Can the Yellowstone Club Do Nothing Right?
Bear Shooting Takes the Cake
BY VAL DESTON
It’s hard to imagine an institution more deeply out of touch with Montana values that the Yellowstone Club. And this is not one of those snarky attacks on people with money by someone with less, or hardly any at all. This is, rather, a reminder, that people ought to do the right thing regarding the world they live in.
Everyone in Montana, and in the West, knows that bears are keenly attracted to anything that smells like food. It’s an issue that’s been ongoing for decades, and up at the Yellowstone Club employees have had to deal with bears being attracted to cooking odors wafting from kitchens located in remote locations that bears are known to frequent. It’s a no brainer. It’s common knowledge.
Recently, though, a security guard shot a black bear—acciden-tally, thinking he was firing a rubber bullet—in an effort to haze the animal away from, get this, a paint ball course. The bear, what’s more, had cubs, one of which FWP trapped, the other of which could not be found. That cub, almost certainly, was also killed by the guard because a bear so young does not survive without its mother in the wild.
So, in order to allow club members to play paint ball games, security guards are directed to keep bears away, even as the vegetable oil based paint used for paintball attracts bears. The image is one of rich people running around in the woods like French courtesans in the days of Marie Antoinette playing an adol-escent game for their own amusement but at the expense of the areas magnificent wildlife.
The Yellowstone Club, of course, has lived up to a similar image in the past, having thoughtlessly degraded streams and other natural resources, demonstrating that the club’s owners, in whatever stage of their soap operatic existence, just don’t get it.
We also learned recently that founder and former owner Tim Blixseth, according to a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars from the club with the help of Credit Suisse, which basically threw a $375 million loan at the man, knowing full well, according to the judge, that Blixseth would pocket most of the cash.
The disregard, the arrogance, has been astounding, as has the non appreciation for the values that most Montanans share, and the bear shooting adds one more item to a long list that has driven perceptions that the Yellowstone Club is and has been something of an obscenity foist upon the landscape—due to an obliviousness resulting from greed, ambition, and a desire for excess.
This, however, did not have to be. Many would like to have seen the project never begun at all, and so be it, but the Yellowstone Club did for a time bring a great many jobs and income to the area and to Montanans who needed it. If only the Blixseths and their members had taken the time to understand the natural world they sought to inhabit and develop, and the people they chose to live amongst, they might have at least taken into account the reality of their situation and acted accordingly.
Others might learn from this experience that, if you come to Montana and remain oblivious to the values and traditions of the state, you will be held in low regard and leave a shameful legacy.