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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

Directing energy in a positive way

by John W. Robinson, Corvallis

Webster’s College Dictionary defines energy: 1. the capacity for vigorous activity; available power. 5. the ability to act, lead others, or effect things forcefully.

The two definitions are sufficient to identify the energies of the splinter power groups in Ravalli County that are involved in politics, zoning, education, forest management and other assorted areas of concern about conditions in the county. Each group attempts to forcefully bring to the political powers the position they would like upheld. Often they are at odds with another splinter power and the two powers get into a catfight. Nothing gets done.

Not being involved with any of the splinter groups one is able to sit back and examine their positions. Most often their position has some merit, and might be considered for some action. The problem generally arises because the moderate action that might be taken is not one hundred percent in line with what the group desires.

Let’s take zoning for a start. We have zoning regulations in place. A lot of people feel they are not definitive enough, they want zoning to be a little stricter. Another group doesn’t want any zoning, even the limited regulations that are in place. These two groups get into it once in awhile, but I don’t think the clear heads in either group ever sit down to talk in a responsible manner with each other. If they would, they might come to some sensible understanding of each other’s position. An equitable compromise might be reached. It would not be the extreme position the groups were advocating, but then moderation solves more problems than extremism does.

We currently have zoning rules and regulations. When anyone submits a proposal for a subdivision it involves zoning. They must have knowledge of these regulations. If they didn’t know the rules and regulations they would not be appearing before the deciding bodies requesting variances. I observed in the paper the other day where the commissioners were evenly divided on whether to grant a variance, and so the matter still hangs in limbo.

Baseball used to be our national pastime and it provided a good basis for the way we handle life’s problems. The game had umpires and the umpires had rules that they governed the game by. The umpires made their decisions by the rules of the game. There were no appeals for any variances because none were ever granted after the umpire had made his call. The commissioners should take a leaf from the umpires playbook. All of their decisions should be based on the zoning rules. There should be no variances. It would simplify the lives of the commissioners and the persons looking for a variance. There simply would be none. If you are going to subdivide you have to obey all the rules, no variances.

Why don’t we take a look at one of the real beauties of the valley, our forests. You don’t have to be a student of forestry to know if you let the forests grow they will not be beautiful forever. They are bound to cause problems. If you have lived in the Bitterroot Valley the past ten years you know this is so. Unattended forests eventually create fire dangers, and if man doesn’t light them, Mother Nature will start the fires with Thor’s thunderbolts.

In the last few years we have had thousands and thousands of acres of forest burned up in our beloved Bitterroot Valley. Trees are a crop that may be harvested for the use of mankind. Trees grow in many areas of this country and each area is different. In the Pacific Northwest trees can be harvested every forty to fifty years. In the Atlantic Southeast trees can be planted and harvested every twenty-five to thirty-five years. In Montana, because of our arid conditions, trees can be harvested every eighty to one hundred years. It doesn’t take rocket science intelligence to realize these areas have to be managed differently.

Anyone driving the length of the valley in the winter has only to glance now and then at the west side mountains to observe the white snow areas covering thousands and thousands of acres of burned, wasted timber. A valuable product for lack of reasonable management has been totally destroyed. It is not so bad in the summer time because the brush grows up and gives the appearance of fertile green. In the winter time the snow shows you the absence of maturing trees.

Will the burned area be timbered again? Certainly, but we won’t have stately mature trees for fifty, sixty years or longer depending on our weather. If the Forest Service and the tree huggers could get together and compromise forest management toward the center, we would have our beautiful forest. Many jobs would be created for people to manage the growth and minimize the danger of destruction by fire. Wood products could again be an economic force in our community.

After every burn, trees come back, but in our area you probably won’t live long enough to see the mature forest waiting to be harvested. There was a forty-acre clearcut made up Willow Creek about fifty years ago. The Forest Service went in and planted trees in the clearcut area. Most of the comments were that it would never work, the wildlife would eat the trees. If you care to drive up there today you will see the most beautiful forty acres of timber trees in the valley. It is a living example of management keeping the forest beautiful. In another thirty years big timber may be selectively harvested on those forty acres, and we will still have a beautiful forest.

It is time to move off of extreme positions and use our energies to get down to solving our problems, because they won’t get solved unless we do.

Letters to the Editor

Stevensville Boys State Delegation recognized

Dear Editor,

American Legion Fort Owen Post #94 would like to recognize the exceptional young men who will represent Stevensville at Montana Boys State and we would like to thank the organizations and businesses that are assisting with financial support.

Ryan Kutter, Rusty Slaughter, and Hunter Tom have been selected to attend Montana Boys State 2008 in Helena during the week of June 8-13. Boys State is a national program sponsored by the American Legion. During the week, the boys learn about the functions of government and elect representatives to the government offices. As candidates, they develop and implement an election campaign. Once elected, they carry out the duties of the office including selection of appointees. Throughout the week, the boys receive hands-on experience in the operation of government and politics.

Boys State could not take place without the financial support of local organizations and businesses. The following have contributed generously: Viet Nam Veterans of America, Chapter 938, Hamilton; Rocky Mountain Bank, Stevensville; Stevensville Civic Club; Western States Insurance; and Fort Owen Post #94 Youth Trust Fund.  We thank them for their support of our future leaders.

Russell Vogel, Commander
American Legion Fort Owen Post #94

Protect Lost Horse Canyon

Dear Editor,

I have been a rock climber and mountaineer for 33 years. I've climbed all over the world but find many of the best crags right here in the U.S. Lost Horse Canyon is a valuable recreational site for climbers and others. Further industrialization and therefore degradation of the canyon for financial gain/savings is counter-productive to the high and long-term recreational value in the canyon. I am against further mining in the canyon!  There are many other sources of rock available that do not conflict with high use, high value recreation. I am not against resource extraction, but I am against it when it conflicts with a high use, high value area. Please recognize the recreational use of the canyon as a valuable commodity! Thank you!

Steve Tex Teixeira

Thanks from Pantry Partners

Dear Editor,

On behalf of Pantry Partners we would like to thank evelyone who participated in the Post Office food drive.

Thanks to the generosity of folks in Stevensville, Florence, and Victor we were able to add 3,501 pounds of food to the food bank. Stevensville contributed 2,442 pounds, Florence 780 pounds and Victor 279 pounds.

We appreciate the support from our communities very much.

Kathy Belke, President
Pantry Partners Food Bank

Developers should pay

Dear Editor,

In order to support the statements I am about to make I will first outline my background.

I have been employed in road construction for nearly 35 years. I also have lived on the 8-Mile Road for the past nine years as a homeowner. I have two children who attend Florence/Carlton School.

In the nine years on 8-Mile Road I have never seen it in such disrepair and it is not from lack of maintenance on the part of the County. The County repair crew has been patching 8-Mile Road more times than I care to count in the last year. And at taxpayer expense. Coincidently, I have seen more dump truck and belly dump truck traffic in the last year on the 8-Mile Road than I’ve seen in nine years. The number of dump trucks and belly dumps traveling 8-Mile is far greater than the number of log trucks that ever used the road while Plum Creek was logging the area above 8-Mile. The road never suffered the breakage it is experiencing currently. It is not my opinion, but a fact based on my background, that the recent use of the 8-Mile Road by the loaded dump trucks is solely the cause of the disrepair. By following several of the trucks I discovered they all went to the same site, the proposed subdivision, supplying material to construct roads within the subdivision. Now enough is enough. We will not stand by idly and allow our tax dollars be spent to cover the expense of repair to our property which was blatantly damaged by private developers. They must be held accountable for the consequences of their actions, whether past, present or future. And those that play into the developers hand must also be held accountable. The developer, their agents and the elected officials which pledge to this exuberant waste of tax moneys and blatant denial of necessary infrastructure do not belong in our community and are not welcome here. This was made clear when we defeated Town Pump, the largest company in Montana, at their proposal to place another casino in Florence.

For once let us take this opportunity to do this right and address all the issues this and all proposed subdivisions present, including, but not limited to the infrastructure requirements, the effect on the community as a whole, the effect on safety, the effect on education, the effect on the quality of life now enjoyed by the present residences. And place the cost of rectifying any ill effects onto the developer.

After all, it is their development.

Tim Vacca

Looking out for my interests?

Dear Editor,

When I read the Ravalli Electric Co-op (REC) ad in the paper, I knew I had to respond. It stated “The Good Guys in the White Trucks” and “Climate Change ---Our mission is to look out for your interests.” I’m sure the employees at REC are good ‘guys.’ Now onto your mission of helping out your customers and our planet with climate change. I am off the grid (not hooked up to REC, 15 years ago by necessity and now by choice). Several times I have explored the option of bringing in power. Last year, I would have loved not having to reinvest in a new battery bank to store the solar energy and would have loved to have hooked up to REC source of energy. I continue to learn that buying back my power is not economically feasible at this time, for this customer, potential member of the co-op. The way it is set up it is of benefit to REC more than the members. REC will zero out each month or ‘true up’ as they call it. Other states ‘true up’ or zero out on December 31st for the whole year! So if I created more solar energy than I’d used, once a year it would go back to zero or start over, in some of these other states. If you are looking out for my interests and concerned about climate change, making it a better ‘deal’ for your solar customers would be an excellent place to start. Then more folks might invest in solar energy.

Suzanna McDougal

Global warming theory no longer has broad consensus

Dear Editor,

I know we make our personal decisions based on information that we assimilate from the sources we respect. However, in the case of human-caused, global warming, more scientists are now speaking out against the commonly-held theory, and the so-called “consensus” is crumbling. In particular, 400 international scientists were listed in the 2007 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, debunking the “consensus” on man-made global warming. More recently, the Global Warming Petition Project has received signatures from over 30,000 scientists, including 9,000 with PhD’s. Their premise is supported by a past President of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Frederick Seitz. Their petition states that there is no convincing scientific evidence that carbon dioxide, or any other greenhouse gases, cause global temperature increases, and further, that carbon dioxide from humans has positive effects on the planet’s plants and animals!

In my most recent environmental article, “An Inconvenient Fib,” I state that the climate of Earth has been in a global-warming trend for 18,000 years, when global surface temperatures have increased about 16° F and sea levels have risen about 300 feet. Furthermore, interpretative data from 400,000 years of Vostok ice cores shows that increases in temperature preceded increases in carbon dioxide by 400 to 4,000 years! In addition, the warmest period of the last 1,000 years was during the Medieval Warm Period, when Greenland was actually green and being farmed by the Vikings.

Most alarming is the observation by climatologists that gradual increases in global surface temperatures, occurring from the late 1970’s to 1997, actually declined in 1998 and have remained fairly steady until 2007, when they declined 0.6 ºC further. If our temperatures continue to decline, an ice age could be in our children’s future, which would not be a good thing for life as we know it. So, let’s enjoy the warming, while we still have it, or in Montana, when we do have it!

Ron Pifer, Ecologist
Environmental Solutions

People should vote on zoning

Dear Editor,

I am appalled that three of our newest elected commissioners have decided that the people who live in Ravalli County should not vote for countrywide zoning. How un-American and arrogant for our elected officials to decide that the people cannot vote on an issue so critical to all of us living here. Their decision also strengthens the perception that those three commissioners are managed by special interest groups who oppose any type of development in this county, and that these commissioners do not represent the majority of people who live here in Ravalli County.

It is also worth mentioning to all who read this, and who can pass on to as many people as possible, that these same commissioners voted against the $600,000 for 8-mile road improvement developers were offering to construct 8-mile road to county standard. That offer by developers would have saved the county a considerable amount of money to improve 8-mile road. However, since the special interest groups that oppose any kind of development were not for that road improvement by developers, certain commissioners voted against it. This is one clear cut distinction where back-door politics makes no economic sense and actually hurts the taxpayers of Ravalli County.

Though the three commissioners voted that we cannot vote on countywide zoning, we have the opportunity and obligation to collect signatures and force this to be placed on the ballot in November. Please seriously consider adding your name to the petition to allow countywide zoning to be voted on by the people in this valley. Let's have the majority speak and show these commissioners that we will not go silently into the night.

But wait, there's more, and property owners beware, your pockets are going to be picked soon. We will see more lawsuits against the county, especially by developers, as it appears the county is not working in good faith with landowners. What all property owners must know, is that if Ravalli County loses a judgment in a lawsuit, the county's insurance only pays for defense fees in excess of $10,000. If the judgment requires the county to pay a monetary/damage award, your property taxes will rise almost immediately, as the county does not have millions of dollars in its budget to pay lawsuit awards. The court only decides a monetary judgment when the court rules that decisions by the county have illegally or unfairly impacted those who filed the lawsuit, and that those county decisions cost the claimant money that they should recover. All should remember that your property taxes are about the only way the county can collect money to pay for lawsuit judgments.

So not only are we facing $4.00 per gallon gasoline, and $4+ for diesel because both our political parties over the last 40 years refused to produce an energy self-sufficiency plan they actually would execute, along with rising grocery and other staple goods costs because fuel for truckers has dramatically increased, but we may also face rising property taxes because some of our commissioners are risking lawsuits to the county by making some very bad decisions.  

I urge all to vote, to become a bit more active in our government process by writing to our commissioners and letting them know your desires. Please participate, by at least voting, which is such a crucial right to each of us in this country. Stop letting vocal minorities dominate our government process, write to your commissioners and tell them what you want, and remind them they are serving you, and everyone else in this county, not just special interest groups.

Every citizen in Ravalli County should be absolutely angry that some commissioners have decided that we cannot vote for countywide zoning.  How incredibly un-American can you get? Remember them when you go to the voting booth, or send in your absentee ballot. Remember who they seem to be representing (and it's not the majority), and vote accordingly.

Gary Zebrowski

Erickson deceiving Republican Party

Dear Editor,

First, let it be made clear that Dallas Erickson’s opinion is no more credible or representative of the Republican Party politics than it is of their solution to pornography.  

I have been personally acquainted with Erickson for over 20 years but only recently became acutely aware how skewed his thinking is.  His latest attempt at smearing the great statesman Ron Paul published in the May 28th Missoulian may prove his complete repudiation. Let’s compare his record with that of 10-term Congressman Ron Paul. Paul has an impeccable record as a champion of the Constitution and reputation as the most honest man in Washington. Mr. Erickson on the other hand: Court records reveal that on Oct 5, 1976, case #13263, the Sheriff fired him as a Deputy in Libby, Mt. for willful disobedience of a written order to turn over “any criminal files or cases that you are presently working, or involved with…” Subsequently he went to work for UPS where he was also fired. (Would you rely on his judgment of Ron Paul?)

In addition, Erickson supported presidential candidate Mitt Romney who was on the board of directors for the Marriot Hotel chain, one of the largest purveyors of porn in the world. Who is Erickson pimping for, besides “Republicans in name only” (RINOs) within the Republican Party, and Wal-Mart? His hypocrisy becomes even more obvious when he pretends he is the great porn fighter by asking people through his HOME organization to write letters to Marriot requesting they stop providing adult movies.

Members of the community see through this and know that freedom granted by following the Constitution according to the intent of the founders, (the way Ron Paul does), works best.  “The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint.  The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent law of laws.” --Walt Whitman

Art Baker

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