Letters to the Editor

Singing Wilderness Quotes

It was neat to read quotes from The Singing Wilderness in the  May issue (See Wilderness, by David S. Lewis).  That's a favorite book of mine, too.  For me, its highlight chapters are Farewell to Saganaga and The Loons of Lac la Croix, describing aspects of places I've been.

I know the Lac la Croix country especially well, having been in there on probably a third of my 30 canoe trips in the Quetico-Superior, which started in 1973. And probably again this September.

Iron Lake, essentially adjacent to Lac la Croix, is the most beautiful of all, its foci being Curtain Falls (handling the inflow from Crooked Lake to the east) and Rebecca Falls, flowing north from Iron Lake into McAree Lake in the Quetico.

Here's a paragraph from another Olson book, Open Horizons, a description from a canoe trip when the canoe country was in danger of inundation from power dams’ moneyed interests that intended to build there (and were fortunately stopped from doing, largely due to the efforts of Olson and his allies):
My next camp was another I cherished, a great rock overlooking a broad expanse toward the west. This was often my first stop heading out with a canoe party, and the last when I returned. The islands lay like black silhouettes against the glow of sunset, the dusk was alive with the calling of loons. That night it seemed incredible that anyone would want to transform such a scene into kilowatts and profit, and I knew in my heart that nothing was more important than saving it. Man needed beauty more than power, solitude more than dividends.

I use here the term "moneyed interests," but I'm really more ambivalent. As was noted in your piece and as I think Olson would have agreed, we can't leave everything alone, we're not going to live as nomadic hunters and gatherers.  (Would today's American Indians for example, really want to return to the living conditions of their ancestors who dominated the continent before the Europeans came?)

Paul Nachman

Commissioners’ Hatchet Man

The Livingston Enterprise’s well-researched article (April 10) about the Park County economic development director quagmire makes the statement by the Commissioners that “they expressed concerns Fletcher’s relationship with the historical community could impede his ability to administer parks and recreation efforts.” Again an example of two Commissioners “throwing an employee under the bus.”

What caused the “relationship with the historical community” was that a project (YRRE) was in place with the properly followed legal process since 2006. This project went through the public meeting process, a civil attorney review, and involved a presentation about the concept and process at a Montana Association of Counties meeting.

As part of the abandonment of  one of the earliest roads in Park County, the developer agreed to funding of other historic projects in Park County. Such as, a portion of the Old Yellowstone Trail, but more specifically, the much needed work at the Chico, Emigrant, and other cemeteries in the valley between the Pop Stand and Gardiner.

Apparently, for grudge purposes and lack of comprehension (Why do we need to know where dead people are buried?, one of the Commissioners asked), the original well-thought out plan and design put in place by the prior administration was axed by two of the Commissioners. Specifically, rewriting the original resolution, changing the goals of the project, insulting; the Park County Historian, the Park County Genealogy Society and members of the public with ancestors in these cemeteries. And diverting a large portion of the formerly set-aside budget to another account. This was done at the request of two of the Commissioners, both directing and using the eco-nomic development director as the hatchet man.

Let’s flush the toilet from the right end. It was Commissioner’s actions that created the “concerns with Fletcher’s relationship with the historical community” and brought the project that began some seven years ago to a standstill.

Larry Lahren
East of Livingston, MT

Tax the Rich

Something to ponder—there they go, they are at it again. Someone is again saying, Tax the rich, tax the rich! In answer another someone says, No don't tax the rich, don't tax the rich!  In response the Rich shovels even more money to someone. The Rich must know something we don't. Ponder that.

Enno Hartman
Corvallis, MT

PSC District 3 Needs

Full-Time Commissioner

Recent activity by Public Service Commission candidates has shown that Butte and Anaconda are shaping up to be crucial in deciding who gets elected, as it should be. I need to set the record straight however. In his full page color ad in the Montana Standard, Mr. Vincent stated that he is the only Democratic candidate who lives and works fulltime in District 3. I know that is in reference to me because I am the only other Democratic candidate in District 3. The statement is a bit loose with the facts and it is totally false. I have lived in Anaconda for the past 27 years. I recently retired in January from Montana FWP where I ran the trout hatcher and packed native trout into some of the most pristine mountain lakes in the state. I remain a resident and continue to serve the community as Chairman of the Anaconda Deer Lodge County Commission. I am proud to call Anaconda home and of my Butte Irish Catholic, Democratic heritage.

While Mr. Vincent touts his leadership on the PSC, his tenure on this commission has been just the opposite. It has been a very dysfunctional and partisan board, and the citizens of Montana deserve better. Mr. Vincent has been unable to work from the PSC office in Helena while only attending 60 percent of the meetings when votes are taken. Leadership requires one to be on the job interacting with staff and working with other commissioners regardless of party on a daily basis. As a county commissioner I have called John several times, he has no answering machine at his listed PSC number. I called his Gallatin Gateway home phone, left a message, and he never returned my calls. He is out of the office and unavailable.

Issues facing the PSC are too great and pressing for this lack of commitment. We have corporations in Montana who rely on consistent uninterrupted electricity. The Columbia Falls Aluminum plant is a prime example; too many good jobs are lost because of expensive and unreliable electricity. Our mines in Butte and Whitehall and REC Silicon are large consumers of electricity and could face similar fates if we do not plan for the future and learn from the past. It was not too long ago when high utility rates were going to force MRI to bring in diesel locomotives to generate electricity to keep the mines operating. We need safe, reliable, always-on energy supplies to run these kinds of operations that provide great paying jobs and keep our economy running.

Wind energy, in and of itself, is not up to the task.  While it is an important source of renewable energy, it is unreliable (fortunately, the wind doesn't always blow). Montana is energy rich and diverse and all sources need to be developed including natural gas, hydroelectric, coal, geothermal, biomass and wind. We can be leaders in the nation in energy production. Montana has some of the nations largest coal and natural gas reserves, these need to be further developed. We can reduce coal power plant emissions by adding scrubbers, which provide union jobs for pipe fitters, boilermakers, iron workers and other trades. Coal- strip 3 & 4 generating plants currently meet EPA clean air standards while providing constant electricity at the flip of a switch.

The best way to keep Montanans working, energy prices affordable and reliable, is to develop all sources so we have a surplus. We need to invest in infrastructure that generates, transmits electricity safely and is available when we need it. How do we do this and keep utility prices affordable for the consumer? That is the task of the Public Service Commission, and it is a full time job.

Mark Sweeney
PSC Democratic Candidate
Anaconda, MT

Finance Office Problem

What an interesting fandango regarding the Rural Fire mill levy as reported in the Livingston Enterprise. The butt-covering, buck-passing rhetoric: "when it was realized Rural Fire's mill levy might have been miscalculated...and...we wanted to err on the side of conservatism...Commissioner refers all questions to the Finance Office."

In this case, the Finance Office is the problem. When the questions arose, the Finance Director should have advised the commissioners (the buck starts and stops with them), rather than, without authorization from the commissioners, asked the advice of the county attorney (the commissioners do this). 

Rural 1 should have been advised and a public meeting scheduled. Sure looks like a Finance Office "set-up" of Rural 1, the commissioners and the county attorney.

Perhaps we need a $4,000 study of the Finance Office, like the Road Department (noting that the previous administration fired the Finance Director) to tell us what we already know.

Larry Lahren
East of Livingston, MT

Farm Kid Rules Nixed

News that’s the Labor Department has withdrawn the proposed rules that would have prevented many young people from working in agriculture was met with great enthusiasm by farmers and ranchers across the country. We’re thrilled the Obama Administration, and especially the Labor Department, listened to the thousands of farmers and ranchers who spoke up for kids in agriculture. “We heartily thank Congressman Denny Rehberg, along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), for their tireless efforts to defeat this ridiculous rule that could have ruined the family farm. The amount of response showed by the agriculture community was amazing”.

I grew up working on our family ranch, and now my son and grandkids are involved, doing everything from riding to fencing to branding and feeding. Farm and ranch families, along with 4-H and FFA programs, across the country know there’s no better way to teach kids responsibility and skills.
What I find most impressive was how a grassroots effort came together and voiced their opposition. It’s rewarding to know that the voices of the people who produce our food and fiber were heard.

We look forward to working with the Departments of Agriculture and Labor and rural stakeholders to develop a program to promote safer agricultural working practices.

Bob Hanson, MFBF President
White Sulphur Springs, MT 

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