Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spears? Really?

Posted on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As reported in the Independent, Sen. Greg Hinkle wants to return Montana to the Stone Age by allowing spear hunting during general rifle season (see “Going primitive,” Jan. 20, 2011). When is enough enough? We’ve got bullets, arrows, and traps; we’ve got year-round, unlicensed recreational killing of many predator and “nongame” species in addition to regulated hunting and trapping seasons. As if there weren’t already enough methods and opportunities to kill animals in Montana!

And just why is a Treasure State legislator infatuated with Neanderthal blood sport? Hinkle, in his service to citizens of Montana, cited defensive end Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. Allen’s showy exploits are available online, where he spears an elk on an Illinois game farm. That’s right, a football player from Minnesota, spearing domesticated elk on an Illinois game farm is influencing legislation in Helena.

Sadly, the bill passed the Senate last Wednesday by a vote of 27-21 (two Republican senators were absent, and one lone Dem crossed over to vote with all the Republicans). Next up, the House.

Let’s consider suffering, something that 27 of our senators failed to do or simply dismissed. A poorly placed bullet can quickly be followed by another, but what about with a spear? I posed this question to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Is there research on injuries to animals from poorly thrown spears? Is there data from other states? Shouldn’t this be part of the discussion?

This answer came back from the FWP Law Enforcement Bureau: “When this bill was introduced, we sent out an inquiry through National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs regarding this issue. Of the 50 states, 35 responded, with all but one not allowing spears or atlatls for hunting big game. Many states did allow it for either small game or birds, however. The one state that did allow it for big game hunting (Alabama) had only one season behind them and had no information regarding wounding, etc. That is really the extent of the information available to us at this time.”

FWP is taking no position on SB 112, maintaining that it’s a “social issue” with no biology involved.

Is spear hunting actually about hunting—or really just about ego and killing?

Kathleen Stachowski


Read your heart out

Posted on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM

The Heart of the Monster, an exposé on ExxonMobil’s proposed heavy haul, written by David James Duncan, Rick Bass and a team of dedicated and concerned people, is like a horror story except that it is real and is about to happen if we don’t do something to stop it.

Everyone should read this book. What ExxonMobil is bulldozing through is monstrous and devastating (see “Crossroads,” Jan. 20, 2011). By allowing big oil to move their weight and greed through the Pacific Northwest and Montana to the Alberta tar sands, we will become accomplices in ruining the wild land and water we love and the quality of life and freedoms we currently enjoy. And all for a sickening addiction—oil. There are less destructive ways to go about this.

And just to clarify, this is not a right versus left political issue. The entire tiny town of Kooskia, Idaho, showed up at a recent meeting on the topic and every one of them—loggers, tree huggers, anglers, hunters, river guides, geeks, hippies, old farts—said “hell no” to big oil and sent the businessmen slithering out of town with their tails between their legs. There was very clear consensus.

My husband and I know very well how crucial healthy ecosystems are and how they contribute to healthy cultures. We have spent much of our adult life working in and advocating for wild places. We recently hunkered down in the wild woods of the Seeley Swan Valley to live a quiet life and do our art—we thought. After reading this book we see no other option than to stop this haul. Its ramifications are too far-reaching.

In my husband’s words, “If we go on and on about being proud to be Montanans and then let this haul happen, we are giving up our lives to multibillionaires who don’t give a rat’s ass about what or who we are.” We can’t let their sweet lies brainwash us. This is trouble. Please get the book, read it, and help.

Randi de Santa Anna

Seeley Lake

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quit coal

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Neither Montana nor the world needs more new coal (see “Coal coaxing,” Jan. 13, 2011). In difficult economic times, when political officials look for ways to garner votes, create jobs and balance budgets, they promise new coal as a quick fix, and they tend to believe lobbyists who say coal developers need tax and regulatory breaks. However, it is irresponsible to encourage these companies to mine here, because they destroy the environment and don’t restore the land to its original use.

During the Otter Creek coal hearings, the Land Board said state agencies will “protect us from bad coal development.” Hogwash. Because politicians gut the regulations and cut the funding, state agencies have neither the institutional and political will, nor the funds to “protect” Montana from industrial abuse. More than 37,000 acres have been disturbed by coal mining in Montana and only about 50 acres—only about a tenth of one percent—have come close to full reclamation. Ask folks around Colstrip about aquifers that have been ruined by leaking coal ash storage ponds, and ranches with dead cows and poisoned wells. You will hear from them that for the last 30 years, state agencies have simply protected industry.

Politicians and industry continue the hollow cry of “we need these jobs” to excuse misuse of our natural resources. Coal is a short-term industry that leaves us with polluted water and damaged landscapes. The money these companies make tearing up Montana goes to their shareholders, not to our local economy, and Montana is left with huge bills to fix the messes.

In contrast, farming and ranching, tourism and alternative energy all provide sustainable and reliable sources of jobs and financial security. However, they also depend on a clean and healthful Montana.

Tell your legislators and the governor not to gut our environmental laws. Ask them to protect Montana, not big coal!

Janet McMillan


Favoring Furshong

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a resident of Ward 2, I want to urge City Council to fill the vacant seat with Gabriel Furshong. Gabe is eloquent, hard working and, most importantly, he knows how to listen.

I have known Gabe for years as a friend and a colleague. We work together in the world of public lands advocacy and stewardship. For three years I’ve worked for the Montana Conservation Corps as a field coordinator and we’ve collaborated with Gabe’s employer, the Montana Wilderness Association, on a few occasions. On one of those occasions, Gabe delivered a presentation on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act to a knowledgeable and experienced group of field workers who had spent most of the summer working in places impacted by the bill. We had an audience of more than 20 people and Gabe was hammered with questions from folks with many different opinions. I was struck by how intently Gabe listened and tried to understand their individual points of view, even though he had no doubt heard these questions and concerns before at similar events. He then answered each question honestly, validating the questioner’s point of view before offering his own opinion.

Ward 2 is an incredibly diverse ward encompassing Grant Creek, North Reserve and the Westside. What we need is someone who is energized to talk with people, listen, understand different points of view and bring groups together. Gabe is a social person who has a track record of working with people of diverse ideologies to get something done. In a time of partisan divides and gridlock in national and state politics, Gabe will bring Missoula real collaboration and community unification.

Mike Schaedel


Spending cuts too deep

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

On day eight of the Montana Legislature, partisan politics resulted in drastic cuts to human services, education and state infrastructure. Over $30 million in health and human services, over $70 million in education funding—all gone with little public input, little consideration of lost federal funding, little consideration of the real human cost to Montana communities and families. Cuts to Medicaid alone could impact almost 3,000 jobs across Montana—nurses, doctors and other service providers. Cuts to preventative healthcare, such as family planning, foster care services, disability services and prescription drug coverage for seniors, will result in higher costs in other programs.

With so many legislators brand-new to this process, why would they enact cuts before even understanding the programs at stake, the cost of human lives and the effects on Montana’s economy? At a time when revenue is increasing, our economy is recovering, and our state has substantial “cash in the bank,” these drastic cuts make no sense. Legislators are entrusted with making critical decisions that affect our families, our communities and our collective future. The cuts are not only unnecessary, but expensive. Making a political point to the detriment of our children, our seniors and our disabled citizens is unconscionable.

Stacey Anderson

Planned Parenthood of Montana


Put down the gun, Gov.

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:00 AM

What is the governor doing holding a rifle in his office? (See “Schweitzer’s last stand,” Jan. 13, 2011.) Please tell me he is telling you a hunting story. No, no mention of that in the caption. Oh, I see clever play on your title “Schweitzer’s last stand.” No. That is a really offensive depiction and I am so sorry the governor took part in that representation. If Gov. Schweitzer requested this picture, I want to know.

In light of the shooting in Tucson, this is a horrible idea, no matter what your clever story line is. Even without the shooting of a member of Congress in her hometown last week, America has had too much violent rhetoric.

It would be nice to foster respect and model non-violent communication. There is a subliminal message in the photo: “It’s my way or the highway—or I’ll shoot you.” This is a really, really bad message.

Sarah Lane


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moral rectitude

Posted on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Is the global warming debate over? Definitely (see “Climate change is not real,” Jan. 6, 2011). Thank you political left/global warming believers for finally ascending to the moral high ground so long held, and in contempt, by the political right. I see now that there you are drinking mightily from the glass of moral rectitude. But beware: Too much of that intoxicating brew can cause a bad hangover of which history is rife with examples. Was it not moral rectitude that started the Crusades and the sacking of Constantinople? Was it not responsible for the burning of the witches at Salem? Was it not responsible for the prohibition of alcohol and drugs? Was it not responsible for the wholesale racism of people of color in America? And was it not moral rectitude responsible, in part, for driving a bullet through the brain of an Arizona congresswoman?

Now that you have moral rectitude, global warming believers, how long before you start pumping lead into global warming deniers? “Oh, but we would never do that, we’re too open minded.” If you believe that line obviously you believe the lines “I never had sex with that woman” and “This war is not about oil, it’s about weapons of mass destruction.”

“But we know we’re right and we’re certain of it!” That’s what all of the above said too and look what it has done to us.

John Marshall

Hot Springs

Backing Wolken

Posted on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a resident of Ward 2, I am writing to urge City Council members to vote for Cynthia Wolken for the Ward 2 vacancy on the council. I raised my family in Missoula and I have made it my home for over two decades. I first met Ms. Wolken when she agreed to represent me pro bono and help me with my housing needs. She is committed to affordable, quality housing in this city and was willing to do whatever it took to obtain this for my family and me. Ms. Wolken truly cares about Missoula and its residents. She is always looking for the best way to help people and improve lives. I have had the pleasure of volunteering with her on issues such as raising the minimum wage, providing health insurance for low-income children and helping curb predatory payday and title lending. Ms. Wolken conducts herself with integrity and is truly committed to the values of our ward and will be the best representative of our community.

Patricia Lawson


PSC politics

Posted on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Last week the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) elected its chair under the newly elected Republican majority. The elections took place amid rancor, divisive partisanship and discord within the Republican majority. Not only were the proceedings and the outcome of the election marred by the rancor, it also took the commission a day and a half to elect its new leadership. The new chair and vice chair are Bill Gallagher, a freshman, and Brad Molnar, a seasoned commissioner with a checkered history. Both are Republicans.

In his column last week titled “Out of Commission,” George Ochenski wonders why the two Democrats on the commission didn’t simply vote for newcomer Travis Kavulla, the other Republican freshman who supposedly transcended partisanship in his abstaining vote for Molnar. The answer is simple: inexperience. It is imprudent to elect as chair a brand new commissioner who has never participated in a utility hearing nor attended a single commission work session. We don’t elect freshmen legislators to be Speaker of the House—and with good reason—and we ought not to have elected a freshman to be the chair of the PSC. There is no precedent for such an outcome. In addition, the commission is known for its history of bipartisanship and decorum. In 1992, the Democratic majority on the commission elected a Republican to serve as chair. Why? The reason was simply because he was the most qualified candidate. In many instances, the commission has elected a chair from one party and a vice chair from the other, completely ignoring party politics and instead doing what is best for the thousands of utility and transportation customers served by the PSC.

Kavulla had another problem: He was at loggerheads with Molnar over several personal and professional issues, some of which were publicly laundered during the proceedings. Given the animosity between the two of them it became abundantly clear that neither would support the other for chair.

Molnar, the other Republican candidate for chair, can claim the most experience on the commission. Unfortunately, he can also claim the foulest mouth, the hottest temper and a questionable ethical compass. Molnar, who spiced the proceedings with a profanity-laden outburst and numerous derisive comments aimed at Kavulla, demonstrated repeatedly throughout the election process why he is not fit to be chair. In addition, his ongoing entanglement in an ethics violation (of which he has been found guilty) clearly disqualified him. In the end, all three Republicans were uniquely unqualified for the job. That is why I voted for none of them.

So, here we are. Republicans hold the majority and both leadership seats on the commission. Now it is up to them to lead. Let us hope that this inauspicious beginning is not a sign of things to come. The rate-paying citizens of Montana deserve a PSC dedicated to a fair, unbiased and ethical stewardship of energy policy, free of political wrangling. Buckle up. This could be one wild ride.

Gail Gutsche

Public Service Commissioner


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Salvage some fairness

Posted on Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 4:00 AM

I was interested to see that the demolition of the former St. Francis Xavier Grade School building made your photos of the year (see “2010: The Year in Photos,” Dec. 30, 2010). Thank you for pointing out how much board feet of lumber were recycled from that project. We made a conscious effort to recycle as much as possible.

But I am tired of the Independent continuing to spread misinformation about how much more could have been recycled. Neither our contractor nor the parish was consulted about this issue. So let me shed some light.

Fact: We recycled much more than the 35,000 board feet of lumber. Radiators, copper wiring, tubing, windows, etc. were also taken from the building and reused.

Fact: We offered our contracted recycler more board feet, but, because of safety issues, he said he would not let his crew work on that part of the building.

Fact: Because the gymnasium part of the building was in danger of pancaking out into Spruce Street, our contractor had to remove the center section of the building—where some beams and flooring would have been available for recycling—because of safety for his own crew.

Fact: We offered all the bricks to the same recycler, but he didn’t want them. So we hauled them to Home Resource, at our own cost.

Fact: When the financial offices building on the corner of Front and Pattee was demolished, not a mention of recycling appeared in the Independent that I recall. It was the old Florence Laundry building, a piece of Missoula history, designed by famed Missoula architect A.J. Gibson. Not a scrap of anything was recycled in that demolition.

Just a plea for equal and unbiased treatment of two similar situations. I still do not understand why St. Francis Xavier Parish continues to be singled out when all we have done is beautify the corner of Spruce and Orange streets and create a small green space to enhance the downtown area.

Fr. Rich Perry, S.J.


St. Francis Xavier Parish


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