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Montana Politics

Yellowstone Bison Corralled For Release Outside Park

Wildlife officials corralled 23 bison near Gardiner, Mont. this week as part of a goal to allow bison to roam outside Yellowstone National Park boundaries. Officials want to collect at least 60 buffalo, test them for brucellosis and select 25 healthy animals to be released onto loaned land outside Yellowstone, park spokesman Al Nash said. The 25 bison would be marked, tagged and allowed onto some private land to reach Gallatin National Forest. Nash said the move is part of a process to eventually allow up to 100 bison to roam outside the park, though the timetable remains indefinite. Bison are currently kept within Yellowstone park boundaries with hazing, hunting and occasional slaughters. Park officials estimate about half of its bison population has been exposed to brucellosis, which can cause cattle, bison and elk to have health problems including abortions. While it’s not proven whether wild bison transmit the disease to other species, preventing contact between bison and cattle is a primary tenet of bison management. Read More »

Senate Passes Food Safety Overhaul With Tester’s Amendment Exempting Smaller Farmers

The Senate this morning passed food safety legislation that overhauls how both domestic and imported food is handled, adding new and stricter regulations. Because of an amendment introduced by Montana Sen. Jon Tester, however, smaller farmers will be exempt from many of the requirements. The amendment was applauded by marquee names in the local food movement as well as by grassroots organizations and independent farmers and ranches. It has its critics, however. According to the Washington Post, both the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association withdrew their support of the bill based on the amendment, arguing no one should benefit from relaxed federal standards when it comes to food safety. Read More »

Montana Attorney General Works to Protect Farmers and Ranchers

Making sure Montana farmers and ranchers get a fair shake when they sell their products to markets far and wide is crucial, Bullock said during a recent interview by phone. “My principle concerns are those impacting Montanans on the ground,” he said. “(Like) whether our grain growers can get a fair price for their product, get that product to the market and whether there’s sufficient competition and opportunity for our beef producers.” It’s an issue that can’t be ignored if rural Montana communities are expected to survive. “When you talk about small business in Montana, a third of our economy is based on agriculture. That’s where our small businesses lie,” Bullock said. Read More »

Tester Getting Props for Food Safety Amendment Exempting Smaller Farmers, Ranchers

Locavore bigwigs Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," and Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation," sent a letter of support, calling the bill "the most important food safety legislation in a generation. The Tester amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers. We both think this is the right thing to do." The Northern Plains Council, a Billings-based organization that lobbies for family-owned farms, also applauded Tester. "Northern Plains members wrote letters, made phone calls, sent e-mails, met with congressional staff and submitted letters to the editor urging Senator Tester to introduce his amendment and calling for its passage," the group wrote in a press release. Read More »

The Great Outdoors: Support Baucus’, Tester’s Efforts to Fully Fund Land and Water Conservation

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been a principal source of federal investment in Montana's outdoors. It provides funding to protect national parks and forests, waterways, farms and ranches, wildlife refuges and neighborhood green spaces. These funds don’t just protect national and neighborhood parks, they can be used to protect working farms and ranches through conservation easements as well. This makes them an important tool for protecting Montana’s iconic working landscapes. Soon I will be taking office as the new mayor of Bozeman, where I will pursue my dedication to sustained support for the people and places that make our home what it is. We need common sense programs that help us maintain our way of life, progress economically and protect what we love for generations to come; the LWCF is just such a program. Unfortunately, during its 44-year history, the program has only been fully-funded twice, and its funding has been in dramatic decline for the past 10 years. Now is the time for a renewed commitment to the program. Read More »

Now Anti-Wolf Groups Are Blowing It

No reasonable deed goes unpunished, eh? That must be how wildlife managers or advocates who actually want to resolve the wolf-delisting impasse must feel. On September 23, I posted a commentary with the title, Pro-Wolf Groups Blew It where I criticized the left-leaning plaintiffs in the various lawsuits for pushing too hard, too long, and turning fence setters and most western politicians into the anti-wolf camp and possibly endangering the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. Now, the pendulum has swung to the far right. Read More »

One Victory, One Loss and a Fight From the Shadows

It’s been an up-and-down week for Western Tradition Partnership. One day, the right-wing political group won a major judgment that found Montana’s century-old campaign finance laws unconstitutional. Another day, the group, famous for lobbing 11th-hour attacks against political foes, was found in violation of state campaign laws. Its behavior “raises the specter of corruption of the electoral process,” announced Dennis Unsworth, Montana’s commissioner of political practices, and will likely result in a fine. Just two years old, the pro-industry group has won most battles and lost a few, but it keeps on fighting, mostly from the shadows, in a war against liberal and moderate political candidates using anonymous donors and superheated campaign rhetoric as its weapons. Read More »

Why the Baucus/Tester Wolf Delisting Bill is the Better Choice

The political wrangling over wolves since the latest relisting in August is now in full force. It’s unfortunate that we’ve arrived at a place where the only solution that most Montanans see regarding wolves is political in nature. Looking back over 100 years of wildlife conservation in the state of Montana, political solutions have rarely helped wildlife. In the past, hunter-conservationists struggled mightily to remove political influence from wildlife management, and we were largely successful. The management scenario that was developed, known as the North American Fish and Wildlife Conservation Model, has resulted in the largest rebound in wildlife populations around the globe. This is the model that would be applied to wolves if we could get to a sustainable delisting, and get beyond the pettifogging and the political grandstanding. But for now, we’re at a stalemate. This stalemate has led to congressional efforts to delist wolves: Read More »

Another Prominent White Nationalist Screens Film at Montana Library

“Here we are again,” Darryl Kistler said to the small crowd gathered around him, holding candles on the sidewalk across from the Kalispell, MT, library last week. They were part of a candlelight vigil held as a response to the Holocaust denial film being shown in the library’s basement by Craig Cobb, who moved to Kalispell from Vancouver this summer after he was investigated by a Canadian hate crimes unit. “This is our third time that we have gathered in this space, to stand up, to speak out and to stand in solidarity,” Kistler, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Kalispell, said. “It is important that we are so inspired that we can lift up ourselves and lift up each other in a spirit of community.” Across the street, Karl Gharst stood watching the vigil and smoking. In April and May, Gharst prompted large protests by showing films questioning whether the Holocaust occurred and glorifying Nazis. He planned to screen another film Oct. 19. But Gharst made no moves to descend to the basement to watch Cobb’s film, since Cobb had earlier that week filed a restraining order against Gharst, forcing the two men to leave each other alone. Visibly angry, Gharst accused Cobb of being an “agent provocateur” sent to the Flathead Valley by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League to stop Gharst from showing his films. “He’s a pretend Nazi and everywhere he goes he just stinks up the place,” Gharst said. “He’s a crash test dummy for the ADL.” Read More »

Writer to Gov. Schweitzer: It’s Not Too Late to Stop the Big Rigs

Dear Governor Schweitzer, I remember the stirring speech you gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2008: “We face a great new challenge, one that threatens our economy, our security, our climate and our very way of life …. This costly reliance on fossil fuels threatens America and the world. … We need a new energy system that is clean, green and American made.” That day I was proud of my governor for being on the side of the future. Now, I’m not so proud. These days you say, “We need energy and the safest supply right now is coming from places like Alberta," meaning the dirtiest type of fossil fuel, extracted from tar sands. And then you say, “this is conflict-free oil.” I’m afraid, Mr. Governor, that Alberta’s tar sands oil is in no way conflict free. Read More »