As someone who was born and raised in Montana, I am writing to express my concern and outrage over the proposed “high-and-wide corridor” currently being considered by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana Department of Transportation (MDT).
According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, one of the biggest reasons tourists come to our state is “To relax in a slower paced environment with lots of open space, a feeling of freedom, awe inspiring scenery and a multitude of animals.” Tourism for the Missoula area alone saw 1.2 million visitors generating 317 million dollars. Somehow I don’t think their idea of open space and awe inspiring scenery is to follow a 24 feet wide, 30 feet tall, 220 feet long truck—pullouts or no pullouts.
For as long as I can remember, local chambers of commerce, the state tourism industry and local business owners have worked hard to develop a brand for our state as “The Last Best Place.” Where does an industrial corridor fit into that ideal? With the decline of the wood product industry—resulting in the closure of Smurfit-Stone—Missoula is already struggling to maintain its economy. A disruption of this magnitude could cause damage the tourism industry will never recover from.
Even though personnel from International Oil and ExxonMobil’s public relation group are saying these trucks will have positive economic effects on our area, I fail to see how equipment manufactured in Korea being shipped here by Sungjin and Dong Bang and moved along U.S. 12 by Mammoet of Holland for mining in Canada, is supposed to accomplish that. As far as I can see, we have contracted all the jobs for this project to other countries and have decided to sacrifice current jobs for Montanans in the bargain.
It’s time all of us stood up and said loudly and clearly, “Montana is not for sale!”