaders sought to stamp out “Copernicanism,” alleging that mathematical numbers were a mere product of the intellect without any physical reality.

Similarly, today’s climate science is condemned on grounds that include use of the issue by scientists merely to generate funds for their research. Poppycock! The physical/chemical properties of carbon dioxide, its “greenhouse” effect, and its exponentially increasing concentration in the atmosphere are fundamental facts. All major scientific associations absolutely accept the evidence of man-caused climate change caused by the accelerated production of greenhouse gasses. Naysayers led by energy companies like Exxon use misinformation to lure opinion and politics down their road to nowhere. We must demand better from our leaders and this important political year is a good time to start.

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