Published quarterly by the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club
Concerned citizens from across the country gathered in Billings, MT on June 17th to learn about the impacts of America’s fossil fuel addiction on the Powder River Basin. Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and Powder River Basin Resource Council were joined by Northern Plains Resource Council, Montan Environmental Information Center, Yellowbird, Inc., Montana Historic Preservation Society, and Honor the Earth to turn the tide on plans to make the Powder River Basin the national sacrifice area to feed the energy needs of the country. Over 150 people attended the Powder River Basin Summit to listen to speakers from around the country discuss coal bed methane, coal development, and the unique history and biology of this hidden treasure.
Wahleah Johns of the Navajo nation and executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition presented along with Bucky Preston of the Hopi nation and L.J. Turner, a rancher from the Powder River Basin, on the legacy of broken promises left by the coal-mining and -burning industries that have set up shop on her reservation. Wahleah noted that water, the most precious resource we have, is given to the coal companies to ship slurry instead of to the Navajo people. Coal development is currently proposed on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations in Montana.
Water is a key problem for coal mining in the Powder River Basin, since the region is a semi-arid land that relies mostly on groundwater. Groundwater flow is heavily impacted by the massive strip mines that litter the Powder River Basin. With new mines proposed in Montana, the groundwater that feeds the springs and creeks of the Basin are more threatened than ever. What little groundwater that may be left is in danger of contamination from the pollution associated with mining coal.
Keynote speaker Winona Laduke addressed the audience with a message of hope. She discussed the efforts of White Earth Reservation, her home, to make their community more sustainable by localizing their economy and pushing for development of wind projects. She noted that if we are unable to shift our economy to a renewable energy economy, we will miss a golden opportunity for prosperity and sustainability.
On June 27th, volunteers clipped, bagged and removed hundreds of pounds of invasive Hound's-tongue weeds during this service outing in Sawmill Gulch of the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area
Saturday & Sunday July 18 & 19 - Old Growth Western Red-Cedars Great Burn Backpack. Just a 30-mile stone's throw west of Missoula lies the famed Great Burn Roadless Area. In addition to jagged granite peaks and expansive sub-alpine meadows, hidden pockets of ancient western red-cedar, spared by the great fire of 1910, remain in several drainages. Some of these giants are more than 500 years old! If you love untouched forests and pristine waterways this trip is for you. This is an easy 10 mile round-trip, overnight backpack up the west fork of Fish Creek. Anglers, bring your fly rod for a chance to catch westslope cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. Space is limited. This trip is full; contact Bob Clark if you would like to be placed on the waiting list: bob.clark(at)sierraclub.org.
Saturday, July 25th - Ninemile Watershed Restoration Day. Volunteer service day at Little McCormick Creek (a tributary of Ninemile Creek) northwest of Missoula. Volunteers are needed for variety of restoration work including; collecting fish and invertebrate data, installing erosion controls, hand-pulling weeds, and plant restoration in westslope cutthroat trout habitat. The work is part of a watershed restoration project being implemented by the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Lolo National Forest, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to improve Little McCormick Creek, an important tributary of Ninemile Creek in the lower Clark Fork River drainage. To join our work crews, meet at the Missoula Public Library parking lot at 8:00 am or meet at the Ninemile Ranger Station at 9:00 am. We will return to Missoula by 5;00 pm. Lunch and transportation will be provided. For more information call the Missoula office at 406-549-1142.
Saturday & Sunday August 8 & 9 - Great Burn Backpack Service Outing. Enjoy the high country of the Great Burn and help clean up lakeshore campsites. This trip takes you to Cedar Log Lakes on the Montana side of the Bitterroot divide. The trail winds along the divide in and out of Idaho, and past Kid Lake to Upper Cedar Log Lake. Indian paintbrush, beargrass, hemlock, and sub-alpine fir are among the variety of flora to be found here. Faunae include moose, bears, and wolves. Cutthroat trout swim the waters of these high mountain lakes, so bring your rod and MT fishing license. Plan to spend time packing up trash and cleaning up at heavily-used campsites. This is a joint trip with Sierra Club and Great Burn Study Group – free and open to the public. Space is limited. To sign up contact Beverly Dupree at thegreatburn(at)yahoo.com.
Saturday, September 26th - National Public Lands Day, Ninemile Watershed Service Project. Volunteer service day at Little McCormick Creek (a tributary of Ninemile Creek) northwest of Missoula. Volunteers are needed to plant grasses and deciduous seedlings in this important westslope cutthroat trout tributary. The work is part of a watershed restoration project being implemented by Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Lolo National Forest, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to improve Little McCormick Creek, an important tributary of Ninemile Creek in the lower Clark Fork River drainage. To join our work crews meet at the Missoula Public Library parking lot at 8:00 am or meet at the Ninemile Ranger Station at 9:00 am. We will return to Missoula by 5:00 pm. Lunch and transportation will be provided. For more information call 406-549-1142.
To find out more about participating in these Montana Chapter Sierra Club outings, or if you’d like to share your favorite wild places by leading a hike or canoe trip in your region, please contact the Outings Coordinator, John Wolverton at: yodelingdog(at)hotmail.com.
The Outings Program of the Montana Chapter would like to extend its appreciation to the Sports Exchange gear store in Missoula, for all their continuing support and advice. Thanks!
More than 300 Montanans have submitted comments to the EPA on their endangerment finding. Photo from Sierra Club event at the Elk's Club in Missoula.
As expected, oil and coal industries are spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying efforts to oppose any new regulations from EPA (or Congress for that matter). However, proponents of clean air are taking advantage of this opportunity by engaging and activating the public to demand our country's future must not be determined by dirty energy interests such as Big Oil and King Coal.
We would like to thank our co-sponsors: Climate Solutions, Forward Montana, Montana Audubon, and Montana Environmental Information Center, as well as the volunteers who helped make it all happen.
EPA’s comment period deadline was June 23. Once EPA finalizes the endangerment finding, it will determine what regulations are necessary to minimize the impact to public health and welfare posed by greenhouse gases which also include nitrous oxide (a primary component of acid rain), methane (25 times more potent than CO2), and three fluorocarbons. So stay tuned! To learn more about the EPA process visit: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageNavigator/adv_bigpicture.
As Americans who value our outdoor heritage, we are concerned about the impacts of global warming on our lands and waters. We urge President Obama to direct his agencies to secure these resources for future generations by taking the following actions:
- Following the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and implementing programs to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Doing so will curb global warming trends and protect America's water, wildlife habitat, and the hunting and fishing that depend on them.
- Expanding existing programs that protect clean water, wetlands and restore healthy fish habitat so that trout, wild salmon and other fisheries as well as waterfowl, are able to better adapt to the stresses brought on by climate change including warmer water temperatures and decreased water supply.
- Expanding habitat conservation programs on both public and private lands to protect vital habitats including winter ranges, migration routes and calving grounds so that big game and other wildlife are able to better adapt to the stresses brought on by climate change.
- Requiring greenhouse gas-producing industries to pay fair market value for permits to emit these pollutants and committing a significant portion of the funds raised to support fish and wildlife conservation.
Sign the petition here.
Critical to the Health of Montana's Water
Around the country, lakes and streams are threatened because misguided executive decisions and court rulings have taken broad protections out of the Clean Water Act. The original intent of the Clean Water Act was to broadly protect our nation's waters, including the many streams, rivers, ponds, wetlands and lakes that supply drinking water, recreational opportunities, commercial fishing, and wildlife habitat. It is thanks to the Clean Water Act that our communities have clean drinking water and clean lakes and rivers in which to recreate. Today about 60% of America’s rivers and 55% of our lakes are safe for swimming and fishing, compared with just 36% before the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.
While the Clean Water Act was compromised during the Bush years, Congress has a chance to change that through passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), S. 787.
In June, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a compromise version of the Clean Water Restoration Act. It's not as good as the original bill and barely gets the law back to where it was before 2001. But it is nevertheless an important step forward in passing the legislation.
The compromise was introduced by Senators Baucus (D-MT) and Klobuchar (D-MN). Republicans unanimously opposed it, and they offered many amendments to take out specific waters named in the definition of "waters of the U.S," including streams, prairie potholes, wet meadows and mudflats. They also wanted to exempt agriculture and livestock production. None of these amendments succeeded. Now the bill moves on to the Senate floor. The bill still needs to get through the House.
A small but powerful group of special interest, polluting industries and their allies are mounting stiff opposition to the bill. That is why proponents of clean water need to contact our Montana Senators and urge them to support a strong CWRA on the Senate floor.
Around the state, we have been working to help pass this legislation, through public outreach, alerts, press, and a letter and discussions with Senate offices. Senators Baucus and Tester are important votes and, as of yet, have not co-sponsored this legislation. An excellent guest editorial ran in the June 7th Missoulian newspaper by Sierra Club staffer, Paul Shively.
- The bill would restore Clean Water Act protections that headwaters, intermittent and ephemeral streams and so-called "isolated" wetlands had before two Supreme Court cases upset 30 years of established law.
- Montana joined more than 30 states in asking the Supreme Court to uphold broad legal protections for small tributaries and their adjacent wetlands. Governor Brian Schweitzer is urging Senators Baucus and Tester to support the CWRA.
- According to EPA, more than 340,000 people in Montana receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller streams.
- The lack of clarity about the Clean Water Act is causing real-world consequences. Last year, Representatives Waxman and Oberstar uncovered internal EPA information showing that the EPA had to drop or downgrade 500 Clean Water Act enforcement cases because it was unclear if the waters fell within the Clean Water Act.
- The bill does not expand the Clean Water Act. The exemptions for routine farming, ranching and silviculture are preserved.
Please contact Sen. Baucus and Tester and ask them to support the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787.)
Senator Max Baucus: (202) 224-2651, or e-mail comments
Senator Jon Tester: (202) 224-2644, or e-mail comments
“We reject the notion that we have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. It’s not one or the other. It’s both or neither."
~ Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers (USW)
Global warming represents not only one of the greatest challenges we face as a generation, but also a tremendous opportunity to move towards a new energy economy where creating good jobs and protecting the environment go hand in hand. One way to help ensure that these green jobs will also be good family-supporting jobs is to allow workers a democratic chance to form unions. That’s why the Sierra Club supports the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 560), which would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions without the fear of being fired, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against corporations who violate their workers’ rights.
Around the state, we have been working with our partners in labor to help pass this legislation through alerts, phone calls, press, rallies, and meetings with Senate offices. Senators Baucus and Tester are important votes and as of yet have not co-sponsored this legislation. A guest editorial by Sierra Club staffer, Bob Clark and Roy Houseman, United Steelworkers Regional Rep., was printed in the June 15th Missoulian.
Given the current financial crisis, it is more important than ever to focus on farsighted policies that will strengthen the American workforce. Unions can provide a counterbalance to corporate greed by giving workers a voice on the job about safety, security, pay, benefits, and the best ways to get work done.
Protecting workers' freedom of association is closely linked to efforts to protect the environment and communities. Workers serve as the front line of defense against hazardous pollution, chemical spills and other accidents that can devastate communities. Union workers are better trained to know about the health and safety risks of hazardous chemicals and have greater protections if they blow the whistle on hazards and accidents in the workplace. Allowing workers the basic right to form a union and to play a greater role in the workplace will be essential to the success of a green and healthy economy. The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers the ability to work for decent pay, be treated with dignity, and take care of their families.
Contact Your Senators Today!
Senator Max Baucus: (202) 224-2651, or e-mail comments
Senator Jon Tester: (202) 224-2644, or e-mail comments
The Montana Land Board is currently considering leasing a giant area, north of Custer National Forest in South East Montana, for the development of a coal project that would increase Montana’s contribution of climate changing coal by 70%. This project, if approved, would lead to the development of at least 2 new strip mines. It would also likely facilitate the construction of a new railroad along the banks of the Tongue River, threatening the Tongue with heavy sediment and coal dust pollution that eventually feeds into the Yellowstone River. This ill-advised railroad also must go across the Miles City Fish Hatchery, the only location in the state that breeds the endangered Pallid Sturgeon.
The Land Board is accepting comments from the public until July 31st, 2009. That’s where you come in. Tell the land board "NO" to new coal development in Montana. Written public comment may be submitted to DNRC by letter, fax, or email. Letters should be addressed to: Monte Mason, Minerals Management Bureau Chief, Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation, PO Box 201601, Helena, MT 59620-1601. Letters by fax should be addressed to Mason and sent to (406) 444-2684. Comments can also be emailed to Mason at mmason(at)mt.gov.
Take action now to hold your elected officials accountable! Contact Mike Scott, Associate Regional Representative in Billings at (406) 839-3333 or mike.scott(at)sierraclub.org for more information on Otter Creek or the Tongue River Railroad.
More than 60 Helena residents attended a Town Hall event on May 7th hosted by Sierra Club, Montana Audubon, Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund, Climate Solutions, Montanans for a Healthy Climate, at the UM-Helena College of Technology. The event, which garnered multiple media stories, featured regional and Montana speakers who explained how upcoming national climate and energy policies can build a more sustainable, healthier and economically viable Montana.
In the Spring issue of The Montana Sierran, we ran an article on the Montana Chapter Carbon Offset Program. The article stated, "The typical American sedan getting 20mpg releases 20 lbs. of C02 per mile!" It should read "1 lb of C02 per mile." Thanks very much to member Bill Flannery for drawing our attention to this important detail.
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Bozeman, MT 59715
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