Letters to the editor Sept. 5

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Question the American Prairie Reserve

Whose side did you take with the spotted owl controversy back when it grabbed the national headlines? The environmentalists who argued that this small predator bird was at risk of extinction, or the 10,000 loggers and sawmill workers in the Pacific Northwest who lost their jobs because of federally mandated restrictions on the timber industry?

Whose side do you take in the battle between Eastern Montana ranchers and the American Prairie Reserve? Like any controversy you should educate yourself on all the facts and unintended consequences before deciding who you support.

The American Prairie Reserve is a private organization made up of a small group of very wealthy East Coast tycoons including family members of the Mars Candy dynasty. This group is using their economic power to pursue an idealistic dream of changing Eastern Montana into a vast primitive wilderness free of people, fences and any other evidence that ranchers ever existed there. The group envisions thousands of bison roaming the prairie as they did before the West was settled.

There’s just one problem. Accomplishing their goal requires the removal of hard-working ranching families who have scraped out a living in the hard-scrabble environs of Eastern Montana for many generations. Free-range bison and ranch cattle cannot co-exist. Eliminating the latter would put an end to the romance and heritage that people associate with the rugged Rocky Mountain states.

I wonder how the Mars family would react if the cacao plantations in West Africa (which produce 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa beans from which chocolate is produced) were bought up and then the new owners destroyed the cacao trees so as to return the land to its natural state? Thousands of jobs would be lost and the Mars family would find themselves without products to sell.

Such would be no different from what the APR is doing right now here in Montana.

The dream of free-range bison has merit; however, if it means hardships for the people standing in the way, then maybe this isn’t the right time or place for it to happen. The state Legislature tried to enact compromise bills that would have restricted “free-range” bison to tribal lands; however, Governor Steve Bullock vetoed the bills. Makes you wonder who Bullock represents, doesn’t it? As for the controversy between ranchers and the APR you must decide which is more important.

—John Merlette, Bigfork

Red flag laws

Republican voters have been deceived into thinking that our leadership are supporting the Second Amendment. The recent proposal by President Trump and the RINO Republican leadership for red flag laws is not just a violation of the Second Amendment. These proposed laws also violate the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th amendments. Any person who has sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution should be opposed to these tyrannical laws based on these facts alone. The fact that they don’t seem to see that is amazing to me.

None of these laws would have stopped any of the mass shootings that have taken place and any legislator who falls for the “we have to do something” mentality and votes for these laws will most certainly lose my vote and they should lose yours, too.

—Brenda Hambrick, Lakeside

Yaak trail alternative

I’m writing to support the formal complaint filed by the Yaak Valley Forest Council about the lack of a comprehensive management plan for the Pacific Northwest Trail.

For 30 years, the U.S. Forest Service opposed the PNT due to the feasibility study that found it financially excessive as well as injurious to the threatened grizzly population. A “Jonkel alternative” was found to avoid grizzly core, but the Forest Service chose the “no trail alternative.”

Nonetheless, in 2009, a Washington state hiker’s club succeeded in persuading their delegation to attach a single paragraph to a must-pass bill that authorized the PNT. Yet, this same enabling legislation also required the Forest Service to complete a management plan within two years. The trail and the agency are out of compliance. They have not determined carrying capacity, consequences to existing open road access, or effects on timber activities. It’s a train wreck. Our hope is that this litigation may get the management process started, but management is just the tip of the iceberg. Legislation created the train wreck and legislation is required to correct it.

In positive, proactive fashion, the YVFC does support a modified Jonkel alternative. This would avoid designated core grizzly habitat, and utilizing the trail town opportunities of Libby and Troy. We remain committed to diversifying sustainable economic opportunities throughout Lincoln County, with this project and others. The Yaak’s last 25 grizzlies, and the threat of diminished local access/permit system, are not risks we can support. Please contact us with ideas and any questions you might have.

—Robyn King is executive director at Yaak Valley Forest Council

Practicing forgiveness

It occurs to me, with all the things going on in America right now, that we need to practice what my spiritually based social teachings advocate. It is covered in one word. The word is “Forgiveness.” This word can mean different things to different people. This is what it means to me. See what you think.

Forgiveness, for me, is a very active response mechanism. When I am negatively triggered by something I see or hear, choosing forgiveness immediately shifts my impulse from anger and attack to seeking a peaceful solution. I am reminded to relax and listen. It becomes a shift in my perception, especially in my interactions with other people.

It encourages less judgment and more thoughtfulness. It encourages less preaching and more dialogue with others. It encourages listening and gaining a better understanding of differing points of view. It often even causes me to change my mind on a subject.

For me, this mind-choice helps me focus upon the subject at hand rather than upon judging the other person. This is a very important mind-shift for me in this whole process.

Life is a classroom. I hope to continue practicing my forgiveness lessons. Listen rather than talk. Explore rather than judge. Dialogue rather than preach. Smile rather than frown.

Such are my lessons in forgiveness.

—Bob McClellan, Missoula

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