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Keep Up With Your Neighbors
- On The Internet

by Mike Thompson,

Wildlife Biologist
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
"Game Range Ramblings" column Seeley Swan Pathfinder
August 5, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

I couldn't spot an emerging trend if my life depended on it.

Case in point. Back in about 1971, my nephew looked to me for guidance in selecting new archery equipment for purchase. With one full season of bowhunting experience under my belt, I was the family expert.

As the proud owner of a Pearson Predator, the only decision in my mind was which recurved bow would be the best. He couldn't go wrong with a Pearson, but should he test the uncharted waters of Bear equipment? Or maybe he would be the first guy in town to try one of the elite recurved brands that target professionals used.

But, while I pondered the choices at one end of the display rack, Junior stood mesmerized at the opposite end, listening to a salesman's pitch for the newfangled compound bows. I waited politely for the salesman to finish before sidling up to Junior and offering this now famous piece of advice.

"Compound bows are a fad," I counseled. "Go with the recurve."

As a result, Junior may well have purchased the last recurved bow ever sold in North America. I keep telling him it's probably worth a fortune to a collector somewhere, but he always replies that he wants to hold onto it as a reminder to ignore me in the future.

Admittedly, I may be slow to warm up to a change in the old tried and true, but I've got to say, this Internet thing looks like it's gonna stick. And, it's getting to the point where you could be missing out on access to a lot of useful information without it.

This point was driven home sharply a couple of weeks ago while I was attending a weed tour in the Missoula area. Unfortunately, there are lots of weeds to tour in Missoula, but there is also a lot of promising work being done in weed control and prevention that we can apply in the Seeley-Swan and elsewhere in Montana. The tour, which was organized by many agencies, the Western Area Weed Council, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, was very informative and worthwhile.

My revelation about the Internet came during a presentation by George Hirschenberger, who works for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Missoula Field Office. George is BLM's Project Leader for the Blackfoot Weed Management Project, and he was speaking on important project results that have captured the attention of a nationwide audience.

He was standing in front of a local weed map, and waved a progress report, both of which I coveted. But, my hopes of immediate ownership were dashed when George announced that he did not have a pile of these materials printed as handouts (and potential throwouts) because they were already posted on the Internet.

That's when I was reminded that the Internet is good for more than spreading lies to distant places. It is also a remarkably improved means of getting updated, high-quality information to local audiences. It is a way for neighbors to work together more effectively, and can greatly enhance communication, rather than replace it.

So, I fired up the old computer and punched in the Internet address George provided:

"Welcome to the Bureau of Land Management Home Page for the Butte Field Office," my machine replied. When the little hand appeared in front of the emblem entitled "What We Do," I clicked the mouse and let 'er rip!

Of course, I ripped right into another menu of choices, but George had already told me to click on "Initiatives and Special Projects," and then on the "Blackfoot Ecosystem Demonstration Weed Management Project" when the next screen came up. TaDa! There I stood at the threshold of the promised land. If I proceeded further, I ran the risk of learning something. I took in a long breath, then began reading, scrolling, clicking and printing.

"In 1995, the BLM selected the Blackfoot River sub-basin as one of four Weed Management Demonstration Areas in the western United States. The Project began operating in 1996 and will continue through at least the year 2000." As I continued reading, I came upon a list of reference materials, and found I could access every one of them simply by moving the cursor to each subject and clicking on the mouse. The list of references includes the 1996 Annual Report, the 1997 Operating Plan, the 1997 Annual Report, the 1998 Operating Plan, the Current Communications Plan, the Current Comprehensive Plan, the Blackfoot Challenge Weed Management Education Plan and the Geodata Weed Page. Just take your pick, and click!

Once you get the hang of it and start exploring the links to other pages, you'll find local weed maps, photos and descriptions of weeds in our area - and weeds to watch out for in the future! One thing you might not find on the Internet is notice for the Blackfoot Challenge Weed Tour coming up on September 22. We'll be spending some time looking at tough weed problems in the Game Range vicinity, and weed specialists will be on hand to offer their advice on state-of-the-art strategies. Call George at 406-329-3914 to receive an agenda, or e-mail the Blackfoot Challenge at

But, let me caution you. Make sure someone knows where you are when you begin browsing George's Internet web site. Because you're going to need someone to find and resuscitate you if you miss too many meals while transfixed in the world of the Blackfoot Weed Management Project.

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