Montana Editorial Roundup - InfoNews

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Montana Editorial Roundup

November 29, 2017 - 11:49 AM

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Nov. 28, on mining restrictions in Montana's Paradise Valley:

It's perplexing that opponents of mining on public land in Paradise Valley have to twist the arms of members of Montana's congressional delegation to support such a ban. It's not only the right thing to do; it's smart politics.

Two mining companies are pursuing projects in Paradise Valley. One has received a state permit for exploratory drilling on private land in the Emigrant Peak area. Last year, the Obama administration imposed a two-year ban on new claims on public lands in the area. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's bill would make the ban permanent.

Members of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition recently called on Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte to get behind Tester's bill that would enact a ban on new mining claims on 30,000 acres of public land just outside of Yellowstone National Park. In particular, they urged Gianforte to introduce the same legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Daines and Gianforte, both Republicans, have indicated they support the ban in principal but have stopped short of endorsing Tester's legislation. After getting a committee hearing over the summer, that bill sits stalled. Unanimous support from the Montana delegation would help get it moving again.

Look, we get it. Daines and Gianforte have to be careful not to run afoul of their base constituency - much of which is four-square behind extractive industries, like mining, logging and oil and gas drilling. But the more reasonable among that constituency will admit there are certain places that should be off limits to the permanent scarring that mining can leave behind. And one of the main corridors leading to the world's first national park is such a place. The Republicans are also reminded that even if some of their hardcore support takes offence at the mining ban, Daines and Gianforte could pick up support from those constituents advocating for the ban.

Take this to the bank: If a push comes to a shove, a large majority of Southwest Montanans do not want to see a major mining operation on the doorstep of Yellowstone. Daines and Gianforte need to look after the concerns of their all their constituents and get behind Tester's bill.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2i2MVWj

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Billings Gazette, Nov. 27, on mining restrictions in Montana's Paradise Valley:

Leaders of the Yellowstone Gateway Coalition held a press conference last week to call on Montana's congressional delegation to work together to get a Paradise Valley land provision in a larger must-pass bill before Christmas. The coalition of Park County businesses and local government leaders wants 30,370 acres of public forest withdrawn from potential development while two mining companies are seeking permits to start exploration.

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and Rep. Greg Gianforte have said they want to protect Paradise Valley as area residents have been asking for years. But only Tester has done more than talk. Tester's proposed Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act had a hearing earlier this year in a Senate committee Daines chairs. Daines told The Gazette in July that Tester's bill won't pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

In a telephone interview in July, Daines said he would introduce his own legislation to halt mineral development on public land at Emigrant Gulch and Crevice Mountain. Back in July, Daines said he hoped to introduce his bill this fall.

The Gazette reached out to Daines' office again last week and received an emailed response from a Daines spokeswoman: "The last conservation measure passed by Congress advocated for the protection of the North Fork Protection Act, which was championed by the senator only to become law as part of a large public lands package that had support from a diverse group of stake holders. If this is to become law before year's end, a similar coalition needs to be developed. It will likely take more time before that develops, however, the senator is working hard to find a path towards that end."

Later, Daines himself phoned to say that he is working to get the Paradise Valley withdrawal paired with release of about 500,000 acres of Montana Wilderness Study Areas "that aren't suitable for wilderness." He plans to introduce his WSA release bill by year's end, but acknowledged that it's more likely to pass a year from now than to pass next month. Daines envisions getting support for Paradise Valley land protection from Republicans by releasing WSAs. He declined to say which WSAs will be in his bill.

"A lot of House members don't like mineral withdrawals," Daines said. "I think this is a reasonable thing to do in Montana."

Daines' Montana constituents are pushing for a mineral development withdrawal on 30,370 acres of Custer National Forest. They built a coalition of more than 400 businesses and organizations in a county with a population of 16,000. The coalition includes the bipartisan county commission, city and rural residents, people in agriculture and people whose livelihood depends on tourism, hunting and fishing. Aren't they important enough for Daines to champion their cause without getting an otherwise unrelated and much bigger land deal in return?

Paradise Valley needs a "clean bill" that simply and permanently withdraws federal public lands from mining at Emigrant Gulch along the Upper Yellowstone River and around Crevice Mountain at Yellowstone Park's northern border.

Both Daines and Gianforte live in Bozeman, less than an hour's drive from the beautiful river valley they are being asked to preserve. They must spearhead its protection. Tester has done what he can as a minority lawmaker. If the Yellowstone Gateway is a priority for Daines, he can protect it legislatively this year — or next — without marrying it to another land deal. Gianforte should help.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2icS95w

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Daily Inter Lake, Nov. 26, on the Flathead Basin Commission needing help:

The news that the Flathead Basin Commission is a fiscal orphan, cast off by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, is worrisome indeed.

In the past year, the importance of the commission to Northwest Montana has been demonstrated convincingly in the emergency response launched to protect our waters and our native species from quagga mussels and other aquatic invaders.

We understand the budget crisis that led us to this situation, but we find it hard to believe that there are not better candidates for massive cuts or elimination than a program designed to protect water quality and natural resources.

Fish, unfortunately, don't have a vote, and so the politicians and bureaucrats in Helena must have felt secure in cutting the commission's modest $149,000 appropriation, leaving it with only $10,000 to be used for commissioners' travel expenses.

Local legislators have been working hard to restore funding, and it's possible that the crisis will be short-term, but either way, it may be time to start getting serious about supporting the Basin Commission's mission with private funding. Clearly, DNRC Director John Tubbs is not a reliable advocate for the commission, so other avenues for funding must be considered.

The number of businesses, not to mention individuals, who depend on a healthy Flathead Lake and Flathead Basin, are in the thousands. Finding a way to channel resources from those beneficiaries to the commission will be of paramount importance going forward.

The Flathead Basin Commission is a governmental entity, officially sanctioned by a 1983 law, but a non-profit arm already exists and can seek out contributions from community partners. Other important groups like the Whitefish Lake Institute survive entirely on private donations and grants, and it's possible the Basin Commission will have to follow that example.

We have a narrow window before funding runs out, and hopefully that time will be put to good use ensuring that the commission will endure.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2j2fbZX

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