MWA Demands Missoulian Replace Ochenski with a Lackey

Guest post by Matthew Koehler

If anyone opens up the Missoulian opinion page today you’ll be greeted by an epic, off-the-rails rant from the Montana Wilderness Association’s ‘communications manager’ Ted Brewer (complete with outright lies and entirely propped up by strawman arguments) against longtime environmental and public lands champion George Ochenski.

Recently the Missoulian published two columns on its Opinion page that were, topically speaking, quite different. Psychologically speaking, however, they were quite similar.

One column claimed the U.S. government is controlling the weather through commercial airliner exhaust, known as “chemtrails.” The other was George Ochenski’s column claiming the Forest Service is using tax dollars to “buy” the support of conservation groups for logging, grazing and other resource extraction projects.

A friend of mine who used to work at a daily newspaper calls the Opinion page a “fact-free zone,” but these two conspiracy theories, printed on the same day, turned the Missoulian’s Opinion page into a paranoia playground, where President Obama makes it rain and an extravagantly funded Forest Service slips bags of cash to conservation groups while dining on filet of bull trout and leg of Canada lynx.

I’m the communications manager at Montana Wilderness Association, certainly one of the top entries on Ochenski’s list of enemies and a longtime, routine target of his column. (If Ochenski goes a few months without blasting MWA, I start to wonder if his mind might be slipping.) I’ve also been a writer for the past 20-odd years. I’ve written a fair number of magazine stories that have required me to dig for the sources that back my claims. It’s part of the job and the fun of doing credible journalism.

But once you start making outrageous claims without providing proof, then you’ve joined the ranks of birthers, chemtrail conspiracy mongers, and other ideological zealots and crackpots with personal and political axes to grind. That’s where we find Ochenski these days, so desperate to smear his enemies that he compares them to Nazis (yes, he did that) or tries to embroil them in controversies of his own paranoid concoction.

In the opinion piece, the Montana Wilderness Association compares Ochenski to “birthers, chemtrail conspiracy mongers, and other ideological zealots and crackpots.” The Montana Wilderness Association also calls on the Missoulian to replace George Ochenski (their very popular, weekly progressive columnist).

Apparently, what caused the Montana Wilderness Association to go completely off the deep end was the following information Ochenski included in a recent opinion column, in which he highlighted the comments by Wilderness Legend Stewart Brandborg (the only living person who was responsible for passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964). Brandborg recently warned groups like MWA at a Wilderness Conference to “resist the fuzzy, fuzzy Neverland of collaboration,” because Brandborg believes that groups like MWA are giving up huge chunks of America’s public lands legacy in exchange for basically what amounts to some Wilderness crumbs.

What’s strange is that it’s absolutely no secret to anyone that for the past 10 years the Montana Wilderness Association has been ‘collaborating’ with the timber industry and others (sometimes in secret meetings, such as during the formation of the Beaverhead Partnership) to dramatically increase industrial logging on public National Forests in Montana through politicians simply mandating higher logging levels.

Not only this, but the Montana Wilderness Association has also gone to court to support more public lands logging in Montana. For example, just last month the Montana Wilderness Association took the incredible step of actually intervening in a timber sale lawsuit on the Kootenaa National Forest. The logging project MWA is in federal court supporting actually calls for nearly 9,000 acres of logging, including over 3,000 acres of clearcuts in critical lynx habitat.

Even more amazing is the fact that the Montana Wilderness Association is being represented in court supporting this timber sale by timber industry lawyers from the American Forest Resource Council. That’s right! The very same timber industry lawyers at the American Forest Resource Council who sued to stop the Roadless Area Conservation Rule are now representing the Montana Wilderness Association in court to support 9,000 acres of logging, including over 3,000 acres of clearcuts in critical lynx habitat on the Kootenai National Forest.

Here’s the part of George Ochenski’s column (in his own words, not in the lies and twisted strawman arguments of the Montana Wilderness Association) that sent the Montana Wilderness Association over the cliff:

If one wants to see where millions of federal taxpayer dollars have gone to buy collaborative partners, check out this link from the Southwest Crown of the Continent laying out the Forest Service’s publicly funded largesse to groups such as Trout Unlimited, the Montana Wilderness Association, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and many more.

This scheme pays taxpayer funds to private groups that provide ‘in-kind services’ to collaborate with the federal agency’s goals, many of which are directly connected to increased logging, grazing and resource extraction from public lands under the rubric of ‘forest health’ or ‘restoration.’

Yes, the truth is that the Forest Service is actually giving ‘collaborators’ with multi-million non-profit groups like the Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation millions of taxpayer dollars to help manage public lands! In the case of the Montana Wilderness Association, they collected $100,000 in taxpayer money from the U.S. Forest Service to do trail work on Forest Service lands. Isn’t that an incredibly slippery slope that threatens to compromise the “Keep It Public” mantra we so often hear from these groups? Wouldn’t it be better for taxpayer money to simply fund the U.S. Forest Service to do its job, rather than having the Forest Service give this taxpayer money to multi-million non-profit groups who ‘collaborate’ with the Forest Service?

Honestly, given the Montana Wilderness Association very well-documented love affair with ‘collaboration’ and given the Montana Wilderness Association’s very well-documented demands for more taxpayer-subsidized public lands logging on National Forests in Montana (despite terrible lumber markets, despite global economic realities, etc) it’s just bizarre why MWA would be so upset with George Ochenski for pointing out the fact that MWA and other groups have been able to collectively get millions of dollars to hire their own staff and get paid for their volunteers to manage our public lands.

As Keith Hammer with the Swan View Coalition recently pointed out:

While these funds on the one hand enable partners to do some monitoring and watershed restoration work by repairing or decommissioning roads, it also appears to silence public criticisms by partners of the more controversial timber sales being conducted under the guise of “forest restoration.” Moreover, some SWCC partners have collectively promoted “restoration” logging and asked Congress to work with collaborators and not with “organizations and individuals who oppose collaborative approaches to forest management.

If you love America’s National Forests and our tremendous public lands legacy please don’t be lulled to sleep by groups like the Montana Wilderness Association.

The bottom line is that some of these very well-funded, multi-million groups are using ‘collaboration’ in an attempt to greatly increase public lands logging (including MWA’s well-documented calls for politicians to simply mandate huge increases in National Forest logging levels), while at the same time they are using ‘collaboration’ to secure huge chunks of taxpayer funds (via the Forest Service) in order to increase their staff size and essential embark down that slippery slope where the management of America’s National Forests is essentially ‘out-sourced’ and ‘privatized.’

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27 Responses to MWA Demands Missoulian Replace Ochenski with a Lackey

  1. great post Matt, thank you.

  2. steve kelly says:

    MWA is also keeper of a large, up-to-date membership list which it shares routinely with state and national Democratic Party campaigns. This activity is strictly prohibited by IRS (501(c)(3)) laws. On the other side of the aisle, The Elk Foundation serves a similar purpose for Republicans. Two branches of the same party meet where collaboration begins — selling-out the Public Trust for pennies on the dollar, and turning worthless commodities into corporate profit.

  3. Big Swede says:

    “It is obvious that [leftists] are not cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality.”
    ― Theodore J. Kaczynski

    • You know nothing about Ted Kaczynski except that information that has fallen into your lap without effort. I suggest you not quote him.

      When are you ever going to tell us what you think, rather than being a mere sock puppet for others?

      • Big Swede says:

        I think Ted nailed it. By the way do you quote anyone in your posts?

        • You’re low information. You run around, never read anything, and drop your little snippets and YouTubes, An insult to people who do read and think. When someone calls you out, you claim they are getting personal. When someone finally gets frustrated and let’s you have it, you think you’ve won. You’re the ultimate impenetrable fool.

        • Big Swede says:

          I read plenty Mark. I just don’t waste my time at Counterpunch, Moon of AL.,and lap up every thing Noam spews. Nor do I spend hours examining multiple conspiracy theories penned by pseudo-intellectuals with hate America hard ons.

          I enjoy the possibility of fixing problems not spinning aimlessly in a solution-less vortex of despair, disgust and hopelessness.

        • You project a lot, know nothing. You haven’t a clue what I read.

        • By the way, if you “read plenty,” why can’t you bring yourself to read blog posts before you drop comments, or even longer comments?

        • Big Swede says:

          Well, we can say (like Ted) you certainly lack a “cool head”.

        • You do not present an answerable argument. You jump from snippet to snippet. If we bother to rebut that, you’re already working on the next one. You’re not consistent, do not follow through. You don’t read. It is annoying, but the worst of it is when people do get annoyed with you, you think it is due to the quality of your arguments. You don’t have the ability to self-reflect, self-analyze. You don’t know the mountains of stuff you don’t know. That is why I just stopped allowing you to post on my website. It never changes.

        • Big Swede says:

          Wow, banned at your site. Think anyone will notice?

          I far as I can tell you have several options when conversing with me. You just can ignore me all together like JC and Liz do most of the time or you can address my questions or quotes and debate their relevance or you can just big a big prick and throw out insults.

          Your call.

          And JC and Liz if you think that what I say here has no redeemable value or promotes a different thought provoking aspect from the other side please tell me-I’ll leave. I can’t see however how Mark’s vitriol improves the debate here. I’m always willing to respond politely until provoked.

        • Yeah – I was physically taking down your links and snippets until I figured out how to ban you, along with K urtz and K ralj, similar animals. If you ever read anyone’s posts, you would have known you were banned, and why. Not reading anyone’s post before dropping comments is part of it. Never staying on topic is another

          I cannot debate with you, Swede, because you don’t know anything! You a creature of Google, I suppose mixed with some deep indoctrination in the 60’s and 70’s that still defines you. Someone puts up a post about, Montana Wilderness Association, you skim the post, do a Google, and you put up a quote, as you did below, unaware that MWA was the object of criticism in this post , and think that you’ve scored some point because someone else has also criticized MWA and others for taking government bribes. Then there is no point in answering you. It all blew by you, you don’t know it, and will never know it. You have no clue why MWA is being criticized here.

          You haven’t a clue what the discussion regarding MWA is about, and you don’t know it. You have a sterotyype of environmental groups in your head, and no one can shake it. And you wonder why people ignore you, as I should. It is one of an endless number of unshakable stereotype. Which brings me to the last reason I banned you – you never move forward. Never an inch.

    • steve kelly says:

      Didn’t you forget something? The truth and reality. We’re all waiting, Swede.

      • Big Swede says:

        So many undeniable truths out there. The most encompassing non-truth, related to this post is, “We’re from the Government and we’re here to help”.

        • steve kelly says:

          You must be confusing this post with another. I see no such message in this post. Actually, quite the opposite, but what does that matter? Your quarter, play whatever song on the jukebox you like.

        • Big Swede says:

          Maybe the paragraph where Govt. (Forest Service) collaborates with MWF, TU, and RMEF.

          “Yes, the truth is that the Forest Service is actually giving ‘collaborators’ with multi-million non-profit groups like the Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation millions of taxpayer dollars to help manage public lands! In the case of the Montana Wilderness Association, they collected $100,000 in taxpayer money from the U.S. Forest Service to do trail work on Forest Service lands. Isn’t that an incredibly slippery slope that threatens to compromise the “Keep It Public” mantra we so often hear from these groups? Wouldn’t it be better for taxpayer money to simply fund the U.S. Forest Service to do its job, rather than having the Forest Service give this taxpayer money to multi-million non-profit groups who ‘collaborate’ with the Forest Service?”

          Need to read the whole post Steve.

        • steve kelly says:

          So we agree, the Forest Service only helps itself at everyone elses expense. And neither of us like outsourcing because it increases the budget, the annual deficit, national debt, and moves us further from a balanced budget. That wasn’t so hard, now was it?

        • Big Swede says:

          To a point. I’d like the National Forests either in private hands or at a minuim run by the state.

        • I cannot imagine the chaos of privately owned forests, the public locked out, lake shores overrun with development, houses atop water falls, roads everywhere even more than now. That is incredibly shortsighted. Government is not perfect, but the private sector is so corrupt that even government is an improvement.

          Your God is in very kind to you. So far he has not granted your wish.

  4. I have to think “many hands” on Brewer’s piece, that he didn’t justfire it off without subjecting it to his peeps, discuss it, and decide the ultimate objective. He obviously looks like a fool, angry and hurling insults. Why?

    I belonged to MWA for quite a few years, and they were savvy about using their members as fronts and manipulating the media. Even then, when money didn’t flow like it does now for them, they sat around and discussed these matters – no one shot off a piece to media without having a table discussion. I would guess they are either making flak to hide something else they are up to, or trying to draw out some irrational response that they can highlight … They are creeps, but not stupid creeps.

    What would be their objective here?

    • JC says:

      Brewer used to write for Lee Enterprises (Montana Magazine), MTFWP (Montana Outdoors), MT. Dept. of Revenue… you get the picture. My take is, among other things, that he is a “cleaner.”

      • What’s a “cleaner?” (I don’t think his writing here is very good. There is no substance to it. He is just hurling insults. I would guess, having worked for Lee and MTDOR that he is used to being heavily edited and under control of others, and does not mind it. I find that so undignified, but my point is he is here just a spearchucker, not a thinker. Someone else put him up to this, meaning it is flak. To what end? It obviously not does make MWA look good. Anyone with a brain will see through it.)

        It reminds me of a story Schweitzer told me when he ran against Burns … One of Burns’ aides went off the rail and attacked the media, just lost it, and the media was all over the story. Schweitzer said it was a calculated move – Burns had gotten drunk the night before and had a rant session at an airport about Native Americans, and they needed to distract the media from that, which was the real story. It worked. The media either knowingly went along, or are that dumb.

        • JC says:

          A “cleaner” is someone who is hired to come in a do a PR makeover, to clean up the mess of bad PR. And folks know all the bad PR that MWA has been getting for all of its foibles with collaboration and politics, and bad legislation (Tester and his logging bill), etc.

          All of this obviously has taken its toll, and MWA hired Brewer to clean up its image (among other things), which is why he is using his connections with Lee to attempt to silence Ochenski, one of the most vocal critics of MWA.

          Aside from that, Brewer’s profile notes that one of his specialties is “branding.” Most writers/editors/researchers don’t do branding. That is the realm of marketing and advertisers and designers. MWA’s hiring of a branding specialist tells me that they are looking seriously to clean up their image. Look for much more from MWA as it revamps its public persona.

        • Well, they cannot change reality, but they can try to change perceptions. If this article by Brewer is an example of his skills, he’s not long for that job.

  5. Swede, I have no problem with you commenting here.

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