Seeley Lake Stands Tall
this Thanksgiving


Game Range Ramblin's

Game Range Articles
by Mike Thompson,
FW&P wildlife biologist,
writing for the Pathfinder


November 23, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Last week's announcement that Pyramid Mountain Lumber will close brings many thoughts to mind this Thanksgiving.


A lot of people in Seeley Lake may feel hard pressed to offer an honest prayer of thanks this year. Many of the rest of us are left to deal with feelings of inadequacy and helplessness, wishing we could do something to really make a difference for those most directly affected.

When the cornerstone of a community gives way, no one comes out of it unscathed.

It's true that I've not met most of the people who lost their jobs last week. But, I know many of them through the generosity they've shown with their donations and support for the Game Range 50th Anniversary Project over the past two years. Looking back to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet last June, I'll bet some mill workers quietly contributed all they dared with full knowledge that their futures were cloudy at best.

With that I'm reminded of my agency's obligation to make the very most of those contributions with a renewed commitment to complete all four phases of the project to secure 7,800 acres of Plum Creek inholdings within the heart of the Game Range. And, to manage the land to the highest possible standardsto do a better job than we're doing now.

Because it's yours. It's still yours. Nothing that happened last week changes that fact. Your membership as a stakeholder in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range, and in the public's fish and wildlife resources, is good for your lifetime, and it is within your power, collectively, to pass it on to your children. You can ensure it with your enduring interest, your enthusiasm, and your voices.

Notice I didn't say "your votes!" (Sorry. It was too easy to pass up.)

As other mills started closing across western Montana over the past few years, I couldn't help feeling pride in Pyramid's success, seemingly against all odds. I guess Pyramid was a pretty good substitute for a professional sports team in Seeley Lake. They kept finding a way to win and it was hard not to root for them.

Which leads me to believe that Pyramid's owners possess a powerful affiliation for their employees and the community of Seeley Lake. They were looking at the same economic trends as everyone else in the industry back in the early and mid-1990s. It would have been understandable for them to fold at that time. Instead, they hustled for a few more years and, through the wages they paid, put a few more kids through college and carried a few more families through unforeseen medical emergencies.

And, I'll bet the Pyramid employees so affected will never forget it. Not even in this most trying of Holiday Seasons.

I couldn't help thinking of you folks at Pyramid when I paged through the November/December issue of Montana Outdoors magazine last weekend. It's a Special Centennial Issue, commemorating 100 years service by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. I highly recommend you pick one up at your newsstand. (Call me if you can't find one.)

It is a collector's issue that rekindles pride. For me, it's pride in an organization that I dreamed of joining long before I knew how that might happen or what I might do if it did. It's pride in silently allowing myself credit for my small role in the organization's accomplishments, and in appreciating the difficult groundwork that our agency's pioneers laid when there were no examples to follow.

Not unlike the pride you who built and sustained Pyramid Mountain Lumber must feel today. For more than 50 years, Pyramid was a leader in the timber industry.

I can't imagine what I would do if I were laid off tomorrow. I really can't. But, I do know that a resume from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks would be well respected by private consulting firms and wildlife management organizations across the country where I might hope to find work. And, with the skills I've learned and practiced at FWP, I hope I might adapt to an entirely different profession, and maybe even learn to like it.

You folks at Pyramid don't need me to tell you that you have those things going for you, too.

I remember one beautiful day when I was a graduate student working on my mountain goat study along the Rocky Mountain Front. That afternoon, I sat on a mountainside for lunch. As I scanned the unspoiled landscape, and watched a black bear amble out of the brush far below me, I was conscious of my uncharted future. I still didn't know what obstacles lay between me and a masters degree in wildlife management, much less what chance I might have to land a job with FWP. But, at that moment, I was at peace.

"No matter what, they can't take this time away from me," I allowed myself to whisper aloud, watching the bear graze untroubled below.

Please don't think it too forward of me to suggest that these words be part of your Thanksgiving prayer this year. I hope I'll remember to say them, too.

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