They say it’s your Earth Day!

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The first Earth Day I remember growing up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (a town named for a giant ancient fish that was once abundant throughout the Great Lakes, but was devastated by over-harvesting and pollution) was April 22, 1987.

On that day, about 20 members of Mrs. Paulsen’s third grade planted a tree in the east courtyard of Sunset Elementary School. Satellite imagery shows the tree—a maple, I think—still there, providing some shade for the classroom where I first read “Charlotte’s Web.”

I remember Mrs Paulsen explaining that the Earth is fragile and needs to be protected if we are all to stay here. The tree, he explained, will help clean the air and provide oxygen for us to breathe.

Pretty cool, I thought.

In the early 1980s, Earth Day was a big deal. Its founder, Gaylord Nelson, is a senator from my home state, so National Environmental Teaching Day is widely celebrated in Wisconsin public schools.

There are many reasons for the nation — and the world — to recognize the importance of protecting the environment.

Just months before I was born, President Jimmy Carter declared a national emergency in Niagra Falls, New York, after decades of toxic waste dumping on the Love Canal poisoned hundreds of families and caused a staggering increase in miscarriages and birth defects among them. residents living around the site.

A month after I was born, a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, caused the worst nuclear disaster on American soil. About a month after that, a fire and explosion at the famed toxic waste dump in Elizabeth, New Jersey, sent “thick black smoke and ash over a 15-mile area,” sparking fears of widespread toxic contamination.

In response to this disaster, Congress in 1980 passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act—better known as the Superfund—which created a national trust fund to deal with hazardous waste sites requiring long-term cleaning.

Today I live in Montana, which is home to 16 Superfund sites that require state and federal cleanup, most of which result from hard rock metal mining and related activities.

On March 22, 1972, less than two years after the first Earth Day and nearly eight years before the formation of the Superfund law, 100 elected delegates adopted the new Montana Constitution. The delegation was undoubtedly inspired by that first Earth Day — among the rights enumerated in the Constitution is the “right to a clean and healthy environment.”

From groundwater and asbestos contamination in Libby, to abandoned mine waste and lead contamination in the Helena area, to groundwater contamination in Billings, residents of Montans across the state continue to grapple with the legacy of runaway industrial pollution. Oil spills on the Yellowstone River, smoke-filled skies during Montana’s ongoing fire season, and nutrient pollution in rivers are reminders that we still have a long way to go to fulfill our Constitutional promises.

—John S. Adams, Editor-in-Chief

Word by word

“2021 is an unprecedented year with more restrictions than any other year, with the greatest duration of restrictions, and with the most restrictions imposed in the world. [any] one time. …The Shield and Yellowstone River are currently in a very bad state. We’ll likely see the restrictions on Shields kick in as early as mid-May. ”

FWP Fisheries Division Administrator Eileen Ryce, spoke about the recent and expected river closures before the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Tuesday. Ryce added that estimates also appear rough for the Jefferson, Gallatin, Beaverhead, Big Hole and Ruby rivers, and the Hebgen and Canyon Ferry reservoirs are unlikely to fill. He said the agency is working with Hebgen Dam operator NorthWestern Energy to prioritize flow in the lower Madison River, one of the state’s most popular fisheries.

Amanda Eggert, Reporter

Glad you answered

Last week’s lowdown included an unscientific poll asking for your input on the questions we should ask US House candidates during this year’s election season. Frankly I was surprised by the number of responses — over 300 submissions by the time we closed the form on Thursday.

Now I’m ready to sort through all that input, both quantitative issue ratings and your written feedback. One early tidbit: The top-ranking issue for respondents who described themselves as “committed conservatives” was “election integrity and voting access.” Instead, for the self-described moderate conservative, it is the bond between “national debt”, “inflation” and “public education.” (Both committed liberals and moderates, by comparison, rank “climate change” as their most important issue.)

Stay tuned for more on how that input will drive our election coverage — and thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights.

Eric Dietrich, Reporter

Following the Law ️

A 2021 law that made it difficult for transgender Montanans to update the sex register on their birth certificates by requiring surgery and a court order as a condition for the change has been invalidated as a lawsuit against the law has been filed in court.

The lawsuit, which was filed by a Billings woman and an unnamed Bozeman-born man last year, argues that the new law violates existing requirements that government services must be provided without discrimination based on sex and that a public document that lists gender a transgender person is assigned. at birth can expose them to abuse. Proponents of the law point to the need to maintain the integrity of the country’s statistical records and argue that a person’s gender has historically been public information.

Yellowstone County District Court Judge Michael Moses issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday, granting the request from the plaintiffs, who want the law to be rendered unenforceable while the case continues. The full decision on whether the law is constitutional will come at a later date.

—Eric Dietrich, Reporter

By Numbers

The number of beds, including emergency and transitional housing, that local service providers across Montana are looking to add to serve youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. Funding for additional services came from a $3.4 million federal grant awarded to Montana in 2019. We reported on Montana’s efforts to curb youth homelessness this week.

Hot Potato

This week, Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen released the results of a pollasking of legislators on whether they supported calling the May special session of the Montana Legislature to discuss electoral integrity. The poll was conducted over the past month at the request of 10 Republican legislators, and the results were not in their favour. Forty-four legislators – all Republicans – voted in favor of the proposal and 60 lawmakers rejected it. Another 45 refused to vote.

It is the second time this year that critics of the 2020 election have failed to push for a special session to set up a special legislative committee tasked with investigating alleged voting irregularities in Montana. The first came in February when a group of Republicans asked their counterparts in the House and Senate to sign a letter urging Governor Greg Gianforte to call both chambers back to Helena. The request failed to garner majority support.

—Alex Sakariassen, Reporter


It’s time again to put your listening skills to the test in Season 2 of our Share the Country podcast.* Anyone who submits the correct answers to the three questions below will be opted in to win MTFP prizes: hats, mugs, sweaters, and more. Let’s get started.

Episode 7: The next chapter of Colstrip

  1. Who was in charge of local services before Colstrip decided to merge as a city in 1998?
  2. What type of vehicle is Sen. Duane Ankney tends to drive around the Colstrip when the weather is nice?
  3. Name the parts of Colstrip’s infrastructure that development advocate Jim Atchison describes as “worth its weight in gold.”

Submit your answers using this form before 5:00 PM Mountain Time on Monday, April 25, and we’ll randomly select one winner from the correct entries to submit some great MTFP gear. A special shout out to Jeanette from Dayton, OH, last week’s quiz winner!

*Yes, we know, there is a transcript available to simply look up the answer. We trust you to listen first and verify later. Have a good time!

—Mara Silvers, Reporter

On Our Radar

Amanda Eggert — Snowpacks and streams are very important to me these days, so I was intrigued by this Missoula Current story that reveals more about the state’s decision not to “call up” irrigation holding junior water rights to support fisheries by keeping more water flowing at the Smith and Shields rivers last summer.

Alex Sakariassen — New issues are constantly emerging in the world of education, and the most recent issue I encountered centered on objections to socially oriented material in the mathematics curriculum. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, the Florida Department of Education this month rejected dozens of math textbooks it deemed inappropriate, causing confusion and criticism from educators across the country.

Eric Dietrich — In the north, the Canadian government is grappling with policies that could provide some relief from soaring housing prices. One proposal: ban foreign buyers from acquiring Canadian real estate, reports the Globe and Mail.

Brad Tyer — Butte’s Montana Standard this week capitalized on the state’s drought-obsessed zeitgeist with the launch of River in Peril, a gorgeous multimedia series that explores the challenges the Big Hole River faces. If you care about state waters, you should take the time to soak in this particular project.

* Some articles may be behind a paywall.

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