The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act recently introduced by Sen. Tester falls short of finding the best solutions to opposing views on management of public lands. The recent debate (see "War of words," Sept. 3, 2009) has correctly identified many of the concerns for designating new wilderness areas under this bill by highlighting the poorly written and precedent-setting provisions to allow helicopter landings for military training and motor vehicle access to water developments and for trailing sheep. If left unchanged, these provisions would go beyond previous exceptions to the public and legal definition of wilderness, established in the Wilderness Act of 1964, and needlessly lead to setting the wrong example for other legislation to follow, both in Montana and elsewhere, and surely invite misinterpretation and future litigation.
One solution would be to clarify the language in the bill so that motorized access to wilderness is limited to only what is the minimum necessary. This could be accomplished by avoiding the creation of new and unspecified provisions "to uniquely fit Montana" and instead use language from existing special provisions (such as the Congressional Wilderness Grazing Guidelines) that apply to all existing wilderness areas within the national forests and allow for necessary and reasonable access within established constraints. In addition, the bill could direct the U.S. Forest Service to identify comparable and feasible locations for helicopter landings, outside of areas to be designated as wilderness, to honor the existing agreement with Peak Enterprises for military training exercises.
An even better solution is to refrain from designating lands with existing and necessary motorized access issues as new wilderness areas just to satisfy the need for more wilderness acres. If the basic conflict is over managing lands for timber production versus recreation and conservation purposes then wilderness designation is part of the solution but not the only option. A solution "created from the bottom up," as Tester desires, would designate the lands that will continue to require motorized access as Protection Areas or Recreation Areas (two categories used for other lands addressed in the bill) instead of wilderness. If this were the case, the lands here in Montana would be protected and available for a variety of back-country public recreation purposes and existing valid motorized uses and agreements would be honored without compromising the uses, values and benefits of wilderness protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and potentially the future of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Tester would then have a Forest Jobs and Recreation Act that could become a "model for the West" in terms of collaboration and creative solutions for management of the public lands.
One issue that I don’t see being discussed in the health care debate is the relationship between a healthy employee and the productivity of that employee to the general economy.
All the talk about health reform costs to make health insurance available to the low-insured and the uninsured does not take into account the cost to business because of sick workers’ absences. If a flu pandemic materializes, will workers opt to “stick it out” and possibly infect co-workers or instead stay home until well?
North Carolina ranks among the top 15 states in the number of uninsured (1.75 million). The estimated economic cost of lost productivity in North Carolina from the state’s uninsured is in the range of $4.2 billion to $8.3 billion annually. Lost productivity factors include shorter life spans and time not working. The Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank, estimates the cost of not insuring 52 million Americans at $124 billion to $248 billion annually. Doesn’t it make more sense to keep Americans healthy and productive as a boon to the economy? Or do we want to cut off our noses to spite our face?Margie A. Gignac
The question of universal health care is not about money, ideology, politics, patriotism, religion, etc. It’s about life and death. Every half hour someone dies because of a lack of medical treatment. This is not only a cruel, callous and avoidable tragedy on a national scale, it is a shameless display for all the world to see of savage capitalism.
The rich have a death grip on the American public. They only believe in wealth care. The majority of politicians are no help because they are allies of the rich. They give trillions of dollars to the bankers and the war profiteers while our people are dying and getting sicker by the day.
Recently, I nearly lost my wife to pneumonia. She is alive today because of the excellent and compassionate care she received at a local hospital for nine days. She had no insurance, no Medicaid or Medicare. We had to rely on charity to save her life. It was a marvelous recovery, but I couldn’t help but believe her ordeal could have been avoided if she had continuity of care under a universal health care system like every other civilized country in the world. If we had lived in a big city where hospitals turn people away when they can’t pay, she probably would have been a victim like so many others of a primitive for-profit health care system.
Health care should be a public obligation to help the sick, not to make a fortune from the unfortunate. The only humane solution to this crisis is to set up a program of comprehensive, socialized medicine paid for by taxation. This would bring us out of the dark ages and possibly into the modern world. We should have done it 74 years ago when the Social Security Act was passed in 1935. It is our right and, like Social Security, should be a public service for every human being in this country.Michael Allan Andrus
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