Let us not be weeds
The standard complaint by opponents of wilderness study areas and national monuments is that people are “locked out,” a phrase that suggests the public has no access to its own property (“Opposition mounts to Sen. Daines’ Wilderness Study Area bill,” Feb. 6). This is not accurate. What “locked out” actually means is that people can’t build roads and drive vehicles across protected lands. Rather than a hindrance to public use, these restrictions allow wild landscapes to retain their special value for all of us. As a species, we have subdued every fraction of the earth where we can turn a profit. We should devote our best efforts to preserving the residue for future generations.
Roads and vehicles are necessities, but simple humility demands that we keep them away from the few spaces we have not yet appropriated, littered and exploited. Unlike cheatgrass, knapweed and spurge, which can only be what they are, we can choose to contain our presence and not be the weeds that devastate what’s left of nature.
Daines’ bad bill
I feel compelled to voice my concerns about Sen. Daines not listening to Montanans on public lands issues. Daines has said he will support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA). This act designates 80,000 acres of public land as protected wilderness. Yet, his condition in supporting the BCSA is that he will move his bill, S 2206, forward at the same time. S 2206, misleadingly titled “Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act,” strips the protection of five significant wilderness study areas, the equivalent of nearly 450,000 acres. Daines put his act forward without any opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinions. If S 2206 were to pass, wild lands that embody wilderness character will be made eligible for resource extraction and development. These targeted areas, currently protected as wilderness study areas, are the Sapphire, Blue Joint, Big Snowies, Middle Fork Judith and the West Pioneer Wilderness Study Areas. I ask that Sen. Daines withdraw his proposed bill and instead stand with the BCSA, a collaborative bill that Montanans are proud of.
Back in 1898, near the headwaters of the Missouri River in what is now Glacier National Park, my great grandfather found and drilled the first oil wells in Montana. He also found the school teacher in Altyn (who was 33 years younger), and on their windy mining claims on Swiftcurrent Creek, they raised 17 children. It was a hard life, but as my grandfather (#13) used to say, “It was a good place to get the stink blowed off ya.” Now fast forward 120 years and go down the Missouri River 1,000 miles to Standing Rock, N.D. Last winter, my daughter Jessy was hit by a rubber bullet there, while helping the Sioux protect the river from the oil giants. She was unhurt and the pipeline went through anyway, but it got me thinking about some things. Our family has made our living directly from Montana’s natural resources through forest products, logging, mining, ranching, trapping, hunting and guiding. Over the years, and through mistakes, we learned a few lessons — like you always give something back, and you don’t take too much too fast. This brings me to our current political leadership. Trump, Zinke, Pruitt, Gianforte and Daines all ride the same horse of unbridled capitalism and seem hellbent on turning our last natural resources into dollars ASAP. Gutting the EPA, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing endangered species recovery, canceling wilderness study areas, reducing national monument designation, lifting air and water regulations, ignoring climate change and dismissing scientific data and research are only a few deeds that make their agenda clear. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them. Their backgrounds are far from the land, and they measure wealth with money. They probably never heard a meadowlark sing, probably never saw the springtime up on the Great Divide. Maybe they never felt a kinship with this earth and don’t even know that it can be your friend and something to love. Still, you would think they would know that a healthy economy must be connected to a healthy environment. Are we really going to let America descend into a hog-wild frenzy of consumerism and resource exploitation and let corporate power and greed control our politics? Even now, we have not yet paid the true cost for the standard of living we enjoy. The true cost includes the price of the environmental degradation and health consequences that we are handing down to our children. Every real dollar in our economy begins with the raw resources from the earth and is then multiplied by the resources of the people. Our obvious challenge then is how to use the resources sustainably, while we sustain an economy, while we also sustain this wonderful circle of life around us — which actually sustains us. Are we smart enough to do it? Do we care enough to do it? My daughter thinks so, and that gives me hope.
Ripping the bowl
Skateboarding is not a crime. In response to “Tough choices,” (“Letters to the editor,” Feb. 8): How dare you compare skateboarding to smoking? To be a competitive skateboarder, one must be in the best, ultimate fitness shape. Benefit! To say the benefits are “low” compared to the down sides — are you real? Get off the couch, come out and meet the child, youth, professionals, the old man/woman still ripping the bowl. Skateboarding is not a crime.