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Letters for Thursday, January 17, 2008

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Animal abuse

Woman with 64 dogs should be jailed

Clumps of dreadlocked hair hang off an old dog as she sits nervously in a cage without ventilation, waiting to be freed or at least fed. Her own feces and urine are a swamp around her feet 2 inches deep. Waiting for freedom, she is suddenly rescued by some officers only to have her abuser let free with a slap on the wrist of a few fines and no prison time because the officers didn't have a search warrant.

This is the situation 64 dogs were living in, and the punishment 73-year-old Aleta Rogers was given, all because "the dogs offered no immediate threat to public safety, and officers had 'ample opportunity' to obtain a search warrant before the animals were seized," Justice of the Peace Donald Strine said.

Thing is, if a person gives consent to a search, as Aleta Rogers did, she waives the right of a search warrant. So, upon inspecting the trailer and taking a look at the squalor the dogs had to live in every day, the officers had every right to take them out of immediate danger and horrifying conditions.

If you abuse a child do you not get punished? While a dog and child are not the same, they have the same amount of control over how they live; those 64 dogs did not elect to live in such atrocious conditions. Forcing 64 dogs to live in such a way that ended 12 of their lives deserves at least some time in jail and some fines. Give her 20 and make her regret killing animals senselessly.

Mitch Legato, Missoula

Bull moose

FWP should have left creature in woods

The killing of the bull moose in the Canyon Creek area last Sunday by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks was about as short-sighted as the moose apparently had become. First, the moose, no matter how debilitated and aggressive it had become, had a right to live in the national forest and do what moose do, even if that includes kicking snowmobiles. Sure, it was a hazard to people, but as was tragically made apparent on the same day in the same area, so are avalanches. If the road was closed off to further travel because of the result of the avalanche, why couldn't the same thing be done for a moose? Area closures are routinely enforced, even on the ski slopes of Big Mountain, for grizzly bears, another big and dangerous native species.

It's been argued the moose was nearly blind and probably wouldn't have survived the winter, but isn't that nature's way? By killing the moose - and presumably carting the carcass away - the state deprived forest predators and scavengers of quite a bit of feed. Or was the body just left to rot to show that the desires of backcountry skiers and snowmobilers trump the natural rights of the forest?

Carter Young, Missoula

Forest Service

Partnership agreements aren't inclusive

Dirk Ibsen's letter, published Dec. 28, provided valid points about the lack of representation in crafting of the partnership agreements to present to the Forest Service. Some of the unrepresented user groups I know about are: Treasure State Alliance, the Snowmobile Alliance of Western States, Citizens for Balanced Use, Montanans for Multiple Use, Capitol Trail Vehicle Association, MTVRA, Montana Snowmobile Association, FFOR, Anaconda Snowmobile Club, Dillon Snowmobile Club, Beaverhead Outdoor Association, Mining City Trail Riders, Deerlodge, Wise River and Wisdom Snowmobile Club.

It appears there may only be consensus amongst those folks wanting more wilderness and some folks wanting a timber supply. All the others? Not special enough interests - just taxpaying citizens.

Mark Roberts, Missoula

National forests

Ban off-road vehicles

The belligerent attitude of a minority of the ATV crowd exhibited at the recent Forest Service meeting in Darby to discuss travel management in the Bitterroot National Forest is a perfect illustration of the fallacy of travel management plans. The Forest Service devotes much time and resources to coming up with a plan, deciding which roads and trails should be open to ATV use, which should be closed and which should be restricted. Unfortunately, they devote zero resources to enforcing these restrictions, relying almost entirely on voluntary compliance.

The Forest Service chief has called ATVs one of the four primary threats to our national forests. We know that only a small percentage of ATV users create most of the conflicts in restricted areas and all the resource damage. Regrettably, that's all it takes. Imagine if a few percent of all highway users ignored the rules.

Because of this, the only way to actually protect areas and reduce conflicts is to rip unwanted roads out and place effective barriers at trailheads to prohibit ATV use of protected trails. Signs invariabley are vandalized, and even barriers tend to be destroyed by these unwelcome visitors - the same ones who show up at public meetings and threaten those who would protect natural resources from wanton abuse.

Please remember this lesson when participating further in travel planning. Ask your Forest Service representatives how they intend to enforce restrictions, and if there is no enforcement budget, demand that they adopt area closures with effective barriers.

The problem is not that there are too few motorized trails and roads in our forests. The problem is that there are too many.

Tom Woodbury, Missoula

Get involved in Idaho planning

As western Montanans, we need to be involved in Idaho's forest planning.

The Forest Service is taking comments regarding Idaho's roadless areas. Missoula and western Montana are in close proximity to several of Idaho's largest and wildest roadless areas, including a few that straddle the border. These include the Hoodoo/GreatBurn, the Bighorn-Weitas, the Lochsa face and others.

I urge you to comment on their plans and keep a diligent watch on what they're proposing and what they do. These roadless areas are some of the last vestiges of the truly wild. We are in an era of decision-making about these places and we need to do it right.

The new proposals significantly weaken the protections now in place. Once these areas are roaded and developed they will be rendered unrecoverable or, if they are recoverable, it will be an extremely long time before they return to their current state.

Weakening protections for roadless areas doesn't make sense, especially as the pressures on these areas continue to mount. They should be protected from roadbuilding, mining and commercial logging. And, contrary to some beliefs, roads into these areas are not needed to provide for safety from wildfire. Existing rules already provide the flexibility to address fire risk to protect communities.

Please tell the Forest Service how important these areas are to you and that they will be of much greater use as areas for quality recreation, clean water, and fish and wildlife habitat. The Forest Service doesn't even come close to providing maintenance on the roads that do exist, so why make more? Idaho's forests have an estimated $660 million backlog of maintenance on over 34,000 miles of road.

Leaving these areas intact and unroaded will best serve the public and future generations.

Aaron Kindle, Missoula

Trapping

Public lands don't belong to single group

How would you like to drive down a U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management road and see the following sign:

The road beyond this sign is open only to people with companion animals. Any others will be subject to arrest for trespass. Trappers, snowmobilers, four-wheelers, hound hunters, archers and stockmen especially.

Why did I pick on these groups? If you belong to one of these groups, you have found yourselves the target of unfavorable articles or letters. You may say, "I don't have to worry, I'm a big game hunter; they don't mean me." Today you may throw trappers to the dogs, but you can be sure that they won't be satisfied and they'll be back for you. After they are finished getting us off of public land they'll be back to get us off of private land. They just believe they own it all.

Please keep track of Footloose Montana and anything that looks or acts like it. We all stand together or we'll all be taken off of public lands.

Please take a few minutes and try to recall how many people you've seen walking dogs on your snowmobile trails or your four-wheeler trails, or snowshoeing with their dogs on a Sunday afternoon.

Trappers have been in Montana for over 300 years and we'd like to be here for another 300.

Richard H. Williams, Troy

Local government

Elected officials don't serve residents

When are Missoula voters going to realize that neither the City Council nor the county commissioners could care less what we want?

This city is run by the government, not by the people. Ever since Dan Kemmis was mayor we have been coerced into annexation - do it now or pay big-time later - and we have a mayor who just flat lied to us about the West Broadway Diet to get elected. He promised to vote against it.

Then we have Benders Blunder and now a roundabout on Miller Creek Road. I have not heard one person speak in favor of it. Every election we seem to elect officials who care only for their own agenda instead of asking the people who have to pay for all their mistakes. When will things ever change?

I could write a lot more but space is limited.

Chuck Partaker, Missoula

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