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“Montana is an easy sell.” Part 2

by By JIM PETERSON Evergreen Foundation
| February 2, 2024 7:00 AM

I would not know George Ochenski if he walked past me, but friends who know him say he is a “self-proclaimed expert and tireless rock thrower.”

Too harsh? I don’t know because I’ve never met him, but judging from "Montana is an easy product to sell," his recent opinion essay in the Butte’s daily Montana Standard, he needs to work harder on getting his facts straight.

Ochenski borrowed the title of his op-ed from a comment Gov. Greg Gianforte made at a Montana Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Helena on Jan. 11. After running down a long list of companies that are expanding into Montana, Gianforte said, “Montana is an easy product to sell,” meaning it isn’t difficult to convince companies to make Big Sky Country their next destination.

The list:

- Hyundai Motor Group will build a new research and development center in Bozeman.

- Dvele Omega, a California manufacturer of high-end prefab homes will build an $80 million plant in Butte.

- Vacom, a German manufacturer of vacuum systems for the chipmaking and aerospace industries, will build a $90 million plant in Lewistown, adding 500 local jobs.

- Brixtel Defense, a global manufacturer of munitions and propellants, is investing $125 million in a facility in Glendive that will employ 350.

Ochenski is a long-time environmental activist, so I would have thought diversification of Montana’s resource-dependent economy would please him.

My bad. Environmental activists like Ochenski detest mega-millionaires especially Republican mega-millionaires like the Gianfortes.

They sold their cloud computing company to Oracle in 2011 for $1.5 billion. No wonder they could afford to buy a $4 million historic mansion in Helena.

How do we know this? Because those greedy Gianfortes will donate the Hauser House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes, to the State of Montana when they return to private life. It will become the state’s governor’s mansion.

Class envy has been a favored tool among environmental activists for a long time.

Likewise, a preference for repeating ridiculous claims until they take on an air of truth.

So it is that Ochenski derides Gianforte’s “rush to log every possible tree off state

forests.”

Ochenski also castigates Gianforte for ignoring “the very real effects of the climate crisis when it comes to getting out the cut.”

Apparently, Ochenski has not read the collaboratively developed 2020 Montana Forest Action Plan. It promotes cross-boundary landscape scale forest restoration and management involving federal, state, tribal and private forest stakeholders.

Every conservation group in Montana worked on the plan, which was signed by Forest Service Region 1 Forester, Leanne Marten, and then State Forester, Sonja Germann.

You can read the Montana_Forest_Action_Plan_12.22.2020 here.

This is a very readable PDF file. Beautiful photographs and a very readable and easily understood narrative. Lots of supporting data and an impressive bibliography.

In the closing paragraphs of his Montana Standard piece, which was subsequently picked up by the Missoulian, Ochenski quotes from the state’s Constitution: “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations.”

Borrowing from Ochenski, here are some “Truths that seem self-evident” that he failed to mention:

- Growth exceeds mortality in only one Montana’s 11 national forests.

- Between 2015 and 2020, wildfires swept over 4.78 million acres.

- 8.65 million acres are overrun by insects and diseases.

 Six million acres of at-risk forest are within a half mile of dozens of communities.

- Montanans inhale thousands of tons of carcinogenic wildfire smoke annually.

So much for Montana’s Constitutionally mandated “clean and healthful” environment.

Jim Petersen, Founder and President

The non-profit Evergreen Foundation, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho