Freedom to Salvage an Important Right

By Beacon Staff

Thanks to the Flathead Beacon for keeping us up to date on the county’s desire to make criminals of those who salvage from the green boxes. Dave Prunty, Flathead County public works director, thinks prohibiting salvaging is necessary for the safety of those who salvage and for the protection of the county from lawsuits if someone is injured while salvaging. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is being used extensively by bureaucrats to eliminate rights and freedoms for everyone. They don’t have the imagination needed to solve problems; so they try and eliminate the problem by passing another regulation. The buzzwords used to intimidate people into supporting their reasoning are “safety” and “liability.” A few horror stories thrown in tend to shatter the last few objections to the new law.

Safety is used as an issue, but how far should government go to protect us from ourselves? A large part of our enjoyment of life is directly related to taking risks. Skiing, skydiving, car racing, football and even eating out carries a degree of risk. The vast majority of people are responsible and choose to take all types of risks each day and escape injury because they have learned safety skills. During the last 20 years, when I have salvaged, I have been careful and courteous as are all the other green box salvagers who I have observed. In fact, I often see people cleaning up around the green boxes. They would likely report the vehicle license number of people who don’t follow policy.

Liability is also used as an issue, but many successful lawsuits against government are settled out of court. Bureaucrats make a fiscal decision not to prevail in court. They pay damages rather than lawyers to successfully refute lawsuits which have no merit. This type of decision vastly encourages frivolous lawsuits. People need to be held accountable for personal responsibility.

According to Prunty, the plan is to eventually ban salvaging at all green box locations, once the county is able to hire more personnel. Growth of government is not the answer! The fact is that there are many useful items being thrown away. Yesterday I observed a person taking all of the wood out of the green boxes and another taking all of the metal. They do the job for free and contribute to our economy. They are salvagers and should not be referred to as scavengers, a demeaning term.

I agree with a recent Daily Inter Lake editorial that pointed out, “no one’s been hurt yet, and the county hasn’t been dragged into court repeatedly by injured green box divers seeking government compensation. The county, it seems, has come up with a solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist.”

Freedom to salvage at the green box site is a right that is worth protecting.

Verdell Jackson is state senator from Kalispell

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