Mainly, these are things we should think about.
Sanders County is just north of Missoula County and we’re both in that old timber-producing area.
Right now I’m going through a book called Montana: An Assessment for the Future by Robert Bigart.
It came out in 1978 and discusses forestry numbers for that time.
For instance, when you put tourism against forestry, it’s clear that the numbers just can’t be made up.
In 1974 the Montana Business Quarterly estimated that it’d take 4,260 tourists coming to the state to replace the $37,500 in income that five forestry jobs created. Those jobs would be lost each time lumber production fell a million board feet.
About a year ago we discussed Honest Numbers on Montana’s Timber and Wood Products Industry.
You’ll get a ton of stats there and see that we’ve lost millions of board feet over the years.
That’s something our friends in Sanders County are concerned about.
It comes down to timber reform and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition. The Coalition approved an agreement between disparate groups.
This helps the communities of Libby, Noxon, and Trout Creek.
The National Forest is 2.2 million acres in size and the Montana Wilderness Association is getting new wilderness areas while at the same time having responsible timber management.
This deal is going on right now between the British Columbia border, Northern Idaho, and western Montana.
Clearly, we know the Bullock Administration must have had a hand in bringing that about.
So…why aren’t they talking this stuff up?
I bet it’s because they’re afraid of alienating the environmentals. Mainly, they’re afraid of pissing ‘em off.
That’s a shame, as Bullock is about to lose his labor support over the Colstrip thing, and it’s clear he’s shying away from environmentals there.
He should probably do the same thing in Sanders County.
Those folks want jobs and they’ll listen to Gianforte’s jobs message and vote for him.
More, they’ll listen to the message of people like Jennifer Fielder and vote for her.
The nice thing for those opposing Fielder is that she’s never in that district, never in Sanders County.
I dunno – maybe she has a winter home in California or something.
The good news is that this doesn’t help Fielder’s land-grab message, as she’s not there to deliver it.
Instead, Bullock has been in Sanders County working with the Forest Service and the Kootenai Coalition and just about everyone else that wants to see some jobs created while at the same time keeping those lands public.
Speaking of public…where is Jennifer Fielder’s plan on transfer of federal land to state control?
- How much will that cost exactly?
- How many jobs will it help create?
- Will it reopen those mills?
Maybe that’s why Fielder’s always out of the county – she has no clue what’s going on and doesn’t want to be asked.
Someone that knows a thing or two about timber mills is Carol Brooker.
She was first elected in 1994, along with a bunch of other Democrats in a year when they fought back against the Racicot agenda in an off-year.
She is the lone female County Commissioner in Sanders County and she’s gone Independent to keep her seat.
She’s a hard worker I hear, and people are disappointed to hear she won’t be running again in 2018.
When she was last elected in 2012 she beat out Greg Hinkle.
Her family used to run a mill and lumber yard in Plains. She has been advocating for timber reform since she's gotten in.
Well, she’s done now…as are most Dems in that county. The love of environmental policies over jobs has turned the place red, both in the voting rolls and in the account books.
Many don't think there’s going to be any competition to Fielder. Some view the Dems as outfought, worn out, and perhaps ready for a breather to retool.
Mainly, it’s the same problem that Democrats face around the state – an electorate that doesn’t really care about the issues they push.
For instance, many in Sanders County would like to see the Rock Creek Mine start up. Many Democrats would as well, but again, the love-fest with the environmentals precludes them from saying this.
From what I’ve heard, no one in Sanders County wants or cares about the gun rhetoric that the media is so in love with, including the Dem mouthpiece blogs of the state.
Sanders County Democrats are definitely willing to support timber reforms. They want jobs, they want responsible land management – they want compromise and working together.
If you look a little deeper into Sanders County politics you’ll see that the two-party system used to be a lot healthier.
Some say that in the past Jennifer Fielder worked with Jim Elliott's campaign for over a year.
Then suddenly she bailed and joined Greg Hinkle's campaign.
Some have suggested that Fielder took all of the information she knew about Elliot and his operations and gave it to the other side.
Elliot beat out Greg Hinkle that year and it was the first challenge he had to deal with.
So, really the big question is…how did Sanders County go from one of responsible leadership to craziness in such a short span of time?
For instance, Mark Sheets lost to Fielder in 2012 by 1,500 votes.
Some in Sanders County think that we don’t need 1,500 votes to beat Fielder, just 775 moderate votes thrown behind a different candidate.
One big question that I want to ask Gianforte, and everyone else should want to ask him, is where he stands on the state-federal land issue.
Does he support groups like American Lands Council that want to see the State of Montana take control of National Forests?
Or does he want to keep things as they are…preferably with a bit more sticking it to the Feds to manage things better?
Plum Creek is a fine example.
They had free usage of their land and now they’re bought out. Will they allow public access?
Gianforte is a hunter. From what I heard yesterday, the guy doesn’t buy meat – he just hunts and hangs his own.
So public access to lands should be important to him.
We’ll see, just as we’ll see how things shape up in Sanders County.