Many others around the state share my opinion. Many of these folks live in Sanders County, the area that Fielder is doing the most damage.
It comes down to public lands.
Most of the public lands debate in Montana is being fueled by the Sanders Natural Resource Council (SNRC).
A big part of this debate goes back to roadless areas, mining jobs, and of course the forestry industry.
The federal government owns most of Sanders County. Several decades ago the timber industry was dealt a devastating blow by environmental organizations and their hordes of lawyers.
Put simply, they kicked the industry’s ass. That industry will never be what it once was in that region.
The same tactics used to kill the timber industry were used in March 2015 to stop the development of the Revett mine and close it for good. They also tightened restrictions on public access to lands.
If successful, the people and groups involved will ensure that Sanders and Lincoln Counties remain near the top list when it comes to Montana unemployment figures.
This is a disaster.
And there’s nothing much that can be done.
A lot of that comes down to bureaucratic politics. That’s what we have our three idiots in Washington for – Tester, Daines, and Zinke – but they don’t care about people in Sanders County.
People in Sanders County don’t win elections for ‘em, it’s as simple as that.
- The local Forest Service people have little or no control over agency policy, rules and regulations.
- The District Rangers get their marching orders from the Forest Supervisor’s Office.
- The Supervisor’s Office gets orders come from the Regional Office.
- Regional gets orders come from the Washington Office.
- Washington gets its orders from the Department of Agriculture.
- Ag has to go through the current Administration in power and from the nation’s court system – a real playground for all those lawyers mentioned earlier.
The bottom line is that government, especially at the federal level, is way too big.
Then there is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which I worked for in Helena for 2 years.
The agency has sweeping powers when it comes to threatened and endangered plants and animals or habitat deemed critical to support such animals.
This often means jobs are lost to save those animals. That’s great, but it doesn’t much help those in Sanders County, now does it?
More than 50% of the land base in Sanders County is owned by the government.
Without access to substantial volumes of timber from federal lands, available reserves may be enough to support a small mill or two.
Additional timber will have to come from privately owned timberland, about 26% of the County's land base.
Company-owned timberland, a significant part of the private land, is not likely to be a large contributor either.
Much of that land has been heavily cutover and will take years to produce merchantable stands – and then, only if the land is not subdivided and sold.
Expecting individuals or companies to make the massive investment necessary to build a new mill without reliable, long-range material supplies is unrealistic.
It boils down to supply and demand. Without a supply or a demand the situation is not going be resolved by coordination.
When and if Jennifer Fielder and Greg Hinkle’s coordination is forced on the County it will open new doors that can be used to challenge land use decisions made by the Commissioners.
Under their vision a petition would only need signatures from 3% of the county voters (less than 500) to ‘force’ the County into action at taxpayer expense.
The County may be forced to sue the federal government to demand compliance with the County plan or would have to hold public hearings to explain their reasons for not demanding coordination.
Under that scenario the Commissioners could be forced into a legal quagmire by any relatively small, unhappy group of people for, as Hinkle puts it, ‘the cost of a postage stamp.’
Is that what we want for Sanders County? Once that Pandora’s Box is opened it will not be easy to close.
So…what is this coordination between Fielder and Hinkle?
Both seem to believe that ‘Coordination’ will soon have hundreds of heavily loaded logging trucks rolling from National Forest lands bound to sawmills that no longer exist in our region. There is probably room for a few small mills in the county.
However, finding individuals and companies willing to make the massive investment necessary to build a new mill of any size during these trying times without highly reliable, long-range raw material supplies is, in my opinion, unrealistic.
Private landowners own and control about 26% of the land, about half of which can produce merchantable timber on a sustainable basis.
The government owns and controls more than 50%. Without access to timber resources from federal lands, there is not enough available timber to re-establish a viable timber industry of any significant size. At root level this is a supply and demand issue.
Complacency was a contributing factor to the loss of much of the timber industry because communities, politicians, individuals as well as those in the timber business failed to step up several decades ago when they might have had a positive impact in the way federal lands are currently being managed.
As a result we now must deal with an overwhelming load of government laws, rules and regulations and court precedent that may well be insurmountable.
The potential is still here for a strong timber based economy. However, until Congress passes laws that can survive court challenges at every level to allow access to its timber resources as opposed to allowing millions of board feet to die on the stump or burn, it is not practical.
If infringement on the rights of property owners is, indeed, the larger issue here, then both Hinkle and Jennifer Fielder could use some advice from their political pundits in the Sanders Natural Resource Committee (SNRC).
On March 9, 2004, Ms. Fielder led an attempt to use the government, in this case the Sanders County Commissioners and then the court system, to deny and control the subdivision of land on Cherry Creek where she owned property.
Greg Hinkle, also appearing before the Commissioners to protest the development, "…reminded the Board that they have the authority to stop these small parcel subdivisions."
Then-Commissioner Hank Laws responded that the people of Sanders County had recently voted out the planning board. According to the Commissioners' proceedings, Laws directed a question to Hinkle; "…how would you propose that the Commissioners tell individuals that they cannot subdivide their property into small parcels?"
Wasn't control of land subdivision the aim of the Cherry Creek Landowners, an ad hoc group of owners with land tracts greater than 5 acres who wanted to coerce larger landowners into not subdividing their properties into acreages of less than 5 acres?
In the subsequent lawsuit, Fielder v. Board of County Commissioners, Ms. Fielder and others filed a legal action to resolve the matter.
The result was that all but one item in the plaintiffs' challenge were dismissed on May 22, 2007, in a final ruling by the Montana State Supreme Court. The action by the Court served to preserve the rights of landowners.
Food for thought in the upcoming general election, it seems that at least a few of the local politicians publicly perceived as championing landowner rights really do not, especially when they are personally affected.
So much for political honesty and integrity.
Besides this, we have the militias.
It’s no secret that both Fielder and Greg Hinkle, as well as the Sanders County Natural Resource Committee (SCNRC), are being advised and supported in their political aspirations by the far right wing Militia of Montana (MOM).
This is a clone of the Montana Freemen movement noted by Pat Williams in a letter to the local newspaper in 2012.
With support from the MOM, candidates Fielder and Hinkle have made a clear choice to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who often promote anarchy and the overthrow of government as we know it.
I have a strong feeling that is not what our founding fathers had in mind when they signed the Declaration of Independence and drafted the Constitution.
Like so many across the country, Sanders County residents share the frustration and anger about government. I believe that the majority of Sanders County voters would be reluctant to support politicians who support such a philosophy if they knew more about it.
The far right and far left have more in common than either likes to admit.
Each advocates the overthrow or change of the governmental structure and process currently in place.
Both extremes use the same basic plan to carry out their ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy. The mantra is ‘if you want to control it, you have to join it.’
From what I’ve been told, people have personally heard Fielder make comments to that effect on more than one occasion.
Their primary argument for the takeover or removal of government at all levels is pretty obvious if one looks more deeply into their motives, not just what appears on a MOM website.
And of course there’s Fielder’s public corruption.
Fielder’s sham aide was on the payroll of the Utah based American Lands Council. The group is best known for championing the land transfer issue to which she obviously considers more important than most every other problem facing Sanders County.
All you have to do is take a look at the bills with her name on them as primary sponsor that have been introduced during the recent legislative session. By the way, while you’re doing that, check out how her bills on your behalf have done so far.
The land transfer pipedream has been around for a long time, bout 40 years. Little has changed since then nor is it likely it ever will.
Officials elected by, of and for We the People should expect to be held to a high level of honesty and integrity than the average person.
When you look closely at Senator Fielder’s denials of association and questionable judgment when it comes to hiding the true identity of personal advisors from the voters, I think our Senator fails the litmus test.
I wonder how many other closet doors may yet be concealing more shadowy secrets while she continues representing the far right and out of state interests.
We need to take back Sanders County and expand to neighboring counties and the state.
Securing Sanders is accomplish-able. Let's do that first.
One commissioner East end-Magera in 2016 while keeping the good guys we have at the state level and shoring up the precinct positions like those held by the Greens in Noxon and in Trout Creek.
Then in 2018 we’ll hold our state level spots there, sheriff and precinct positions while taking some or all of the County executive positions. (Clerk and Recorder, JP, County attorney, and another commissioner spot in Plains to give us a majority on the board of commissioners.)
Post-election 2018 could be a bright day for Sanders County and Montana, due to the effects of having a solid county can have on our state.