For those of us who are willing to endure its hardships – long cold winters, lack of job opportunity, forest fires – there is no better place to live than Montana. Notwithstanding that I was born in another state, I am a Montanan through and through. This is where I have built my life over the past four decades, where I have worked and raised my children. My values and beliefs are a reflection of where I live.
I’ve always felt that Montana was different than other states. This may be simply because we are so sparsely populated. With nearly 150,000 square miles we are the fourth largest state. When I first came here there were fewer than 800,000 people in the entire state, and even today there are only a little more than one million full-time residents. That’s not much of a voting bloc.
As a result, the political greed that has invaded most other states took a while to reach us. But it’s most definitely here now. You see, in spite of how hard it is to make a living here, Montana is actually very rich. We have oil, natural gas, timber, silver, copper, zinc manganese, coal, and, let’s not forget, gold. And they want it. They want it all and they want it bad. And they don’t care what they have to do to get it.
That’s why the extraction industries are spending so much money in an attempt to take over Montana politics. And you know what? It’s happening. They’ve got their senator, Steve Daines, and their body-slamming representative, Greg Gianforte, and now they are placing their money on Matt Rosendale. But they are not stopping there. They’ve got their bought state and local politicians, as well. It’s a simple plan: change the laws so that they can profit at our loss. Given the chance they will frack it all up in a heartbeat.
Whatever our differences on various political ideologies, Montanans all seem to agree on certain basic issues. We all want to protect what we have – the things that make our state so special. Our clean rivers and lakes, our clean air (when not congested with smoke from forest fires), our mountains and our prairies, our abundant wildlife. If these are the things you cherish about our state, then please don’t hand them over to these unethical politicians. As I’ve said before, Montana is not called “The Treasure State” simply because of what we have underground, but more so because of what we treasure in our hearts.
Tom Bernstein lives in Kalispell.