Montana Politics

A Good Election for Greens, but Challenges Ahead

In the lead up the the election, one of the most divisive issues among progressives in Montana was almost certainly the environment. While almost all progressives would view themselves as environmentalists, sharp divides exist in how willing different groups are to sacrifice environmental ideals for electoral success. But in the end, the election was very successful, for both sides, and hopefully we can use that success to meet the challenges of the future.

Republicans in many ways attempted to make the election about the environment whenever possible. Against Tester, Bullock, and Denise Juneau, they leveled damning (but largely unsupported) charges of favoring environmental causes over the employment and education of Montanans. In all three cases, pending a big recount upset, those charges were unsuccessful. It’s perhaps a stretch to say that this constitutes a mandate for those environmental policies, but it does indicate that they are tolerable to most Montanans.

This was not despite challenges. Words like ‘extremist’ and ‘Vichy’ led to some vicious fights and exposed bitter divisions among progressive Montanans. And there is ultimately the problem that some progressive goals do not square entirely with strong dedication to the environment. Progressives were largely successful in the most recent election Nationally because their position on the decency and rights of immigrants, while not perfect, were more human than those of the GOP. Some environmentalists have already taken the irrational position that somehow limiting immigration will help the global environment, and abroad, at least, this is having policy implication. This is but one iteration of the biggest problem facing the environmental movement in the coming decades: breaking the perception (and the reality, where it exists) that environmentalism means preserving nature close to wealthy, largely white populations even at the economic, social, and health expense of poorer communities and countries.

Fortunately, these elections should provide some motivation for healing between the environmentalists and ‘real’ environmentalists. One of the largest investors in progressive politics this Montana election cycle was the League of Conservation Voters and their aid to Senator Tester. While both the League of Conservation Voters and Mr. Tester are fairly controversial topics among environmentalists, the get-out-the-vote efforts of the LCV almost certainly floated all Democratic votes, and if it made a decisive difference in any race, it would probably be to keep Denise Juneau, the most reliable environmental vote on the Land Board, in office. Inevitable bills attacking our environmental protections can be vetoed for another four years. Nationally, the Democratic Senate, for all it’s compromise, can hold back the worst bills already passed by the House. Hopefully in these victories (the unfortunate AG race aside) we can come to the realization that whether the environment is our top priority or one of many, it is important not to let our difference in approach and priorities diminish our ability to protect Montana from those who have already spent millions trying to auction our resources to the highest bidder.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • The first big test of this theory will come in the Lame Duck session. Now that Tester is safe for another term, and the Senate too, will all environmentalists unite to protect roadless areas and grizzly bears in northwest Montana from the greatest legislative threat to public forests since the Burns-Baucus bill: Tester’s logging-mandate rider? The additional, seldom mentioned, threat is that logging mandates in other states will follow, undermining the Clinton Roadless Rule, and national forest system model, established over 100 years ago to prevent local forest abuse and corruption. Can collaborators take strong, necessary policy positions once political objectives have been met, or is partisan politics now a perpetual threat to the environment and what’s left of the environmental movement?

    • I don’t believe Jon Tester is going to withdraw his FJRA, but I also don’t believe it is going to pass. I don’t know that Jon is likely to pass any environmental regulation the most dedicated greens will agree with. But as long as he is there, he can continue putting forth more reasonable versions of whatever bills Daines and the House pass. More importantly, he’ll be there to help approve president Obama’s judicial nominees (essential for environmental lawsuits to remain successful), and to keep the Democratic party in Montana strong, keeping more environmentally minded candidates down ticket viable.

  • Chainsaw Jon’s attitude about environmentalists, that we are mere meddling extremists for failure to play ball with him, lurks behind PW’s post here. It is important to understand that opposition to standng forests requires finding allies wherever they exist. They are not in the Montana congressional delegation.

    It is also important to understand that we are most effective where we live. PW wants us to go off to Ecuador or some far away land to fight our battles. That way Jon can get on with his business unimpeded by organized opposition. (In addition to being presumptuous, PS, this post almost has a chicken dance feel about it.)

    • “PW wants us to go off to Ecuador or some far away land to fight our battles.”

      And you’d like us to go to Ecuador and Nigeria to drill for oil, to China to burn coal, to Indonesia to chop lumber, all so Americans can enjoy an unspoiled wilderness AND buy iPads. That’s the biggest problem with the environmental movement in the US – the focus is on local issues that are mostly irrelevant in the big picture. We can all agree that Global Climate Change has to be stopped, but it’s harder to argue that this goal is well served by moving fossil fuel production abroad. No one wants to see wolves extinct, but their numbers in Montana are of minimal importance to their overall survival or genetic diversity. Without a broader social movement to decrease consumption, legal challenges to resource exploitations merely protect the wild lands and resources that happen to exist within enjoying distance of the wealthy and politically active.

  • PW: ” We can all agree that Global Climate Change has to be stopped…”

    That borders on rather ignorant arrogance to believe that goal is within the power of humans. Science does not support such ability to hold weather and climate in some sort of predetermined stasis.

  • I like Tester just Fine, Thank you

    I consider myself a tree-hugger, because of my background. working with the Bureau of land Management, growing up camping and hunting with the family.

    At First, I balked at Testers Forest Bill, until I read it…. and also because of the terrible fires we had this last summer. Doing nothing to stop the pine moths and Beetles;by not at least, pruning the affected trees, sets us up further for soil erosion, and dirtied water supplies in any future burn areas. Yep it can happen folks, we can possibly see more droughts like this last one, thanks to climate Change.

    The one thing all these fires proved to me, is that those forests like the “Two Sisters Area in Colorado Hampered total destruction… flames didn’t crown the trees, and burn every thing because it was heavenly pruned of beetle killed pine, and the denser areas thinned.

    Smart Logging in this case, saved that area, slowed the fire to a crawl, and gave it a chance to regrow, plus grasses will green up quickly and give forage to countless animals this spring.

    Whether or not all environmentalists agree, I think we need to rethink Testers Bill
    for the sake of whats still standing and healthy in the forests, and work to maintain it. Not to mention it will actually be good for some Jobs here!

    • That is a really interesting comment. It is as if you are lecturing yourself, persuading yourself into following Tester on this. The mind of the Democrat … a thing to behold.

      I’m not singling you out, norma. You guys all do this.You jut do it in public.

      • How the hell did you get to be so self-righteous? I’m a democrat and it seems we’ve the same stance on this particular issue, which might lead one to believe that “not all of us guys do this.”

        I’d say needlessly attacking someone based on your conception of some standard democratic persona, rather than on the merit of her argument, leaves you at least one step behind her.

    • As a tree-hugger you should probably learn to understand a problem before you start to discuss remedies for it.

      Example 1: are you aware that many of the dense stands most affected by beetles are areas that have been over-managed over the course of the last century (i.e. we haven’t let fires burn there, or we’ve logged there, so they’ve become denser and ever-increasingly vulnerable)?

      Example 2: are we to assume that by thinning forests already affected by beetle-kill we aren’t going to a) re-create the exact same problem in the future, and b) affect other webs within that ecosystem?

      The reason we have these problems is because of short-sighted solutions to huge problems. Neither you nor I are capable of wrapping our minds around the entirety of the beetle epidemic, but I know for certain that climate change isn’t the only culprit and that poor forest management has played a considerably large role in the process as well (I’ve done fieldwork on the topic myself). We think we can play God to fix these ecological messes we are beginning to find ourselves in, but what our solutions amount to are band-aids. The damage from old mistakes is already oozing from the sides, and the FJRA would amount to the exact same sorts of missteps.

      Also, chill out on the punctuation, it’s almost impossible to figure out what you’re trying to say.

      • You’ve done exactly what Norma did, on a higher plane. The money people behind Tester are about as interested in forest health as the people behind Obama were in health care reform. Real problems (in the FJRA case, hyped problems) are merely a strategic avenue for other initiatives. It’s called “politics,” and Tester is but the latest in a line of corrupt senators to do the bidding of the timber lobby In the name of some idealistic commitment. It’s easy to see if you are not busy talking yourself into seeing it through his eyes, you know, submitting to power and all of that.

        When Conrad Burns did this job, submitting this bill under various other names, he didn’t even try to pretend his office had written them. They were done by the Montana Wood Products Association. Most likely FJRA was written by the same people. Burns’s staff even forgot to remove the fax moniker from one bill he introduced. TMhese days, electronic communication and all of that, such problems are avoided.

        The process by which partisans like yourself pretzel their minds into supporting what you opposed when carried out by the other party is the subject at hand here. If you are interested in a full discussion of FJRA, submitted to congress by experts in the field and native Montanans (who have done field work on the topic themselves), go here:

        That is, if you are interested. Jon Tester suggests, however, that you not be interested.

        Typos and the like that I leave behind are part of the autocorrect function on this IPad, which I hate. My next device will not be an Apple product. I re-read, but it’s an interesting feature of the human mind – I cannot see what is right before my eyes. Ever have that experience, Mat? Huh? Huh?

        • Seriously, man. Your thoughts are so clouded by a need to disprove everybody on this blog that you can’t discern the point I was actually trying to make, which was that Tester’s bill offers shortsighted solutions to problems we don’t fully understand. Shortsighted, in this case, means bad. I don’t like the bill. Also, I wasn’t criticizing your grammar. I’ve managed to follow this thread on my iPhone, so I trust you can on your
          iPad. The answer is no, anyway. I’ve never made a grammatical error in my life.

        • Mark, Mal was, in his longer post, AGREEING with you. I just want to know who programmed you – you do a great job imitating human functions like being blinded by arrogance or holding a grudge, but your reading comprehension could use a tune-up. Your outputs could pass a Turing test, but only if they matched better with their inputs.

          What most environmentalists in Montana are doing is looking at the FJRA, seeing it to be objectively better than the bills of the past, including at least a half million acre compromise, and deciding to keep supporting Tester even if they don’t support the bill. Why? Well, for one thing, the prospect of creating forest jobs, even temporarily, is wildly popular, even if not among those you would consider ‘the better sort of people’.

          Instead, a few of you ‘true’ environmentalists (conveniently living outside Montana) would rather our politicians feed us environmental opinions until we believe them. First, that is not as easy as you make it sound – Montanans have strongly held opinions about things, and more than that, the people who lose money to wolves or lose their jobs for lack of a timber industry have a much more direct stake in the process than people who enjoy wolves or people who enjoy wilderness. Secondly, what you’re saying in essence is ‘we’ll force environmentalism down people’s throats, because whether they know it or not, it’s what’s good for them. That’s what Chomsky calls consent without consent, and just because it happens all the time doesn’t make it right.

          • Hey now, how do you know I live out of state? Is my moniker that much of a give-away? At any rate I know for certain it doesn’t reduce the scale of my love for MT 🙂

            I understand that people might have stronger stakes in the FJRA than I might, but there’s a reason that there’s no longer a timber industry in MT. As I’ve mentioned in some other comment, the timber industry was DOA given Montana’s forest ecology. Tester will set a precedent by taking protected lands and clearing timber from them, and that would be well and good if they could be managed like forests in WA (I believe you’re familiar with those). Unfortunately, they can’t; it’s not a sustainable industry. In addition, it’s a slippery slope, because once those lands are clear, I’m afraid we’ll find ourselves at such a loss for jobs in the future that we might consider taking more protected lands and clearing them a solid prospect, too. I’m not against creating jobs, but I’m against creating jobs in a lose-lose situation. I agree that the FJRA won’t pass, and I highly doubt a plan more agreeable to me will, but here’s to hoping.

            As for wolves…that’s an entirely different discussion. But I noticed you’re of the opinion that their genetic diversity and population numbers in Montana don’t matter for the broader population. That could be true, although it’s kind of a stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, their genetic diversity and population numbers in Montana matter for an enormous part of our state’s ecosystem. What’s more is that the ag. product lost as a result of wolves really is small potatoes compared with, well, every other one of the state’s native large carnivores. They (grizzlies, lions) don’t get the press because their management isn’t quite as difficult as it is with wolves. That’s all beside the point, however, because again the problem with Jon’s take on wolves is that it sets a precedent that our Montana’s ecosystems can’t support.

            • I actually didn’t know you were from out of State, I was referring to Mark, who likes to attack Montana’s politics from Colorado.

              All in all, I’m not really able to argue with you on the FJRA – I’m not well versed enough in forest ecology, and I know have valid points.

              But as with wolves, (where again I agree,
              these are causes that are popular outside Montana but highly unpopular in Montana. The GOP put a lot of stock in attacking Tester, Bullock, and Juneau on environmental issues. In every case, it was close, but in each case Montana Democrats, with Tester taking the lead, were able to present a moderate front that most Montanans, though they may have disagreed on specifics, were not too offended by. As a result, we have a moderately conservative Senator, a truly centrist Governor, and at least one real environmentalist on the land board.

              • Mal Gills is Malcolm Gilbert commenting from Seattle, by the way. I s’pose there’s no reason not to use my real name.

                You’re right, and by not offending me too much they even garnered my votes; however, I think it’s important that people don’t leave it to their ballot to keep the political process in check, and understanding the issues politicians stand by most vehemently is a huge component of that. Even though Tester got my vote, I won’t commend him unless he gives me reason to.

      • I might add, as anyone who has read my public writing over the last six years will attest, that I avoid “framing,” or constructing artificial debate parameters to lure people into traps. It is a form of political thought control. FJRA is such a trap, and the mandate is that to discuss this issue we must enter the framework – a bill drafted in secret by timber lobbyists and selected representatives of foundation-supported environmental groups known to be sympathetic to the industry before selection. It was a sham. Since it was done shortly after Tester’s 2006 election, we can assume that it was in the works beforehand, and that he was silent about it whole campaigning. Since the process was openly exclusive and deceitful, it was easy to conclude that Tester was deliberately dishonest in promoting the bill, so that the word I use, “corrupt,” is not a mere pejorative, but an accurate description of the process, and therefor the man behind it.

        In fact, the best way to address the problems of forest sustenance and restoration is an inclusive process involving open meetings and input rom all stakeholders.

        My writing over the years focuses on the political person, the operatives, the mechanics of thought control in democratic processes. Framing is one such control device. First Norma, and then you, exhiibited the predicted response to the framework, and talked yourselves into supporting the bill. That is the only logical outcome when politics dictates debates, rather than true public discussion.

  • Oh for pity’s sake, people. Tokarski is delusional. He “avoids framing” by creating unrealistic frames that others either fit in or don’t. He assumes that any interest on the part of another is coerced by a higher power of interest, with absolutely no acceptance that a ‘higher power’ could have been or was questioned. He thinks himself ‘aloof’, in the truest definition of the word.

    Mal, you do a good job of argument, but I assure you that it is pointless. Tokarski creates reality, because he refuses to acknowledge reality beyond what he can rationalize as manipulated. I hope you continue to argue here, but please don’t think Mark Tokarski as a serious player. He isn’t.

  • Hello: I’d just like to point out that in previous discussions on this blog and other blogs, when Tester’s mandated logging bill (FJRA) is debated, Mark T has sometimes brought up the notion that the FJRA is nothing more than a Senator Burns retread. Predictably, some people have suggested Mark is crazy for suggesting this.

    However, my recollection has always been that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership proposal (which later formed the basis for Tester’s FJRA) came about after a December 2005 Congressional Field Hearing Senator Burns hosted in Missoula.

    This article, written by the Montana Wilderness Association and posted on MWA’s website, confirms the Senator Burns connection with the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership proposal.

    “In 2005, concerns over recreation access, wildlife habitat, and slackened timber production sparked a conversation between Montanans from all walks of life about the future of the largest national forest in the Montana, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The dialogue began after a panel discussion in December of 2005, when Republican then-Senator Conrad Burns urged two of the panelists, Sherm Anderson of Sun Mountain Lumber in Deerlodge and John Gatchell of the Montana Wilderness Association, to sit down together and compare visions for the management of the forest. Sherm and John took this advice and began talking. The conversation grew to include people from RY Timber, Roseburg Forest Products, Smurfit-Stone, the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited, and recreation and sports groups across southwestern Montana.”

    The actual Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership Proposal was unveiled – to the surprise of almost all conservation organizations in Montana, the region and nationally – during an April 2006 press conference/rally at the Sun Mountain Lumber Company in Deerlodge.

    Here’s a copy of the actual press release sent out by the timber mills and the three conservation groups (MWA, NWF and MT-TU).

    I should point out that prior to this point in April 2006, these three conservation groups really never focused on, or participated in, logging related management issues on national forests. We never noticed these groups commenting on specific timber sales when we looked at timber sale EA’s or EIS’s. And in my fifteen years focusing on national forest issues I’m pretty sure I never once saw MWA, NWF or MT-TU oppose a timber sale, or file an appeal or a lawsuit against illegal and/or unsustainable logging taking place during the mid- to late-90s clear on through to the 8 years of the GW Bush-Mark Rey Forest Service. Thanks.

  • RE: The federal timber sale program

    The U.S. Forest Service just released their Timber Sale Program Cut and Sold Reports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. Here’s the link:

    Please note that over the past five years the Forest Service in Region One (which includes all national forest in Montana, northern Idaho and the Black Hills in SD) has sold enough timber to fill 239,000 log trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch 2,048 miles, or nearly from Missoula, Montana to New York City.

    According to the Forest Service’s Cut and Sold report, here are the numbers over the past five years for the Forest Service’s Region One:

    • FY 2012 Region One sold 208.3 MMBF, cut 219.4 MMBF.

    • FY 2011 Region One sold 211.9 MMBF, cut 202.0 MMBF.

    • FY 2010 Region One sold 253.4 MMBF, cut 188.7 MMBF.

    • FY 2009 Region One sold 292.9 MMBF, cut 186.0 MMBF.

    • FY 2008 Region One sold 229.2 MMBF, cut 167.4 MMBF.

    (Note: MMBF = million board feet of timber)

    As you notice, the volume of timber sold by the US Forest Service in our Region has stayed pretty steady, while the volume of timber cut per year has actually gone up slightly during the past five years.

    To help put these numbers into perspective, consider these facts:

    • Over the past five years, the Forest Service in our Region has sold a total of 1.195 billion board feet of timber.

    • If cut and loaded onto a typical logging truck (which holds 5,000 board feet of timber) that 1.195 billion board feet of timber sold over the past five years from our Region’s national forests would fill 239,000 log trucks.

    • If those 239,000 logging trucks, full of that 1.195 billion board feet of timber, would be lined up along I-90 end-to-end those full log trucks would stretch for 2,048 miles, or almost between Missoula and New York City.

    So, consider these actual numbers and this image of log trucks lined up end-to-end across the country in the context of Senator Tester and supporters of his mandated logging bill repeatedly giving the public the mistaken impression that “nothing is happening on national forests” in regards to logging.

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