Well, ya folks scared me with the last issue. It was so dull I fell asleep just carryin’ it to the truck! However, your Oct. 17 issue is back up to standard. Thanks.
I’m writing to commend Allison Mills and the Missoula Independent for your article “Western native plant societies urge USDA to ban exotics,” published Sept. 12, 2013 on the Indy Blog, highlighting the threat of invasive species.
Your coverage educating and informing people of the dangers of exotic invasive species is welcome in the battle to control and eradicate these non-native threats. Not all non-native plants become invasive, but the rapid proliferation of invasive non-native plants in our wildlands can have a devastating effect. Even though some invasives may look beautiful to the eye, if unchecked they present a real threat to wild species diversity and degrade many natural areas. Invasive species are the No. 2 cause of plant endangerment in the United States, forcing native species to the edge of extinction, and they also cost millions of dollars in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.
The Center for Plant Conservation has developed information about invasive species, including resources, contacts, and proactive measures that will help prevent the introduction of new invasive plants. We invite your readers to visit our website for additional helpful information.
President and Executive Director
Center for Plant Conservation
St. Louis, Mo.
Is there any hope? What kind of world are we living in? It’s almost like everything is upside down and backwards. The newspaper headlines include wars and more wars, genocide, economic collapse, drought, famines, floods, cancer epidemics, viruses, pandemics, toxic environments, increasing earthquakes, nuclear threats and power grabs. Elderly tourists are held at gunpoint at Yellowstone Park! Forest Rangers are ordered to “Make life as difficult as possible” for citizens! (Illegals, no problem.) Vets and relatives are barricaded from the U.S. War Memorial! Unaffordable health care! Double and triple premiums and deductibles! Many are losing their health care as a result.
Are we about to go over the cliff or have we already gone over? It’s almost like we are leaping towards self-destruction! In a world gone berserk, is there any hope for us?
Let us ask one of the most respected men of the past century, a spiritual councilor to many modern presidents: Billy Graham. Mr. Graham will celebrate his 95th birthday on Nov. 7 with a message especially for America at this critical time. The My Hope America message titled “The Cross” will be airing all over the United States and Canada from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10. It will also be available on demand, via DVD and internet streaming, along with “Defining Moments” and “Lose to Gain” bonuses.
“The Cross” will contain life-changing testimonies and one urgent message from Mr. Graham filmed at his North Carolina mountain home earlier this year.
This is in response to Dan Brooks’ short-sighted inconvenience caused to him by our inane government shut down (see “Domestic dispute,” Oct. 10). Mr. Brooks is obviously a GOP supporter as he blames Obama for our government’s inefficiencies, when in fact the Tea Partyers state as their cause to defund Obamacare at all costs to “protect our nation.” To protect our nation from what, I dare ask, affordable health care for millions!
Mr. Brooks is upset by his girlfriend being furloughed and requesting he pay the heating bill. What about all the poor, single mothers who are going without food to feed their children because the SNAP program has been shut down as well? This seems a far more pressing concern than Mr. Brooks not being able to look at porn—excuse me, be a professional writer at home while his girlfriend is furloughed.
Our government has stopped working not because Obama won’t compromise with delusional House Republicans. It has stopped working because the Tea Party would rather not take care of the most needy of our population so they can pursue their short sighted, albeit misguided, political agenda. Is that what America is all about? I think not.
So, the trees of Crazy Canyon were recently thinned, as in cut down and killed. Why? Fire danger, bug infestation, forest enhancement or really just something to do? (See “Scary prognosis,” Sept. 19)
Every day, trees, which are living things, are ignorantly cut down and killed. Are we at war with the trees? What is going on here, really? Maybe we are at war with ourselves, and we vent it out on the trees. Why do we decide that certain trees are not allowed to live? Who do we think we are?
No wonder our environment is in sad shape. We are not living with our environment. We are living against it. We are here to accept and love ourselves and the environment. We want to nourish the environment and see it flourish. We want healthy trees and a healthy environment in which to live.
Finally, it is a mystery why no one speaks up for the thinned dead trees of Crazy Canyon. Maybe the people just don’t care or are too timid. Maybe it is all just for money.
Let’s wake up and change our thinking now!
Rev. Harry Strong
In recent days PPL Montana has received some unjust cheap shots in the news. PPL Montana is a for-profit corporation as are most main street businesses, and is owned in part by Montanans. PPL Montana’s function is to make money. That is what their shareholders expect and demand. PPL Montana does not own any power distribution lines, nor do they sell power to end consumers. They produce then sell electricity in a highly competitive market to companies that will, in turn, deliver and sell to you.
But this letter is not about PPL Montana profits, coal generation plants or even about the possible sale of their hydroelectric facilities. It is about how PPL Montana and their employees are giving back to our communities.
I recently finished the first year of a two year appointment to PPL Montana Community Fund Board. This mix of PPL Montana employees and non-employees meets twice a year to review and distribute funds PPL has ear-marked for grants to non-profit organizations, schools and school districts with a focus on education, environment and economic development. Since this fund was established, $1.4 million in grants has been awarded to nearly 200 organizations across Montana. This past year, in the south central area of Montana we have awarded grants to Musselshell School Community Center to help preserve a focal point of the area, Special K Ranch of Columbus to build a hydroponic garden, Billings Education Foundation to provide weekend backpack meals for school children and Yellowstone CASA to pay for training of needed volunteers that serve as court advocates for abused and neglected children. Grants to preserve the Colstrip History and Art Center and rebuild the Howard Community Club roof. Funds in Hysham for the Yucca Museum and the Evelyn Cameron Heritage Center in Terry. In Lewistown, PPL has provided funds to the Snowy Mountain Industries in support their goals, and to the Lewistown Boys and Girls Club for needed renovations to their building.
In addition to local contributions and sponsorships, Community Fund grants are just one part of PPL Montana’s community involvement. PPL Montana provides over 500 good paying jobs statewide and pays more than $26 million per year in state and local taxes and fees. So the next time someone starts talking about what PPL Montana is taking out of Montana, let’s take a moment and look at what PPL Montana is giving back to Montana.
In Montana, we take care of our veterans—the men and women who were willing to give so much for us. The sad truth is that many veterans in Montana don’t have access to the health care they need. Montana has the highest percentage of veterans without health insurance in the nation. All of the men and women who have served our country deserve access to health care. Medicaid expansion would allow almost 7,000 Montana veterans and 3,000 of their family members to gain access to quality affordable care coverage.
Many people assume that all of the nation’s 12.5 million non-elderly veterans receive health benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. But in reality, one in ten veterans neither has health insurance nor is able to use the VA for care. Expanding Medicaid would give these men and women an opportunity to receive the care they need.
Right now in Montana, there are approximately 7,000 veterans who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. Despite serving our country, many veterans do not meet the length of service time, income, or disability requirements necessary to qualify for VA service. For example, members of the Montana National Guard or the military services’ reserves who were not called up for federal active duty may fall into this category. These men and women completed the necessary training, spent months away from their families and homes, received proper discharges, and always stood ready to answer the call to serve their country. These veterans who were willing to give everything they had to protect our liberties should be able to access the health care they need.
Approximately 2,600 of these veterans do qualify for VA coverage, yet still lack access to health care. With only one VA hospital in the state and a limited number of outpatient clinics, many VA-eligible veterans simply live too far away to receive care. Medicaid expansion would allow these veterans who served on the other side of the world to go to the doctor next door.
We now have an opportunity to help thousands of these veterans gain access to health care, and we shouldn’t turn our back on them.
Medicaid expansion would provide vital health care coverage to childless adults under the age of 65, as well as to uninsured families near the poverty line, making lifesaving health services, including mental health care, available to those veterans who may need it the most. In addition to the veterans who would gain coverage, nearly 3,000 spouses and family members who also made sacrifices for their country would also gain coverage.
Despite these well-deserved benefits for veterans, there are those who are fighting against expanding Medicaid. The 2013 Legislature failed to accept federal funds to provide this critical care, instead sending it to cover veterans and other citizens in states like California and New Jersey. Despite knowing the benefits of expansion—and the costs to our families, communities and economy if we fail to expand—the legislature simply said “no.”
We ask that the Montana Legislature reconsider its position. Come back to Helena and take advantage of this opportunity to say “thank you” to the men and women who once wore our nation’s uniform. Let’s protect those who so proudly protected us.
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
Department of Montana.
James W Higgins
Board of Directors
Montana National Guard Association
I was delighted to see the article on the forthcoming Montana Health CO-OP and the great work John Morrison has done helping health CO-OPs across the country get launched (see “Proving ground,” Sept. 26).
It was a poor editorial choice to repeat details from a Senate primary in 2006, and in poor context. John continues to make good things happen for Montana and the rest of the country, but the author felt it was important to take a shot at John.
The article states that Morrison’s 2006 Senate bid failed in part because of a story that broke about “alleged ethical misconduct while in office.” This apparently refers to the story run by the Independent in the heat of the primary, citing unnamed sources, who faulted Morrison’s handling of a certain securities case.
No one ever filed a complaint or charge of any kind against Morrison in any forum regarding this unfounded “misconduct”.
After the Senate primary, John Morrison asked numerous people to review the case file. The State Auditor employees, and former employees who were involved in the case, unanimously wrote that Morrison acted with the highest degree of integrity in the handling of the case. Those employees also affirmed Morrison’s honesty and dedication in handling all cases before his office.
Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker, then the special prosecutor in the case in question, agreed. John then submitted the file to outside experts, including: a former (Republican) State Auditor, former Attorney General, former Supreme Court Justice, former U.S. Attorney, and many others.
All wrote that Morrison handled the case properly and in accordance with high ethical and professional standards.
The allegations, made then to a reporter by unnamed sources during a contested primary race, were unfounded and unfair. They do not now merit being mentioned in current stories about John’s continued public service for our state.
I wish to offer an alternative perspective to the ideas portrayed in the recent Independent article, "Scary Prognosis" (Sept. 19). I was glad to see that Lolo Forest fire manager John Waverek was careful to avoid pejorative language like "unhealthy" or "sick" to describe the forests of western Montana. Waverek rightly noted that such term are too simplistic and value laden.
However, the attitude of the Forest Service in general still displays a lack of ecological understanding and a hostile attitude towards natural forest processes like beetle kill or wildfire. Dead trees do not indicate an "unhealthy" forest. Indeed, dead trees are critical to future forest ecosystems and a sign that our forests are actually ecologically healthy because the natural ecological processes that work to maintain forest integrity like beetles and wildfire are intact.
What we see today is an expansion of the acreage of trees killed by either pine beetle and/or wildfire. Both of these factors are natural components of our forest ecosystems and a natural response to changing climatic conditions. And indeed, our forests are adapted to them.
These changes in forest response are symptomatic of human-caused climatic change. In other words, we are treating the symptoms instead of treating the ultimate cause of these changes.
That the acreage affected is larger than in the recent past does not necessarily mean our forests are unnatural, out of balance or, dare I use the term, "sick. These ecological processes can be thought of like wolves to a deer herd. They are thinning our forests, bringing them into balance with the available nutrients, moisture and space now dictated by a warming climate. (Bear in mind that we don't have to spend money to fight fires or beetle outbreaks—that is a mistaken effort to thwart natural thinning processes). These ecological processes are restoring our forests—and doing the restoration at absolutely no cost to taxpayers.
It's important to point out that even in the more severe beetle events, many trees survive to go on to form the next generation of forest. And even though the acreage of forest burned has expanded, the percentage of stand replacement blazes is still a small. For instance, one recent analysis of the 2012 fires in Idaho that charred 1.75 million acres of the state's forests found only 13 percent of the tree-covered lands were severely burned. The vast majority of acreage burned were classified as low severity.
Indeed, there are some ecologists who insist we do not have enough large stand replacement blazes or what are called severe fires. The snag forests that result from such forests are temporally rare and spatially infrequent and critical to many wildlife species. We may need more of them.
We have seen these kinds of episodic natural forest thinning events in the past. If you review Paleo ecology of forests in the Rockies, there are many examples of warmer climatic periods where conditions were as warm as or even warmer than at present. It was during the Medieval Warm Spell when the Anasazi Indians abandoned their pueblos in the Southwest due to massive drought and the Vikings were able to colonize Greenland due to High Arctic Warming.
During this warm spell, large wildfires and beetle expansion occurred throughout the West. And contrary to popular myth that ponderosa pine never experience stand replacement burns, during this warm period, even low elevation ponderosa pine forests experienced significant stand replacement blazes. The forests of this period were "restored" by these natural thinning agents to the carrying capacity dictated by the new climatic conditions.
Since that time, cooler, moister climatic conditions combined with forest mismanagement (logging of large fire resistant trees, overgrazing of vegetation, fire suppression, forest fragmentation, etc.) have allowed forest density to increase. Despite these human-caused issues, the forests are perfectly capable of restoration without more human interference.
Our forests are now responding to human-caused climatic change, which is creating warmer, drier conditions. These conditions are promoting expansion of natural thinning agents like beetles and wildfires. However, instead of viewing these as "negative" factors that we must "save" the forest from, we should see them as critical to forest ecosystem integrity. Fires and beetles are far superior at "restoring" forests than foresters and loggers. They, like wolves do to deer, pick the most vulnerable individuals and remove them from the population. The end result is a stronger, healthier forest (or deer herd).
Furthermore, logging is not benign. Logging creates "unhealthy" forests. It is virtually impossible to log without significant ecological impacts. For one thing, logging removes biomass—the live and dead trees which are the biological legacy or biological capital that is invested in the next generation of forests. Dead trees are also important for many wildlife species with one estimate suggesting that two-thirds of all vertebrate wildlife species rely upon dead trees/down wood at some point in their lives. Dead trees are also critical to aquatic ecosystems, providing both structures to streams as well as nutrients.
Suggesting that we need to log our forests to fix them is both self-serving to the timber industry as well as the federal land management agencies whose budgets depend on getting the cut out. Beware of any prescriptions that suggest we need to log our forests to "restore" them.
What we need to do is leave our forests alone to self-restore and self-regenerate themselves. To make human communities comfortable with such a prescription the Forest Service should emphasize reducing the flammability of homes and removal of flammable materials, including trees near homes.
When I see the dead trees from beetle kill or wildfires I'm thankful that our forests are still healthy and actively being restored by natural processes. It's time for our federal agencies to adopt a similar viewpoint.
Ravalli County Commissioners Suzy Foss, Ron Stoltz and Jeff Burrows voted against us on Friday. They refused to accept our taxpayer dollars back from the federal government for our family planning services, which provide us and our neighbors with cancer screenings, STD screenings, birth control and pre-natal care to name a few (see "etc.," Sept. 19). Lack of screening leads to disease. Lack of birth control leads to pregnancy or abortion.
Hundreds of people took off work for three long meetings last week to voice their support for family planning funds, which do not include abortion. Since two of them were Board of Health meetings, only Mr. Burrows was required to be there. Ms. Foss and Mr. Stoltz, who also voted against accepting the funds, missed 5-plus hours of testimony from the public, even though their presence was requested.
The family planning office will be closed for good on Sept. 30. Patients who have appointments on Oct. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., will have to scramble for an appointment. It takes a minimum of six weeks to get an appointment in an affordable Missoula clinic. Ms. Foss, Mr. Stoltz and Mr. Burrows voted to close down a clinic within 30 days without offering anything to replace it.
Your rising insurance costs will be thanks to Ms. Foss, who said that the hospital will have to absorb the costs of the preventative care of the 400-plus patients who need someplace to go.
Remember these votes. They voted against you. Vote against them. Vote against Suzy Foss in 2014. Vote against Ron Stoltz in 2014. Vote against Jeff Burrows in 2014.
If you need cancer screening or family planning services, please call the commissioners at 375-6500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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