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Letter to the editor icon2

Letter to the editor icon2

Gaming the system

The Opinion page in the Christmas edition was an interesting read. First, the “Montana View” claims that “Enzi, Lee let veterans down”. This regards Agent Orange exposure by veterans who served in the Navy offshore in Vietnam, and the supposed medical issues they now suffer from that exposure. I can understand that, IF they handled Agent Orange, and IF their maladies can be traced to that handling. All others serving in the fleet during that time period not handling Agent Orange in a manner that exposed them to its toxicity are just gaming the system, in my view, and should not be entitled to medical benefits.

I was surprised to learn years later that not all service members of that time period were eligible for medical benefits. I guess it was only for those who served in hazardous situations, thus drawing hazardous duty pay, who were eligible for VA benefits. I never thought about it at the time but appreciate those benefits now. So I think Enzi and Lee are right, and have stepped forward to NOT let our country down by NOT letting some veterans game the system.

Then, the “Guest View” by Otstot, Tucker, Thomas, and Okland claims Zinke is leaving our public lands vulnerable because Karen Budd-Falen, whom he hired, remains as a deputy solicitor for Interior. They fear she will open vast areas of Interior-managed public lands to instant exploitation and degradation. What poppycock!

Ms. Budd-Falen supports reasonable development of our natural (commodity) resources on public lands. Roughly half of the west is comprised of federal public lands, and overzealous management of these lands by Federal officials with preservational bents have done significant damage to the industries and communities trying to develop these lands.

NW Montana, the Troy-Libby area, comes to mind. This started with President Carter, became worse during Clinton’s tenure, and became an abomination with Obama. Beginning with the transplanting of Canadian wolves, Ms. Budd-Falen pushes back on all these snobby, elitist agendas and tries to bring some sense of sanity to our public lands’ management.

How bad is it? Knowing that the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest is now roughly 80% wilderness and wilderness-in-waiting gives some perspective. So yes, knowing that Ms. Budd-Falen remains in a position to fight for reasonable and responsible commodity development of our public lands gives me hope that better times are coming for rural America.

EA Johnson, Butte

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