The Helena Independent Record publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are this week's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Fielder's column supports massive land grab
In Sen. Jennifer Fielder's recent guest column, she uses a variety of tactics from fearmongering (radical environmentalists, federal mismanagement) and a folksy appeal to "common sense" in an attempt to garner support for what could be the largest land grab in history.
Some of what she implies is simply wrong. The biggest threat to the forests comes from climate change, which fuels fires by increasing drought and the northward creep of invasive species, like bark beetles as the continent warms. The now discredited management technique of not allowing fires to burn naturally would have been no different under state management than federal, because the ecology was not understood at the time. Also, the people who do the hands-on management are already here in Montana, the feds merely set policy.
However, the key issue, and one that appears twice in her six-point list, is economics. She praises the income and "excess revenues" that will flow from the American Lands Council plan. If you stop and think, wouldn't having more land to manage cost the state rather than bring in income? Of course it would. The reason ALC is pushing the plan, is because that income they're drooling over comes from utilities, mining companies and oil and gas exploitation. That's why ALC is getting funding from the Koch brothers — definitely not Montanans — and other industry sources.
These corporate interests are willing to pay a certain amount in taxes (and political donations) in exchange for the profits they'll reap when the lands are no longer under federal control. In Utah, where Ken Ivory founded the ALC, a legislative study found that the state would incur huge new management expenses under the Transfer of Public Lands Act, including a 600 percent rise in firefighting costs. The ALC's response: sell to the logging companies to cover additional expense.
That's not management, that's simply moving public property into private hands. There's no question that management techniques can be improved, but the way to do so is not to give them over to business interests, but for state and federal experts to work together to create policies to benefit the people rather than corporations.
Border wall compromise proposal
Whether you are for the wall or not, we need a compromise.
I have heard that if all Americans gave $17, we could pay for the wall. Scott Sales of our Montana Senate wants to send $8 million of our tax dollars for the southern border. What about the Montana border? Great idea, but not fair to low- or middle-income. I feel it should be on a percentage.
Here is a way, and using no tax dollars. Even though I am not for a wall, I am for compromise.
Our household would donate $100 if the president would show his tax returns of the last 10 years. Then Americans can see how much he contributes to support our military and all the other departments that keep the U.S. running.
Also, all the wall supporters and president donate the (same percentage) amount of their gross income, assets and stocks. No write-offs, no depreciation. Corporations should also be added, as they pay lobbyists for their needs.
We need to stop this shutdown for the sake of our country and the employees who live paycheck to paycheck. Some of these people can weather the storm for a month, maybe six months, but they should not have to.
Elected officials take public health approach to Alzheimer's
I am pleased to share that the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act became federal law on Dec. 31, 2018. This underscores how Montana’s elected officials are working together to address Alzheimer’s as a public health crisis — not just from a funding standpoint, but also from a caregiver standpoint.
Truthfully, I struggle with intense fear of my own possible genetic susceptibility to this disease, having lost my uncle to rare young-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 53. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in Montana, there are 20,000 people living with Alzheimer’s and more than 49,000 caregivers. It is my honor to represent them in advocacy.
Therefore with deep respect and appreciation, I thank Gov. Bullock for co-authoring a Newsweek editorial in support of BOLD. I thank Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Sheila Hogan for personally asking our members of Congress to co-sponsor BOLD. I thank Rep. Gianforte and Sen. Tester for enthusiastically co-sponsoring BOLD, and I thank Sen. Daines for supporting its passage.
By applying a public health approach to reduce risk, detect early symptoms and advance care, Montana’s elected officials are helping to change the trajectory of this devastating disease.
Historical facts support private Hughes Creek Road
Bill Geer’s recent letter supporting a “road fine bill” to improve public access used as an example the Hughes Creek Road, claiming it has been “illegally gated for decades.” Too bad the few facts he provided in support of that statement are totally erroneous.
Geer, president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, likely knows this, but used these “facts” anyway because this is how special-interest groups spread their propaganda.
He claims “the fact that it is a county road is indisputable” and that, “Recently the Montana Supreme Court ruled that it’s a county road yet it remains illegally gated.”
The Montana Supreme Court did not rule that Hughes Creek Road was a county road. The Supreme Court merely upheld Judge Jeffrey Langton’s decision that he did not have jurisdiction to address the claims in our lawsuit for two technical, legal reasons.
Essentially, the Supreme Court said that if we wanted the District Court to review the county commission’s determination that Hughes Creek Road is public for miles beyond the gate that we had to file a different type of lawsuit. We did, and that was summarily dismissed by Judge Langton as well, only hours after we filed our response to the county’s argument. That decision is once again on appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
As a retired government biologist and long-time conservation advocate with leadership positions in numerous special interest groups, I suspect that Geer understands these distinctions and these facts. But they don’t suit his agenda, so he conveniently mischaracterizes the Supreme Court’s decision.
He and many others would like you to believe that the Supreme Court ruled that Hughes Creek Road is indisputably a county road along its entire length, and that it has been illegally gated for decades. However, the historical facts that we have uncovered dispute that conclusion.
Unfortunately, many of the historical documents we found that support our contention that the upper portion of Hughes Creek Road was always a private road were not found until after the county commission went well beyond its authority in determining what exactly constitutes the public, county road known as Hughes Creek Road. And now the county commission, their legal counsels in the county attorney’s office, and the district courts are claiming that we have no legal recourse to challenge their decision.
We — the private landowners beyond the gate on Hughes Creek Road — have been, and are being denied due process by Ravalli County and the District Court. This is not about providing access to public lands. It is about taking private property to serve the wishes and desires of government agencies and special interest groups.
If they can do it to us, they can do it to you.
Stupid is as stupid does
Scott Sales ... really? $8 million for the "wall."
Dumb idea, sir. Paul Pacini and Craig Baldridge in their recent letters to the editor outline the obvious reasons why your idea is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of Montana.
However, I would be willing to donate to a "wall" to be built around YOU so you can't come up with any more insane proposals.
Trump is like a grade-school brat
Trump is so smart, sometimes it is hard for normal humans to keep up.
Case in point: The Wall, the one Mexico is going to pay for.
If Mexico is going to pay, why ask Congress (us) for $5 billion? Why shut down government if you don't get your way? This is the action of a grade-school brat.
Years ago there was a book, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” Since Trump's “uh brain” is so huge, he obviously skipped that grade. He certainly didn't read the book or understand the concept. I can only hope you do.
Research finds positive impacts of Medicaid expansion
By saying "We're unaware of any research concerning this essential question" regarding Medicaid expansion, Burnett and Nachman imply in a recent opinion that they have done their homework -- but have they?
Do a Google search of the terms "study Medicaid expansion effectiveness." Not only are there numerous positive impacts of expansion in Oregon, including that it "nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures," you will also discover that researchers have found many positive outcomes following expansion in other states.
With respect to discrepancies in applications, the authors seem unaware that the enrollment process for Medicaid can be somewhat opaque. The authors don't mention that in the last budget cycle the Republican majority legislature cut over $95 million funding for DPHHS, which includes Medicaid support.
The Republicans continue to starve critical public programs in the hopes of convincing you that government can't do a good job. Throwing more mandates on participants and state support staff without commensurate resources is a calculated and cynical ploy.
Finally, Burnett and Nachman attempt to equate the recent vote on increasing the tobacco product tax with a voter rejection of Medicaid expansion. Perhaps they are unaware that Big Tobacco spent a whopping $17 million to defeat the measure.
Spend Montana's money in Montana
$8 million of Montana's budget for a border wall with Mexico?! Scott Sales can't be serious.
Last session he and his ilk nearly destroyed the state budget by seemingly purposely overestimating the amount available. Now he wants to send Trump money for a wall to build his ego?
The need for a wall is a fiction of Trump's distortions and flat out lies. Giving the President credibility on this indicates Scott Sales' lack of it.
Sen. Sales compares money for Montana early childhood education to the building of Trump's ego/wall? That is just unethical and unjustifiable. Montana deserves better from its leaders. Spend Montana taxpayer money in Montana for the benefit of its children, their future, and the future of Montana.
Paulette Dale Hutcheon
Instead of building a wall, erase the incentives
Having lived in a third world country for four years, I know the main reason most people want to come to America is for economic advantage (ie, food stamps, housing, health care, etc).
As Ron Paul recently stated, if we remove the welfare incentives, there will be no reason for immigrants to leave their homes and travel hundreds of dangerous miles to come to the U.S.
That is the real solution to not only the border crisis, but all immigration issues. Instead of building a wall for $5 billion, why not stop the $15 billion spent yearly on illegal welfare recipients?
Trump is terrorist threat to American democracy
Terrorism is a tactic Americans have long deemed abhorrent. We have gone to war against those threatening the welfare and lives of innocents to advance political power unable to be achieved legitimately.
President Trump and his GOP enablers are the latest terrorist threat to American democracy. By shutting down Homeland Security, Coast Guard, TSA and other government services essential to our security, the President and Senate are holding the safety and welfare of millions of innocents hostage.
Why? Because after two years of Republican control of the White House, House of Representatives and Senate, the President has no coherent or reality-based policy to advance. There has been no legitimate path to fulfill his fantasy of a big, beautiful wall with his name on it.
We desperately need to address many aspects of immigration and develop an agreement on what a coherent, comprehensive immigration policy is for America and our values. Border security goes far beyond immigration. Our ports, airports and many other vulnerable pathways need serious attention.
Continuing the shutdown of essential services that have no connection to the needed discussion and negotiations on both immigration and border security is a terrorist tactic. The fact that our own state senator, Scott Sales, is now asking Montanans help fund this terrorism with our tax dollars is repugnant. And Sen. Daines' silence is telling.
Daines needs to stand up to McConnell
I see Sen. Daines has offered to defer his own paycheck until the government is reopened. Very brave of a man who is a multi-millionaire.
If Daines really cared, he would stand up to Mitch McConnell. He would demand a vote on a budget resolution like the Senate passed overwhelmingly at the end of the previous Congress. He would get the government open.
Senator, now is no time for cowards.
Public lands are not a partisan issue
I was proud to be an attendee of the public lands rally on Friday, and to hear the speakers' views. However, I was slightly disappointed that it turned out to be a “vote Democrat” rally. If there is one platform that could have been used as a nonpartisan, unifying topic, I would have thought it would be this one. Unfortunately it was used as just another opportunity to attack the other side. That being said, I do look forward to becoming a member of Back Country Horsemen of America. But I do urge people to remember public lands are important for everyone! For all uses! Do not ostracize people or groups that support public lands simply because you think your way of using those lands is the only way those lands should be used.
Tell legislators to support renewables
Here we go again. NorthWestern Energy will send their hired four lobbyists with large entertaining budgets to the 2019 state Legislature to impede or obstruct any expansion of solar or wind electrical power. Last session they blocked four bills that would have raised the current cap on solar.
Now NWE is out to kill rooftop solar. They have filed a case with the Montana Public Service Commission to raise their monthly distribution fee (estimates of $600/year) for any new rooftop solar installations. NWE says current solar customers are not paying their fair share. The current fee is $60/year, so a tenfold increase.
Also, NWE is updating their plan for future electrical energy that will be released Friday in Helena. Their previous PSC-rejected proposed plan had natural gas (methane) plants being built for $1.3 billion and no new renewables.
So while NWE spends large advertising funds to represent their green side, their actions at the Legislature and PSC are typical of a large corporation. This dark side can make more money on natural gas plants, rather than wind or solar.
Over 80 percent of Montanans support the expansion of solar and wind electricity. Speak up by telling your legislators and Public Service commissioners.
Sending $8 million for wall would be ridiculous
The idea of sending $8 million to Washington, D.C. to help build the wall is ridiculous. Montana has too many needs to waste that kind of money. These same people are going to try not to fund programs for Montana's needy. Any member of the Legislature who wishes to is free to write a personal check.
Daines is a follower, not a leader
Steve Daines is climbing the political ladder by brown nosing with Donald Trump.
On Thursday, Sen. Daines repeated Trump’s story that we need a wall on the southern border to stop the smuggling of meth. That is incorrect; according the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, most drugs are smuggled across the border at ports of entry, not overland.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Tester asked for a vote on the Senate floor to end the government shutdown. Mitch McConnell refused to call for the vote, suddenly eager to discuss Israel. What did Daines do in that moment? Nothing. And that, I’m afraid, is all we can expect from Daines — nothing, unless it benefits him personally.
Trump is crippling our country's security
Isn't it ironic that Trump's boasting of protecting our border security would endanger the United States of America by crippling the entire security of our country?
His government shutdown has sent a message to other world powers that we are now at the most vulnerable and insoluble national situation since the Cuban missile crisis. His shutdown has also had a major impact on the FBI, border patrol, prisons, airports, TSA agents and Homeland Security.
His rhetoric has been biased only toward the immigrants at the border of Mexico. He is losing his dominance over the military with his outrageous actions.
Why is he not targeting the Canadian border? Because they do not speak and read Spanish; he considers them as equals to Americas citizens. It is blatant racism.
Now he hangs in the balance of saving the fate of our government employees, and the security of our country. His delusional decisions will take our country back into the dark ages, and our future inhabitants will suffer the consequences for centuries.