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Users should pay when fireworks cause harmThe

letter policy Letters to the editor must contain the signature of the author, the writer’s street address and work and/or home phone numbers. Maximum length is 300 words. The Gazette reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, conciseness, taste, and to prevent libel. Signed editorial columns appearing on the Opinion page and letters appearing in the Voice of the Reader columns do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Billings Gazette. Send your letters By mail to: P.O. Box 36300 Billings, MT 59107-6300 By fax to: (406) 657-1208 Or by e-mail to:

Sunday, July 15, letters to the editor gave an in-depth look into the ban of fireworks, both in the city of Billings and in Yellowstone County.

The news media suggested “going to the country” to celebrate. This was not an educated suggestion. Those who did as the media advised were as uneducated as the advice they heeded.

As Jim Newman indicated, land in the country, as in the city, belongs to those who live there. It is private property; the use thereof, without the express permission of the owner, is trespassing. Any and all damage caused by intruders is their responsibility.

Mr. Martens suggests a statewide ban on the sales of all fireworks. This would cause the sale of illegal fireworks to escalate to heights unknown. Check the escalated sales of liquor during Prohibition. People are people everywhere, and they would purchase fireworks just because of the ban.

The use of these illegal fireworks would take place in hidden and unsafe areas. This could cause untold damage if a fire were to start in places inaccessible to firefighters, not only to property but lives as well.

Fireworks in America is as American as apple pie. It is not likely that the stroke of a pen will abolish the celebration of our nation’s independence, a practice that has taken place for over 225 years.

A more just and moral law would hold those causing damage by the use of fireworks accountable for their negligent actions.

George P. Sexton ShepherdThanks for terrific fireworks in ColumbusThe fireworks show in Columbus on July 7 was wonderful, well orchestrated and a real treat — a big treat — and the person who planned, built and put the show on needs a huge thank you. I understand this well-kept secret of fireworks the Saturday after July 4 has been happening right along. It was fun and appreciated.

Marian Cooke BillingsAllow harvesting of fire-killed timber It comes as no surprise that a handful of radical preservationist groups have appealed to stop the salvage logging of burned timber on the Helena National Forest’s Toston—Maudlow Post Fire Project.

During last year’s fire season, these people went into hiding. The only comment we heard from them while the fires were raging was “please don’t blame us or point fingers while our neighbors are in harm’s way.” To that I say hogwash! While most of us Montanans were feverishly trying to suppress some of the most destructive forest fires this state has had in quite some time, it is obvious that these preservationist groups were camped out in the law library preparing their appeals to stop all attempts at salvaging burnt timber. These appellants have cited every possible scenario plus dozens of conflicting state and federal statutes in a shotgun approach designed to defeat all salvage logging. If the Forest Service had to analyze each project to the extent that these people believe is required, they would never get past the planning stage.

The time has come for common sense to prevail. Arguments against salvaging precious natural resources are not credible. We must support the Forest Service and allow the sensible harvest of fire-killed timber.

Edward W. Regan TownsendMost destructive fires on lands with roadsThe 58 million acres of roadless land remaining in the National Forest Service system was inventoried in the 1960s by each ranger district through the RARE I process (Roadless Area Review and Evaluation). RARE I was revised and corrected in the 1970s by RARE II, again, at the individual ranger district level. RARE II then formed the roadless inventory for the latest three-year process of 600 public meetings nationwide that received an unprecedented volume of public input, the majority supporting protection of roadless areas.

Thirty-one public meetings were held in Montana with 15,887 Montanans responding with 78 percent favoring the roadless proposal. This was not a top-down edict from Washington, D.C.

I retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 1982 with 32 years of service. I began USFS employment as a seasonal in northern Idaho after being discharged by the military following WWII. I then worked as a smokejumper out of Missoula for 13 yeas. My next job with the USFS was land planning and design through Region 1, which then included the forests of eastern Washington to the grasslands of western Minnesota.

Roadless area inventories have taken place since the 1960s. Support of this long-standing effort is needed to protect what little remains. Most of it is high-elevation steep land, unsuitable for logging or road building but very valuable for watershed protection, wildlife and wilderness.

Working for 13 years as a smokejumper throughout the West reveals that most of the destructive fires were on roaded and cut over land in the fire cyclic forests where houses were allowed to be indiscriminately built.

Roadless areas are less likely to have fire ignition through careless human activities or arson. New roads in roadless areas are a result of trespass by ATVs, then widened and hardened by Jeeps and four-wheel drive trucks.

Joe Gutkoski BozemanBig changes cloud Montana’s landsAs a Native Montanan, I have reservations about Montana’s “progress.” Twenty years ago, you could ask the landowner to hunt or fish on his property and he said “Sure, just leave the gates as you found them.” Since then, the new “Montanans” have bought up the property, padlocked their gates, painted their fences orange and decided the public lands adjoining their property belong to them, too. They race their glossy SUVs down the city streets. For some reason, they are all in a hurry. They can’t seem to leave that rat race behind.

Bringing “progress” to Montana means prostituting her beauty, exploiting her resources and begging all the big things come to the Big Sky Country: big business (driving up utility bills), big people (making prices unaffordable or driving off people who’ve been here for generations) and bigger bucks (to those who already have big bucks). Farmers and ranchers are getting pushed out — they can sell or lease their land to outfitters for big game excursions for more than their crops and cattle are worth. A $3 bushel of grain sells for $4 a 12-ounce box. They deny access to the public, so the herds can grow big mounts for big game hunters.

People thought Montana was the land of cowboys and Indians. The truth is, Montana was the best kept secret. “Natives” know people smiled, waved on a country road, helped their neighbor and showed some common courtesy. We didn’t have much money, but we thought we were happy. But, we’ve made the big time now — people are fighting over us. They want Montana for their very own. Some will say how rude and uncouth we are. But, remember: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Montana — the Last Best Place — is going, going, gone to the highest bidder!

Lorene Santoro BillingsAesthetics must count in grain terminal planIn September of 1926, shortly before his death, Charlie Russell made a statement in a letter written to Philip G. Cole. This is what he said: “And when it comes to making the beautiful Ma nature has man beat all ways from the ace and that old lady still owns a lot of Montana.”

Every year “that old lady” owns less and less of our precious state, and we Montanans are directly responsible for this deplorable trend! Here in Yellowstone County, less than a handful of manmade structures rival the height of that colossal quadrant of concrete towers which may very well be built next to our only national monument in a beautiful rural setting of the Yellowstone Valley

At the hearing, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality admitted these structures and the associated rail tracks are not what one usually pictures when one thinks of a grain elevator in a rural setting. Slightly more than the length of a football field separates the property of this industrial/commercial facility from what will someday be restored buffalo pasture adjacent to our unique rock and its associated riparian ecosystem.

The lawyer for Pompeys Pillar Historical Association was pitted against two high-powered attorneys representing the Montana DEQ and United Harvest, LLC. They addressed a group of Montana citizens who are appointed to what is termed the Montana Board of Environmental Review. They were granted twice the time the Pompeys Pillar lawyer got.

Once, without cracking a smile, the attorney for United Harvest stated lower freight rates would be passed on to the producer. I thought to myself these lower rates will only last until the smaller competition around the state is squeezed out, then consolidation in the grain market will go the way of the beef industry and the big boys will dictate the prices.

Aesthetics do matter. Those towers built in that location will spoil the character of that special place. The facility could be built in another location and still provide needed tax revenues to the local school system. They may be able to dictate what the grain freight rates will be but why does the community have to allow them to dictate where they will build these structures?

Don Woerner Laurel

divided over energy

‘Electric collar’ may replace copper collarGov. Judy Martz wants two freshmen legislators, Michelle Lee of Livingston and Christopher Harris of Bozeman, to drop their lawsuit concerning a key energy bill “so that bonds can be let and Montana can grow itself out of its current economic crisis.” Martz sounds just like Democratic Gov. Sam Stewart who blamed the troublesome Republicans, Joe Dixon and Jannette Rankin, for his failure to lead the state out of the crisis brought on by drought and recession in 1919.

Over 11,000 farms were abandoned, dry winds fanned huge forest fires, and Gov. Steward thought the answer was to “sell bonds.” Dixon and Rankin reminded Montanans that the main reason there was no money to address the crisis was because the taxes paid by the Anaconda Company since its creation amounted to no more than $24,000 a year. In fact, a good portion of the millions of dollars in company profits went to corrupt state officials, who were well-paid lapdogs.

People of Montana, have you learned nothing from your own history? Are you willing to trade a “copper collar” for an “electric collar?” If you are not willing, then support Michelle Lee and Christopher Harris in their effort to see that you have a say in your own future. In 2001, just as in 1919, we can not blindly place all our trust in those who govern.

Carole Mackin Montanans for Democracy HelenaDemos try to interfere with free enterpriseIt is interesting to note that Ken Toole accuses the GOP of lying in regards to the current electricity situation while conveniently forgetting the fact that it was a Democratically controlled PSC Commission that refused to allow Montana Power to recover the cost of construction on Colstrip plants 3 and 4. This put Montana Power in the position of having to sell off the plants to PPL in order to recover costs of construction and continue operating the existing plants. Do you suppose that Montana Power was penalized for having the foresight to see the forthcoming electricity shortage and planning ahead?

As regards the confiscation of dams and power plants under the guise of helping the Montana consumer, nothing is further from the truth. This is a socialistic agenda and is directed at gaining more control over the consumer and their pocketbook while adding more dollars to be spent by politicians. The comparison to the interstate highway system is ludicrous when you consider that the Montana consumer is paying 47 cents tax per gallon. The owner of a vehicle with a 20 gallon tank is paying $9.20 in taxes every time the vehicle needs a fill-up. We paid for the interstate with our hard-earned wages. As far as the residents of Flathead Valley, it is unfortunate that they are the recipients of a bad business decision by the local electric co-op who refused to enter any long-term agreements.

It seems everyone is for the free enterprise system until it hits the pocketbook, not because of the system, but due to interference by politicians who believe that they can create a system that is better. The current agenda of the Democratic party with property confiscation, socialized medicine, price controls, and the keeper of retirement funds calls for a name change to the Socialist Democratic Party

John H. Van Norman BillingsRep. Lee uninformed on state energy lawUpon reading the recent guest opinion by Rep. (Michelle) Lee, I was moved to send you a few of my thoughts on the national energy shortage and its effect on Montana consumers, a lot of whom are my friends and neighbors.

I have not much more than a passing familiarity with the electrical generation and distribution business. Nor have I a comprehensive understanding of the subtle intricacies of the complex policy decisions that are affecting not only Montana energy consumers but are being felt and dealt with throughout all parts of our nation. In fact, if you took everything I know about energy, and combined it with everything Lee knows about these issues and put the whole mess together in the bottom of a five gallon bucket, I would venture a guess there would still be enough room in the bucket to supply the both of us with drinking water for at least a week, maybe two.

Let me tell you a few things I do know. There are many people in the immediate Billings area that are very knowledgeable in this arena. Among the members of the House Energy Committee, most of whom spent countless hours during the past legislative session analyzing and debating all facets of the energy issue, are Reps. Roy Brown, Tom Dell, Alan Olson, Gary Forester, Bob Story, and Rep. Gary Matthews.

Although I was not in complete support of every aspect of HB 474, I believe, as did nearly all of my colleagues listed above, that it strikes a balance that reflects the wishes and the best interests of the people of Montana. I think the time has come to put these solutions to the test to the benefit of our constituents and to put this portion of the debate behind us.

Rep. John Esp Big TimberNew energy law bad for consumersThis is in regard to the very unprofessional and partisan statements made by our freshman governor and two leaders of her party against two fellow representatives. The two leaders were sponsors of the energy legislation that has either cost or will cost many Montanans their jobs and for some their homes.

Why this vicious attack? Because they fear the public backlash that will come when their deeds are shown the light of day. Both bills were pushed through in the last minutes of the last day without the public review that now seems imminent.

One member of their party tried to defend the increases in power costs by saying the Republicans didn’t cause the drought. What he didn’t tell us was how the drought affected the coal powered generators in Colstrip that MPC customers paid for and the GOP allowed to be sold. Was he trying to mislead the public? Open debate on the matter will tell.

The bill passed by the majority party this year does nothing to help consumers. If this bill were used to protect Montanans from soaring gasoline prices, it would work like this. Gas in Livingston got up to $1.699 per gallon. With HB474, the GOP would guarantee a 50 percent increase to the refineries, putting the price up to $2.549 a gallon. Gas is now selling for $1.489, down 21 cents. Under HB 474 we would still be paying $2.549, but if the refineries price went up, the consumer’s price would, too.

Now do you see why they don’t want public debate?

Gary M. Blakely Livingston