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Missoulian editorial: Big eagles, little huckleberries

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We’ve never seen an eagle in a huckleberry bush, but we’re all for the Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 32 spotting a problem and doing something about it — namely flying in $21,000 in donations to revive Missoula’s local Big Brothers Big Sisters outpost. Just as a young person benefits from having an older friend in their life, so a community’s organizations can look out for one another and offer a helping hand when needed. Before budgetary constraints closed the city BBS office in 2019, it was matching around 100 “Bigs” and “Littles” a year in ways that helped with schooling, supported local businesses, and encouraged more good deeds to the future. 

Sun-dried and dusty chokecherries to the energy developers who turned up their noses and held down their bidding paddles at last month’s federal oil and gas lease sale. With the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russian energy driving oil prices back above $100 a barrel internationally, domestic fossil fuel advocates need to get their stories straight. The world’s largest oil companies are making record profits (300% more in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same time in 2021), yet they balk at paying an extra 6.25% royalty to lease future exploratory acres of federal land. That looks like either a power play to further cheat the American taxpayer/landowner out of fair compensation for public resources, or an admission that future oil and gas development won’t pay for itself in the face of cleaner and cheaper renewable energy sources (which also reduce the damage to our climate rather than increase it).

Hard-to-find chokecherries to the legislators who hacked the public participation rules involved with siting new open-cut gravel mines, like the one proposed for a field north of Arlee. We need gravel for roads, concrete and other essential activities. But the value of that gravel needs to account for the cost to surrounding neighbors, who have no other way to get back the noise levels, air quality, water supply or viewshed affected by someone’s mining development. Rigging the law so that people can’t get notified of a proposal before it’s been approved, and therefore can’t make a case for compensation or mitigation, is what’s commonly called “market interference” and “picking winners” in the public square.

A well-secured supply of huckleberries to the volunteers mobilizing the Bear Smart working group analyzing Missoula County’s ursine vulnerabilities. Living amid clean-flowing rivers and creeks, surrounded by wilderness and public wildlands, makes a beautiful lifestyle for both humans and bears. That also brings responsibilities for those who have the intellectual capacity to make choices based on something other than instinct or convenience. Unsecured garbage accounts for half the bear conflict incidents in and around the city. We can’t teach bears not to eat. But we can teach them that they won’t find food in our yards and alleys.

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