Archive for June 19th, 2010

by problembear


it’s not official yet, but it looks like your days of preying on the working poor of montana with 650% interest rates are numbered….

it looks like it will be on the ballot this november. if the history of payday lenders facing ballot measures in the other 17 states that have capped payday lending rates is any guide, the vote should be very much in favor of the people of montana who want a fair treatment of montana’s working poor.

by problembear


i went to my first real live wilderness hearing in 1973. it was a hearing to decide the fate of the oregon dunes natural area near florence oregon. Jim Monteith, andy kerr, tim lillebo marcy willow and i traveled from eugene to grants pass oregon. when we arrived i realized that there were about 100 wilderness supporters present to face down an entire room full of real live gun packing dune buggy enthusiasts, four wheelers and mostly just plain angry local folks and timber beasts who were against anything that their friends and employers were.

This was just one of many hearings that senator mark hatfield and his staff were holding in several communities around oregon to get a sense of how the citizens of oregon viewed the proposal to protect this area from further erosion by four wheelers and dune buggies. geologists testified that the dunes would only last another 50 years at the rate that gas guzzling machines were knocking them down. we testified about the value of the wild plants and the unique environment of course, which only resulted in cat calls and boos from the locals. they testified the usual things about the proposed wilderness area impinging on their right as free born americans to go wherever the hell they wanted to in their sand rails and their massively jacked up to ten feet high cab 4×4 machines. it also didn’t help much that the town’s mascot was the caveman…..

in the middle of the hearing a very magical thing happened which turned the war-like atmosphere of the packed auditorium on its ear…..

a very prim, white haired, tiny, older woman who amazingly wore the proverbial red tennis shoes approached the lectern. she cleared her throat, adjusted her very thick glasses to face the senator and began….

“i am from medford oregon and one of my favorite recreations is to hike in and view the warblers of the oregon coast many of which are found in diversity and abundance among the oregon dunes national park. they congregate around the fresh water springs and sparse vegetation which exists like little oases to satisfy their very tiny needs. from bristle cone pines to the rhododendron these little birds find sustenance in the tiniest and most rare of environments which machines are threatening to destroy within my nieces and nephews lifetimes. i have no children of my own. i am all alone now except for my birds.

i have never owned an RV or a camper. i used to camp out on the dunes when i was younger in tents. i am older now but i still get out and hike wherever i can…..

(at this point this tiny older woman turned around to face the thousand or so four wheelers who were laughing at her)

……we don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the wild places that are left. it is possible to enjoy life without using expensive machines……

(then she turned her steely blue eyes behind those owl lenses around to face senator hatfield and the members of the committee and staff as she finished with this haymaker….

………senator, i have lived my entire life on a librarian’s salary, (she banged her tiny fist on the lectern) and i have lived a damned good life.”

senator hatfield and all the participants in that room sat chastised and dumb-founded by this tiny brave woman’s short speech. in fact, it was the only time in senator hatfield’s career that he was ever lectured to. in front of the tv cameras and facing a hostile crowd, this unknown woman held us all in the palm of her hand with her humble words of support and remonstrance at the wasteful way most all of us live our lives. her speech was an indictment of the vacuousness of modern life and at the same time it was a ringing endorsement of the necessity to protect every single piece of what is still wild in order not so much to recreate but to survive.

i spent from 1973 to 1984 helping to protect oregon’s wild lands and probably traded away a promising career as a well paid petroleum or mineral geologist to do it. i watched fellow students i knew become successful, but never happier than i was. in fact, most of them were jealous of my life, although i always lived hand to mouth to support my passion to protect wild land.

this is why i am so hard on many of the new well-paid professional wilderness advocates who are trading away so much of the future of montana’s wild lands in exchange for a handful of silver (600,000 acres) out of 3.3 million.

i am beholden to no one. i have a very modest life with the one i love which we both enjoy immensely. and i have never compromised on wilderness one inch in my entire life and i don’t intend to start now. when i remember that lady who has most certainly passed from this earth many decades ago, i am renewed by her truth about simplicity as the only path to happiness. i am reminded of her also when i see those who have accumulated much wealth but who will never see the value of wilderness and i realize just how lucky i am.

when the political puppets of power reach out to seek compromise from those who occupy the position and the important task of defending wild land, i suppose it is tempting to serve them. but i will never know how that feels, thanks to that lady. i only know one thing i have learned in 37 years of fighting for wilderness. compromise never saved one acre of wild land. but courage and sacrifice has.

bob dylan said it best when he said….you gotta serve somebody.

when it comes to protecting wilderness you must make a choice between the tempting political tap on the shoulder which allows entry to the chuck-e-cheese like romp room in washington dc which rewards those who collaborate VS the earth.

i have lived my entire life on a blue collar bear’s salary and i too, have lived a damned good life. just like that long gone poor librarian, i choose the earth.

oh- and by the way, that area was saved. and mark hatfield is on record as saying it was that old lady’s lecture to him and all of us that pushed it over the top.

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