by William Skink
Late last month a forged letter on Missoula County letterhead, that even featured the signatures County Commissioners, got the attention of the Mayor and the Sheriff’s Department. The subject of the forged letter was the Syrian refugee controversy:
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the origin of a forged letter suggesting that county commissioners no longer support the reopening of a refugee resettlement office in the city.
Terrible, right? Maybe even criminal. Someone went to a lot of work to be sneaky and manipulative and now they may pay the price.
If this forged letter bothers you, then take a few minutes to read this op-ed by Ben Deeble about the political shenanigans surrounding the Sage Grouse issue and the lengths one organization has gone to in order to make the Bullock administration look good:
The guest column by retired federal wildlife biologist and Montana Wildlife Federation member Dan Bricco (“Montana’s sage grouse: a model in conservation,” Missoulian, May 5) could benefit from some context. In July 2014 I was offered $10,000 by the Western Conservation Foundation to arrange 10 presentations to hunters across Montana in partnership with MWF. The topic? Gov. Steve Bullock’s imminent executive order on sage grouse conservation in our state. But after I learned the terms of the offer, I rejected it.
I had by then 15 years of experience with agencies and non-governmental organizations on sage grouse conservation planning, population monitoring and habitat assessment. I’d been invited to testify in front of Congress, and to participate in a group developing the Bureau of Land Management’s first national conservation strategy. And I’d trained and fielded more “citizen scientists” than anyone else to census grouse populations. Why didn’t I take the money? Because the foundation demanded I abandon integrity in my professional assessment and public outreach. I was told explicitly that my presentation required pre-screening and approval by the foundation’s representative, and it must only “laud” the governor’s grouse conservation efforts. Having received grants for years, this was the first which so blatantly attempted to purchase positive professional opinion on behalf of a politician.
Using money to try and control the message of a professional like Deeble is bad enough (nice to see someone choose integrity over cash), but Deeble goes on to describe how an elderly man was taken advantage of by the Montana Wildlife Federation:
MWF at the same time accepted over $14,000 from WCF to “build public support” for adoption of the Montana grouse plan. I admit the plan contains many good things, but it was also very controversial regarding the top public lands threats: energy development and mining. The conservation representatives voted against accepting the plan, and issued four minority reports on related flaws. More troubling, after receiving his advisory committee’s split-decision product, Bullock weakened the energy development stipulation still further to favor industry.
WCF dollars funded the whitewash of this political and biological misdeed, and as evidenced by Bricco’s column, the whitewash continues. I called Dan Bricco and he readily admitted he didn’t write the column submitted over his credentials. He is 80 years old, “hasn’t really followed” sage grouse science since retiring nearly 20 years ago and is in poor health. He hasn’t read the governor’s plan, didn’t attend any of the advisory council’s meetings, and couldn’t name any organizations that, as he wrote, “praised across the country” Bullock’s “model of collaborative conservation.” He said he was supplied with the column’s text directly from MWF staff, and asked to send it to newspapers. I believe he naively did so, not knowing his endorsement acts to legitimize misinformation that works against the long-term interests of sage grouse, at least according to authentic science-based opinion. The bird, our senior biologists and the public deserve better un-politicized information.
While this doesn’t rise to the same level as the forged Syrian refugee letter, it is very icky and deceitful. Ben Deeble should be commended for coming forward to describe the degree of manipulation at play during this election season.
Is the benefit to the Bullock administration really worth the cost of taking advantage of an elderly man, using his name as cover for MWF propaganda? I don’t know, maybe some journalist should ask Tracy Stone-Manning that question.
Montana Democrats seem to have problems with providing accurate information when it comes to environmental issues. Four years ago, JC highlighted a part of Stone-Manning’s work history for Tester worth noting again here:
“Stone-Manning has been Tester’s policy director based in Missoula since 2007…
While on Tester’s staff, Stone-Manning worked on details and negotiations for the senator’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which combined new wilderness and recreation designations with extensive logging and forest remediation projects. She also was involved in Tester’s legislation transferring gray wolves from federal Endangered Species Act protection to state management.”
Remember, Tester used environmentalists to get elected a decade ago, then turned around to label non-collaborators as “extremists”. And when it comes to accurate information, Tester told a whopper when he claimed every single timber project was under litigation, a lie so obvious (earning him a 4 Pinnochio rating from the Washington Post) it probably made this Ochenski take-down pretty easy to pen.
Montana’s natural beauty–when it’s not burning due to climate change–is one of the state’s most valuable assets. It’s too bad Montana Democrats can’t be trusted to be good stewards of this asset once in office.