Archive for the ‘Plum Creek’ Category

by Pete Talbot

News that former Montana Governor Marc Racicot has joined the board of Plum Creek Timber should come as no surprise. Since leaving the state, Racicot has shilled for the insurance industry, railroads and energy corporations. And, of course, George W. Bush.

Racicot is from Libby and it was while he was serving his two terms as governor that asbestos-related diseases came to light in this Northwestern Montana mining and logging town. He ignored this deadly problem.

Plum Creek also has some history in Libby. It bought all the timberlands in the area from Champion International in 1991. Plum Creek didn’t take the eighty-year-old mill in this exchange, though. It was bought by Stimson Lumber and then closed 11 years later. Plum Creek doesn’t really like the lumber business as it has found that parceling out its prime real estate is much more lucrative. It has closed most of its mills in Montana.

I met the former governor a couple of times back in the ’90s. He was one of Montana’s most popular governors and a heck of a nice guy. His legacy is a bit tarnished these days, what with the Libby asbestos fiasco, his push to deregulate Montana Power, and abruptly moving to D.C. after serving as governor to become a high-powered insurance industry lobbyist and one of Bush Jr.’s closest friends.

Some retired public officials continue to make Montana their home and continue to work for our state’s best interests. Others don’t.

(Update: There’s more Plum Creek news. The Indy’s Matthew Frank has an interesting piece about Plum Creek’s hold on Seeley Lake’s planning and zoning process.)

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by Pete Talbot

It started as a rumor but was confirmed by the Missoulian. Smurfit-Stone will continue its 10-day shutdown for another 30 days — to June 1.

That’s 280 people out of work in the Missoula area, for at least a month. Add that to what could be 369 Plum Creek layoffs (Ksanka mill in Eureka and Pablo mill closed, Evergreen and Columbia Falls being eyed for closure) and that’s a lot of unemployed Western Montana timber industry workers. Our sympathies to them and their families.

It should be noted that Plum Creek’s first quarter profits were $175 million but, obviously, not from the sale of timber products.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

First off, Missoula went and had itself an earthquake yesterday. Thanks Freeranger!

Secondly, we’ve got some bloggers getting back in gear, and others shifting into second….

Pogie got a number of posts up this week, including one critical of the Billings Gazette’s decision to glorify a local white supremacist group, and another bringing us the news that Montana’s sole and only Representative Dennis Rehberg is explaining to us why women shouldn’t be expecting equal pay for equal work.

Wulfar! is back in fine form: Never afraid to take on anyone, he goes after Harry Reid in one post, Senator Diane Feinstein in another, and Israel in yet another. And that’s just three up from this week. In another post he shows my Steelers some love.

Which, BTW, GO STEELERS!

Politics, Peaks, and Valleys politicspeaksvalleys does up some news for us too – the Nobel Peace Prize nomination of Bozemanite Greg Mortenson. Another post, regarding Plum Creek and it’s withdrawal of plans to gain ‘clarified’ deeds from the USFS, contains some additional information that hasn’t been in just about all the other stuff that’s been in print about the issue.

Don’t know who politicspeaksvalleys is, but I’m reading. Nice double meaning there too – Politic Speaks Valleys.

NewWest’s Struckman is baaaack……….

Meanwhile, in other news..

I’m noticing that you can now check a box when you comment and get email notification of subsequent comments. Cool.

Oregon is among a number of states contemplating taxing mileage instead of gallons. They’re worried that hybrids and high-mileage vehicles could shrink their gas tax revenues, which largely pay for road upkeep.

Porn bailout.

Now, what do you even say about that? Seriously?

I’m seriously saying seriously too much.

Remember the earthquake swarms in Yellowstone? Well, a guy had done up a fake website warning people to evacuate a 100 mile radius immediately. He used some USGS information to make it look real, and faked himself out as a geologist in a YouTube video. I had seen in and thought “what an idiot” – well, the Feds apparently saw it too, and now he’s more than an idiot – he’s a criminal.

Looks like Ravalli County will be home to Montana’s first housing co-op.

Call this one When Pandas Attack.

Addicted to blogging, tweeting, facebook, or your RSS feed? Take the Polly Frost Reblocking Seminar!

Finally….

The Goat Blog of High Country News calls on Obama to pick Kemmis to run the Department of Interior or Agriculture. Bozemanite Ray Ring (who writes the piece) makes quite the case for Kemmis.

Whoops! One more, if you please….

GO STEELERS!

by jhwygirl

Frequent readers know I’m a fan – and in tonight’s Bushed! segment, Keith nailed Bush on the USFS’ attempt at revising Plum Creek Timber’s easements, calling it “Rape of the Environment-gate,” and another one of his administrations “pillages” of nature.

You can watch it here.

by jhwygirl

Nothing.

So, when is negative campaigning not negative campaigning? When it’s the truth.

Republican candidate Greg Hinkle, during a candidate forum held in May, said:

I signed a taxpayer pledge not to vote for any increase in taxes, period, unless they’re revenue-neutral. So having said that, I will not vote for any increase in taxes and because of what I explained too and anybody can look at this later, I will not vote for any federal funding of state programs. That’s got to change. We have to wean ourself off of that.”

In seeking better clarity to the issue, the Clark Fork Chronicle sent the candidates further questions, due mainly to questions that arose from Judy Stang’s statement regarding Greg Hinkle when she withdrew from the state senate race in mid-October. When she withdrew from the race, Stang endorsed Hinkle’s opponent, Paul Clark.

The Clark Fork Chronicle sent clarifying questions – you can see them in this article – and Hinkle avoids answering the Chronicle’s question altogether (the Chroncle’s own words: “Greg Hinkle did not respond to the questions,”) instead sending a statement saying that he was taken out of context, and that he would take federal funds for “transportation, etc….,” but then goes on to say that “However, I do believe our state must end our dependence on these funds as much as possible. It’s vital we ensure that we have a local revenue safety net should those funds dry up.”

Hmmm, where exactly is he going to find funds for a local revenue safety net?

Further – let’s keep in mind here that Mineral County looking to go to essentially 90% federal ownership if and when Plum Creek lands are sold into the Legacy Project. So you have a county with a total population of less than 4,000 people, and a land area size of 1,220 square miles, and Hinkle wants the local population to stave off federal funds and find a local revenue safety net?

Like taxes, anyone?

Paul Clark, on the other hand, answered the Chronicle’s questions, showing a depth of knowledge about the fiscal role that the federal government plays in a rural area like SD-7, calling for more local control over natural resource management issues like logging, and citing a desire to look into a potential agreement between state and federal land managers that would put even more money into the state’s school trust fund.

Read it all for yourself.

So who, ultimately, is showing a better knowledge of the issues that face SD-7? Who has spoken consistently and avoided double-talk?

Vote Paul Clark for SD-7. Help avoid the cluster mess that the Montana Legislature experienced in 2007, and let’s move Montana forward.

Hell, why not throw the guy a couple of bucks, too? It’s darn hard to run a senate campaign in such a large senate district. Here’s a link to his ActBlue page.

by Pete Talbot

Recent news from two of the biggest players who do business in Montana gave me pause: are stockholders and boards of directors becoming enlightened?

First was the story that a group of Plum Creek stockholders was urging management to abandon the shady talks that Plum Creek has been holding with Ag Undersecretary Mark Rey. According to a letter sent from Trillium Asset Management to Plum Creek, the talks should stop, “to protect shareholder value and rehabilitate our company’s reputation.” Cool.

Unfortunately, Plum Creek Board Chairman Ian Davidson penned a guest column in today’s Missoulian saying that Trillium and another asset management company, “do not represent a majority of our shareholders and they are the only investors we have heard from on this matter.” Not cool.

So it’s back to business as usual for Plum Creek: selling off the most valuable lands for development purposes, selling back the lands it has cut the hell out of to land trusts and conservation groups, and holding back-room meetings with the feds and state government to get easements to the lands.

This was a bad P.R. move from Mr. Davidson. Not only does he brush aside criticism, he goes on to crow about the stock’s performance:

“Over the past 15 years, the company’s annualized total shareholder return was 15.2 percent, and last Tuesday, Plum Creek’s stock hit an all-time high of $50 per share. This performance is quite contrary to the Dow Jones being down more than 13 percent this year and the S&P 500 being down more than 12 percent.”

Mr. Davidson isn’t making any friends here (except maybe some of the more gluttonous stockholders) which is too bad. I didn’t even know that he was chairman of the board at Plum Creek. I do know him to be a philanthropist, and a strong supporter of education and entrepreneurs in Montana. He should have kept a lower profile on this issue.

(Sorry, no link to the Davidson guest column that I could find anywhere.)

On the other hand, Northwest Energy seems to be heading in the right (correct) direction. This came as quite a surprise to folks in Missoula and Helena, and really, most everybody in Montana involved in energy and energy politics: Bob Rowe replaced Mike Hansen as Northwestern Energy CEO.

My first thought was that maybe Mr. Rowe had gone over to the dark side.

But in the news stories I’ve read and an interview I heard on KUFM, it sounds as if Rowe is putting Montanan’s interests first. The utility, he said, “will do it better, more creatively, more responsibly, and (provide) real value to the communities in the state that we serve.”

And if you look at his background, I tend to believe his claims. Through the Montana Legal Services Association, he spent years in Missoula representing low to middle-income people with legal problems. He then went on to become a valued member of the Montana Public Service Commission in Helena.

So I’ll be cutting Northwestern Energy some slack here at 4&20, at least until I see how things shake out. Plum Creek? Not a chance.

by Pete Talbot

Ms. Evans, we hardly knew you

Commissioner Barbara Evans retired about a year ago. While the media and others were fawning over the commissioner’s 30 years of service to Missoula County, it’s good to remember her roots. She was the Missoula campaign coordinator for George Wallace when he made his unsuccessful (thank God) bid for the White House in 1968.

Y’all remember George Wallace, right? Racist Alabama governor and four-time presidential candidate. He was probably most famous for personally blocking school entrances so that black kids couldn’t go inside.

(Tip o’ the hat to Chris Walterskirchen whose “Flashback” column in the Missoulian is one of my favorite reads.)

Thanks a bunch Montana DNRC

I’m extremely disappointed with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Director Mary Sexton, for rolling over for Plum Creek.

According to the Great Falls Tribune, the department has granted the former lumber company (and current real estate developer) expanded right of way deeds and additional rights to easements. This will certainly make it easier for Plum Creek to develop those hard to get to places.

Maybe the state should take the word ‘conservation’ out of the DNRC title.

The surge is working?

The pundits say that we’re winning the war in Iraq. Well, not soon enough for Kevin Furey. The former Montana legislator (two terms in H.D. 91) will be headed back to Iraq later this year and is leaving Montana tomorrow for additional training.

Now Kevin would be the last person to shirk his duty or complain about the redeployment. So let me just say this: goddamn you George Bush for putting so many Montanans in harm’s way.

(There will be a going away party Monday, Aug. 11 at the Badlander, 208 Ryman St., between 5 and 7 p.m. for well wishers. Sorry about the last-minute notice — I just received my emails from the weekend.)

Our thoughts are with Kevin and his parents here in Missoula. Be careful over there and Godspeed.

And another farewell

While Pennsylvania doesn’t offer the perils of Iraq, it certainly isn’t Montana. 4&20 Blackbirds founder and Left in the West contributor Jay Stevens is moving with his family to the Keystone State (where in the hell did they come up with that nickname?).

It’s not often that a thirty-something becomes a mentor to a fifty-something but that’s what Jay has been to me. He offered me the opportunity (for better or worse, dear reader) to comment at this site. He explained the nuances of blogging, increased my knowledge of computers by about 200 percent and has taught me a lot about political writing — mostly by example. He’s also just a real nice guy. The Montana blogosphere will be the poorer for his leaving.





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