The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission are two different critters. Our FWP presents wildlife management proposals to five, governor-appointed commissioners. Commission meeting minutes regarding wolves, from 2007 through 2015, are available to the public. Get a copy, it's interesting history.
At their July 14, 2011, meeting, the commissioners established a three-wolf quota north of Yellowstone National Park. On July 9, 2015, the commissioners reduced their quota to two wolves. Yellowstone buffer zone wolf quotas were instituted by commissioners at final season setting meetings. They were not proposed by the FWP or sent out for comment.
On May 12, 2016, department biologists proposed a six-wolf quota and a Montana trapping quota of seven fisher. Commissioners rejected the department's proposal and put out two-wolf and zero-fisher quotas. Department biologists made no Yellowstone wolf quota proposals before their six-wolf quota that was shot down by a commission majority.
Do wolf advocacy groups and their "green decoys" masquerading as sportsmen try to influence Montana politicians? Could Montana hunters and trappers be "sold down the river" to placate national wolf advocacy outfits who couldn't care less about Montana's hunting heritage? Are environmental activists seeking more federal control over Montana resources, pouring political action cash into our governor's reelection campaign? Does wolf predation impact Montana's ungulate populations? You decide.
I am one of nearly 10,000 Missoula County residents visiting the Missoula Public Library each week. My fixed income prevents me from buying new books, but at the library I have access to bestselling titles, the classics, as well as novel topics. My reading choices are accessible to me in traditional bound form, audiobook or even downloadable to my computer. It saddens me that for a new book to be added to the library's collection, another book has to be "retired" because there is not enough shelf space. A new building would alleviate this problem.
I've loved having access to the educational opportunities Missoula Public Library provides. I've learned about art history, becoming a writer and have been able to participate in a local book group. My computer skills have been enhanced with classes on Windows, Android and QuickBooks operating systems. All of these opportunities might be available in different locales around Missoula, but they often have a monetary requirement to attend them. My free library card is all I need to learn. With the new building, I would be able to pass this desire on to my extended family, with the addition of The Children's Museum, SpectrUM Discovery and MCAT, free and accessible to all.
Have you or your kids visited the library or one of its six satellite branches for books and programs? Have you benefited from the Web On Wheels bus to access the internet? Imagine a newer, more current library that offers 21st century services for you and your family. A vote of "yes" for the library bond issue is a vote of yes for our community. Visit YesForMissoulaLibrary.org for more information and how you can support this vital local effort.
This year I had the opportunity to participate in the processing of mail-in ballots for Missoula County in the 2016 primary elections. I was one of 42 people selected to remove ballots from the blue, secret envelopes and unfold them so they could be fed to the vote-counting machines.
I was impressed with the percentage of ballots returned this year as compared to previous years. I'm sure people who mail in their ballots really want to have a voice in government, so I was disappointed in how many of the ballots had to be rejected because people could not follow simple directions.
According to ballot instructions prescribed by the secretary of state's office, "in an open primary, the voter is provided all eligible party ballots, BUT MAY SELECT ONLY ONE." In addition, the Missoula Elections Administration added a supplementary, very detailed set of instructions on the back of the prescribed instructions to help reduce the number of rejected ballots as it is a theme of every primary.
More than a few people put two voted ballots in one blue envelope. When this happens, both ballots are rejected and none of the votes on those ballots make it into the count.
I believe everyone who wants to vote should have their vote count, but that can only happen if the rules are followed. Please take the time to read the rules on your mail-in ballots for the general election in November and perform the steps one-by-one (including putting only one ballot in a blue envelope) so that your vote can be counted. Frequently in local elections only a few votes make the difference between winners and losers.
C. Burt Caldwell
The U.S. Forest Service continues to ignore public input and destroy trust as it did last year with proposed logging in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. At a meeting last week, the Bitterroot National Forest made it clear that before releasing the final decision, they had already lined up workers to complete logging that threatens the integrity of a popular trail near Hamilton. The trees have also been marked and geotechnical work for a new road bridge has been completed prior to the final decision.
In planning the Westside Collaborative Vegetation Management project, the USFS has disregarded numerous public comments, discounted possible compromises, and dismissed almost all 17 objections filed. At the center of the controversy is the proposal to commercially log more than 2 square miles of mature ponderosa forest, build 7.6 miles of new logging roads and run log trucks on quiet residential roads. Much of this work will occur around the Coyote Coulee trail, a popular 9-mile loop in a pristine, unroaded area that was acquired by the USFS in the 1970s for big game winter range. The trail was built and has been maintained by the Backcountry Horsemen in true collaboration between the Backcountry Horsemen and the Bitterroot NF. Recently, Darby students have also participated in its maintenance. With this history of cooperation, it's astounding that the USFS is now ignoring public concerns, including a request for a buffer around the trail. And this project will cost taxpayers almost $1 million.
If it is truly necessary to make this forest "more resilient," the work could be accomplished with less impact in sensitive areas like Coyote Coulee by keeping new roads out and using noncommercial hand thinning. Considering public input by implementing compromises to keep this area pristine would certainly help the USFS win back the trust of the American people.
Jeff Lonn and
Thomas Edison said in 1931, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
Three quarters of a century later, the promise of solar energy is finally being realized. The price of solar panels has dropped by more than half since 2009, and there are now more jobs in solar in this country than there are in oil and gas extraction or coal mining.
To allow Montana's solar industry to continue growing toward its enormous potential, we need the right policies in place. That's why I was so glad to see the energy plan recently released by Gov. Bullock.
Here in Montana, rooftop solar is growing at a rate of 30 percent per year, and large-scale solar projects are also beginning to be developed. Within the last year, three Montana electric cooperatives have installed community solar projects, allowing co-op members to buy into a larger solar array built by the co-op. Solar developers have signed contracts to build six large-scale solar arrays in Montana and dozens more similar projects have been proposed.
As the owner of a solar business near Red Lodge for the past 22 years, I've witnessed the growth of Montana's solar industry firsthand. In addition to creating jobs and boosting our economy, solar is a valuable energy resource. It produces at times of high demand for electricity, when energy is especially valuable, and it helps to diversify our energy portfolio and make the grid more resilient.
Despite its recent growth, today solar accounts for just 0.1 percent of Montana's in-state electricity use. But its potential is huge. A recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that rooftop solar in Montana could meet 28 percent of Montana's electricity needs.
The governor's plan addresses our state's shifting energy landscape and lays out a variety of strategies to advance clean energy. When it comes to solar, the plan includes a goal of doubling solar development in the state by 2025. I am confident that we will meet that goal well ahead of schedule, thanks in part to some of the strategies outlined in the plan.
For example, net metering is Montana's foundational solar policy and has made rooftop solar development possible in the state. The governor's plan opposes efforts to weaken the net metering law, ensuring that rooftop solar be allowed to continue growing.
It's also great to see the state government leading by example on solar. The plan calls for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate the potential of solar on its own building in Helena, as well as other state-owned buildings and facilities around Montana.
As the governor's plan points out, "Over the coming decades, the energy landscape will dramatically change." Coal has been an important part of Montana's economy for a long time, but as buyers of Montana electricity increasingly demand cleaner energy sources, there's no question that our energy sector is in flux. Change can be disorienting, but with change comes opportunity. The people of Montana have always been known for their resourcefulness and adaptability. By seizing the clean energy opportunities before us, we can come through this transition stronger and more prosperous than ever.
Thank you, Gov. Bullock, for an energy plan that embraces Montana's clean energy potential.
Montana Renewable Energy Association
I want to thank the over 10,000 Missoula County voters who supported me in the Democratic primary for Missoula County commissioner. With that victory, I'm now ready to take on the Republican candidate in the general election this fall. It's been a pleasure meeting residents across this great county over the past few months, from Condon to Lolo to the Ninemile—hearing your concerns and visions for the county, and looking for creative solutions that balance competing interests.
I also want to thank my opponent in the race, Stacy Rye, for her commitment to public service, for running a strong campaign, and for shining a spotlight on many important issues. Running for or serving in public office—regardless of party affiliation—is not easy, and I applaud folks who are willing to step up, make themselves accountable to their constituents and give back to their communities. So thanks, Stacy, for your continued service to our community.
In the weeks and months to come, I'll continue reaching out to folks across our county to hear how we can ensure that Missoula County remains the brightest star in Montana's Big Sky. We may not always agree, but I'll do my best to listen and figure out where common ground exists to move the county forward. My priorities remain the same: land stewardship and conservation, good planning, public safety and social justice. And through it all, bridging the urban-rural divide that too often dominates politics. How we achieve these goals is where the rubber meets the road, but I'm confident that we can get there together.
My name is Max Firehammer. Last week, I graduated from Hellgate High School. This September, I will go to study creative writing at Hamline University in Saint Paul. I owe much of my success to the Missoula Public Library.
When I was in middle school, I began to write short stories. Given my lack of experience, most of these were just collections of drifting ideas or blatant imitations of my favorite writers. But I tried. Then I began attending a young adult writers group at the library. We shared our writing with each other, and received feedback, praise and constructive criticism.
I continued to go to the young adult writer's group as often as possible for the next five years. Through this program at our public library, I was motivated to write fiction almost nonstop and acquired skills that have helped me not only in my pursuit of this passion, but also with my college preparation and a wide range of other areas.
All of this is only the story of how a single resource at the library has helped a single person. Considering how long the library has been around, the variety of resources it provides and the sheer number of people it serves each day (1,500, on average), there must be hundreds who have had experiences similar to my own. However, our library could easily be doing so much more. The building is sadly outdated. The shelves are full. There are not enough outlets or even enough places to sit. The library is not currently able to achieve its full potential to serve our community. We can fix that. If the bond is passed and these problems are solved and the resources provided are expanded, just imagine the possibilities. Please vote YES for our library.
I carried an M-16 for a year in Vietnam. Upon returning home, a high school friend wanted to know if I had smuggled home a selector switch, which apparently can be installed in an AR-15 for full automatic capability. If this is true, do you suppose there is a black market for this device and are there such weapons available? Machine guns are still illegal, aren't they?
This is a serious question: Can any gun owner explain why they feel the need to own an assault weapon? Is it just because you can? Is it a slightly wicked thrill to have one or do you really see yourself in close combat against whoever it is you fear? Is it just to assert your right to own whatever weapon you desire? An AR-15 shoots a high velocity round that will destroy flesh and bone and is not that good at long range, so it's not ideal for hunting. What do you do with such a weapon?
Just for the record, I own long guns and pistols, and I once had a concealed weapon permit—although, after Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, I have become somewhat of a peacenik, thinking those wars pretty much only benefited arms manufacturers at a huge cost to American citizens.
Maybe you think an assault weapon ban will lead to losing the Second Amendment entirely (fat chance), and of course there are a bajillion assault weapons already out there, just waiting for the next drunk, stoned or mentally unstable person to pick one up. And I also realize our current political status has us so polarized that any compromise will be unlikely. But if you support the sales of assault weapons, explain to the public how you would prevent mass killings. I know, if there aren't guns people will use knives and clubs. But if those are so dangerous and effective, why don't you just arm yourself with those?
I really want answers to these questions. Anybody willing to write a reply?
Dwellings similar to the Timblo house-in-process can be found in various Missoula neighborhoods (see "This new house," May 26). I don't find them particularly attractive and I am completely flummoxed as to why anyone would build a flat-roofed home around here. However, there is a bigger housing issue in this town that needs consideration in order to preserve "the context and the character of the neighborhood." Important quality-of-life issues seem to be ignored by local governing units and municipal decision-making bodies, with one exception—the police department is very helpful with quality-of-life issues.
The issues to which I refer involve the "slum-like" rental properties throughout the city. Drive through almost any quiet, well-tended Missoula neighborhood—lawns mowed, weeds under control, homes generally well cared for—and you will likely see at least one dwelling that appears to have been dumped into the neighborhood from some far-away war zone. What is left of the exterior paint is peeling away, weeds are knee-high, garbage and other stuff covers the lot. The tenants' vehicles crowd the nearby street. And until the locals request the assistance of the police, some of these tenants will be loud and disruptive. Often these tenants don't care or have no apparent clue as to the proper dynamics of living in a neighborhood made up mainly of families that have paid for or are paying for their homes and who have a long-term vested interest in the area.
Of course, many tenants who have to rent what they can find in their price range are victims of penny-pinching landlords. Tenants deserve better for their rental dollars than what is provided by the "slum landlord" who seems to be held to no standards to provide the lessees appropriate living space in good repair. If there are standards, who in city government should be enforcing these standards? If the standards allow such poor maintenance of real property, who in city government should be called to task for allowing these low standards?
Some landlords obviously find it a great inconvenience to do the slightest amount of work on the property. After all, keeping up the property will cut into the bottom line. I can just hear the landlord's pontifications now: "So there's an old mattress in the backyard, a couple of shattered toilets in the side yard, what's that to me? The weeds, the noise and the other aggravations the neighbors claim they are facing, well, phooey to the neighborhood. It's my property to do with as I want."
So ye who profess a profound concern for the context and character of Missoula neighborhoods, how about focusing your energies on figuring out some way to deal with irresponsible landlords (and yes, some irresponsible homeowners as well). They need to be reined in and held to high standards of property management and maintenance.
There's a student movement afoot in the Last Best Place.
University students in our great state are joining together and letting it be known they recognize and celebrate the vital role that public lands play in the everyday lives of all Montanans. The Associated Students of both the University of Montana (ASUM) and Montana State University (ASMSU) passed resolutions this spring urging our elected officials to maintain federal management of American public lands. Both resolutions passed with a majority vote. ASUM's vote was unanimous.
Public lands generate $6 billion a year annually in Montana—including $403 million in tax revenue—and support 64,000 jobs in the state. But more important than the economic benefits public lands offer Montana are the educational opportunities those lands provide.
Students at both universities are the next generation of wildlife biologists, foresters, engineers, artists, geographers, geologists and leaders. Students in all of these fields and more rely on the natural classrooms that our public lands provide. Furthermore, professors in these fields depend on public lands not only to educate their students, but also to conduct valuable and groundbreaking research that brings acclaim to UM, MSU and the state.
Most students at UM and MSU will tell you that academics are only part of why they decided to attend these schools. UM and MSU attract and retain students because of our state's natural beauty and the easy access we have to the extraordinary public lands in Missoula's and Bozeman's backyards. We have great respect for the indispensable place public lands have in the cultural identity of our state and its citizens.
Hundreds of MSU students have found community on public lands such as Hyalite Canyon through the school's outdoor recreation program, and hundreds of UM students have found the same on public lands throughout the state by taking part in the University's Freshman Wilderness Experience. Both of these programs introduce incoming students to the importance of conservation, the sanctity found in natural beauty and the lifelong friendships that can be made while enjoying Montana's amazing outdoor opportunities.
Having recognized federal public lands as an essential part of Montana's heritage, a majority of Montanans, including students at UM and MSU, are appalled by the short-sighted and irresponsible agenda to transfer ownership or management of American public lands to state or private hands.
If Montana took over American public lands, our state would be faced with a $367 million deficit, according to Lee Newspapers. This could lead to many areas losing vital federal protections, including access to conservation and firefighting budgets, or being closed to public access altogether. Opening public lands to such peril is not in our state's interest and does not have the support of our state's students.
Many from UM's and MSU's student bodies will soon be joining the Montana workforce. We have a responsibility as the leaders of tomorrow to ensure that these public lands remain as pristine and accessible as they are today and an interest in ensuring their continued contribution to economic stability, education and recreation for generations to come.
As representatives of UM's and MSU's student bodies, we believe that our congressional delegation, our governor and our state representatives have a responsibility to their constituents to maintain the natural heritage of Montana by ensuring that federally owned public lands in Montana are not transferred to state or private hands.
Ms. Tompkins -- thank you.
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