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Editorials

Sometimes there's no good way to do something that needs to be done.

Such is the case with Montana's efforts to clean up an environmental mess near Cooke City that has been polluting water flowing into Yellowstone National Park for years.

As part of that project, Montana plans to haul nearly 50,000 tons of mine tailings from Cooke City to Whitehall, Mont., by way of the Chief Joseph Highway. This has raised concerns from some in Park County, who fear that a number of big trucks hauling heavy loads through Sunlight Basin and over Dead Indian Pass will disrupt travel through the scenic area, create danger for other motorists and cause damage to the highway.

Mostly though, the current anger expressed by Park County officials stems from the fact that they weren't consulted before this plan was put in place.

When the Tribune investigated the situation back in June, though, the project didn't seem to be a secret. We learned that the Wyoming Department of Transportation was able to review the condition of the Chief Joseph Highway before a contract was awarded by Montana. The department determined that the highway was capable of handling the traffic with certain conditions.

Montana DEQ waited until the review was done and agreed to WyDOT's conditions before awarding the contract.

One Park County commissioner said at that time that the Wyoming Highway Patrol would be watching the highway closely to ensure safety, and he had great faith that WyDOT and the patrol could handle the situation.

As for disrupting tourist traffic, the extra trucks couldn't possibly be more disruptive than average road construction projects — and many of those last longer than the one summer planned for hauling out the tailings.

The plan to haul part of the waste out of the area appears to be a compromise. Ideally, all of the tailings would be removed, but that is impractical. Leaving all of them in place, on the other hand, increases the risk that a seismic event would cause containment of the tailings to fail. The compromise is to haul some of the waste away to provide more secure containment of the rest.

Once that decision is made, there are only three ways to haul out the waste. It should be obvious to anyone who has driven it that the Beartooth Highway is not an option. The highway from Silver Gate into the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone is not engineered for heavy trucks, and this stretch of road is very narrow, with no shoulders, in many places. In addition, sections of the road are bordered by forest, reducing visibility for some distance, so it's not an option, either. That leaves Chief Joseph.

The purpose of this project is to stop acid from leaking into a creek that flows into Yellowstone Park. That is a worthy goal, and because it is a worthy goal, it is worth the price of a summer's disruption on the Chief Joseph Highway.

Park County shouldn't stand in the way.

With plans brewing for a 144,000-square-foot monastery and coffee-roasting facility, Meeteetse residents anxiously await the Park County Commission's decision on the proposed project.

Opponents and supporters have vocalized their views during recent public meetings, where a recurring concern for Meeteetse area landowners is whether the monastery will draw masses of visitors.

Though the monastery would be located on an isolated private ranch — 14 miles from the nearest public roadway — some neighboring landowners worry the elaborate structure still will attract a high number of daily visitors.

Ranchers who have open range livestock along Meeteetse Creek Road have valid concerns about the potential influx in traffic, as do those who chose to build homes in the secluded area for the peace and quiet offered there.

Yet Carmelite monks who would reside at the monastery stress that they, too, want to maintain the location's peaceful and quiet nature.

Plans call for the monastery to be open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., but monks have said the public will be there only for faith-related visits on a rare basis. And they assure the 150-seat chapel will be used only on rare events, such as a monk's ordination.

For the sake of neighbors in the area, we hope the promise holds true — that the monastery is a place of solitude rather than a sight tourists flock to see.

If Park County Commissioners approve the project, monks residing on the Meeteetse ranch must be conscientious neighbors.

The Meeteetse Creek Road is private, and it's understandable why ranchers want to keep traffic at a minimum. The monks must ensure the monastery doesn't attract a constant stream of visitors.

However, landowners also must be reasonable with their concerns and requests. Development occurs, and though change isn't always welcome, the New Mount Carmel Foundation should have the right to build at the site, as long as monastery plans meet planning and zoning rules.

No Meeteetse resident ever expected a 144,000-square-foot French Gothic monastery to be proposed in their community — but just because the project is uncommon in Wyoming's mountains doesn't mean it should be unwelcome.

EDITORIAL: Remembering 9/11

This weekend, Americans will be observing the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

As is true with most special days, the observance will take many forms, ranging from quiet, prayerful moments of silence to public patriot demonstrations. For some Americans, the observance will be thoughtful remembrances of the victims; others will focus on anger at the terrorists and the culture that led them to kill so many people.

That last category is symbolized by a Florida church, which intends to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday. The pastor of the church is billing it as an act of defiance, demonstrating to Muslims that we are not afraid of them.

That's the wrong way to observe the occasion. It is true, of course, the 9/11 attackers were Muslims, but that doesn't justify an act that offends millions of Muslims for the actions of a few dozen. This is particularly true because many Muslims were victims on 9/11, and their deaths should be treated with the same respect as the deaths of Christians, Jews, and followers of other religions who died Sept. 11, 2001.

The planned Florida event does the opposite, insulting those followers of Islam who were murdered that day, and, by extension, those of other religious faiths who died with them as well.

More than that, though, this action is wrong because it assumes all Muslims are evil because of the actions of a few. It makes no more sense to do that than to condemn all Eastern Orthodox Christians in the world for the atrocities committed against Bosnian Muslims by Orthodox Serbians, or all Catholics for bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the name of Catholicism.

The First Amendment protects the right of that church to carry out its plans, of course, just as it protects the right of American dissenters to burn an American flag.

But having the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it a good idea to exercise that right. As General David Petraeus has pointed out, the Florida burning may have nasty repercussions for American troops trying desperately to win over the Afghan people, and it could foment reciprocal violence here at home as well.

We can't do much about what's going on in Florida up here in Wyoming, but we can focus our own observances on commemorating 9/11 victims rather than injecting hatred of the millions of Muslims in the world — nearly all of them who are innocent of participating in the terrorist attacks.

We should promote the end of such violence, not add to it.

As hunting season begins, many outdoorsman wish they could aim their guns at wolves. Rife with controversy since they were first re-introduced 15 years ago, gray wolves have now grown 1,700-strong in the Northern Rockies amid ever-present political tensions and court battles.

Worried about dwindling elk herds and the constant threat to livestock, many Wyoming residents believe wolves must be hunted to regulate the growing population.

But hunting wolves remains illegal in Wyoming — and now in Idaho and Montana as well, where managed wolf hunts occurred last year.

A decision last month by federal Judge Donald Molloy brought wolf hunts to an end in all of the Greater Yellowstone Region.

Ruling that it violated the Endangered Species Act to remove protection in two states but not in Wyoming, Molloy restored protection to gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.

Many rightfully blame Wyoming for halting wolf hunts in our sister states.

Wyoming's wolf management plan calls for the animal to be shot on sight in most of the state — around 90 percent.

Considering that plan too hostile toward the 320 wolves that dwell in Wyoming, federal officials rejected the state's management plan and maintained protection for gray wolves.

It's unrealistic for Wyoming leaders to expect wolves to go directly from the endangered species list to unregulated, open-season hunts in most of the state.

If wolf hunts are to occur in Wyoming in the future — and, it appears, in Montana or Idaho —state lawmakers must modify the shoot-on-sight predator zone.

We agree with Tom Strickland, assistant U.S. secretary of Interior, who criticizes Wyoming's position.

“The court's decision clearly shows that, for the gray wolf, recovery requires Wyoming to change its policy,” Strickland wrote.

“If Wyoming were to join its neighbor states and develop a wolf management strategy with adequate regulatory mechanisms on human-caused wolf mortality, including hunting, all three states would benefit.”

With 1,700 gray wolves roaming the Northern Rockies, the species must be de-listed and managed through hunting — but for that to happen, state leaders must change their management plan.

EDITORIAL: In defense of Al Simpson

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson is currently under fire for his response to the leader of a women's organization regarding Social Security.

By describing Social Security in terms that were, shall we say, indelicate, Simpson offended a whole bunch of people who, predictably, have demanded that President Obama fire him as co-chairman of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Obama has said he will not do that, and consequently, has drawn fire himself.

This is not the first time that the senator's words have been criticized. He admits to having had to withdraw his foot from his mouth on many occasions, and his “colorful” language and metaphors could often be described as offensive.

But, while not defending the senator's choice of words, we think the sentiment he expressed is valid. In the interests of government fiscal responsibility, Social Security must be part of the discussion along with every other government expenditure.

We have a national debt because all of us make demands on the government to spend money while simultaneously demanding lower taxes. Fulfilling both demands is, of course, impossible. All of us, including Social Security recipients (one of whom is this writer), are part of the problem.

However crude or insulting some may find Sen. Simpson's remarks, he should be commended for having the courage to raise the issue. That willingness to offend special interests is probably the reason why President Obama appointed him to help lead the Fiscal Responsibility Commission in the first place.

We may not entirely agree with Sen. Simpson's position or his way of expressing himself, but we hope President Obama sticks to his guns and keeps the senator on the commission.

EDITORIAL: Spay/neuter your pets

It's a horrible situation Powell residents never expected to occur in our own backyard: 157 cats seized from a local home.

On Thursday morning, dozens of felines were removed from a rural Powell house and transported to the Park County Fairgrounds. From here, many of the cats were taken to animal shelters in larger communities, where they await adoption.

While the recent case of cat hoarding is extreme and difficult to comprehend, it also highlights the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs.

Cats and dogs in need of homes are nothing new in Powell.

Strays, unwanted pets and abandoned animals often find themselves in the local City of Powell/Moyer Animal Shelter, where they wait for someone to adopt them. As a no-kill shelter, the local organization houses felines and canines for as long as it takes — sometimes, animals have waited a year or longer to be adopted. Once, a dog waited three years before it finally found a home.

Currently, the shelter harbors about 15 cats and a dozen dogs.

If more residents spayed and neutered their pets, fewer unwanted animals would end up in the animal shelter.

All adult animals awaiting adoption in the shelter are spayed or neutered, said Elfriede Milburn, president of Caring for Powell Animals. If a kitten or puppy is adopted, its new owners are given a certificate to have it spayed or neutered at a discounted price.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs will end up in animal shelters across the nation this year. Unfortunately, many shelters are unable to keep animals long term, and an estimated 4 million cats and dogs are put down each year in America.

It's clearly a national problem, but the solution can start locally. To help prevent animal over-population, spay or neuter your cats and dogs. Rabbits aren't the only animals that multiply like rabbits.

EDITORIAL: PVHC at critical crossroads

As autumn approaches, major changes await Powell Valley Healthcare.

In the coming months, the organization must replace its chief executive officer as well as its chief financial officer. In addition, five seats of seven on the Powell Hospital District Board of Trustees are up for election in November.

This week has served as a telling indicator of the changes that are to come.

On Monday night, it was announced that Steve Ramsey, chief financial officer, will retire after 25-plus years in the position. On Tuesday night, the community gathered to bid farewell to Rod Barton, chief executive officer, who is leaving PVHC early next month to take a position in Idaho.

Barton has said the timing of his resignation and Ramsey's retirement is coincidental.

Also on Monday, the filing period for election to seats on the board closed. One candidate, Larry Parker, filed for a two-year term. Only three other candidates filed for the other four, four-year seats — meaning the fourth seat hinges on a successful write-in campaign or a board appointment following November's general election.

With only three candidates running for four seats, it appears that those who filed by Monday will be elected to the board automatically. Yet come November, voters still need to carefully consider each candidate's experience and qualifications before aimlessly casting a vote.

Those who serve on the hospital board must be ready to help steer the organization through difficult financial, administrative and personnel decisions.

We encourage qualified individuals with the desire to serve the hospital and community to consider running as write-in candidates.

Amid impending turnover and changes, strong leadership for Powell Valley Healthcare's future is vital.

School opened in Powell Monday, and as always, the new year was greeted with a variety of emotions as the kids reported.

Some new kindergartners arrived with grins on their faces while others reflected apprehension. A few tears were shed by moms as they entrusted their youngsters to a teacher for the first time. Among the kids returning to school, there were shouts and squeals of delight as friends who hadn't seen each other all summer reconnected. Dashes across the playground into group hugs were common sights.

Soon the kids were back in their classrooms, ready to take on the next challenges.

Wyoming's school kids are fortunate. In many states, schools have had to cut budgets, reducing faculty and even shutting down schools. More crowded class sizes and fewer opportunities are the result for the kids in those states.

In Wyoming, there haven't been many cutbacks, but that doesn't mean there won't be some in the future. The state is just beginning the process of recalibrating its school funding model, and that will determine funding levels for the next five years.

Funding isn't the only factor in the success of a school, though. Just as important is the level of support a school receives from parents and the community at large, and it is in that area that Powell's students are particularly fortunate.

Parental support of the Powell schools, especially the elementary schools, has been exceptional over the years, and community groups such as the Powell School Foundation and the Powell Athletic Roundtable provide tremendous support as well.

Powell businesses provide job experiences for high school students, and community members are frequently in the classroom to pass their knowledge and wisdom along or simply to help out.

Those contributions are a big reason why Powell schools are some of the best in Wyoming.

Take advantage of those good schools, and have a good year, kids.

On Tuesday, local voters verified what has been said around the community for the past eight months: Powell doesn't want to pay for Cody's hospital.

West Park Hospital's proposed $14.2 million tax failed to garner Powell's support, with voters casting ballots decidedly against the measure.

Overall, voters countywide, including a majority of Cody voters, nixed the proposal with just 2,872 (32.3 percent) in favor of the specific purpose tax and 6,026 (67.7 percent) against it, according to unofficial results.

The tax measure's defeat does not mean the project is unnecessary. We believe West Park Hospital's needs are genuine and that its emergency room must be renovated to bring it to code and ensure patient privacy.

However, Tuesday's results do indicate that a countywide 1-cent, specific purpose tax is not the best way to address those renovation needs.

For starters, the project did not get off on the best foot. In January, West Park leaders first approached the Cody City Council with the proposal — and a $38.7 million price tag.

Though that amount was later reduced to $14.2 million, the initial shock of a nearly $40 million tax proposal lingered in many voters' minds, tainting some residents' perception of the overall modernization project.

Original proposals also combined the hospital tax proposal with $10 million for a landfill tax proposal already on the table, further muddling early impressions.

An ongoing qualm for many Powell voters was the fact that West Park Hospital has a tax district in place and could raise the funding through property taxes. If West Park leaders successfully pursued that route, only residents in the hospital's tax district would pay for it.

That appears to be the best Plan B now that the 1-cent tax has failed, but there may be other ways to fund the necessary renovations.

We hope that West Park finds a way to fund its modernization project and encourage its board to find creative ways to engage community members in a future funding proposal.

EDITORIAL: Vote today

Primary election is even more important than usual

Today is primary day in Wyoming.

By the end of the day, Republicans and Democrats will have chosen their candidates for the major offices at the state and county levels, and we all will know what our choices will be, come November.

Every election day is accompanied by editorials of the importance of voting, and the Tribune certainly isn't going to break that tradition, especially this year in light of the crowded fields in a couple of races.

Statewide, most of the attention is on the Republican race for governor. With seven candidates running, the eventual nominee is certain to win the votes of a minority of Republican voters. While only four of the candidates seem to have a reasonable chance of winning, votes won by the other three may play a critical role in deciding who wins, because the final tally probably will be close.

Closer to home, 11 Republicans are contending for three nominations to the Park County Commission. As with the governor's race, the three nominees are likely to have won the support of a minority of the voters, and the margin of victory is likely to be thin.

Finally, there's the proposed 1-cent specific purpose tax to finance upgrading of West Park Hospital in Cody. That tax may pass or fail on the basis of how much support it receives in Powell.

In short, it's the kind of election where every vote truly will count, and yours might be the vote that makes the difference.

We urge everyone to cast their vote today.

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