Thursday, September 29, 2011

Border boondoggle

Posted on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I would like to thank George Ochenski for bringing attention to an extreme assault on America’s public lands and environmental laws (see “What a steal,” Sept. 22, 2011).

If it passes, the misnamed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505) will waive more than 30 environmental laws along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, the entire U.S.-Canada border, and along all U.S. coastlines. The lawless zone would then extend 100 miles into the U.S. from the borders and coasts for any activity of the Department of Homeland Security intended to stop undocumented immigrants or contraband from entering the country.

Roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population lives in the area covered by this waiver. Cities from San Francisco to Boston to New Orleans to Honolulu would no longer have the safeguards of the Safe Drinking Water Act and many other public health laws when it comes to DHS activities. Huge areas of public land in Montana, including Glacier National Park, would likewise be put at risk. With environmental laws waived throughout so much of the country, the potential for severe damage is enormous.

In addition, H.R. 1505 prohibits the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, which oversee our national parks, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges, from taking any actions to preserve the natural integrity of the lands that they oversee if their actions or advice conflict with the desires of DHS. This is despite the fact that Customs and Border Protection recently testified that the agencies have a good working relationship, and that public land managers are not getting in the way of their operations.

The Department of Homeland Security has not requested either the waivers or carte blanche on protected lands. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act has nothing to do with security. It is simply an assault on environmental laws and federal lands, using national security as a cover.

Sean Sullivan

National Sierra Club Borderlands Team

Talent, Oregon

I miss the brook trout

Posted on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I am writing to alert your readers to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks current and ongoing program to poison our creeks, streams and lakes with rotenone and other poisons. Back in the 1970s, my husband and our sons could still fish for brook and rainbow trout, but those days are just a memory. Ask yourself, when was the last time you could find a little creek with brook trout in it?

Last month, Matt Boyer, the FWP project leader, was quoted as saying they had “wonderful luck” in the reproduction of their favorite fish, the westslope cutthroat, after they had killed everything else. That’s what most people forget. When rotenone is put into the water, anything that swims, hops or flies is exterminated.

Their next body of water was to be Smokey Creek, located north of Holland Lake, an outlet stream that flows toward the South Fork of the Flathead River. Someone else who has paid attention to this is Dr. Vernon Grove, a retired physician, living in Whitefish. Grove wrote a letter to the Daily Interlake, in Kalispell, detailing the connection between the use of rotenone in water to the incidence of Parkinson’s disease in our population, as was reported in the American Medical Journal.

I am urging anyone who reads this to write to people who are involved in the business of tourism and water activities. And also write the governor and FWP. Tell them two wrongs don’t make a right—don’t poison the water, kill the fish and expect the public to approve.

Clare Hafferman

Kalispell

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Defending Keystone XL

Posted on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a lifelong Montana resident, I feel the need to write concerning the approval process of the Keystone XL Pipeline project. As I am sure you are aware, this project is awaiting presidential approval for the pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border. I am a 30-year pipeline construction worker and Montana taxpayer. I am tired of sending our wealth to countries that use the money to attack our way of life. With the supplies now available in Canada, it makes perfect sense to purchase as much oil as we can from our friendly neighbors to the north.

I have personally witnessed the precautions and safety measures that TransCanada upholds to construct and operate their pipeline systems and I can honestly say from a safety standpoint, they are one the best pipeline operators in our country today. With over 13,000 construction jobs and 118,000 spin-off jobs hanging in the balance and an estimated $600 million dollars in new tax revenues for the communities, it makes perfect sense to construct the Keystone XL now. This pipeline comes at a time when we need jobs, friendly oil supplies, and private sector investments into our country.

TransCanada has pledged to transport up to 15 percent of this pipeline’s capacity with U.S. oil production to be picked up along its proposed route. This means that Montana and North Dakota oil producers will be able to send their products to market at a more favorable price than they now have. I understand that as a country we need to look at as many environmentally friendly approaches as possible. I am for reducing our carbon footprint by choosing natural gas powered vehicles, wind power, solar power, and nuclear energy, but we cannot get there overnight. From where we sit today we are committed in the near future to oil. At the present time it make perfect sense, even common sense, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, and purchase oil from our friendly neighbors to the north, and put America back to work.

J.T. Born

Corvallis

Rehberg and roadlessness

Posted on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Montana is having a natural resource identity crisis. With Rep. Denny Rehberg’s endorsement of the Roadless and Wilderness Area Release Act (HR 1581), this state has plunged into a public lands conundrum. Last year marked the finalization of the Montana Legacy Project, an effort that succeeded in buying back from Plum Creek the checkerboard lands in the Swan Valley and elsewhere. Now, with the introduction of the bill by California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the opposite has been proposed. As a co-sponsor of the bill, Rehberg wants to release undeveloped roadless areas throughout Montana into the eager hands of developers. Access, says Rehberg, is the driving force behind releasing these lands. Montanans, says Rehberg, deserve to access these lands.

But Montanans, and Americans across the country, already have access to these pristine lands, and it is their purity that makes them worth accessing. These are the lands that outdoorsmen have been using for generations. More roads of any kind would severely diminish these natural areas—not just aesthetically, but functionally as well. Habitat is fragmented and reduced, streams are clouded and crippled, weeds are introduced and spread. The problems that Montanans are already fighting would only become worse in these natural areas if they were released. Without these wild places, hunters have no wildlife to hunt, anglers have no fish to catch, and recreationalists have no space to roam. The things Montanans value most are lost, and lost things aren’t accessible once they’re gone. Extinction is forever.

There is such a thing as loving something too much. Montana’s land is Montana’s future, and by releasing these areas protected under roadless legislation, Rehberg is robbing my generation of something valuable to call our own. As a member of Montana’s future, I oppose HB 1581 and encourage others to do the same.

Luke Allgeyer

Missoula

Full monty

Posted on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I feel compelled to respond to a letter printed in last week’s Indy penned by Susan Campbell Reneau (see “Not cute”). In all of my 17 years of reading the Indy, I have never read a more judgmental, hate-filled and ridiculous letter as hers.

I would like to say a few things to Mrs. Campbell Reneau. My understanding is that you were not even present at the incident in question and your heinous opinion was crafted through second-hand information. Obviously, you have no personal knowledge of the student, Daniel Thew, and neither do I, but for you to pass such incredibly negative judgment on a person based upon a single choice that he made is very narrow-minded and unfair. To demand that he should be charged with a felony and have to register as a sex offender is amazingly offensive to actual victims of sexual abuse. He streaked across a football field. While immature, this is not a sex crime last time I checked. I empathize with your trauma experiences at the hands of a drunk driver, but to try to equate drunk driving and streaking is not only a huge leap, it makes you look like the one who needs counseling.

By the way, I laughed out loud when I turned the page in last week’s issue to see a partially edited, and fully naked, Chad Harder photo of Daniel Thew, with the crowd going wild behind him. Nice work, Indy staff.

Mark Rothman

Missoula

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stop. Yes, you.

Posted on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Last Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, at about 10 a.m., I was enjoying the new bike lanes on 5th Street and Maurice Avenue when a breeze of air and the sound of a scooter caused me to look over my right shoulder and notice the flashing lights of Missoula Police. Believing the scooter was headed ahead of me to pull over some other vehicle in violation of the traffic laws, I stayed near the edge of the road. The lights did not pass, though, and it wasn’t long before I realized I was the offending vehicle. I stopped my bike, still in disbelief that I had somehow violated a law, and waited for the officer to give me a lecture on wearing a helmet. When he explained that I ran at least two stop signs, I was sure it was a joke. Which stop signs? I hadn’t seen a person or vehicle in two blocks. Should a biker who doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign where there are no cars or people present be punished?

After a long exchange with the officer (including a conversation about why I didn’t have any form of ID on me; yes, you need to carry your driver’s license when riding your bike), I became informed. Bicyclists are subject to motor vehicle laws. Apparently there have been complaints about bicyclists not obeying traffic signs and signals.

It wasn’t long into my conversation with the officer when another officer on a scooter pulled up behind us. The presence of this second officer and the fact that the first officer had clearly been waiting for me or some other unsuspecting cyclist gave me the feeling that we bikers were being trapped. The officer who wrote my ticket urged me to “tell my friends” about this incident to spread awareness and hopefully change the predominant view that cyclists are somehow not subject to traffic laws. When I got home and told my roommate, she noted that one of her friends had just posted on Facebook about getting a ticket on his bike.

I’m writing this letter to inform the bicycle community, so Missoulians can avoid similar experiences. Rather than find some half-day that I happen to have free, pack up my 13-month-old and wait around at the courthouse to pay some unknown sum, I would like to have read about this new enforcement in an email from the university, blurb in the local paper, or flyer on campus.

I am grateful that Missoula is invested in protecting its pedestrians, but I can’t help but feel like I was trapped, and wonder if targeting bicyclists in this manner is really just. Police should not disproportionately target non-motorized vehicles at empty intersections. And if I earned a nickel for every car I’ve watched roll through stop signs or driver I’ve seen texting, I probably wouldn’t be putting so much energy into fighting this ticket, even if I am guilty. If we are serious about protecting pedestrians and bicyclists, might I suggest targeting those vehicles that not only cause serious harm, but knowingly violate traffic laws?

Claire Igoe

Missoula

Not cute

Posted on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I heard with disgust that an 19-year-old man (not a boy, not a child, not a kid) decided to get drunk and streak naked across the University of Montana football field this past Saturday in front of 26,000 fans who included young children and non-drunk humans.

As the mother of two UM graduates, and having been nearly killed by a drunk driver when I was 26, I urge the Missoula Police Department to charge this young man with a felony crime. An example needs to be set that underage drinking and nakedness in front of a crowd filled with men, women and children will not be tolerated.

Furthermore, this young man should be permanently expelled from the University of Montana and not given a second chance.

I further think that the Missoula Police Department should charge him with child abuse for streaking in front of so many small children who did not understand what was happening. He was not cute. He was not clever. He was not entertaining. He was a drunk young man who needs to be shown the door out of the University of Montana.

Period. No liberal namby-pamby and wimpy response to this man is in order. He must be charged with a sex offense and listed as a sex offender if convicted.

UM President Royce Engstrom needs to discuss this publicly and put everyone at Griz games on notice that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated, ever.

I quit attending games because of the excessive number of people who drink and then get into cars, trucks and RVs and drive on our streets. Should UM be liable for allowing people to drink and drive on game days? What happens if one of those people gets in a car and kills someone?

A drunk driver nearly killed me on Labor Day in 1978. I spent years in and out of hospitals and physical therapy offices and continue to have permanent and constant pain in my neck and back, thanks to a man who was drunk and high on marijuana and hit me head-on going 85 mph. I would later become one of the founders of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in 1982.

Please do the right thing and don’t put this brat into counseling so he can do this again. Get rid of him. Make his parents come and get him and take him back where he came from to think about his crime. Place serious charges against him that give him a few felonies. Do this for your children and grandchildren and everyone who has to live with this idiot.

Susan Campbell Reneau

Missoula

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baucus’s gut-check

Posted on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 4:00 AM

John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner was vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt. He observed that the vice presidency was about as satisfying as “a pitcher of warm spit.” Cactus Jack also declared that New Deal-era Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler possessed the single most important attribute of a senator: “guts.”

We now have a government of gutless gridlock. Our president is hesitant, indecisive and clueless as a leader. Democratic and Republican finger-pointing has become a pointless game as the public increasingly realizes that both sides are more interested in short-term political gain than long-term solutions that would require some guts. Judging from the 14 percent approval rating of Congress, the people’s understandable short-term solution would be to give all the finger-pointers the finger, and start over.

Late last year, President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility presented a plan to the public for how to slow the growth of the debt and begin to reverse it. The commission is co-chaired by former Wyoming Republican Sen. Allan Simpson and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat.

The Simpson-Bowles Commission, as it is commonly called, is recommending a set of proposals that aren’t radical. If followed, they would result in the U.S. government still spending 60 percent of GDP by 2023, down from nearly 100 percent now. If followed, the Simpson-Bowles recommendations would cause some pain, but would make it possible for our current system to sustain itself in more or less its current form beyond the next generation.

The plan is too comprehensive to present here, but it envisions cutting military forces in Europe and Asia by one-third. It would freeze federal employees’ pay for at least three years, and reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security. It would also raise the age for full Social Security benefits from 67 to 69 by 2075. It would reduce farm subsidies and foreign aid.

Among its revenue provisions would be the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction and the earned income tax credit. It would raise the tax on gasoline by 15 cents a gallon.

Predictably, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi has called Simpson-Bowles “simply unacceptable.” Not surprisingly, National Taxpayers Union boss Grover Norquist has sharply criticized it as well.

The latest gutless avoidance gimmick now being foisted on the public by one faction of finger-pointers is the so-called balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. One wonders why modern day “constitutionalists” have not been more outraged by this. Such a contrivance, once in the Constitution, would place the interpretation of it, and with it the ultimate “power of the purse,” in the hands of the unelected judiciary.

Polls show the frustrated American people have lost confidence in our elected leadership to the extent that they might accept such a an amendment. In truth, it would be the abandonment of our republican form of government.

Our country is in crises. Hard choices confront us. Our debt problem has been looming large for a decade. It is now a clear threat to our economic survival. Our president blames, dodges and dithers instead of leading. Congress finger-points and disappoints with inadequate actions and gimmickry. We don’t need to remove our social safety net or dismember our Constitution to directly deal with our national debt problem. What we need is leaders with guts. Montana Sen. Max Baucus is now in a key position to show he has what his Montana predecessor, Sen. Wheeler, apparently had plenty of. Now’s the time to show you’ve got ‘em, Max. You could save the country.

Bob Brown

Former Montana Secretary of State

Whitefish

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