Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unnecessary tinkering

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Why would Rep. Denny Rehberg propose changes to Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act when Montana mill owners say it won’t work?

During his tour of southwest Montana, Rehberg told Montanans he wanted to “fix” the bill by adding complicating provisions. But Sherm Anderson, owner of Sun Mountain Lumber in Deer Lodge and a former Republican state legislator, said he fully supports the bill as it is. Anderson also said he doesn’t think Rehberg’s plan would work. Anderson said the proposal would upset the compromise and be impossible to sell in Congress. He’s right. Not one single bill with trigger language has passed in Congress. After 10 years in Washington, Rehberg must know his plan won’t work.


Tester’s bill is supported by a broad spectrum of Montanans, including mill owners and respected Republican leaders such as former Gov. Marc Racicot, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Brown and state Sen. Dave Lewis.

Rehberg’s suggestions would do nothing more than maintain the status quo and keep Montana in gridlock, losing good jobs in the woods and mills. As Rehberg himself said, “Doing nothing is not an option.” Montanans need leadership, not politics.

Leticia Romero


Documentary drama

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

In the beginning, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (see “A fan’s guide to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival,” Feb. 11, 2010) committed to screen my film, Hear The Buffalo, at this year’s event. This film advocates ending the Yellowstone Park bison hunt and for the safety of the herd. The film is controversial. In the end, however, Big Sky censored the film from screening for esoterically lame reasons of their own. Janet Rose, on the other hand, welcomed our film at her CINE event at the Roxy. Go figure.

Frankly, I have no problem with Big Sky yanking off a bison advocacy film. That is entirely their business. What disturbs is the exploitative use of the bison image in all their advertising. Higgins Street is inundated with their bison image ads. Their website flaunts mega images of the bison. And their preview guide is emblazoned with bison. People in our region care deeply about wildlife. How is it that the Big Sky Film Festival censors a buffalo advocacy film, yet hypocritically exploits the image to sell seats? Is this business as usual?

And why should anyone complain about the white buffalo image, sacred to Native Americans, plastered upon a tub of popcorn on the Independent’s front page? It makes good business sense, right?

All is not lost, however. Anyone wishing to view Hear The Buffalo, can see it for free, that is, no charge, on the website Enjoy!

Gene Bernofsky


World Wide Film Expeditions


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Follow Tester’s lead

Posted on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 4:01 PM

Marilyn’s Olsen’s letter on Sen. Jon Tester’s forest bill (see “Tester taken to task,” Feb. 11, 2010) got one thing right: More people need to read Tester’s bill.


The levels of timber treatment called for in the bill are sustainable precisely because the mandates include a range of activities, not just commercial logging. Mechanical treatment can include pruning the understory of overgrown stands, hauling forest materials that are building up on the ground, doing selective thinning in the wildland-urban interface, among many other activities. What’s more, the bill only mandates a level of acres to be treated, not an amount of board feet to be cut. And the 21 amendments that Tester has proposed make sure that restoration work is done within a set amount of time, that only local mills will get the contracts, and that treatment projects are prioritized in the wildland-urban interface.

The mandates in the bill can be met using a very broad range of treatments, but the critics of Tester’s bill love to talk about commercial logging because that’s the bogeyman that frightens other environmentalists. Thankfully, most Montanans are getting beyond scare tactics and following Tester’s lead. Tester is talking about much more than commercial logging. He’s talking about getting more work done in lands that are already roaded and suffering from extensive beetle kill. He’s trying to forge a future for our timber mills that focuses on restoration instead of just “getting the cut out.” He’s trying to work alongside timber industry leaders to preserve our options for the local management of our forests.

And, he’s trying to make sure that we protect the headwaters of Rock Creek, Monture Creek, the North Fork of the Blackfoot and the Clearwater River. These are Montana rivers and last time I checked there isn’t even one other bill that stands half a chance of protecting them.

Tester just introduced 21 proposed changes to a bill that was already quite good. For some people, it will never be enough. For Tester and for most Montanans, though, enough is enough. We aren’t going to get a bill that is perfect for everyone, that’s why we compromise and work together on these things, something you know if you’ve spent much time at all in the West. We need to designate these 670,000 acres of new wilderness and get more work done in the woods. Here’s to Tester and to Sen. Max Baucus for backing a fine bill.

Emma Young


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tester thwarts Forest Service

Posted on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Regarding Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act: It is particularly troubling to see Tester attempting to mandate logging levels on national forests, especially when one of those levels is 14 times higher than what the U.S. Forest Service claims is sustainable. Tester is not a forester or any other type of natural resource professional and his logging mandate fails to take into consideration the ecology of the land. I doubt Tester would appreciate some bean counter telling him his ranch in Big Sandy could sustain 10 million cattle. This legislation attempts to thwart the Forest Service’s professional responsibilities in favor of private-sector logging.

I resent Tester’s allegations that anyone who disagrees with him is a radical or extremist. Many of the people who object to his legislation are fourth and fifth generation Montanans, small-business owners, retired Forest Service supervisors and district rangers, hikers and backpackers, hunters and anglers, outfitters and guides, veterans, scientists, former loggers, mill workers and community leaders. Tester’s emphasis on local control of public lands is detrimental to our heritage.

The wilderness designations are largely what we refer to as “rocks and ice.” Montana is the fourth largest state and we have the land to sustain wildlife populations in our remaining roadless areas. Only 2 percent of Montana is designated wilderness. If we were to designate all remaining roadless lands Montana would have approximately one-tenth of our land base in wilderness. With ever increasing population nationwide we should protect these areas for wildlife, water quality, and for future generations.

Denise Boggs


Man bites dog

Posted on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Your “etc.” column in last week’s paper criticizing the coverage of the stomping death of the kitten named Mercy left me wondering about those who criticized.

It was surprising that either of the journalism professors doubted the newsworthiness of the story compared to what they cited—the Haiti earthquake and the Flathead man who allegedly killed family members. Haiti has been covered extensively in all the daily news outlets for weeks now. And the family shooting was certainly horrible—but when is there not a human-shot-human story in the paper?

Both of those stories were relatively “dog bites man” in comparison to the “man bites dog” shock of someone stomping a helpless kitten to death, much less their own kitten. Most people think of their pets like family—making the story emotionally comparable to the very human-shot-human story the professors wanted us to be more concerned with. And people who know that animals are conscious, sentient, vulnerable beings cried over Mercy’s fate—and that was if they could even bear to read or hear about the story, which many could not. Mercy, especially vulnerable as a kitten, had already been rescued from being abandoned at about two months old, two months earlier. Do any of you who doubted the story’s newsworthiness even think that animals have inherent worth and dignity and deserve protection from abuse? Or maybe none of you have pets? Or maybe you just don’t like cats? As for those who might agree with you, I’ll bet trappers were as surprised as any of you that animal-stomping was news, since they do that every day for fun if they can. And finally, the huge outpouring of responses to the story proved that it was newsworthy.

As for a claimed “intention to sensationalize,” I don’t suppose we can know that without knowing the motives of the publishers. Regarding the abuser’s name getting into the paper right away, unless the person is a juvenile, that regularly happens with most news stories. As for the risk of creating a “mob mentality,” then maybe his name should have been kept out for a while if the publishers realized that could happen. As to whether neighbors should have known about the abuser’s stress, he reportedly kept to himself. After he did stomp the cat, nobody knew the why of it all, nor whether there was a chance to treat his mental condition. But given that society does not provide counseling for those who need it but can’t afford it, and that counseling is largely not covered by insurance anyway, it’s predictable that nothing would have been done for him (and that’s assuming that he even could change at the late age of 63). In fact, the real news here would have been if adequate and sufficient counseling would have been attempted for him.

Bill Clarke


Tester’s arrogance

Posted on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Sen. Jon Tester’s cavalier remarks about the Obama administration’s objections to his logging bill demonstrate incredible arrogance and willful denial of reality (see “Logjam,” Feb. 11, 2010). Undersecretary Harris Sherman, whose hearing testimony strongly questioned essential aspects of Tester’s bill, is not just any old witness—he’s the guy who was hired to oversee the Forest Service, and to formulate and give voice to the administration’s forest policy.

It’s not about Sherman having “heartburn,” as Tester puts it. And it’s immaterial whether there are individuals in the Forest Service or anywhere else in government who don’t share Sherman’s views, as Tester speculates. A policy has been articulated—the administration, representing citizens inside and outside Montana and a broader public interest, has put its foot down on the senator’s over-the-top logging mandate and the terrible precedents his bill would establish.

Unfortunately, since the hearing, Tester’s contrarian response has been to increase the amount of logging the bill requires. He says “the jury is out” on his bill, even though it’s hard to find anyone who likes it. He promises “plenty of places to find and cut trees” to prop up the timber industry, when there’s little demand, and a huge backlog of uncut timber under contract.

Tester seems to have made a personal decision to just bully and bluster his way ahead, no matter what common sense would dictate. By contrast, the Forest Service appears to be trying to serve the public interest with its assertive stand against the bad ideas in Tester’s bill.

Steve Gilbert, board member, Helena

Janine Blaeloch, director, Seattle

Western Lands Project

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tester taken to task

Posted on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Sen. Jon Tester’s Senate Bill 1470 represents irresponsible logging and motorized recreation on public lands. It undercuts the popular roadless rules, and by requiring excessive logging it clashes with environmental laws that public land agencies must obey. It usurps U.S. Forest Service authority by handing public lands management decision-making to locals and private interests, and it establishes unbalanced resource advisory committees by overriding an existing law prohibiting this.

The bill’s unprecedented mandated logging levels requires the Forest Service to cut 14 times the sustainable level identified in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest Plan, plus 10 years of cutting in the Yaak, which is already over-cut, unconnected and too roaded to support biological diversity.

Logging acreage and timeframes are mandated; restoration levels and timelines are not. Montanans have repeatedly witnessed logging where restoration agreements were never implemented. Tester’s bill fails to require restoration completion; worse, “restoration” can be accomplished on any national forest in the United States. Montana sustains the damage while other states can get the “restoration.”

The bill’s new wilderness designations are pitifully small, isolated and exclude diverse elevation habitats. The bill’s road density language encourages increased logging in unroaded and less roaded areas of the forests.

Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), Montana’s irreplaceable legacy from the late Sen. Lee Metcalf, will be released and degraded under Tester’s bill, precluding wilderness designation. The illegal motorized intrusions in WSAs gets sanctioned. Instead of law enforcement, we get release language, rewarding law breakers. This is disgraceful!

If you care about public lands, read the bill.

Marilyn Olsen

Emigrant, Mont.

Trapped by Mercy

Posted on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Missoula’s horrifying story of the kitten Mercy’s abuse—smashed spine and pelvis, squished vertebrae, bruised and broken limbs, attempted drowning, shock, paralysis—has brought a national outpouring of compassion. But the agony poor Mercy suffered is exactly what happens to countless tens of thousands of animals that struggle in fear and pain and slowly die in traps every year in Montana.

Tens of thousands of traps are baited, hidden, set and reset across Montana. The furbearing season lasts nine months. For predators like foxes and coyotes, traps can be set all year long, anywhere, no license required. No one knows how many animals are killed, drowned, or how many chew off their feet or twist their limbs until they break, and then chew through tissue, muscle and arteries to escape—it’s so common, trappers call this a “wring-off.” One ranger, trapping for a year, documented that for every animal taken, two are discarded.

Now Montana has vanishing populations of rare and sensitive creatures who live by their wits and endanger no one: fisher, marten, otter, lynx and wolverine, all thanks to recreational trapping.

In any other circumstance, this wasteful abuse would bring felony charges. But every day and night across our public lands’ mountains and prairies, thousands of animals suffer and are stomped and clubbed to death in the name of recreation. Wildlife in Montana belongs to all Montanans. Over the past 15 years the Legislature has killed three bills attempting to rein in trapping. Why is the state letting this practice continue?

Now citizens can stop it. We can support Initiative 160, Montana Trap-Free Public Lands. Find the petition and sign it. Go to Put an end to this shameful “hobby.”

Dave Taylor


Winding back up

Posted on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

George Ochenski is fully committed to making the perfect the enemy of the good (see “The great unwinding,” Jan 28, 2010). Thankfully, Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and 70 percent of Montanans are committed to a very different goal: actually protecting wild country on the ground by getting a wilderness bill to the president’s desk.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is nothing if not ambitious from a conservation standpoint: 670,000 acres of wilderness and 70,000 acres of lands released for other management, which may include a conservation focus. Ochenski seems to prefer the 1988 wilderness bill, which had more wilderness acres (1.4 million), but also released over 10 million acres—that’s right, 10 million. Fortunately for all of us the collaborative projects that make up the Tester bill have taken us beyond the crude tradeoffs that defined previous efforts. Back in ’88 all we talked about was what would or would not become wilderness. Today, we’re talking about what should be wilderness, but we’re also talking about how to create jobs through landscape scale restoration and working with our local timber mills to get work done in beetle killed lands, especially near communities.

Tester just introduced more than 20 changes to the bill based on feedback from many different people and groups (see “Logjam,” page 8 of this issue), including the Sierra Club, Wilderness Watch and the Montana Logging Association. He is not just listening, he’s acting on what he’s heard. And that’s exactly how each one of the projects in Tester’s bill got this far—by listening and making appropriate changes. Each of these projects was the subject of countless presentations and seemingly endless debate in the media.

When all the dust settles and a bill is finally signed, the reality is that we will have protected Rock Creek, the North Fork of the Blackfoot, the headwaters of the Clearwater, and the blue ribbon trout stream of Monture Creek, among many other places. We will have more work getting done on beetle-killed lands and more citizens involved in the design of those projects. And we’ll have Tester and Baucus to thank for it.

Zach Porter


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wild balance

Posted on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 3:31 PM

First of all, let me start by saying that I admire the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). They do wonderful things.

However, having said that, I feel that I need to address M. David Allen's recent letter about wild horses (see "Emotional baggage," Jan. 21, 2010).

I just don't understand, and perhaps you can help clarify a few things. I am not an expert on wild horses or elk, but with the limited knowledge I have on elk, I don't really see any direct conflict with the elk and wild horses. Why are you making this a priority to send this letter not only to the papers in Missoula, but also several others throughout the West? Does the RMEF stand to gain something from this? I hope this is not going to be another political manipulation of some sort.

I am wondering if you speak for the entire membership of the RMEF or if it is just your own personal opinion. I also wonder why? One of your statements says that wild things need wild places, but have to do with less because of the increase in humans. But I often read about RMEF working with private landowners to acquire more land for the wild animals. That seems a bit contrary to what you stated in your letter. I am hoping you are just simply misinformed and will take the time to do more research and expand your knowledge.

The Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 states that wild, free-roaming horses and burros will have approximately 52 million acres of land "which is devoted principally to their welfare." But that land has been arbitrarily reduced by approximately 36 percent, and 95 percent of the balance has been leased to cattle and sheep ranchers for livestock grazing. The horses and burros are outnumbered 150 to 1 by cattle and sheep on lands that are supposed to be "devoted principally to their welfare." Consequently, America's mustangs are in serious danger of extinction.

There are approximately 60,000 still-wild mustangs in existence, roughly the same number as in the early '70s. But 33,000 of that 60,000 have been gathered out of the wild and are in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities across the country. And those that remain in the wild are living below viable levels. Simply put, that means below the number that must be available for breeding to keep the horse from not being forced into incest for the species to attempt to survive.

How would you feel if suddenly the land that the elk live on was taken away? I understand balance, but in order to have balance it needs to be equal on all sides. Not just the side of one wild species.

Sandy Elmore


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