My beautiful pictureHell Creek State Park, Montana, circa 1966

Comments on the Hell Creek State Park Master Site & Management Plan – Draft_10-28-15 are due November 25, 2015.  They’re looking at choices to address the serious overcapacity use of the park, and to determine what to do when the “no-cost lease agreement” with the Army Corps of Engineers expires in 2021.  At this point, they’re wanting to address site infrastructure needs, make priority improvements and continue management of site and concession facility under a new contract with USACE.

Send Comments, labeled as “Hell Creek State Park – Comments” to:

Montana State Parks
1420 East 6th Ave
PO Box 200701
Helena, MT  59620-0701

or online:


Decades ago on a family camping trip, we went to Hell Creek State Park, and it was stunning in its vast austerity.  It was on the bank of the Fort Peck Reservoir, the dam being part of our infrastructure tour that summer, and it was so bleak, hot, and dry, I wondered how people survived out there. Here’s the one campsite now with a tree!


We had to drive this intensely bumpy dirt road from Jordan, the nearest town, about 26 miles away, and it took a LONG time.  When we got there, we were the only campers, and were warmly greeted by the ranger, who showed us around, warned us about the cactus and said to be careful what shoes we wore because those spines could come right up through flimsy tennis shoes!  He also displayed his day’s work, he’d been out shooting rattlesnakes that day, and had half a flour sack full of dead rattlesnakes.   I don’t remember a beach, though there must have been a designated swimming area, and for sure there would have been a boat launch.  What I do remember of the reservoir, other than the dam, was an old wagon, the wooden kind, with a bench seat, the bench sticking up out of the water, which reminded me of what was probably lurking underneath the water, whatever was left when they flooded the river valley.

I’ve wanted to go back there, and now with the camper, it’s on the agenda (let’s hear it for online reservations with photos!).  And in looking at the park, I found this Plan, and it presents some interesting issues, ranging from dealing with outfitters who direct clients to the park and use it as a base; moving to increased online reservations and a reservation only system; dealing with water and sewage issues, fish cleaning waste; and campground improvements to water, sanitary sewer system, electrical and cell service (there is NO cell service in the area).

If you’re a camper, fisher, hunter, check out this plan and let them know what you think!




Rice in Arkansas

October 29th, 2015


Driving south through Missouri, it was pouring rain, and then into Arkansas, it kept up, and all along Hwy. 67, the fields were flooded, water in the ditches too.  But I noticed that there was irrigation, but just a pipe into a field, and there were berms around a field.  Much harvesting was done, but there were also fields full of green, and given the temps here, that makes sense.  But what were these things that looked like a lot of little corn plants, maybe a foot tall with pretty thick leaves?  DOH!  They grow rice here!


What’s the scoop?  Kind of surprising!  48% of US grown rice is grown in Arkansas! Or 45% depending who you ask.  I’d remembered that lots of it was grown here from delivering big bags of rice for D.A.N.C.e Warehouse, but about 1/2 of U.S. rice is pretty amazing for such a small geographic area.

Here’s the How-To for Rice:

Rice Crop Timeline for the Southern States of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi

Heading to Mt. Nebo State Park today, it is beautiful.  Here’s today’s view from the office, sunny warm day, don’t miss the Minnesota snow one bit!


West Avenue Redux

September 24th, 2015


The 20 mph flashing sign hasn’t been very effective, so we’ve had this serious traffic calming regimen coming up the hill, and yes, people ARE slowing down!  Well, it’s either that or break an axle.  So they do, and wind around doing the serpentine, one yahoo ran over a barrel and left a big chunk of bumper in the street, DOH!  How do you not see an orange barrel with reflective stripes?!?!

Today they’re filling them in, blocking off one lane of road, ratcheting it up to a “traffic stopping regimen” which is great.  But when College Ave. is closed for utility tree cutting, and the intersection of Putnam and Pine is tore up to fix the huge cavern under the side walk and equipment lined up along Pine, it’s kinda hard to get from here to there today!

Will the fix the bank over the Great West Wall?


Muller: Time to think about…

August 23rd, 2015


Commentary by Alan Muller, Green Delaware, in today’s Delaware State News:

Commentary: Time to think about Delaware’s Peterson, Coastal Zone Act

Delaware’s a mess. The water is rising. We are a major destination for bomb trains. One of the most leaky and dangerous nuke power complexes threatens and pollutes the state and is trying to expand with new reactors. The air and water are polluted. The economy is stagnant and the political system corrupt. The public schools are under attack. The court system is openly dedicated to protecting corporate crime. A tale of woe, to be sure.

Some of it is self-inflicted, like the reopening of the mega-toxic Delaware City Refinery and the resulting routing of bomb trains to Delaware.  Some, like global climate change and sea level rise, is mostly beyond the ability of Delaware to do much about. On the other hand, it could well be argued that little three-county Delaware has done way-out-of-proportion damage to the world, has been a damaging leader in the “race to the bottom.”

What is the cumulative damage to individuals and families done by out-of-control credit card “banks?” Would that have happened anyway, with or without Delaware’s shameful Financial Center Development Act?  Would so many electric ratepayers been screwed over so much without the hundreds of Enron subsidiaries incorporated in Delaware? Maybe they would have just been set up somewhere else.  Would there have been so many bogus bankruptcies and stolen pension plans?  Would the US, or the world, be in better shape without Delaware?  Alternative history can’t be much more than speculative, but there is a case to be made.

Is it possible to imagine a better Delaware? A place to be proud of rather than ashamed of? A Delaware, for example, where John  Kowalko is Speaker of the House rather than Pete Schwartzkopf?  A place where the University of  Delaware symbolizes intellectual freedom rather than civil liberties violations and the worship of capital at the expense of labor?

Well, yes, actually.  There  have been better leadership and better political times in Delaware, within my memory.

Russ Peterson died in 2011.  (Here’s his obit in the New York Times.) Peterson was a significant figure in environmental matters in Delaware, nationally, and sometimes globally.  But it seemed to me that most of what was being written about Russ was the same old stuff, regurgitated for the umpteenth time and not giving us much new or insightful to think about.

Now, three years have gone by, and Delaware’s rulers are pursuing another major attack on the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, the centerpiece, the masterpiece, of  Peterson’s public policy work in Delaware.   So, this seems an appropriate time to think about Russ Peterson.

Peterson was likely the most significant person ever to operate out of little Delaware.  But he didn’t walk on water and he wasn’t God.  He was both more flawed and more interesting than one might see from most writings about him. He deserves more thoughtful commentary than he’s so far received.

Peterson, first of all, not a “Delaware Native.”  He was born, raised, and educated in Wisconsin, and was a product of the relatively progressive atmosphere, at least at that time, of the Upper Midwest.  (For factual information on Russ Peterson see this Wikipedia article.)

If Peterson had grown up in the plantation culture of Delaware, and learned his chemistry at the University of Delaware, would he have made the same contributions?  Maybe, but it’s doubtful.  In general, the human intellect does not seem to blossom in Delaware.

Russ was educated as a chemist and was recruited by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company as a research chemist.  He rose to be director of Central Research and Development.  This would be considered, at least at the time, high in the pecking order of the technical world, or at least its industrial side.  Peterson was a smart man.

Peterson’s interests eventually shifted out of DuPont.  My favorite story of Peterson and DuPont:  At one time he was in charge of a suburban office/lab site known as Chestnut Run Plaza.  At the time, in DuPont, black people could generally have only menial, broom-pushing jobs.  Peterson set up a program to enable and encourage black workers to move up. DuPont’s response was to schedule Peterson for an interview with “the company psychiatrist.”  Mental illness was suspected.

In any case, Peterson got involved in reform efforts in Delaware, notably prison reform. Being of an analytical turn of mind, he figured out how to organize such efforts: a committee in every Representative district, and so on.   Some years of this work gave him good, if imperfect, insight into the workings of Delaware politics.

He wasn’t without his critics.  Tom Colgan, long time campaigner against housing discrimination, used to say “Russ always showed up when the fighting was over.”  Perhaps so.  But Delaware is a place with a narrow intellectual and political space, where perceptions of non-mainstream views generally relegate people to a gadfly role.  In a sense, Russ Peterson’s achievement was to keep close enough to the political mainstream to achieve, at least briefly, real power, yet he was not co-opted from the neck up.

In 1968, Peterson resigned from DuPont and ran for Governor as a Republican.  At the time, the DuPont Company was behind him.  I recall, as the teenage son of a DuPont manager, being turned out to flyer for Russ Peterson.  He won.

But, after the enactment of the Coastal Zone Act in his first term, DuPont turned on him, and told its 25,000 Delaware employees–there are way fewer now, or course–to vote for Democrat Sherman W. Tribbitt, a hardware store owner in the small town of Odessa.  Peterson was out of office after one term.

There were other factors in his defeat, including budgetary miscalculations that required the state to “claw back” spending.  Whether this was a genuine screwup or a trap set for Peterson has never been entirely clear to me.  The budget shortfall was five million dollars.

Peterson also pushed a transition from Delaware’s “commission” form of government to a “cabinet” system.  Traditionally, many governmental functions had been run by citizen commissions.  Some still are, such as utility regulation by the “Public Service Commission.”  The members of these commissions were mostly appointed by the governor but were not, afterwards, directly under his control.  On the other hand, departments of the Executive Branch were. and are, headed by officials reporting to the Governor.  This increased the power of the governor; it made for a more centralized decision-making process.  Like most change, it was resented.

This centralization of power continues:  a disturbing example is the shift of power over schools from elected district school boards to a state Department of Education controlled by the governor.  Many people these days feel that Governor Jack Markell is using this power to attack the fundamental features of public schools and public education, and to implement privatization of the public schools to the benefit of for-profit “education” companies.

After Tribbitt’s one term, hard right winger and special interest servant Pierre S. du Pont IV was installed as Governor for two terms.  DuPont shut down the state planning office and, in general, tried to reverse many of the Peterson reforms.  Many people see his two terms as the time during which Delaware abandoned real representative government and adopted the “Delaware Way” of governance.  The “Delaware Way” could better be called the “Dirty Deals Behind Closed Doors” approach.

So what about this Coastal Zone Act?  What makes it special and worth preserving.

It was based on an understanding that coastal areas, that is, where the water meets the land and the air, are crucial from an ecological perspective and need special protections.  The wording of it is pretty clear:


It is hereby determined that the coastal areas of Delaware are the most critical areas for the future of the State in terms of the quality of life in the State. It is, therefore, the declared public policy of the State to control the location, extent and type of industrial development in Delaware’s coastal areas. In so doing, the State can better protect the natural environment of its bay and coastal areas and safeguard their use primarily for recreation and tourism. Specifically, this chapter seeks to prohibit entirely the construction of new heavy industry in its coastal areas, which industry is determined to be incompatible with the protection of that natural environment in those areas. While it is the declared public policy of the State to encourage the introduction of new industry into Delaware, the protection of the environment, natural beauty and recreation potential of the State is also of great concern. In order to strike the correct balance between these 2 policies, careful planning based on a thorough understanding of Delaware’s potential and the State’s needs is required. Therefore, control of industrial development other than that of heavy industry in the coastal zone of Delaware through a permit system at the state level is called for. It is further determined that offshore bulk product transfer facilities represent a significant danger of pollution to the coastal zone and generate pressure for the construction of industrial plants in the coastal zone, which construction is declared to be against public policy. For these reasons, prohibition against bulk product transfer facilities in the coastal zone is deemed imperative.

The immediate tactical driver for the bill was an attempt to build a second oil refinery in Delaware.  Shell had bought the land, designed the refinery, and survey monuments were in the ground.  The threat was immediate.  The damage being done by the existing Delaware City Refinery, one of the dirtiest in the world, was obvious.

It’s worth noting that Peterson and the leaders of the General Assembly were Republicans.  The President of the US was Richard Nixon.  The Nixon administration wanted to increase oil imports and wanted a lot of it to come up the Delaware River and be refined alongside it. So, in effect, Peterson was not only defying Delaware’s fat-cat industrial establishment, and many labor leaders, he was defying the US federal government and his fellow Republicans.

“U. S. Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans accused Peterson of being disloyal to his country.  Peterson famously replied, ‘Hell no, I’m being loyal to future generations of Americans.’” (Man and Nature in Delaware.  Williams, 2008)

There were, however, flaws in the Coastal Zone Act, like most legislation a product of compromise.  A key weakness is that the Act covers “industry” but not residential and commercial activities.  Over the years, as coastal industry has tended to contract and sprawl development expand, the CZA has increasingly failed to control many of the greatest threats to the Coastal Zone including runoff and sewage.  It has been obvious for many years that the scope of the Act needs to be expanded, but the vision and leadership to accomplish that has been lacking.

Another weakness is that regulations implementing the act we not adopted for many years, and when they were adopted they were inconsistent with the purposes of the act and tended to weaken it.  Thus, interpretation of the Act has mostly been left to Delaware’s courts, with unpredictable and increasingly bad results, as the quality of Delaware’s judiciary has declined.

But, despite these issues, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act was groundbreaking, whether one regards it as primarily a “land use” law or an “environmental” law.  It came about because a visionary governor was supported by a generation of reform-minded legislators and a relatively-active “environmental community.”  Where are the visionary governors and the generation of reform-minded legislators when we need them now??  Gov. Jack Markell is certainly not cast in that mold.

Peterson went on to serve as President of the National Audubon Society, Chaired the federal Council on Environmental Quality, and worked with various commissions, environmental organizations and projects.  He never again held elective office or a high position in the business or scientific worlds.

Peterson stayed, at least episodically, involved in environmental politics in Delaware, until his death in 2011 at the age of about 95.  He was, for example, a supporter of the Bluewater Wind project, which eventually collapsed but potentially could have been the first large offshore wind project in North America.  He usually popped up when the Coastal Zone Act was being attacked.

But in the end Russ Peterson was diminished by two things:

Advancing age.  Anyone remaining active into his mid-90s is likely to be remembered for things he or she did when no longer at the peak of their powers, and

His love-hate relationship with the chemical industry.  Perhaps Peterson never got over being pushed out of his job as Governor by DuPont.  It seemed to me that he carried deep and legitimate grievances, and of course he knew intellectually that the policies pursued by big corporate interests were destroying the planet.  On the other hand, Peterson had money, identified socially with the powers-that-be, and seemed to crave forgiveness and acceptance from the leaders of DuPont, etc.  Thus, he could and did alternate between sucking up and lashing out.  He wasn’t always reliable or predictable.  He could and did make serious mistakes and publish stupid things, such as an endorsement of a bad waste incineration company.

Russ’ key mistake was to be politically seduced by “Toxic Tom” Carper.  Carper was elected Governor in 1992, with the naive support of some Delaware enviros.  At that time, a long Coastal Zone Act negotiation between enviro types and Chamber of Commerce types had been in progress under Gov. Mike Castle and was coming to conclusion.  Carper came in with a pure “Chamber of Commerce” agenda and one of his first actions was to call in the enviros and tell them to yield to the Chamber on Coastal Zone issues.  Initially, they resisted.  So Carper went after Peterson, knowing that if Russ yielded, inevitably the mainstream enviros would go along.  Peterson fell for it.  I remember him yelling at me that Tom Carper and Chris Tolou, then Secretary of DNREC, were “great environmentalists.”  He hired a bogus “neutral facilitator” shop called the “Consensus Building Institute” to give the enviros cover for their sellout.  In the sad end, the enviros–many controlled by DuPont–wimped out and rolled over.  They signed an agreement essentially abandoning the clear language of the Coastal Zone Act in favor of “environmental indicators,” “offsets,” and other excuses for abandoning the plain meaning of the Act.  It’s been mostly downhill since.

There have been some high moments.  John Hughes, as Secretary of DNREC, denied a permit for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Logan Township, NJ.  This he could do because at that point Delaware owns the Delaware River all the way across.  The case went to the US Supreme Court and Delaware prevailed.  At the time, the oil and gas people were saying that more gas imports were essential.  Now, of course, they are saying that gas exports are essential…..

So what’s the relevance of this to 2015?  Delaware faces more severe threats now than when Peterson was governor.  The land is sinking, the sea is rising, and much of Delaware is subject to flooding.  How is the state reacting to this? So far, with nothing but words.  Decades of pandering to business interests, without foresight or planning, have left Delaware’s economy in bad shape and our quality of life degraded.  Compare Peterson’s visionary Coastal Zone Act, which kept a Shell refinery out of Delaware, with Jack Markell’s dirty backdoor deal to reopen the Delaware City Refinery, and bring bomb trains into the state.  Delaware is the big loser.

How do we (re)open Delaware’s political system to visionary leaders?  Or at least people of intelligence and good will?  Who will step up, or be pushed forward, to run for Governor?

Alan Muller is Executive Director of Green Delaware.


Last post on this, Paul Krugman says it all.  Really…. well… probably…

In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman says very clearly what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around.  Cliven Bundy is a moocher, no doubt, I’ve called him a “welfare queen” too, but the hatred Bundy spews is… is… well, read what Krugman has to say, he puts it all together.

The anti-government mindset is indeed a problem.  Just Friday, I ran into it when a friend repeated the mantra, “You know what’s wrong, it’s the government, the government is too powerful,” when we were attending a hearing focused on utility power (“why do you think they call them power companies”), where it was a utility trying to take someone’s land.  HUH?  How is that an example of problem with “government?”  The landowner in the middle of the fray clearly stated her take, “It’s the utilities, the corporations have too much power.”  Yup, my take too.  How does it become an issue of “too much government?”  This highlights the failure of our individuals and schools to foster critical thinking compounded by the acceptance of the non-stop media regurgitation of false and twisted information.  But hey, that’s just another display of corporate power.

The only thing I’d change?  Where Krugman says it’s a perversion regarding “freedom of the wealthy,” I think it’s more freedom of ANYONE, and so I’d make this edit:

For at the heart of the standoff was a perversion of the concept of freedom, which for too much of the right has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for others.


Here are Krugman’s thoughts:

High Plains Moochers

It is, in a way, too bad that Cliven Bundy — the rancher who became a right-wing hero after refusing to pay fees for grazing his animals on federal land, and bringing in armed men to support his defiance — has turned out to be a crude racist. Why? Because his ranting has given conservatives an easy out, a way to dissociate themselves from his actions without facing up to the terrible wrong turn their movement has taken.

For at the heart of the standoff was a perversion of the concept of freedom, which for too much of the right has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for others.

Start with the narrow issue of land use. For historical reasons, the federal government owns a lot of land in the West; some of that land is open to ranching, mining and so on. Like any landowner, the Bureau of Land Management charges fees for the use of its property. The only difference from private ownership is that by all accounts the government charges too little — that is, it doesn’t collect as much money as it could, and in many cases doesn’t even charge enough to cover the costs that these private activities impose. In effect, the government is using its ownership of land to subsidize ranchers and mining companies at taxpayers’ expense.

It’s true that some of the people profiting from implicit taxpayer subsidies manage, all the same, to convince themselves and others that they are rugged individualists. But they’re actually welfare queens of the purple sage.

And this in turn means that treating Mr. Bundy as some kind of libertarian hero is, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. Suppose he had been grazing his cattle on land belonging to one of his neighbors, and had refused to pay for the privilege. That would clearly have been theft — and brandishing guns when someone tried to stop the theft would have turned it into armed robbery. The fact that in this case the public owns the land shouldn’t make any difference.

So what were people like Sean Hannity of Fox News, who went all in on Mr. Bundy’s behalf, thinking? Partly, no doubt, it was the general demonization of government — if someone looks as if he is defying Washington, he’s a hero, never mind the details. Partly, one suspects, it was also about race — not Mr. Bundy’s blatant racism, but the general notion that government takes money from hard-working Americans and gives it to Those People. White people who wear cowboy hats while profiting from government subsidies just don’t fit the stereotype.

Most of all, however — or at least that’s how it seems to me — the Bundy fiasco was a byproduct of the dumbing down that seems ever more central to the way America’s right operates.

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