Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Sutton R. Stokes

A Line in the Gravel

The lot across the alley from my house is subdivided in half, with one house facing the street and another smaller one facing the alley. We were all glad when the previous resident—a woman who used to stand in the alley for half an hour at a time, trying to get her dog to come home by screaming profanity at it—moved out. But soon after the new owner moved in, we noticed what I’m only now realizing were the early signs of naked aggression. First, much like Hitler did to the Sudetenland, our new neighbor quickly annexed the dead end of the alley between our properties as his own personal parking lot.

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New Missoula Birth Center is Birth Ready, But Hospital Ban Poses Problems

In response to the ban, several of Hebl’s past and present patients have been lobbying hospital officials to reverse their decision. Hebl says that there have been some positive developments.

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Missoula Contributes Strongly to Gross National Happiness

I’m proud of how relatively little I contribute to “the economy.” Sure, I'm driving an eleven-year-old car, carefully planning my first new-shoe purchase in five years, and squinting at a non-digital, non-HD television, but it’s hard to imagine how I could be much happier. A lot of the credit goes to just living in Missoula, and I’m not alone in feeling this way. A recent survey found 94 percent of Missoulians “satisfied with the overall quality of life in Missoula.” Even among these sunny folks, I’m an outlier, because 64 percent of them said they were unhappy with traffic congestion here, and the relative ease of getting around this town compared to the Baltimore area is something Amy and I still marvel at, two years into our Missoula residency.

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Fear and Swine Flu in Missoula

Things have gotten so bad that the White House today declared a nationwide state of emergency and advised that it would be “taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic,” but of course this only raises new worries. With emergency powers, will the administration even need to await Congressional approval before empaneling tribunals to decide who’s too sick to be saved? After all, while reports of President Obama’s “civilian national security force" roving the streets at night in FEMA vans—clad in clown masks and HAZMAT suits and urging flu sufferers to surrender “so we can take care of you”—are as yet unsubstantiated, perhaps it’s only a matter of time.

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Slightly More Montanan Than You

Now that I’m the father of what a popular local bumper sticker calls a “Native Montanan,” I’m under even more pressure to learn some basic Montana skills, if only so that I don’t embarrass the poor guy in front of his friends later on. I’m doing all right so far. Two years into my Montana residency, I’ve already achieved journeyman status at standing next to my grill with a can of Pabst in my hand, floating down the Blackfoot on an inner tube, and reacting to every new City Council resolution by exclaiming “this is Big Brother government at its worst!” But those skills will only carry me so far. To approach true Montananness, what I really need to do is get better at killing things in the woods.

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Natural Childbirth—In a Hospital?

We investigated the possibility of a home birth but gave up on the idea when we learned that our insurance not only wouldn’t cover it but might not even cover hospital care if any emergencies arose during one, because—bizarrely—our insurance company classifies home birth as an “experimental medical procedure.” We would deliver at Community Medical Center, we decided. It wasn’t our first choice; we felt forced into it; we hoped it wouldn’t go too badly. Then it didn’t go badly at all.

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Tester’s Wilderness Bill: Q & A With Sun Mountain’s Tony Colter

I was curious about the potential effects of Sen. Tester’s act on businesses like Sun Mountain, so—after touring the sawmill—I interviewed Tony Colter, the company’s plant manager and vice president. He told me that Sun Mountain’s mill and logging operations combined could potentially employ up to 300 people, but times have been tough lately. Today, only 120 people work in the mill and finger-joint plant, and about 50 people work in logging. Sun Mountain hopes Tester's bill could help turn things around.

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Tester’s Wilderness Bill: Q & A With Trout Unlimited’s Tom Reed

Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would protect 600,000 acres of Montana wilderness, but it would also mandate the logging of 10,000 acres per year in Montana’s national forests. Several mainstream environmental organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, the Montana Wilderness Association, and the National Wildlife Federation, have joined with recreation interests and local logging companies in support of the bill. Meanwhile, other environmental organizations, such as Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Wild West Institute, find themselves agreeing with many motorized access advocates that this bill is a bad idea. I recently sat down with Tom Reed, the Montana/Wyoming backcountry organizer for Trout Unlimited, to get his response to some of the main objections raised by the bill’s critics.

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A New Birth Center For Missoula

Former Missoula Birth Center employee Jeanne Hebl has announced plans to open a new birth center here in Missoula sometime in October. The Missoula Birth Center closed in January after the sudden death of its founder, Dr. Lynn Montgomery, last November. That closing left Missoula women with no non-hospital delivery options other than home births. Community Medical Center is currently the only medical facility in Missoula with dedicated labor and delivery rooms, but it appears that this is about to change.

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Is Tester’s Bill Our Best Bet For New Wilderness?

If passed, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would designate the first new Wilderness Areas in Montana since 1983, and I’m up here, in a plane provided by the non-profit Ecoflight, to get a first-hand look at what the bill would actually mean to miles of backcountry in some of the most cherished wilderness in the state. Down below me is the battle zone: forests and landscapes treasured by hikers, loggers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, horse packers, anglers, hunters, and oil and gas firms, among others. The Tester bill aims to protect wild land while satisfying as many of these groups as possible. But can it succeed?

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