The recent shooting death of Layne Spence’s malamute has left public land users stunned. A hunter thought Spence’s dog—wearing a lighted collar—was a wolf, and fired a dozen shots after Spence made his presence known to the hunter. Perhaps as shocking as the failure to properly identify a target before shooting—the cardinal rule of hunting—is the dismissive inquiry into the matter by Missoula County and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Despite the recklessness of firing over a dozen rounds in the direction of Spence and his dogs 30 yards away, clearly creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury, no charges were filed against the hunter and the investigation closed within 24 hours. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office explained in a release: “These events are very unfortunate.” However there was no finding of criminal intent. Likewise, FWP declined to press charges against the hunter as no game animals were involved. While the hunter has since come forward and given his story, the county attorney’s office has been reluctant to release either the hunter’s name or the file to Spence.
Wolf hunting season, which lasts six months, also allows for trapped or shot wolves to be simply “left in the field” (read: rot). This naturally reduces the onus on hunters to truly confirm their target, promoting a shoot now, ask later approach, as in the case of Spence’s dog. This sensitive issue which will not go away is based neither on hunting nor the Second Amendment; it’s instead about accountability when a person fires a weapon. Recreationists who enjoy public lands must speak up and refuse to be held hostage by the fear that either negligent hunters or lax law enforcement can simply walk from such a tragic event, which could easily occur again.
William E. Rideg
The sagebrush rebellion has arrived in the Bitterroot at the invitation of County Commissioner Suzy Foss, who brought in Ken Ivory, a slick lawyer from Utah (see “Power grab,” Nov. 21). He delivered a barrage of words like a drone attack launched from his mouth designed to stupefy the already stupefied. It’s really not hard to see the elephant Ivory try to hide behind his mind-numbing endless veil of words.
Ivory repeatedly mentioned this state or that state that used to be “more than 90 percent public land but is now less than 5 percent.” The big elephant that Ivory doesn’t want to talk about is, what happened to the missing 85 percent of land? Answer: It was sold, i.e. privatized.
Commissioner Chilcott is also trying to hide the elephant of privatization. He claims the commission is not talking about selling public land. I’m not surprised to hear that, because privatization of public land generally means “no trespassing” signs and loss of public access, especially when it is large chunks of land. Chilcott says, “Whoever raises that issue is making it up. This is not about class warfare.” That’s right, Mr. Chilcott—it’s simply the observable truth. If it was class warfare it wouldn’t be from those raising the issue, but from those pushing the plebes out. Maybe Chilcott just doesn’t want this loss-of-access elephant to be associated with the Republican icon.
One of the many states Ivory mentions as an admirable example is North Dakota, where public land access has decreased to less than 3 percent and is still being sold off. They have about 700,000 acres left in the entire state for the public to recreate on. That is smaller than the West Fork District of the Bitterroot National Forest.
Commissioner Foss, thank you for mobilizing Tea Party opposition. Please bring Ivory back closer to election time.
Sometimes it’s valuable to see an alternate view, to listen to an alternate voice. In fact, I think we were all taught that it’s tough to have a well-rounded and rational opinion unless you do. Unfortunately, Joe Morgan’s letter in the Dec. 5 issue hit a terribly flat note and belly-flopped a far cry from harmonizing with mine.
“Pack Pride,” a column published in the Indy on Nov. 14, by Marybeth Holleman, discusses the significance of indiscriminate wolf hunting. The conclusion is that it makes matters worse from a management standpoint, and published data verifies it. FWP is handing wolf permits out to hunters who are unable to discriminate between an alpha and other family members. We could have predicted that, and there’s really no way to prevent it outside of banning wolf hunting entirely. But now we see that FWP is also handing permits out to people who are unable to discriminate between dogs and wolves (see “etc.. Sure, malamutes look like wolves, but a full-grown malamute is about ¾ the size of a full-grown wolf (not to mention wolves typically don’t have flashing collars). White-tail and mule deer share a number of common features as well, but aren’t there repercussions for confusing them?
I don’t doubt that both the hunter and victim feel terrible. I’m sorry for both of them. I’m also sorry for the other folks whose dogs or legs will, in time, get caught in traps or shot. The FWP disregarded foresight that all but guaranteed these sorts of things would happen in favor of appeasing the ag industry and taking permit money to the bank. Who’s surprised? What disappoints me most is that there are people who have a mind to victim-shame a guy who lost one of his best pals to six high-caliber rounds only because he wanted to take him for a ski.
Montanans have come together to see beyond our own time by having developed two bills. The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act were both built by Montanans for Montana. Ranchers, outfitters, students, business people, conservationists and timber advocates found common ground and crafted agreements that are the heart of both bills. Agreements reached by citizens talking about what matters most. Agreements that will help ensure long-term social and economic prosperity for Montana.
On November 21 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act out of committee unanimously. That was an important step, but we need to keep our Montana bills moving. You can help ensure our Montana lifestyle continues for decades by encouraging our congressman and senators. Call Rep. Daines (202-225-3211), Sen. Tester (202-224-2644) and Sen. Baucus (202-224-2651). Thank them for progress made on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act and the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Encourage them to get both bills passed, and continue seeing beyond our own time.
A. Lee Boman
As the world gets more noisy and crowded, it is important to protect perfect places like the Rocky Mountain Front forever. There is no place like it left in the world. We are the caretakers of that place, and it’s our job to keep it whole.
We also know that the more rare a thing is, the more valuable it becomes. With permanent protection, the Front can remain a geographic diamond for all Americans to cherish and experience with their eyes and ears and legs and lungs. And it won’t hurt that those people will stay a night or two at the Stage Stop in Choteau, or get a burger at the Buckhorn in Augusta.
We need to protect the Rocky Mountain Front for our hearts. Fortunately, our brains can come along without hesitation.
I am sending this letter to Rep. Daines, whose help we will need after the Act passes the full Senate. Daines not only should support this legislation, he should introduce it in the House.
Please call him to ask him to do that for all of us. And when the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act becomes law, let’s all go up to the Buckhorn and have a party. I will buy a round, and I hope it breaks the bank.
The Flathead Forest Supervisor told the WRP, “This may be very close to, if not exactly what we end up doing,” praising them also for being “first out of the chute.” This even though he has not yet had his staff or the general public assess the environmental impacts and merits of the proposal.
The supervisor’s right-hand man made things even worse when he said that those folks that weren’t invited to be a part of the WRP could later “take pot shots at it.” What better way to disenfranchise an American public only recently invited by the Flathead to participate in revising its Forest Plan through both a collaborative and a broader public review and comment process?
Ethics, common sense and the law require that the Forest Service not play favorites. The forest supervisor and his staff should have thanked the WRP for its proposal and said it would be considered right alongside the many other proposals it will be receiving during the Forest Plan revision process.
The Flathead National Forest belongs to all Americans, not just those who live locally or able to participate in a lengthy collaborative process. That is why the law requires that all proposals be submitted to the entire public for comment—and that those comments be regarded as something more than just “pot shots.”
Keith J. Hammer
Swan View Coalition
I’m sorry to hear about the tragic loss of Layne Spence’s malamute (see “etc.,” Nov. 21). Mr. Spence, however, should be ashamed. He needs to be scolded.
Mr. Spence took his dogs out in the woods during hunting season without leashes and at least an orange vest. Animal Control and/or the Humane Society should charge him with animal endangerment and animal cruelty.
People should feel sorry for Mr. Spence’s pup. But people should hold Mr. Spence accountable. His two other dogs should be taken away from him and adopted out.
The guy who shot Mr. Spence’s dog probably feels really bad. He thought he shot a wolf. Now he has to live with killing Mr. Spence’s dog that he was lucky to have. Malamutes do look like wolves and wolves are in season.
The topic of public pensions is an important and complicated one, and it is easily oversimplified. I want to respond to the Missoula Independent article “Private players: Billionaires attempt to remake Montana’s pension system” (Oct. 31) and explain how The Pew Charitable Trusts approaches this important issue.
Maintaining sustainable public retirement systems is arguably one of the most significant fiscal challenges facing states, including Montana, which had amassed $1.5 billion in unfunded pension debt even before the 2008 recession hit. By the end of 2012, the state’s retirement systems were collectively only 64 percent funded, well below the level needed to ensure the systems’ long-term fiscal health. If not addressed, the state’s growing pension debt of $4.3 billion would threaten public workers’ salaries and benefits and could crowd out other essential state services. Montana needed to find a balanced set of solutions that would offer retirement security to public workers while protecting taxpayers and maintaining the ability to deliver important public services.
Pew works on this issue to improve public policy, and with no hidden agenda. All public employees—past, present, and future—deserve a secure retirement. This begins with paying for pension promises that have already been made. But policymakers also need to ensure that they have a sustainable retirement system for the future. This can involve keeping the existing retirement plan but doing a better job of funding it. And it can also involve looking at how pension plans are designed.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. How states choose to address pension challenges is up to their policymakers and citizens to decide. Going forward, we need an honest discussion centered around a fair set of solutions that will offer retirement security to public workers while protecting state taxpayers and maintaining the ability of states to deliver important public services.
Public Sector Retirement Systems
The Pew Charitable Trusts
From the bottom of our hearts, we apologize for the disrespect shown to you by our county leaders (see “Revisiting racism” on page 8). The chairman of the planning board should be immediately dismissed for his ignorant bigoted comments. The commissioners also should be and will be voted out during the next election. Their extreme views do not reflect the views of the majority of the citizens of Ravalli County. We are sorry that they have disrespected you under the guise of taking care of the county citizens to the tune of $808 per year. It is shameful, ignorant and deceitful.
Sarah and Andy Roubik
The Ravalli County Commissioners invited CSKT tribal representatives to discuss the transfer of the Medicine Tree site to federal trust. They came in good faith—not to seek permission, defend the validity of their culture, history and rights, or to be insulted by racist public comment.
The commissioners plan to submit an apology for the racist comment made by Planning Board Chairman Jan Wisniewski. The commissioners have an apology of their own to make for less obvious but far more damaging actions. The county has no jurisdiction over tribally owned land and yet assumed they could control the transfer with an opposing vote. The sarcastic tone, line of questioning and rude assumptions demonstrated a stark contrast of conflicting cultural world views with regard to value of place, history and respect.
In addition to respectful conduct, K-12 students have more knowledge of local tribes than our county leaders, due to years of dedication on behalf of the CSKT, schools and cultural organizations and the implementation of Indian Education for All into our public school curriculum. Our government leaders did not have access to this education in school. Hopefully, a new generation will be better prepared to build good working relations with Montana’s 12 Indian tribes. The IEFA “Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians” implemented in our public schools may be viewed at www.opi.mt.gov. Answers to the commissioners’ questions are in this concise document, including the validity of oral histories, and the original necessity of tribal/federal trust agreements. Ironically, they were created due to misinterpretations, non-Indian expectations and points of view occurring on the local level.
Hopefully, the commissioners have learned something from this unfortunate event and will take full responsibility and necessary steps to mend a valuable and enriching relationship that so many have strived long and hard to build.
Art and Indian Education Specialist
See also: Another invite-only “collaborative” leads to unprofessional Forest Service conduct http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/12/05/anot… SNIP: Yet another…
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