Letters, published August 4, 2017

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Swan Valley forest transfer is bad idea

As residents of the beautiful Swan Valley, we are deeply disturbed by the Lake County Conservation District’s proposal to transfer the management of 60,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest. The proposal calls for the establishment of a “Conservation Forest” to produce timber revenue for the conservation district. This proposal is a direct attack on our public lands, and we cannot stand for it in our own backyard.

Despite many legal and logistical holes, the lands earmarked for the potential Conservation Forest are disjointed, and scattered throughout the valley. Many of these lands comprise grizzly and lynx habitat — species that need large ranges and would most certainly be impacted by extensive patchwork logging and road building projects. The presence of these species is also an indicator of a healthy, intact ecosystem. Habitat concerns aside, the bottom line is that this land is public land. It belongs to all Americans, and local government does not have the right to profit off of it.

The Lake County Conservation District is accepting public comments about this proposal at swanstudy@gmail.com or at 64352 Highway 93 Ronan, MT 59864. Please contact them to voice your opposition to the Swan Forest Initiative today. The Swan Study public comment period will end on Aug. 31. All comments must be emailed or postmarked by this date. —Brent Morrow, Salmon Prairie, and Peter Guynn, Condon

Whitefish has disregard for public’s right to know

In June, Whitefish complained to Flathead County commissioners that county planning board members made “strident comments” about the city’s treatment of doughnut property owners. The comments followed a hearing on the South 93 corridor, which used to be in the doughnut.

The Whitefish mayor and all city councilors signed the letter on official letterhead.

Whitefish now admits that it failed to disclose consideration of this letter on any City Council agenda. Nor did councilors vote in public to send it. Instead, Whitefish drafted and approved the letter in secret.

As such, the letter violated our constitutional right to know about and participate in government decisions.

After our office objected, Whitefish agreed to put the letter on the July 17 City Council agenda where it was subject to public comment and an after-the-fact public vote by councilors.

While we appreciate Whitefish’s belated willingness to comply with the law, the city’s illegal letter follows Whitefish’s historical disregard for the public’s right to know when it comes to doughnut decisions. Consider:

In March 2008, Whitefish sued Flathead County, starting years of contentious doughnut litigation. Whitefish never put this lawsuit on any agenda, nor did the councilors vote in public to file this complaint.

In January 2012, Whitefish again sued the Flathead County, filing a third party complaint on doughnut issues. Whitefish again made this decision to sue in secret.

In July 2013, Whitefish sought an injunction against Flathead County to prohibit it from assuming doughnut jurisdiction. Once again, Whitefish never held a public vote or allowed public comment on this significant decision.

Around the valley, we never hear folks comparing, say, Kalispell, Bigfork or Columbia Falls, to dictatorships. That comparison is reserved solely for Whitefish.

In the public arena, we lament that ad hominem attacks and name calling now substitutes for serious, respectful discussions about policy and principals. But Whitefish must learn that if it was more respectful of people’s rights and complied with the law, it probably would face less “strident” criticism. —Duncan Scott, Kalispell

Which policies led to fire problems?

Well here we are fighting fires again! Where are the tree huggers? The EPA nuts? They have filled their pockets with taxpayer cash from bringing lawsuits to “save the trees”!

So where are they? Wake up, America, and see what these crazies are really costing everyone! With over $20 million spent fighting fires, lost revenue from destroyed forest, ranch land, buildings, cost to replant, etc., where are the concerned environmentalists? Would be nice if they gave back taxpayer monies from their lawsuits to repair the damage they have caused!

Now ask yourself about the air quality from the fires. Isn’t this the same air they say industry would destroy processing trees into a viable product? Time for the educated to stop the lawsuit group that only cares about the next settlement checks they and their lawyers will receive! Make America great again!

OK, tree huggers gather your troops and get to work saving the trees, helping the farmers and ranchers and rebuilding the homes lost. —Ron Albrecht, Kalispell

Helena Flats intersection with 35 is dangerous

Is there a specific fatality number that the Department of Transportation waits for at an intersection of two roads before they make the decision to put in a traffic light?

How many more accidents need to occur and how many more lives need to be lost on the Highway 35 and Helena Flats intersection before something is done? I live off of Highway 35 out by Hooper’s Nursery and drive Highway 35 in to Kalispell almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day passing by Helena Flats Road and turning on to Helena Flats Road. I have been doing this for the past 19 years.

I have seen and I have been involved in many near collisions in this area. So many times people pull out in front of you off of Helena Flats Road seemingly unaware that cars are traveling on Highway 35 at the speed of 55 miles an hour. The traffic at this area has only increased significantly the last several years in both directions on the highway and those coming onto and off of the Helena Flats Road.

I don’t understand why nothing has been done about putting in a traffic signal light or a flashing light or something. I guess our only option for now is for all of us that drive this section every day to realize there is no job or appointment that is more important than our life or others’ lives, so we all need to drive slower through here and, when pulling out off of Helena Flats Road, take more time looking. —Elizabeth Walter, Kalispell

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