The Indy has recently uncovered some shocking news that environmental studies enthusiasts will be flabbergasted to learn: Montana’s mining and timber companies don’t like tree or rock huggers.
Earlier this week, mining, timber and construction lobbyists had a bitch session with legislators in which they reported that the UM Environmental Studies Program (EVST) was bad for the state’s economy and shouldn’t be funded with tax dollars. The lobbyists took particular offense at a 1996 course that had students collecting signatures on ballot initiatives that hurt mining and logging companies. Strange the lobbyists never bothered to check, but that course wasn’t funded by taxpayers.
“That particular course was taught by a visiting instructor who had written a grant to fund the course,” says UM EVST professor Vicki Watson. “It was funded by a combination of that grant and the tuition that the students pay. No state money went to that course.”
Why the lobbyists focused their verbal thrashing on a single course and why they never took their complaints directly to the university is a mystery to EVST program director Tom Roy.
“None of these lobbyists have ever contacted us and asked us for information or clarification,” says Roy. “They’ve never even called us and read us the riot act and said, ‘God damn it we’re really pissed off.’”
As for the claim that those damn enviros are ruining Montana’s economy: “Human society and its economy are completely dependent on a healthy environment,” says UM EVST professor Vicki Watson. “We try to teach people how they can protect the environment, thus protecting human society. If that’s taking a political stand, then count me guilty.”
The Missoulian rang the news clear as a bell last week: Milltown Dam is good as gone. First Gov. Martz surprised environmentalist detractors with an uncharacteristically vehement call for the dam’s removal (in the process aligning herself, at long last, with a winning cause). Then, the very next day, Montana EPA director John Wardell jumped his agency’s gun and pre-announced the EPA’s likely recommendation, which, no big surprise, follows suit. Though the official EPA recommendation on the dam issue won’t be published until sometime next month, and even though publication will be followed by a public comment period, the die seems solidly cast.
In the midst of what, if accomplished, may turn out to be one of the most wildly popular civic achievements in Missoula history, it would be hard to find a local—aside from the ARCO-funded pro-dam Bonner Development Group’s Bruce Hall—to say a discouraging word.
Randy Jacobs isn’t going to start that ball rolling either, though he may be the one man in Missoula with rights to a grievance. Buried in the Missoulian’s Jan. 23 coverage was the news that the EPA has already “spoken with a landowner who owns 140 acres on the south side of the Clark Fork downstream from the dam, and has told him [emphasis added] the property could be selected as a repository for the reservoir sediments.”
Jacobs wasn’t named in the article, but a call to EPA chief Wardell identified the lucky landowner, and confirmed that preliminary “discussions” held between EPA officials and the senior citizen had “gone well.”
But when we called Jacobs at his home, we found a man who at first disclaimed any knowledge of said discussions before admitting that yes, there had been talks, and finally shut us down entirely, saying that he had nothing to say to reporters about his presumably unexpected role as the Clark Fork’s savior personified. And we can’t really blame him. We wouldn’t be too keen on having a Superfund site dredged up and dumped in our backyard either.