41 isn't the new 50
Dan—Your assertion that Amanda Curtis is a good candidate because she received 41 percent of the vote during a much abbreviated U.S. Senate run really needs to be rolled back ("Dem for the win?" Jan. 5). Your logic would have us believe that return is a remarkable achievement and given the chance at a longer effort, Amanda would surely top 50 percent, as if the political climate in Montana is somehow akin to the Tortoise and Hair parable.
To be clear, I believe that Amanda is probably well liked by the Democratic base. However, a vote for a candidate who is well liked by the base counts exactly the same as a vote for someone who is just mostly liked by the base. You can look no further than Ryan Zinke's recent victory as a good example of how this works.
It's likely that what Curtis received in 2014 represents just the base Democratic vote, with the addition of a few Independents who didn't want to vote for Steve Daines for whatever reason. That is a long way from winning. I have not read any compelling reason to believe that the Independents and moderate Republican voters needed to secure a statewide election in Montana will warm up to Amanda.
Don't get me wrong, Amanda Curtis most surely has a role to play in Montana Democratic politics for some time to come. We desperately need all that energy, and Amanda seems to have a lot to offer.
Still, Curtis emerging as the early Democratic favorite might have more to do with the jockeying of the statewide teachers organization that funds a large percentage of the Montana Democratic Party effort than any careful consideration of Curtis as a truly viable candidate. Just ask yourself if you think that Curtis can match the broad appeal that Pat Williams had when he beat Ron Marlenee by 51 percent, or Cy Jamison with just 49 percent. Because that's exactly the kind of appeal it's going to take for a Democrat to win this seat in the foreseeable future. Is your answer no? Then let's keep looking.
posted at missolanews.com
What the Travel Plan leaves out
Motorized users combined with a mountain bike group have filed a lawsuit over the Bitterroot National Forest Travel Plan. They're unhappy that some areas are off limits to their machinery. It's interesting that mountain bikers now aligned themselves with motorized users.
I went to many Travel Plan meetings. Periods were extended and record numbers of comments were taken. In no meeting that I attended did a motorized user/mountain biker discuss the impacts their recreation have on plants and animals. It was typically about their "rights."
Approximately 2.7 percent of the contiguous U.S. is protected Wilderness. Not even 3 percent of what once was remains in a "natural" state. Wanting to protect what little is left outside of Wilderness hardly seems extreme. Wanting to ensure the integrity of a few Wilderness Study Areas doesn't seem extreme. It's wise.
According to the BNF, the forest has about 837,851 acres of non-Wilderness. There are also 2,246 miles of roads. There are 543,840 acres open to snowmobile use.
The harmful effects to wildlife and wild places from motorized use are well documented in peer-reviewed science. The same is beginning for mountain biking. All recreationalists, myself included, have impacts. We could all exercise a little humility. We can go other places. The plants and animals who live there are about out of room. It's not just about us.
Consider a typical meeting with extractive representatives wanting more timber and roads, motorized users/mountain bikers wanting more areas open and environmentalists wanting more protections. Now imagine seats at the table for elk, bear, bighorn sheep, golden eagle, pica, bull trout, red squirrel, lynx, black-backed woodpecker, Douglas fir and sage. Also imagine a seat reserved for the sacredness and integrity of the Earth. The plants and animals might start out by stating many of their kind are no longer alive due to recreational pursuits, development and forest "management." They might mention that a very small percentage of their original homeland remains and ask how much more should they give. They could mention the many benefits to humans of saving what's left, such as clean water and spirituality. They may voice genuine concern for the future of their children. They might remind those in attendance that their ancestors used to co-exist in a sustainable manner with the people who originally lived here. They might make a final plea that humans alone have the capacity to make it possible for all species to live and thrive.
That would be a great meeting, and a start toward real collaboration. It would be a truer representation of all the stakeholders regarding the Travel Plan. One has to ask: How much more should plants and animals give up for our weekend warrior pursuits?
During the eight years before Obama, Bush squandered the Clinton surplus by passing a major tax cut for the richest folks, fostering deregulation and starting two wars that went on the national credit card and killed 5,000 Americans and countless foreigners (none of whom were named Bin Laden). Bush bequeathed to Obama an American economy that was losing 750,000 jobs per month and $4 per gallon gasoline. He was also torturing prisoners and overseeing a collapse of the banking and auto industries. This tsunami all washed ashore in Obama's first year in office.
I for one am proud of the Obama presidency. He regularly answers reporter's most difficult questions with dignity and aplomb. He and Michelle managed to raise a beautiful family in the middle of it all. Thank you, Obama.