- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Great Falls Tribune, July 7, on Malmstrom Air Force Base and Montana Air National Guard volunteers:

Most people know military installations support a third or more of the Great Falls economy. Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard are key players in the economy, as well as in their main job of defending the nation.

There is another aspect to the military presence in the Electric City that might not always be apparent, but it is a valued contribution to the community. Volunteerism by airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base has been remarkable over the years, stretching back to the time when East Base, now Malmstrom, was established during World War II.

Since then, the sky has almost been the limit for personnel from Malmstrom, fanning out in the community to help with ambitious public events, down to a small fundraiser to help an ill child.

Last year, Malmstrom airmen volunteered in myriad ways, from delivering 2,355 meals to the elderly through Meals on Wheels; providing 293 volunteers to ring bells at the Salvation Army Red Kettles before Christmas; and donating 387 units of blood to the American Red Cross, according to a story Friday by Tribune reporter Jenn Rowell. In 2013, nearly half of all area Big Brothers and Big Sisters adult volunteers came from Malmstrom, and year after year the community-wide MApril cleanup effort relies heavily on volunteers from the Air Force base, as does the fall Day of Caring. The list goes on and on.

“I don’t think there’s an organization in our community that hasn’t benefited from Malmstrom volunteers,” said Kim Skornogoski, spokeswoman for United Way of Cascade County.

Without stepping back, it’s difficult to understand the scope and breadth of this volunteer juggernaut. Montana Air National Guard personnel also deserve praise for their volunteer work.

Meanwhile, changes have been made to how the U.S. Air Force looks at volunteer work by personnel in Great Falls.

In June, Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly told the Army Times in an interview that volunteering would no longer be considered as a factor when the time comes for Air Force personnel to be considered for promotions. In the past, volunteering could be taken into account, but no longer.

At first blush, this might be cause for concern for a community that has benefited greatly from the public-spirited and valuable contributions made by enlisted members of the U.S. Air Force. The worry is volunteerism might fade away without a tangible potential reward of receiving higher marks at promotion time.

However, Lori Muzzana, community support coordinator at Malmstrom, said she doubts the change in the promotion system will cause a significant drop in base volunteers. Muzzana said she thinks only “a small percentage” of volunteers do the work out of self-interest; most are excited to help.

“They really look for things to do and jump all over opportunities,” Muzzana said.

We agree. We think this might be a problem if the only reason a person volunteered was a selfish one, and we don’t believe that’s the situation in most cases. We believe the primary reason people volunteer is because of the good it will do, not for a reward. Lord knows, people don’t join the military to get rich or to lounge around. They entered for love of country, and to contribute to the betterment and protection of the United States.

It is no surprise that these patriots, who already are giving so much to their country, also contribute in many ways to the communities in which they live.

For his part, Kelly told Army Times volunteering will still be valued and encouraged by the Air Force, and can still help an airman receive quarterly awards. But he said under the new performance system, it will be impossible for someone who is not good at his job to get promoted because the airman volunteers.

We want to thank all military personnel in the Great Falls area for their impressive contributions to this community over the years, and we are confident this new promotion system will not derail an excellent system of volunteerism and selflessness in Cascade County.

Editorial: https://gftrib.com/1UANdQZ

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The Havre Daily News, July 7, on official status for the Little Shell Tribe:

Officials of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians are hopeful that new rules will make it easier for the federal Interior Department to relent and grant official status for the tribe.

The feds have been reluctant to grant recognition to the Little Shell - though the state of Montana has granted approval - because the tribe largely dispersed after the arrival of Europeans.

Today, most Little Shell have become part of the mainstream society. Bankers, public relations people, educators and historians throughout Montana are proud members of the tribe, though many people - even friends - don’t realize the people have Native backgrounds.

They may not at first glimpse appear to be Native, but their pride in the rich history of the Little Shell shines through.

The Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have rejected Little Shell plans for recognition, saying they don’t fit within federal guidelines as a tribe. Nearly every other tribe remained intact and eventually signed a treaty with the United States.

Little Shell had a tough time remaining intact and keeping their cultural traditions, though maintain the traditions they did.

Their effort for recognition has two fronts.

Tribal members are hoping to work within the Interior Department, convincing authorities to overturn their earlier decision against recognition. The proposed new rules will help that effort.

The tribe is also working to get Congress to grant recognition by, in effect, overruling the Interior Department. The Montana delegation has introduced legislation, but to no effect so far.

It’s time the Bureau of Indian Affairs bureaucracy and Congress move forward to grant recognition.

That would open the door for the tribe to take part in all kinds of federal programs.

It will enable the 6,000 members to be eligible for health and education benefits.

Most important, it would grant formal recognition to the rich tradition and great history of the tribe whose members were Montanans centuries before the arrival of Europeans.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1HOoV0a

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The Missoulian, July 7, on wilderness designation for the Great Burn:

For decades, the prevailing opinion regarding the Great Burn has been that it ought to be designated wilderness. The 252,000-acre area that straddles the border between western Montana and northern Idaho has been recommended as wilderness in both states, with proposals forwarded at least 20 times.

And yet, inexplicably, the Great Burn is still not an official wilderness. How can it be that such a simple, straightforward, popular and nonpartisan idea has made no progress?

One reason may be the congressional tradition that calls for legislators from the proposed wilderness’s home state to introduce any new wilderness legislation. When the proposal requires cross-state cooperation, as the Great Burn does, it can be exponentially more difficult to get the necessary momentum for such a bill.

Often, it makes sense to wait for the congressional delegates of a forest’s home state to sponsor any legislation that might affect it. After all, the people who live nearest to these places have the most to lose or gain from land management decisions that take place in their own back yard. But that ought to be where the conversation starts - not ends.

National forests belong to all Americans, and all Americans should have a say in their management. And we’re willing to bet most Americans would agree to designating the Great Burn as wilderness.

This unique area is named after the wildfires that burned nearly 3 million acres over the course of three days in 1910. While it therefore holds an important place in the national consciousness due to its history, it is presently a critical piece of wildlife connectivity at well, linking the Cabinet-Yaak and Glacier Park with wild places extending into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The Lolo National Forest is responsible for one side of the Great Burn, and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest has jurisdiction over the other - and both are moving toward implementing new forest management plans. In the meantime, both forests regard the Great Burn area as “recommended wilderness.”

It remains a wild, unroaded region studded with dozens of lakes. And despite the fact that it is located in Idaho and Montana, it’s a favorite getaway for residents of Washington State. It’s 90 minutes away from Spokane as well as Missoula, but it’s Spokane’s closest world-class hiking and backpacking destination. Washingtonians are voting with their feet, but otherwise have little say about this national treasure’s federal fate.

Each wilderness is unique. In the case of the Great Burn, a bill proposing that it be designated wilderness need not necessarily originate in Montana. It would be great if it did, but no matter where such legislation might originate, congressional members from Montana - and every other state - should line up in support of it.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1Mf3sNN

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The Independent Record, July 8, on changing the name of Helena’s Confederate fountain:

Editorial:

Regardless of what people call it, the fountain at Hill Park in Helena will always be a monument built in honor of Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.

And we don’t see any reason to try to disguise it as anything but that.

Commissioned by members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy who moved to Helena after the Civil War and dedicated in September 1916, the stone fountain is inscribed with the words “A Loving Tribute to Our Confederate Soldiers.”

As the nation reflects on the Confederate flag’s role in a recent shooting in South Carolina, however, some city officials want to rededicate the nearly 100-year-old fountain because of the Confederacy’s connections to slavery and hatred.

One city commissioner argued the fountain’s current status “doesn’t portray us as the open and welcoming community that we are.” But history suggests just the opposite.

A member of the Daughters of the Confederacy praised the new union between the North and South during the fountain’s dedication, according to Lewis and Clark County heritage preservation officer Pam Attardo. And the Helena community’s willingness to commemorate Confederate soldiers is a testament to that union’s strength.

The fountain portrays Helena not as a hateful place, but as a community that had enough respect for those who were once considered enemies to allow them to honor their dead. It shows that early Helenans respected human life, not slavery.

Is that really something we should try to erase?

In any case, we don’t believe it’s necessary to renounce even the artifacts that did come from dark times in history. We can learn a lot from the local buildings that used to house brothels without supporting prostitution, just like we can learn from Confederate artifacts without supporting slavery.

Furthermore, changing the fountain’s name will not change its history. The fountain is and always will be a monument erected for Confederates by Confederates, even if city leaders decide to call it something else.

The fountain is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Attardo has recommended the use of an interpretive sign detailing how and why it was placed there. We consider explaining the fountain’s history to be a much more reasonable approach than trying to rewrite it.

Helena’s rich history is part of what makes our community so great, and it would be a shame to try to hide that because of a knee-jerk reaction to a national tragedy.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1TltvXO

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