For the most part, last week's Independent enthusiastically endorsed the candidates for Missoula's City Council who have the strong community values and foresight to make sure Missoula remains a wonderful place to live, work, play and eat (see "Off to the races," Oct. 22, 2009). Thanks for covering many important issues.
I was disappointed, however, to read the Indy's lukewarm support for Dave Strohmaier, the incumbent in Ward 1. The article did not mention Dave's 100 percent Montana Conservation Voter rating. Instead, it praised his opponent, Ryan Morton, for "ideas to clarify subdivision regulations for builders and local agricultural producers," which presumably would help conserve farmland.
Over the past two years, I have listened to Morton deliver his own "clarification" to Missoula's City Council and County Commissioners: local government has no legal authority to prevent a developer from permanently converting entire working farms and ranches into residential subdivisions—even as we, tax-payers, subsidize this sprawl. (Morton's legal interpretation, of course, is dead wrong. Montana's State Law clearly directs local governments to 1. consider a subdivision's impacts to agriculture, and 2. require the developer to avoid or mitigate those impacts, or deny the development altogether.) Morton has even gone one step further, arguing that farmland is unnecessary, because Missoula could grow its food hydroponically.
His opponent aside, Strohmaier deserves more than a tepid endorsement. Dave has proven himself as a champion for pragmatic conservation, local food and agriculture, sustainable transportation, and a safe and vibrant downtown. Missoula is a better place, thanks to Dave's leadership and service. More than anything, he deserves Ward 1's vote. Please cast those ballots for Dave Strohmaier and other candidates who will defend the community fabric of Missoula.
In response to the ongoing debate over trapping, I feel compelled to add my two cents. Like many Montanans, I was not aware of the danger to pets and wild animals posed by traps in this state until I saw a flyer relating the story of Cupcake, slowly strangled in a Conibear trap while his owner tried frantically to free him, near a popular Rock Creek trailhead.
My first response, aside from incredible sadness for Cupcake and his owner, was to worry about my own dog, and to keep him away from the river or any other area where he might find his way into a trap. While researching places we might go, I discovered that traps can be placed within 30 feet of hiking trails, and within 1,000 feet of trailheads and campgrounds. A dog can cover 30 feet in about two seconds, and the thought that mine could actually encounter a trap in that amount of time astonished me. I wondered, as many others probably have, why any setback at all? But that is not really what I want to talk about here.
While I do very much resent the ubiquitous threat posed by these inhumane contraptions, my dog and I have settled into a safe, if mundane, hiking routine. There are, however, many other animals in the woods, and tens of thousands are seriously injured or killed, in this state alone, by traps every year. That's a lot of animals, and they are not, as some folks would like you to believe, dying quickly or peacefully, or being humanely dispatched when they are found alive.
The comparison of traps to landmines is an apt one. Traps are indiscriminate, and they cause intense fear, pain and suffering. If you are a person who believes that animals do not feel fear, or do not suffer, or if you believe that their fear and suffering is a legitimate price to pay for an anachronistic and brutal practice or hobby, then this letter is not written for you. If, on the other hand, you believe that animals have a right to not be tortured, terrorized or killed indiscriminately, then perhaps you can see the wisdom of creating trap-free public lands, or at least doing a little more research. The more I do, the more reason I find to speak out.
If you believe living thoughtfully on the land is a good idea, please consider the truth about trapping. You can find more information at bancrueltraps.com, where you can also download a free PDF copy of Born Free USA's Cull of the Wild, A Contemporary Analysis of Wildlife Trapping in the United States. Obviously, you do not have to agree with their (or my) conclusions, but if you are interested in some actual facts on the matter, this would be a very good place to begin.
Bob Peterson has my heartfelt sympathy for the loss of his beloved, old yellow dog to coyotes (see Letters, Oct. 8, 2009). But I find his conclusion that because nature "is red in tooth and claw" we should sit back and "enjoy the ride" confusing.
I understand that predator-prey relationship is at the heart of the evolutionary process and that suffering is intrinsic to that process, but I'm not convinced that because "it just is" justifies indifference. By explaining away the fact of animal suffering by simple acknowledgement, we directly or indirectly deepen it. And we harden our hearts.
I suspect that Peterson struggles like many of us with an unconditional surrender to what "is" in nature. His self-admission of an "animosity toward coyotes" belies his peace with nature. For myself, I find that to live a meaningful life I must try to recognize and follow the timeless archetypes of mercy and justice. If I am quiet or ignore the sustained agony that animals in traps must endure by rationalizing that violence and suffering is inherent in nature, then I have abandoned what makes me human. As authentic human beings, is our responsibility to mercy or to what "is"?
Bob Muth Sr.
In regards to "Peddling protein" (see Oct. 8, 2009), I truly hope that Ethan Smith did not pedal his bike and trailer from the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Riding bicycles in a wilderness area is illegal and subject to a federal fine.
I've noticed repeatedly in articles in the Independent that its staff has no idea what wilderness is and what it is not. "Street Talk" once asked several individuals if they used "wilderness," and all those questioned obviously had no idea what areas are actually designated as wilderness and what activities are allowed in wilderness areas.
"Wilderness," as federally designated (and, in some cases, state and tribally designated), is roadless, undeveloped land that is managed in its natural state. Wilderness is not Greenough Park, it is not the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, it is not Blue Mountain. It is the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area and, of course, the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area, among others. Mechanical transportation of any kind is illegal in these areas. Thus, no trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles or bicycles are allowed. You can walk in, ski in, kayak/canoe in, or ride a horse into these areas. No logging, mining or commercial development of any kind is allowed. Chainsaws are illegal there, as is any motorized device.
In view of the recently introduced Forest Jobs and Recreation Act—a new wilderness bill by Sen. Jon Tester—I feel it is important that all Montanans know exactly what wilderness is and what is allowed there.
Editor's note: Rest assured, Ethan Smith made clear to our reporter that he did not bike in the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. He did bike from his camp just outside the designated area back to Missoula
When Sen. Jon Tester was campaigning, he promised a new standard in transparency and public participation. As evidenced by the Sept. 26 meeting in Dillon on his proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, it is revealed that his standards and the general public's are far apart.
A 45-minute sales pitch but not a single question or meaningful comment allowed reflects the same strategy used to craft the bill. Just because we disagree, it does not mean we are right-wing extremist, gun-toting tea baggers, as has been characterized by staff members.
The only guaranteed winners in the bill are the wilderness advocates. Too many stakeholders, including recreationists and local governments, have been excluded. We deserve better. Start the process over with all lawful stakeholder's involvement.
While standing in front of the Montanan's for Trap-Free Public Lands booth at the Apple Days festivities in Hamilton, I witnessed one of our members getting elbowed in the stomach and pushed back into a propane heater by a man who was obviously unhappy with our gathering of signatures.
We are trying to get an initiative on the ballot that would let people vote on whether recreational trapping on public lands in Montana should continue. The 63-year-old gentleman who was elbowed was the same fellow whose dog got caught in a couple of leg hold traps last winter. He has been helping us ever since.
We were all shocked to see the anger that gets directed our way by members of the opposition and we wonder: Whatever happened to civil discourse? Numerous studies are consistent in reporting that people who are cruel to animals are much more likely to be violent toward other people.
Is trapping cruel to animals? Is it appropriate on our shared public land? Let's let the voters decide in November 2010. Please sign our petition to help get the question on the ballot.
Roger W. De Haan
In my opinion, when the Independent published an article regarding guardians ad litem (GAL), it potentially left an impression that the work of these guardians and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are the same (see "Guiding the guardians," Oct. 1, 2009). In fact, they are different with the work they take on and in their form of operation. Specifically, a CASA volunteer serves children who are abused or neglected. The GAL serves mostly in custody and divorce cases. The CASA volunteer provides a free service willing to work with all socio-economic groups. The GAL service is not necessarily free.
GAL representatives are independent and not necessarily required to have specific training. Our CASA of Missoula is part of a national program. The CASA volunteer receives detailed training that includes ongoing mentoring and oversight. CASA volunteers operate under standards with supervision.
The reporter's limited information regarding CASA was a disservice as the article references questionable practices by GALs without enough differentiation between the two groups. I encourage your readers to visit our website at casamissoula.org to learn more.
John R. Corwin
CASA of Missoula
I read with interest the article concerning the sport of curling and the new club in Whitefish (see "The mysterious white art," Oct. 15, 2009). Growing up in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin, where we had a club, I was dismayed upon moving out here to find there was no such animal. My father was the president of the local club and I myself was the "skip" of a junior team while in high school. I have many fine memories of various "bonspiels" back home and truly enjoyed traveling to other clubs in the state to compete. As a child, the sight of tartan clad bagpipers marching up and down the rinks made a huge impression on me.
It's a truly unique sport and if your only concept of it is the movie Men with Brooms, I strongly suggest checking it out. Hopefully the day will come when you can talk about the sport of curling with people and they won't look at you blankly and go, "Huh?" It's a sport that can be played for a lifetime, so if you're at all curious about it I encourage you to check it out. To John Hoepfer and others starting a club here in the state, I say all the best of luck and here's hoping it will take off.
Your review of Kegger credits the hippy capitalists at Rockin Rudy’s with the creation of the “A Place, Sort Of” image adorning the T-shirts the store sells. In fact, I designed this image in 1982. In its original form the flying amphibian, drawn by Jan Faust, was accompanied by the Latin words, “Vos Hic Estes,” which I took to mean “You Are Here.” I entered the design in a contest to pick a seal for the County of Missoula. It came in second. My aim for the original image and its commercial successor was to mock the self-congratulatory zeal of people who think Missoula is the greatest town in the world, apparently because it isn’t Great Falls.Bill Vaughn Missoula
I recently spent some time roaming around Beaverhead County south of Butte. Everywhere I went on public lands I saw cattle wandering loose without any human supervision. These cows are nothing more than four-legged picnic baskets to predators like wolves.
While I appreciate the generosity of local ranchers in their efforts to maintain fat and healthy wolf packs, I cannot condone such practices. It leads, after all, to lazy wolves. Why would a wolf spend its energy trying to pull down a sleek, fast elk, when it can far more easily secure a nice slow, fat, cow?
I am against all welfare. Look what it has done to people. We all know that welfare just promotes a lifestyle that leads to moral decay of people. People on welfare just sit around watching television and eating lousy food, and making babies. We don’t need couch-potato wolf packs.
Plus, just like all the junk food snacks eaten by welfare moms and their kids, eating fatty, artery clogging, hormone-filled cattle is not really a healthy diet for wolves either. I am concerned that our wolves are not getting a balanced and healthy diet when they spend their time munching on cows.
It’s just irresponsible and reprehensible for ranchers to be leaving their cattle all over the land so they are easily caught by wild predators. Keep in mind that what made America great is its work ethic. Welfare for wolves is not the answer. It’s time to remove all these four-legged picnic baskets from the public lands and make wolves earn a real living. Just as in national parks if you leave a picnic basket out for a bear to grab, you will get a fine. We should be doing the same to ranchers who are promoting unnatural food addictions through their husbandry practices.George Wuerthner Richmond, Vt.
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