Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Public option not dead

Posted on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I am concerned about the ability of Americans to get access to quality health care people can afford to pay for. As a young American who recently graduated from college, I am realizing quickly what my degree will and won't do and the value of the money I earn and spend. I feel strongly as a Montanan the obligation to pay the debts I incur. I am currently working on paying off my student loans. With the low salaries available to me because of my desire to live in Montana, I am simply not able to afford to purchase private health insurance.

While I understand the importance of health care reform, I also understand the complexities and limitations to what we are able to do. I see health care reform without a public option as being even harder on my—and many others in similar positions—fiscal situation. The bill presented by our senator, Max Baucus, basically equates to a mandate that I purchase insurance I currently cannot afford. There are measures to ease the burden of this mandate—tax rebates and insurance co-ops—but the bottom line is that I could not afford to pay for the insurance. Would that be breaking the law?

In order to provide a plan that is viable for me and many others, we need a public option. This public option would basically equate to me being able to pay to be covered by benefits similar to Medicare or Medicaid. This system would provide some actual competition to the insurance companies that would only stand to gain record setting profits by the plan suggested by Max Baucus.

I would like to reiterate that the plan presented by Baucus is only one of many different options currently being considered in Congress. Most of the plans considered contain this public option. We, as Montanans, need to let our senators know that, as their bosses, we demand they support a public option in their final legislation.

Bradley Seaman

Missoula

A step forward

Posted on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009 has the power to do great things for our country and state. It has the power to create thousands of jobs in Montana alone and millions throughout the country. It has the power to move our country toward energy independence, which will keep American money and jobs in America. It will also show the rest of the world that we care about the planet and are willing to make changes to move toward a better future for everyone.

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009 is by no means perfect. It is a human solution to a human problem. Of course there will be flaws, but the important thing is to pass an act that will begin to turn the tides of global warming. The truth is we need something to work with now. We must pass this national act that has the potential to curb the impact of human fueled contamination of the environment. We have something important to work for: a healthier, cleaner America for our future generations. Whether you think global warming is completely human based or a cyclical process of the earth, you cannot deny our planet needs to be cleaned up and our children deserve to breathe cleaner air on a cleaner planet. Renewable energy is alive; coal is dead.

I ask the residents of Missoula County and beyond to contact Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus to urge them to support clean energy to protect our nation and our planet.

Stephanie Tuke

Missoula

Climate change hits home

Posted on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 3:19 PM

I strongly urge both Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester to support the Kerry-Boxer climate bill with the current provision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2005 emission levels by 2020. Climate change is a well-researched phenomenon with the support of America's and the world's scientific community. It is a mistake for Americans to turn our backs on our scientists at a time when a discovery such as global climate change is already impacting America and Montana.

The most salient examples of global climate change in Montana are the melting glaciers in Glacier National Park and reductions in annual snow pack and stream flow throughout the state. At least 10 million tourists visited Montana in 2008 and spent approximately $2.8 billion dollars supporting about 48,000 or 10 percent of the jobs in Montana. Many of these visitors come to Montana to enjoy activities such as skiing, fishing and sight-seeing, all of which will be severely hindered by a loss of glaciers, snow pack and stream flow.

Who will want to visit Glacier National Park when it has no glaciers? Who will ski on bare mountains? Who will fish in dry streams?

Losing Montana's natural beauty will destroy a huge part of Montana's tourism industry and cause the Treasure State to hemorrhage jobs. Supporting strong science-based climate legislation like the Kerry-Boxer climate bill will preserve our tourism jobs and keep Montana a beautiful place for generations.

Thomas Bassett

Missoula

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Straightforward answers

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Down through the decades, Montanans and many others have become familiar with forests' potential to be a renewable resource. The logic is straightforward. We could cut some trees today, then go back to that same acreage later, and cut the trees that grew to replace them.

The potential for economic sustainability grows from forests' potential renewability. Again, the logic is straightforward. Because forests have potential to be renewed, the businesses and jobs dependent on them could be sustained year after year, decade after decade.

All of which is widely approved, with very good reason. And there is reason to believe that logging companies are capable of doing it.

Alas, there have been challenges to making it work that way. Instead of relying on forest renewability, logging operations have often been pushed into roadless areas where trees have never been cut. This has been especially true when a combined exuberance of banking and building puts ambitious demands on the forests.

The booms in lending, building and logging have of course created booms in jobs. But, as we all know now, they have also ended with the pain of busted jobs in all three industries, stress on the financial system, and less roadless forest. These busts of finance, jobs and forest are not things we want renewed or sustained.

So, when Sen. Jon Tester wants yet another push into roadless acreage, it makes many of us wonder if the potential for renewability of forests and the sustainability of business and jobs will ever get their day in the sun. Many would much rather see what's left of the roadless areas protected under the Wilderness Act, and would be delighted if Tester decided to put his good will behind keeping renewable forests and sustainable businesses and jobs alive and well in Montana.

Lance Olsen

Missoula

Save Spencer Mountain

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 3:14 PM

The 2,500 acres of public lands on Spencer Mountain are known nationwide for their recreation value. Locally, multiple users heavily use these lands; equestrians, bikers, hikers, anglers and people in general want to get out and appreciate the great outdoors. Because of the use, land management becomes a critical component and new responsibility on state public lands.

In these days when jobs are critical, the economic contribution of outdoor recreation is not to be underestimated. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that outdoor recreation contributes more than $730 billion to the economy, supports nearly 6.5 million jobs nationwide and provides $49 billion in yearly tax revenue. Recreation coupled with traditional logging makes a good revenue package from public lands—and it creates jobs.

We all love our majestic forests on our public lands and recognize that Spencer Mountain is in much need of timber management. There are many efforts around Whitefish to assure that we as a community become wiser toward wildfires.

The community based initiative between logging and the recreation economy is a critical component for moving us forward. I think we mostly all agree. There have been many lessons over the years and a lot of good changes have been implemented. It's been our willingness to think outside the box and find solutions that progresses us onward.

From the Whitefish State Lands Neighborhood Plan to the Trail Runs Through It, people are taking responsibility to find solutions. It's time that the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) step up the effort to assure users that recreational management is a critical component of our state public lands.

The DNRC is expanding its scope on Spencer Mountain to recognize the past efforts in the Whitefish Neighborhood Plan, which encompasses traditional timber management, recreation and conservation. The DNRC though must also be willing to enhance recreation as a vital component of our local economy; rebuilding trails, phasing out logging and providing access to ensure that those who make their living on these lands are not locked out during the three years of forest work.

The DNRC should partner with the Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks to ensure that recreation management is a key component on Spencer Mountain. This multi-agency approach would save taxpayers money, create jobs and ensure that the generations to come will still be able to enjoy the great outdoors. Without active public lands management, we all lose.

If you're a fan of recreation on public lands, favor conservation or simply want to ensure that the next generation has open access to Spencer Mountain, help the DNRC "get it right" by participating in the process. If you remain silent, you may lose your access.

State Rep. Mike Jopek

Whitefish

Jacked for Jacko

Posted on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 3:13 PM

After reading Katie Kane's review of the new Michael Jackson documentary (see "This is thriller," Nov. 5, 2009), I was so impressed that I had to go out and see the movie myself. I had not planned on it, but reconsidered after reading her review. I am really glad that I did. The movie is worth watching, even if you aren't a fan, just to see a musical savant honing his skills.

Thanks for bringing in a woman's perspective. Katie was right on the mark. I enjoyed the complexity of her review.

Lynette Christensen

Missoula

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baucus’ big backing

Posted on Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Sen. Jon Tester held an open house in Missoula on October 26 to promote the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, an innovative, collaborative piece of legislation that seeks to change public land management for the better here in Montana (see “Etc.” Oct. 29, 2009). Significantly, among the information provided was the news that fellow Sen. Max Baucus would be co-sponsoring the legislation with Tester.

Montanans, I’m sure, are generally familiar with the authority and influence that the senior Sen. Baucus holds now in the U.S. Senate. It’s a position that can’t come easily, especially when one considers that Baucus is a Democrat in a state that tends to vote the other political direction, a fact that seems to make some sit uneasy. His accomplishments are a testament to the thought and care Baucus invests in his decision-making. Baucus doesn’t provide his endorsement fickly; he recognizes that a state with a prevalent conservative inclination will show him the door if he fails to produce beneficial results on progressive legislation. It must be a trying balance to maintain, but the ultimate effect is sensible and responsive representation.

Another word for it is pragmatism, which for me having lived in this state my entire life, is a decidedly Montanan sensibility. We’re less concerned here with ideology than on-the-ground results. Inevitably, such a commitment to practicality requires compromise, humility and perspective, all of which were ingredients in this legislation. If one looks toward those who oppose this bill, you’ll be hard-pressed to find these qualities in abundance. Less moderate environmental organizations—many with external, national affiliations—are among the more vocal. That’s because they remain dedicated to axioms that don’t fit reality. The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) is their manifestation, a land management policy that is as antiquated as it is foolhardy.

Opponents of the other persuasion along with some media outlets try to frame this legislation as a kind of wilderness advocate conspiracy. The suggestion seems to be that conservationists have something to gain by expediting the process. It is true that during Tester’s open house, the details he chose to emphasize related more to stewardship contracting than they did to wilderness acreage. That’s because the inclusion of wilderness in the bill is a well documented, if not excessively belabored component of the legislation, while the fact that 7,000 acres of trees will be cut every year for 10 years seems to get lost somewhere in the squabble. Once again, truth belies popular misconception: It is the wood-products industry that has the most to gain from prompt passage of this bill. Wilderness advocates, in fact, have the luxury of time with NREPA constantly looming in the background, introduced with each congressional session and gaining credence, while Montana’s logging and milling operations die a slow death of attrition until Montana no longer has the harvesting infrastructure to manage its vast acreages of public land.

Before anyone had even conceived of something like the Clean Water Act on the national level, Montana wrote the commitment to such in its very state constitution. Montana has been establishing precedents in the arena of land policy and politics since it joined the union. Now we as a state have the opportunity to perpetuate that legacy once again.

Adam Tew

Missoula

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beach makes waves

Posted on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 2:47 PM

I recently watched a re-airing of "A Killing at Poplar River" on Dateline NBC about Barry Beach (see "The wrong man?" Oct. 12, 2006). I was curious to know if the people of Montana care at all about the Nees family. If they do, then why are they allowing Kim's real killers to walk free while an innocent man is still sitting in prison? It's corruption at every level. It is unspeakable what is going on in your state. Every citizen of Montana should be rallying—not just to free Barry Beach, but to put the real killers behind bars.

Kathy Ulrich

Somerset, Pa.

A call to senators

Posted on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 2:47 PM

I'm not just mad, I'm furious. Our senators have apparently forgotten their oath of office that committed them to uphold the Constitution. Sens. Tester and Baucus and other elected officials have violated their oaths and violated the rule of law, literally risking the foundations of this great country, with the pending attempt to nationalize our health insurance and health care industries.

There is nothing in history or government theory that could make us believe these socialistic schemes will be successful or beneficial. They will increase our already out-of-control debt, decrease the quality and accessibility of health care, and will decrease our personal freedoms. But the real danger is they violate the rule of law upon which the freedoms and prosperity of our nation depends.

Similarly, attempts to control and tax our energy industries are equally illegal and unconstitutional, and must be vigorously opposed.

The boiler-plate responses I have received from Tester and Baucus in response to my previous inputs—my positive inputs—concerning these issues only serve to convince me that they are not listening. In fact, neither acknowledged nor responded to my particular issues, but simply parroted the "party line." How patronizing and how disrespectful of their constituency!

In the past I have appealed to Tester and Baucus to be statesmen, not politicians. Now I appeal to them to be patriots, not traitors.

Dennis W. Hicks

Hamilton

Honor the act

Posted on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Sen. Jon Tester is selling his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (see "Etc.," Oct. 29, 2009) with the refrain that it's a "made-in-Montana plan that honors Montana values and traditions." The problem is, these are federal lands belonging to all Americans. One senator and a self-selected handful of his constituents have decided on their own to scrap seven federal Wilderness Study Areas, open federal roadless land and weaken America's National Wilderness Preservation System with "unique provisions" that set damaging precedents. "It's a new way of doing business," he tells us.

I attended Tester's recent open house and regret that I didn't show up with my own sign: "No thank you, Senator Tester. Honor the made-in-America Wilderness Act." While I applaud him for attempting to end the stalemate, weakening wilderness protection for future generations is just a bad way of doing business.

Kathleen Stachowski

Lolo

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