Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big on Bennett

Posted on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Residents of the Rattlesnake, Seeley Lake and the rest of House District 92, I am pleased to write and urge your support of Bryce Bennett for state representative.

Bryce has deep roots in both Montana, coming from a family with generations of Montana history, and Missoula, as a graduate of Big Sky High School and the University of Montana. Furthermore, Bryce has worked at the legislature as staff for the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee; he has learned about the hurly-burly of a legislative session the only way someone can: by being there. Bryce will hit the ground running and I am confident he will be an especially effective freshman legislator. Finally, Bryce has been a community organizer for more than a decade. He knows what it is to work with people to ensure government responds to their needs and he’ll take that spirit of service with him to the legislature.

Beyond Bryce’s personal qualifications, I am proud to support Bryce as the Democratic nominee. The last several state legislatures have been narrowly divided. Good bills died on tie votes in the last session because of party-line splits, and in 2007, Republicans selected a divisive Speaker of the House, resulting in disorderly conduct that could have been avoided. Of all the votes the representative of House District 92 will cast during the legislative session, the vote for Speaker of the House may be the most critical. My vote for Bryce is a vote of confidence for the Democratic caucus and Democrats’ proven track record of fiscal responsibility and good governance of the state of Montana.

Thanks for casting your vote this November 2nd.

Jason Wiener

Ward 1 Councilman


Protest in perspective

Posted on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I couldn’t help but notice the letter to the editor in last week’s Independent calling on an “immature” group of politically active high schoolers (high schoolers!) to collectively apologize for their peaceful protest of an incendiary and, more to the point, fully grown individual (see “Defending Palin,” Sept. 23, 2010). Before I get into it, though, I have to dispute on two counts the notion that Sarah Palin lent “her support to a very worthy cause.” On the most charitable reading, Palin’s speaker’s fee—which, based on discovered retainers from past appearances, I’ll ballpark at $100,000—was paid for by a private donor, so yes, Teen Challenge stood to gain financial support from ticket sales. But that kind of money has a way of undermining the good-heartedness of Palin’s generosity. Furthermore, this “very worthy cause” is under investigation for reportedly abusing and exploiting the teens who are court-mandated to attend or face jail time.

That aside, I’d like to dissect the author’s critique of the particularly “abusive” statement: “Sarah Palin is more of an entertainer than a politician.” First of all, as a battle cry, this slogan seems reasonable to the point of impotence. I also have to correct the author’s correction that Palin is a “damn good” statesman. No. It is not a matter of opinion that she is not. Setting aside the fact that she is no longer a statesman at all, let’s review her record: She ran for governor, and won, on the singular platform that she was not Gov. Murkowski, who everyone in Alaska hated by 2006. She was forced upon the national arena as an unvetted and unsuccessful vice presidential candidate. She then failed to complete her first term as governor (for whatever the reasons you may believe she did this, being a good statesman should not be among them). Moreover, she declined to be interviewed by…anyone while she was in town. This does not a “damn good” public figure of any kind make.

The author found the protesting teens “scary.” What’s scary is that, despite all the above, Palin has apparently become the poster politician (yes, politician) for an era of gut-feeling politics and confused and contradictory anti-government sentiment. She calls for less government and lower taxes but she wants government control over women’s reproductive rights and same sex couples’ marriage rights, and she once did this all while using Alaskan taxpayer dollars to fly her family around the campaign trail. She wants Wall Street to be held accountable to Main Street but she wants no government oversight of financial institutions. When party politics required it, she cried foul at the very health care “death panels” she herself once supported (under a less divisive moniker). That these teenage protesters “were indoctrinated on just one side of an issue” is as presumptuous as it is irrelevant. There are not two equal and opposite views of every issue, and certainly not of Palin.

What is at issue is not a matter of genuinely held and critically considered differences in opinion. Her talking points are overtly irreconcilable. Her words do not have substance. And yet she remains ever visible and no less popular. That is scary.

Carl Tewksbury


Important story

Posted on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:00 AM

For the past six months I have been running on empty (see “Running on empty,” Sept. 9, 2010). In April, the 11th, I lost my wife of 35 years, Karen. When she was young she was infected with Hep C (HCV). She got over it and met me and we had 12 children together. We lived an interesting and adventurous life between Alaska and Panama. Last summer, Karen started having digestive troubles, and by Christmas ’09 she was real sick. After an MRI and other tests were done in Mexico we discovered she had cancer of the liver, cirrhosis, and it was so far along that she was not a candidate for a transplant or even chemotherapy. It was just too late. We had taught all our kids to read and write and thought we were educated ourselves, but we were not. Karen’s Hep infection at 17 was never understood. We did not realize it was HCV and what it could do to her in later life.

Thanks for writing about important issues. I wish we would have read an article like this just a few years ago. We lived in Alaska for almost 20 years, where I wrote two weekly columns for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and a monthly Sunday column for the Anchorage Daily. I wrote for about 15 years and know the value of good journalism. Keep up the good work. I will look forward to reading more.

Tom Williams

Anchorage, Alaska

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blame Wyoming

Posted on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 2:20 PM

I was thrilled to learn of Judge Molloy’s ruling to restore protection for the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

I applaud the judge, among others, for preserving the integrity of the ESA and holding true to the law of the land. After all, in an uncorrupt, democratic state, if citizens must follow the laws that government passes then surely government should follow those laws too. This enables the ESA to remain protected and the role of science, not emotion or politics, to be honored to the fullest in the decision making process. Thank you, Judge Molloy for doing your job.

For those of you looking to “blame” someone for sacrificing temporary state management of wolves, look no further than Wyoming. In the absence of a responsible state management plan guaranteeing acceptable wolf populations maintained into the future, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was left with two choices: To abide by the law and keep wolves on the endangered species list, or attempt to adopt a skewed interpretation of the law through a delisting process that removes only 2/3 of the population from the list—a bold and unsuccessful gamble. Northern Rocky Wolves were listed under the ESA as one population and need to be treated that way.

The burden now lies on our neighbors to the south to get their heads out of the sand and devise an acceptable management plan that allows the recovered wolves to be managed like all other critters and flourish in the Northern Rockies. >Stu Garney, Missoula

Drill carefully

Posted on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Kudos to the Independent and Alex Sakariassen for a very thoughtful and lucid insight on the dilemma we all face with regard to oil in Montana, and, of course, on this planet (see “Boom and gloom,” June 24, 2010). As a practicing landscape architect who works mostly on larger scale land planning and design issues, I was heartened to see such an in-depth review of the major issues we must all face. I sincerely hope that anyone making decisions relative to this non-renewable resource will read this article in order to more fully appreciate the gravity of our condition. I have had the good fortune of working with the Blackfeet Nation on some of their projects over the last decade, so I am well aware of the ups and downs that have confronted our First Nation neighbors to the north. I can, therefore, empathize with Grinnell Day Chief’s action of entering into the oil and gas leases that could conceivably bring more than $12 million to this cash-strapped tribe. This kind of income, if used and/or invested wisely, could substantially improve the living conditions for Montana’s largest tribe on a reservation suffering a 72 percent unemployment rate.

Without knowing the specific location of the 224,000 acres of oil leases, I can only speculate on the conditions that a prospective operator may confront at any given drill site. Fortunately, most of the eastern part of the reservation is composed of rolling hills, interspersed with meandering streams and pothole lakes; the more spectacular scenery exists along the western and southern edges of the reservation. While this may be a seemingly benign landscape, these features, nevertheless, offer their own challenges when it comes to the design and placement of any human-made facilities. They are still very sensitive landscapes with short growing seasons (61 days maximum) and brutal winters where any kind of scar will last for years, not to mention the damage that can be inflicted on sensitive habitats. I can only hope that the Blackfeet Nation staff and Tribal Council will carefully consider each and every individual lease to make absolutely certain that little or no damage to the surrounding landscape occurs; and that fully detailed contingency plans are in place in case of any accident.

It would behoove them, for example, to follow the kind of thought and decision process that Gloria Flora used, as discussed in Sakariassen’s article, when, as the Lewis & Clark National Forest supervisor, she issued the moratorium on all oil and gases leases along the Rocky Mountain Front in 1997. The year she spent mapping wildlife areas and sensitive habitats wasn’t just agency protocol, it was based on the training and education in landscape architecture she received from Pennsylvania State University. There she learned the process popularized by Ian McHarg, a landscape architect, professor and author of Design with Nature. In his book, McHarg described the technique that we as landscape architects have used for years—that of carefully mapping and analyzing any landscape, regardless of its setting or location, to determine the constraints and opportunities that that particular parcel may possess before any work is done. If the data gathered from such an exercise indicate no project should occur or that it should be substantially modified, then those findings should be followed. I hope the tribe will consider this approach to each and every lease.

Being somewhat familiar with the Rocky Mountain Front, I too share the concerns raised by Stoney Burk, the Choteau attorney, and many others regarding the preservation of the pristine lands bordering this impressive geologic feature. I firmly support, for example, the growing movement to protect these lands embodied in the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. I believe, however, if the leases are carefully administered it is possible for oil to be successfully extracted from the eastern lands of the Blackfeet Reservation. Unless and until we no longer need oil from the ground to power our economies, we will be confronted with the need for its extraction, whether from the Blackfeet Reservation or elsewhere.

Kent Watson, Missoula

Defending Palin

Posted on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 2:16 PM

Gov. Sarah Palin made a visit to Missoula to lend her support to a very worthy cause, Teen Challenge Montana, only to be met with insulting verbal abuse from immature protesters (see “etc.,” Sept. 16, 2010). Protesting is a natural and necessary part of our society; one of the reasons that all people have a voice in government. But verbal abuse is a sign of immaturity.

The protesters were members of the “Young Democrats Club” of a high school. Typically, they were indoctrinated on just one side of an issue. These are the future voters and possible leaders of Montana. Scary, isn’t it? They have already given Montana a black eye that will be remembered for years. For this, Gov. Palin deserves an apology from every one of those protesters.

I will focus on just one of the insulting statements used against the former governor: “Sarah Palin is more of an entertainer than a politician.” Correction: Sarah Palin is not a politician. She is a statesman, and a damn good one. There is a vast difference. Before it becomes too late, may the protesters eyes and ears become open before they are eligible to vote. The future of the state of Montana, as we know it, depends on it.

George E. Sexton, Sheperd

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Driven to metaphors

Posted on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Drivers learn very early on that we put the car into “D” to move forward and “R” to go in reverse. It’s a simple driving maneuver, but one that aptly describes our current economic situation. We need to move forward as better days are ahead. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that Montana cannot out perform the rest of the nation.

We got it right by being one of only two states in the entire nation to have a surplus, to be able to balance our budget. The next Legislature will do the same: We will live within our means without raising taxes. Montana does not have to borrow or bond, nor do we have to rob injured worker funds to pay our way as was done during the 2003 budget crunch.

Montana is lucky to have had good fiscal management at the helm over the past six years; we have one of the best business climates in the nation. We are first in business start up activity, third in business sales tax climate, fourth in most educated workforce, sixth in overall business tax climate as well as cost of labor, and eighth in best overall business climate and overall quality of life.

These are good achievements due not just to the entrepreneurial spirit of Montanans, but also to proper management that is not afraid to challenge every expense. But we must not rest on our laurels. There is much work ahead as our best days are before us. The next Legislature must be brave; the last messed up property tax reappraisals by not waiting until after the market slippage had finalized. Legislators must now again reappraise all valuations so that homeowners and small businesses get a fair shake due to any localized market slippage. Homeowners and small businesses should only be taxed on valuations that reflect the current market.

Cutting taxes, balancing our budget while keeping cash in the bank, and being smart about what services we fund is key to moving us forward toward number one in the nation. Montanans are a kind people and deserve no less than a full commitment from the next Legislature.

We need smart leaders representing Main Street Montanans: those who have a plan for improving our economy, business climate, creating jobs, and enhancing our savings. It’s pretty simple: We need more private sector growth that boosts an even grander middle class.

Our best days are ahead, and no one expects us to sit on our laurels. But we must remember what our dads taught us in our early days of driving: “D” is for forward, “R” is for reverse, and neutral gets us nowhere.

Rep. Mike Jopek


Fishing for facts

Posted on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I have to respond to the column titled “Deadly Choice” by George Ochenski in the Sept. 9, 2010, issue of the Independent.

He starts with a video of a plane wiping out everything in its path in a high mountain lake and calls it a disaster. He then coins the phrase “poison and plant” for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ (FWP) mission.

I was just like him in 2005 when I first heard about this project in the South Fork Flathead. I was livid about the use of poison and killing fish for no good reason. But instead of just griping I volunteered for the Region 1 FWP CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) to straighten out the project. Boy, information can change one’s perspective. What I found was 10 years of surveys, study and research, an environmental impact study, and very professional and conscientious biologists. I’m now a supporter.

Mr. Ochenski then accuses FWP of “playing God” by trying to fix what was broken by well-meaning but misguided fish plants 70 years ago. I say they’re just doing their job by removing the threat of hybrid fish, which are the same as dead fish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Westslope cutthroat are now found in less than 10 percent of their historic range and the South Fork is half of that so it has to stay pure. But it’s not just about ESA—I hear FWP talk about cutthroat as part of our natural heritage and they’ve been working on native fish recovery for more than 40 years. What would it say about us as Montanans if we let our state fish get listed under our watch?

In fall 2007 Black and Blackfoot lakes were treated, and in summer 2008 the lakes were replanted with pure strain westslope cutthroat trout. I wanted to see for myself, so in July 2009 I asked to go with Matt Boyer and Linda Fried on a post-treatment survey of Blackfoot Lake. Being partially disabled it was a struggle to keep up with long-legged Matt. But if I can do it, Ochenski can—and he should before he starts condemning the program and FWP. All I can say is, it was way more than I had hoped for.


I saw both frogs and tadpoles, and watched Linda sample an amazing number and variety of aquatic bugs. I then proceeded to catch a batch of westslope cutthroat—a couple of 8–10 inchers, then a 12 incher, and finally a beautiful 16-inch pure westslope cutthroat. I can’t put into the words how much it means that my grandkids will get the same chance.

T. Anderson


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Unspoken rule

Posted on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Though I never met Chris Spurgeon and do not know his crew I felt compelled to sit down and immediately pen a letter of support for Colin Chisholm and his ski partners. In addition, props to Alex Sakariassen for having the balls to write the article “A call for help” (see cover story, Aug. 26, 2010).

Criticizing a volunteer organization (emphasis on the “organization,” not the volunteers) is an inherently delicate task, but in this case it had to be done. The Search and Rescue (SAR) here is for finding lost hikers and elk hunters, period. Chisholm is spot-on when stating that most skiers and climbers want their friends called instead of SAR. It’s an unspoken rule in Missoula.

Senior Sheriff’s Deputy Bob Purcell’s statement that, “People are going farther back these days and getting themselves into worse situations than they used to because they can” misses the point. Sure gear is better and lighter but most people deep in the alpine are there because they have spent a lifetime learning how to be there. Throwing tags like “extreme” onto what skiers and climbers do is just a copout. Something ceases to be extreme when it becomes common. There is a large community of skilled backcountry users in western Montana. This community is just going to get larger. We need a SAR department (perhaps a separate unit) that knows what alpine climbers have known for 35 years. Light is right and speed is safety. If a grassroots group of people fills that need then SAR needs to work with them, not against.

Andrew Hoye


Out of context

Posted on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I feel it necessary to write a letter that better explains my perspective relating to the article written in the Independent, in which I’m quoted.

First of all, the comments that I was quoted as saying were part of an hour conversation and were absolutely written out of context in many regards. I was part of the Chris Spurgeon search but had no interaction with any member of Missoula County Search and Rescue (SAR) during that incident. I have talked to those that have, but have none other than third-person opinions.

I believe that (and stated so to the Independent reporter) Missoula County SAR members are capable, competent and selflessly motivated individuals that volunteer their time to help in the rescue and recovery of people that have “taken a wrong turn” on their adventure. In what I can only assume is the highest percentage of the rescues that SAR is involved with, the lost hiker or hunter, boater or camper is lucky to have such willing and capable folks out looking to help them “find their way” back to safety. I feel (and again, stated several times during my “interview”) that I can do nothing but applaud the willingness of those folks involved in SAR to get up in the dark of night to hike into the mountains, sometimes in the rain, to find some outdoor enthusiast who has been injured or lost. Most of us are far from willing to do such a thing and we, as a community, are extremely lucky to have folks like them among us.

My comments were only related to a very particular type of accident and my sentiment was less about a lack of confidence in their service and more about being self-reliant or reliant on the partners that you have chosen to “tie in with” while doing an activity that involves a known objective hazard. Although it is my opinion that the most qualified people to help me or my partners in tricky terrain are those of us that have years of experience to draw from while participating in our chosen activities, I mostly wanted to make the point that no one in that community expects our county’s SAR team to feel it necessary to risk, or even train to risk, while attempting a rescue in steep and/or dangerous terrain. If a friend fell high on a mixed ice and rock route in Glacier National Park, we all have an unspoken protocol that centers around self-reliance and involves only those we know and trust can possibly help in such a technical and hazardous position. This is because we are aware of the desire to not create more victims and the time it takes to coordinate so that none of the individuals on Missoula’s SAR team are put in harm’s way for us. Does that make sense? This is and has been my opinion, feeling of responsibility and life philosophy when flying or climbing in the mountains but was in no way intended to show any disrespect or lack of appreciation for the volunteers of the Missoula County SAR team.

When I was quoted as saying that “I don’t have any confidence in the level of experience and/or skill of Missoula County SAR,” it was strictly in relation to scenarios involving an experienced athlete(s) having an accident, deep in “tiger country” involving a high degree of technical skill to get to, not as a general statement relating to most of what they do so well.

The sarcastic and derogatory comment involving compasses and handheld flashlights was an “off the record” comment relating to an experience that I had with a SAR team over 15 years ago and had no relation to anybody on the Missoula SAR team or Chris Spurgeon’s recovery effort. I feel the reporter must have stuck that one in to fulfill some need for the controversial feel he was after for the article.

Again, I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the countless folks who are willing to do what most people are not. Our community shouldn’t have a lack of confidence in our county’s SAR team but, more to the point, our community (me included) should continue to try to make decisions that don’t allow for strangers to risk their own comfort and safety to rescue any of us.

Jeff Shapiro


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