With 70 percent of respondents to a recent online poll voting against developing the proposed Otter Creek coal mine in southeastern Montana, our governor, whom the national press has dubbed the “Coal Cowboy,” has decided to extort support for the proposed mine from county commissioners, telling them that he will not release their federal stimulus money unless they write him a letter stating they support tearing open the pristine Otter Creek valley to create a huge, open-pit coal mine (see “Coal coercion,” April 1, 2010). Does the fact that there is no connection between federal stimulus funds and the proposed coal mine make this act of extortion even worse? You decide. But it can’t be much worse than the fact that our governor is supporting the development of a huge new coal mine (when burning coal is the biggest contributor to catastrophic climate change) at a time when climate change is killing millions of Montana’s pines, causing larger summer fires, damaging our winter sports industry and our summer snow-melt water supply, and causing more of the 90- and 100-degree summer days that are making it uncomfortable for us all and are seriously threatening our farmers’ and ranchers’ chances for survival. Gov. Schweitzer’s failure to exercise wise leadership is leading to extraordinarily damaging consequences for us all.
As organizations that are dedicated to the rights, safety and full participation of women throughout Missoula and Montana, we are proud to announce our public support of the Missoula Non-Discrimination Ordinance (see “etc.,” April 1, 2010). This ordinance will protect people who live, work or visit the city of Missoula from discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
A group called notmybathroom.com publicly opposes this ordinance, in part by circulating misleading and unfounded concerns about this ordinance’s effect on the safety and well-being of women and children. We are writing this letter to correct any misunderstanding that notmybathroom.com may have created.
The purpose of the Missoula Non-Discrimination Ordinance is to protect lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination within Missoula city limits, just as people of color, people of faith and other historically mistreated groups are protected under current state and federal laws. It does not alter an individual’s privacy and safety expectations when it comes to public restrooms. Notmybathroom.com’s claim that this bill will make public bathrooms, locker rooms, etc., less safe for women is a deliberate scare tactic. Any individual who enters a women’s bathroom to harass or attack women would find no protection in this ordinance. More than 130 cities and towns across the country have passed similar protections for the LGBT community, and the situations that notmybathroom.com warns of simply have not materialized. Transgender individuals who use the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity and gender expression are no more of a threat to bathroom safety and privacy than other individuals who use public bathrooms.
As you are aware, violence against women in our society is a real issue and one that we hope policy makers and community members continue to address. Ordinances like this one, which offer protections to individuals who experience discrimination in society, help prevent violence against lesbians and transgender women.
Our organizations applaud the effort to pass this ordinance and ensure equality, dignity, fairness and safety in the Missoula community. We fully support the Missoula City Council passing this ordinance.
YWCA of Missoula
Montana Women Vote
Women’s Resource Center
Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Blue Mountain Clinic
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana
Planned Parenthood of Montana
Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development, Inc.
American Association of University Women- Montana
Wildlife managers are often confronted by the public when coyotes, wolves and mountain lions kill or wound their pets. They are called when beavers cut down trees, dam creeks, flood roads and driveways. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) often calls in a local trapper for help. Currently there are two federal trappers for five local counties. Without the help of licensed trappers, the FWP might not be able to handle all of the wildlife conflicts.
It makes sense to charge trappers for licenses and to regulate them at no cost to the taxpayer (see “Political trap” in Letters, March 18, 2010). Trapping nuisance animals is a service that local trappers often do for free.
There has been misinformation presented that trappers aren’t regulated. This is false. There happens to be about 100 regulations in the 2008-2009 Montana trapping and hunting regulations, some of which are species specific. Behind these regulations are fines for violations and revoked licenses.
Another fallacy is the idea that traps are set indiscriminately, leaving some people to believe that pets are in danger. The trappers I know own dogs and take them trapping with no intention of putting their pet at risk. The real dangers to wildlife are loss of habitat due to urban sprawl and development of farms and ranches. That is why there are organizations like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wildlife Federation and Furbearers United.
Montana has more public land than most states and sound management policies need to stay intact. Hunters and trappers learn more about wildlife than most people. They are out there looking at tracks and sign. Big game, predators and furbearers are primarily nocturnal; hence an illusion of not being present. Collectively, hunters and trappers know what is out there and help biologists with information, volunteering surveys about sightings and harvest numbers. Trappers are a resource to the public for disease control and animal nuisance reduction.
The emotions and excitement surrounding Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act definitely reflects how much we care about our public lands. My hope is that our common passion will guide our dialogue.
Many aspects of this bill are troubling to me. During his campaign Tester pledged to carry on the tradition of Lee Metcalf, yet this proposed bill would release over a million acres of currently protected roadless forest. I worked all last summer in the West Pioneers so this compromise in the bill hits close to home.
The compromise is partially to gain wilderness. This would be great, but the islands of wilderness proposed in the bill lack in biodiversity, varied elevation, protected corridors and buffers to preserve fragile ecosystems. I feel that these areas fall quite short of the areas envisioned by the 1964 Wilderness Act
The most troubling aspect of the bill, however, is the unprecedented requirement of 7,000 acres of “treatment” on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge. “Treatment” could take many forms, but the bill does not provide any money for these different types of “treatment.” With limited funding I think it is realistic to assume that the vast majority of those 7,000 acres will be logged. The historical average for logging in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge is around 3,200 acres.
More worrying than the amount of timber is the fact that it is set at a required amount. This dictate undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and takes management away from the Forest Service. Logging is necessary and fine, but should continue to be handled by the Forest Service who can accurately assess the impact of such projects.
Passing this bill would set the dangerous precedent of required quotas for extraction. Maybe Sen. Rockefeller of West Virginia will catch on and decide that 7,000 tons of coal should be required of the Appalachians—sorry Forest Service, this is now Congress’ decision. The impacts of this bill are much further reaching than our backyard and I believe that no amount of wilderness is worth their cost.
I would like to thank Rep. Denny Rehberg for voting for House Resolution 605, which passed with a landslide vote of 412–1 last week and calls for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. This resolution calls upon the Chinese regime “to immediately cease and desist from its campaign to persecute, intimidate, imprison, and torture Falun Gong practitioners, to immediately abolish the 6-10 office, an extrajudicial security apparatus given the mandate to ‘eradicate’ Falun Gong.” It also expresses sympathy to Falun Gong practitioners and their family members who have suffered persecution, intimidation, imprisonment, torture and even death for the past decade solely because of adherence to their personal beliefs.
Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center stated, “It is important not to underestimate the real- world impact that this resolution will have. First, by articulating the official position of the U.S. Congress, a leader in the free world, it sets an example for policymakers around the globe to follow. Second, it will bring meaningful hope to millions suffering persecution and encourage further nonviolent efforts to end abuses. Moreover, its exposure of Communist Party fabrications and assertion of solidarity with the victims will give pause to would-be persecutors.”
During his recent visit to Montana, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack praised Sen. Jon Tester’s forest bill and expressed his support for the legislation as a pilot project (see “etc.,” March 11, 2010). As a supporter of the bill I’m glad to see these two decision-makers reach common ground.
The idea of Tester’s bill as a pilot project makes a lot of sense to me. The bill is groundbreaking because it advances new ideas for timber harvest and restoration. I think they’re good ideas, but they’re also new ideas and new ideas do require some trust. The bill has a clear and finite time frame and it applies to well-defined forest areas here in Montana. There is also built-in monitoring and assessment, necessary features of any smart experiment. Change takes courage because we don’t know what it’s going to look like when the dust settles.
Thanks to Secretary Vilsack for coming to Montana and honoring our senator’s vision for conservation and restoration on public lands.