An Outdoorsman’s Perspective on Montana Issues and Races

A Montana ballot – full of choices (or confusion).

We’re now under two weeks from Election Day. I look forward to the end of this political cycle. We’ve been inundated with almost non-stop negative advertising, smears and half-truths, and no party or side has a monopoly in that regard.

Still, the campaign is nearly over and, in fact, many people have voted or have ballots in hand, ready to vote.

I recognize that our readers will have varying ideas about the worth of my opinions. I’m still going to share some thoughts on some issues and races from this outdoorsman/conservationist’s perspective.

The major issue is I-186, the issue that would add an additional step to the mining permitting process, requiring the Department of Environmental Quality to deny mining permits if the mining plan can’t establish that it won’t end up with future water pollution problems.

I’ve read a lot of stuff about it, and sat through presentations from both sides of the question. The mining companies have spent a lot of money trying to scare voters into voting against it, claiming the measure would mean the end of hard rock mining in Montana. Proponents of the measure deny that it’s anti-mining and, in fact, claim several other states have enacted similar laws and that mining permits continue to be issued.

Here in Butte, we’ve mostly heard from the mining industry. We have a long history of mining here. I get that. But here are some other perspectives.

The mayors of Great Falls, Helena, Missoula, Whitefish, and the mayor-elect of Bozeman issued a joint statement in support of I-186, starting with the reality that “Montana communities run on clean, natural water…and want to ensure this resource continues to run for generations to come.”

“The toxic legacy of irresponsible hard-rock mining continues to plague Montana’s landscape, rivers and streams. It continues to cost our state millions of dollars a year in continued cleanup…”

John Lund, a Lutheran clergyman with Emmaus Campus Ministry at the University of Montana, issued an opinion piece, co-signed by many clergy and faith leaders, saying, in part, “As members of multiple spiritual and faith perspectives, we all have a call and responsibility to be caretakers and stewards of the earth, the landscape we inhabit, and all of the living plants and creatures that are part of it.” Lund urges Montanans to vote yes in I-186, “as an expression of faith and to be responsible stewards of the land we live in and of the clean water that gives life to all things.”

Personally, the thing that really decided my vote was a flyer from the mining industry smearing backers of the measure, saying, “I-186 is led by activists tied to the most radical environmental organizations in America…” Trout Unlimited is one of the lead organizations backing the measure. TU may be a national organization, but it’s also a Montana organization that has worked hard for protection of cold-water resources. It’s a grass-roots (or wet-feet) organization with rank and file members all across Montana.

I’m voting in favor of I-186.

I-185 doesn’t really have anything to do with outdoors, though I’ll still express an opinion. I-185 would increase taxes on tobacco products to help fund Medicaid expansion. To quote State Senator Jon Sesso, “Everything you’ve heard from opponents of I-185 is a lie.” And if you don’t like the stinkin’ tax on tobacco, don’t buy big tobacco’s stinkin’ products.

In the Senate race, I think the overwhelming question for outdoors oriented voters is who will better look out for our public lands. There’s no question in my mind that Senator Jon Tester is more attuned to our public lands than his challenger, Matt Rosendale, a real estate developer and rank newcomer when it comes to public lands values.

In the House race, incumbent Greg Gianforte brags about his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and his NRA endorsement. In my opinion, candidates with that rating and endorsement have sold their soul to the devil. I’m voting for challenger Kathleen Williams.

For better or worse, that’s how I look at it. Readers may agree or disagree, and that’s fine. We each get one vote, and now I’m going hunting.

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