Can I Please Have My Fresh Air Back?

It’s autumn, not summer wildfire season

By Mark Suppelsa

I walked out on my deck on a cold, but beautiful sunny morning. The sun shining over the Swan Range was, unfortunately, only in partial view. I say partial, because as soon as I opened my door it smelled like summer wildfire season with the mountain view obscured by a smoky haze. Ah, opening-burning month is in full swing. I’ll be blunt: Why do we still allow it? I do understand that some have acres and acres of property that need clearing. Most of the rest of us residents don’t. Yet the county appears to have just one spot to haul wood, brush and grass for compost (Flathead County Landfill in Whitefish). Sure, that makes it a harder task to rid ourselves of our yard waste. Not everyone has the time to load up their pickups with the waste and drive it there. Yes, I have the time and I do that. So instead of chiding my fellow residents, I’m asking county commissioners: How much would it cost each taxpayer for an additional service at each green box garbage site to have a yard waste pile? Like the green boxes, have it periodically picked up and brought to the main landfill compost area in Whitefish. $3 a year? $5? After some initial threats of closing down in Bigfork and the threats over the “high cost” of building a bigger one, the new Bigfork Green Box site cost what? A $39 annual special assessment? And now it’s an essential part of our community.

It’s almost 2020, friends. I know “we’ve always done it this way.” But whether you believe it’s man made or not, the world is warming. It’s a fact. Almost everyone watches in horror as Brazilian farmers torch millions of acres of an essential rainforest. 99.9 percent of scientists say (yes, those darn facts) that contributes to a warming, melting climate. Thailand’s beautiful mountain region is constantly smoke-filled with landowners also doing as we do. I’ve seen it. Examples can be found everywhere in second- and third-world countries. And here we call ourselves first world and advanced, yet still encourage open burning for months where trees, brush and grass are often mixed with old mattresses and even household garbage? Why not save the outdoor burning for good old campfires? That toxic smoke from huge burn piles doesn’t just magically disappear, folks. It’s autumn, not summer wildfire season. Can I please have my fresh air and clear view back?

Mark Suppelsa

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