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.
The first week of September, I sent a letter to Sidney Longwell, the Baton Rouge speculator, whose lawsuit to drill for oil threatens Montana's Badger-Two Medicine wildlands, bordering Glacier National Park. Fracking the "Backbone of the World" would desecrate both the integrity of this landscape and the cultural identity of present and future generations of Pikuni-Blackfeet people.
Within the Badger-Two Medicine, there are numerous landmarks whose narratives form the foundation of our Pikuni Sun Dance, which is a central religious ceremony in our tribe. For traditional Blackfeet, its promise of renewal can be likened to the role of Easter within Christianity. Two of these landmark mountains are Feather Woman and Scarface.
Feather Woman connects us to a long ago union between an Earth woman and Morning Star. She is entrusted with celestial teachings and subsequently returns to her Earth people. These teachings are manifest within our Sun Dance.
From the union of Feather Woman and Morning Star there survived a son, Scarface. He ventures, courageously, to the Lodge of the Sun. On route, he is assisted by Wolf, Grizzly, Badger, Wolverine and, finally, Trumpeter Swans. In communion with the Sun, Scarface gains additional rites that further complement our Sun Dance. The odyssey of Scarface is forever memorialized by the mountain sentinels of the Badger-Two Medicine. These parables are but a fragment of the ancient narratives associated within the landscape in which Sidney Longwell, the Louisiana "purchaser," intends to drill.
The drilling lease that Mr. Longwell clings to is the soiled residue of an egregious error made by the U.S. government more than 30 years ago. Under the Treaty of 1855 and the Agreement of 1895, our people reserved traditional rights in this area that include pre-existent religious freedoms. Pilgrimages, within social and individual settings, are fully incompatible with the industrialization of these watersheds.
The most considerate option for Mr. Longwell is following the path of other energy speculators who have found mutually beneficial alternatives, relinquishing their leases in our Badger-Two Medicine. Mr. Longwell would deliver our people a compliment by abandoning his lawsuit. I encouraged him to work with both the federal government and with Montana's congressional delegation to capitalize on the 2006 lease withdrawal legislation. There is still time for him to exchange his claim for opportunities elsewhere.
The Badger-Two Medicine region is a refuge for our Blackfeet, one of the last geographical strongholds for our ancient culture. The site of his lease, Hall Creek, is a pristine component of that refuge. I am invested in its protection, for it serves as a keystone in our cultural memory.
I conveyed to Mr. Longwell that my spiritual perspective springs from twin sources. From my Blackfeet grandmother, I inherited the parables of my ancestors. My recollection of her faith challenges me to place principle before personality, profit or pride. As a matter of principle, I maintain it is immoral to vandalize the headwaters of our cultural identity for the sake of profit or pride.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition I inherited from my Euro-American ancestors, Old Testament prophets respectfully removed their shoes when standing before God. If sandals are to be shed upon sacred ground, then how can bulldozers, fracking rigs and flare stacks be deemed acceptable? Recently, a Native elder reminded me, "Our way is to venture into the mountains to converse with God." I cherish the poetic essence of both of these time-honored traditions.
I have invited Sidney Longwell to the "Backbone of the World," where we can deepen our understanding of each other's motives and visions regarding this land we both treasure. As of Sept. 23, there has been no response from Mr. Longwell, who dwells in the state where Montana's waters fold into the Gulf of Mexico.
Jack Wallace Gladstone
Thanks for a more historical and balanced article on Fred Van Valkenburg’s professional career and values, especially in relation to the DOJ investigation and the marijuana enforcement issues (see “Still fighting,” Sept. 5). As a resident of Montana, mostly in the western third of the state, for 40 years, I have found him to be the kind of person I wanted in public service: possessing honesty and integrity, abiding by the law with a full heart.
I remember him in the legislature (I lived in Helena then and sipped Saturday morning coffee listening to committee hearings) and his body of work in Missoula (lived in Missoula County the last 20 years). So thank you, Jessica, for your in-depth article. And thanks to Fred Van Valkenburg for his many years of service to Montanans! I for one appreciate him and wish him the best in retirement—no criticism here, only kudos!
I am Murat Kalinyaprak, a serious candidate for Polson City Council. Many of you already know me as a friend or a customer, because I lived and been a businessman in Polson for 21 years. Many of you may have already heard my name, because I have attended city council meetings almost as regularly as a councilman for 8 years. Hopefully the rest of you will get to meet and know me during my election campaign.
Well knowing and braving the consequences, I always stood up for not only for my own but also for your freedom of speech, your right to equal treatment, your right to participate in open government, your right to have access to public information, your right to hold government responsible in spending your tax dollars.
As the city council records would attest, my efforts and expenses resulted in many public policy improvements and in actual savings of several hundred thousands of your tax dollars.
Over those years, I accumulated considerable insight, education and experience about how the city government works. If elected to the city council, I will have a better standing in order to accomplish even more than what I was able to do as a mere citizen.
As a councilman, I will never make any decisions before I hear and heed the public. Nor will I make any decisions without being careful to not violate city, state and federal laws or universal values of ethics.
Who the best candidate is depends on what voters will expect in return for their votes. I know that most of you are displeased with how the Polson city government has been operating for the past decade. I decided to be a candidate in order to give Polson citizens a choice and an opportunity to cause change.
My record shows that I am capable of effecting change for the better. So, if you would like to see change, please consider me as the best qualified candidate for the job and vote for me.
When Ravalli County Commissioners choose to reject funding for a necessary public service, we must, of course, ask the question “why?” The Ravalli County Commission’s decision to reject Title X Family Planning funding is unprecedented in 40 years of public service. The 400 community members who will lose their health care are surely asking the same question. Why?
Is it because young people have the privacy to access their own health care? That has been mentioned as a concern; however, the truth is that only one client was under the age of 16 last year. Is it because the public health clinic offers contraceptives? The truth is that over 99 percent of women who have been sexually active have used contraceptives. Or is it because the 400 people affected are largely women of low economic status who may often be marginalized from the public policy discourse? Maybe the commissioners voting against the funding don’t think that this move will hurt them politically.
But it will.
As we have seen across the nation, public officials choosing policies that hurt women end up damaging their own careers. We will not be silent. We will not allow big government to get between a woman and her healthcare provider. We will fight back.
Commissioners Burrows, Stoltz and Foss: Now is the time to reconsider. Bring back Title X funding to Ravalli County. Women and our allies are watching.
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana
It is an incredibly exciting and challenging time for the reproductive justice movement in Montana. With new leaders at both NARAL Pro-Choice Montana and at Planned Parenthood of Montana, we have an amazing opportunity to educate the public and legislators on what it means to be pro-choice and why it is so important to ensure that privacy and individual freedoms are secure in our state.
As a leader of the reproductive justice movement, I would like to clarify what it truly means to be pro-choice. First, being pro-choice means we believe that everyone should have access to all reproductive health options—this includes access to birth control, infertility treatments, sterilization, and, yes, abortion. However, being pro-choice also means advocating for preventative techniques that reduce the need for abortion. This means believing in access to affordable birth control and family planning resources, as well as honest and accurate sex education for young people. It is through these techniques, as well as advocating healthy relationships and reducing sexual violence against women, that we will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, making abortion rare. When faced with an unintended pregnancy, the decision to parent, adopt or terminate the pregnancy is an incredibly private and personal one—one that should be made only by a woman with council from her family, loved ones and physician—not politicians. This is what being pro-choice truly means.
As I begin my tenure here in Montana, I will work consistently to bring these pro-choice beliefs from the public to the legislature. We must ensure that reproductive rights and privacy for personal decisions are secure in our state. My goal is to grow our dynamic cadre of activists from all backgrounds and provide them with a direct line to the elected officials who represent them. I also strive to ensure that every young person has comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, which includes information on sexuality, gender identity and healthy relationships. In short, my goal is to ensure that every Montanan has access to affordable reproductive healthcare, is fully informed of their choices and has the freedom to plan their family how they see fit. Lofty goals, yes. But I am certainly not alone in the fight.
I would like to thank the Montana Reproductive Rights Coalition for their commitment to reproductive justice and support of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana in the past and into the future. Organizations like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, Blue Mountain Clinic, the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Montana Human Rights Network, and the ACLU of Montana bring important perspectives and enthusiasm for our goals. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing team.
I am committed to working alongside our allies throughout the state on issues of reproductive justice. There are many ways you can support NARAL Pro-Choice Montana. Go to prochoicemontana.org for more information. I welcome your conversations, ideas, and activism as we work hard every day to protect all Montanans’ civil rights.
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana
Kudos to Alex Sakariassen for covering ALEC’s influence in the Montana Legislature (see “No-love letter,” Aug. 29). The school charter bills weren’t the only “model legislation” that ALEC’s policy thugs shoved down our legislative throats. One of ALEC’s biggest national efforts is to disenfranchise voters, read as: making sure low-income people, students, and people of color don’t vote. Their attempt to eliminate same day voter registration failed by the stroke of a veto pen but it will be back before voters via ballot initiative next fall. Stay tuned. The free luncheons offered to Republican lawmakers are literally held inside the halls of the Capitol and they are buying your democracy and taking your rights.
State Rep. Ellie Hill
Quite coincidentally, I arrived back in Missoula after five years of being away, pulling up in a 26-foot U-Haul just weeks before the Independent's article "The Good Ol' Days" appeared in the recent Fresh Facts special issue. During that time, my wife Joyce and I spent three years in Bend, Ore. (we likened it more to Bozeman than to Missoula) and two years exile in New Jersey, where the stereotypes of rude people are stereotypes for a reason. That being said, it's hard to list all the things we missed and are now happily rediscovering again: from the new Top Hat and Kettlehouse to the Big Dipper and Shakespeare and Co. Like everywhere, Missoula has changed and stayed the same. Also like everywhere, locals—as the article alluded to—are proud and smug of where they live. The difference is in Missoula they have a right to be. A place where happy hour means something, and I'm just another guy with a ponytail cycling by.
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