Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Commissioners’ message loud and clear: Don’t interfere

When the county commissioners ordered the cutting of hundreds of 50-year-old or better Ponderosa pines because they could, it left behind more than ragged stumps.
They left behind unanswered questions, unjustified devastation and a legacy of ill feeling.
They claimed they were following state standard, yet anyone who drives from Absarokee to Red Lodge can see the state is not brutally cutting trees along a much more travelled road.
They stated the tree cutting was to avoid litigation from accidents but they had no evidence there had ever been any accidents.
They said they were responding to a “handful of complaints” about deer running out onto the road. The deer are still there.
Next up, they trotted out the need for fire breaks. The roadway itself is a fire break, consistent with what the state has all the way to Red Lodge.
They said they’d listen, implying meaningful discussion, but that, too was a deceit since they indicated in the beginning they weren’t going to change their minds.
In the face of more than 50 residents who indicated by petition they wanted the cutting stopped until there could be a public hearing to consider all sides, their response was petition be damned.
They dispatched crews to complete the slaughter of the trees. Rather than take a breather, they engaged in a flurry of frenetic cutting so those opposed got the point. Don’t interfere.
Asked for minutes of some meetings they said they didn’t take them, even with a quorum present. Asked repeatedly for the tree cutting costs they said they would and then did not. They were evasive.
In the end, this was not just about cutting down trees. It was about power, not the peoples’, but theirs. They exposed the ragged roots of our county commission.

Dan Burkhart