Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dec. 4, on Montana State University on proposed relationship ban:
Montana State University administrators are in the process of deciding whether to ban romantic relationships between faculty and students or continue to allow them.
This seems like a no-brainer. Faculty members have immense power over their students and that power can be abused to coerce students into relationships and sexual acts. And that's something the university should not be party to in any way.
Under current policy, romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and students are allowed as long as the faculty member discloses the relationship to his or her supervisor or department head and works out a plan to ensure the faculty members does not have supervisory or grading power over the student.
That policy is fraught with dangers. MSU recently settled a lawsuit with a student who alleged a former music professor forced her into sexual relationship. That was likely not an isolated case. A formal ban on any such relationships — even when consensual — will demonstrate the university commitment to avoiding such problems.
Those arguing against such a ban have said that when all involved are adults, they should have the freedom to love who they want and that such a ban would merely prompt keeping such relationships secret.
Both good points. But a stated formal ban would make faculty members think twice about getting involved in such a relationship. And when secret relationships are discovered, administrators will have a formal policy to cite when imposing discipline on the offending faculty members.
The #MeToo movement has exposed the extent to which positions of power have been abused sexually in show business, government and other economic sectors. There's no reason to believe that MSU is an exception to that. Many universities, including Ivy League schools, have already adopted bans on faculty-student relationships.
A committee tasked with making a recommendation on the proposed ban has been taking input from students and staff through discussion sessions and is continuing those discussions this week. But in the end it will be up to the administrators to make the final decision. And clearly they should opt for adopting the ban.
Billings Gazette, Dec. 4, on Congress needing to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund:
For half a century, the Land Water Conservation Fund returned some of the profits of development on federal public lands to the preservation, maintenance and accessibility of other public lands.
But on Sept. 30, the LWCF expired. Despite strong bipartisan support, this widely popular program was allowed to die, another casualty of a dysfunctional Congress and White House. Congress and President Trump must right this wrong, and they should do so before the lame duck session adjourns for Christmas.
Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including both of Montana's senators, Steve Daines and Jon Tester called for permanent reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF. We agree and challenge the senators to insist that this urgent program be restored and funded at the level promised when the law was enacted in 1965. Today, the annual funding amount should be $900 million.
That's a lot of money, but a necessary amount for the challenge of caring for the public lands that are our American heritage. Consider how Americans value their public lands:
- Visitation has exploded in the past several years. We are loving our national parks to death with a million more visits per year to Yellowstone than the park saw just five years ago. Glacier has become so crowded there's no place to park to hike Logan Pass.
- Earlier this year, Gazette outdoor editor Brett French told Gazette readers about the potty problem: the tremendously expensive job of disposing of the waste deposited by crowds of visitors to Yellowstone and its neighboring national forests.
- Millions of acres of public lands are virtually inaccessible because of checkerboard ownership patterns and lack of public right of way to public lands. The LWCF has helped provide that access with strategic land acquisitions and easements. In Montana alone, over 1 million acres of public land is not easily accessible to the public.
- For many years, our national forests had little money to preserve the land, water and wildlife because they were required to spend the bulk of their budgets fighting wildfires.
- Our public lands are the draw for the Montana's multi-billion-dollar outdoor industry. Wilderness, parks, forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and plains bring hunters, hikers, anglers, campers, photographers and tourists to Montana and Wyoming.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Montana's outdoor economy generates $1.5 billion in wages and salaries, $5.8 billion in consumer spending, $403 million in state and local tax revenue, and supports 64,000 jobs.
Most important, public lands are essential to the quality of life that Montanans and Wyomingites value. People live and work in Montana because of proximity to wild lands for recreation, work and solitude.
As the LWCF has been in jeopardy this year, The Gazette has heard from many readers, including U.S. military veterans about the healing power of being in our great outdoors — on land that all of us Americans own. Our public lands are therapeutic for young and old. And there are more of us Americans, wanting more outdoor experience.
All 50 states, and nearly every county in the country has benefited from the LWCF. Over the years, Montana parks and other public lands have received about $580 million from LWCF. Many of Montana's state fishing access were created with LWCF grants. State parks and city parks have benefited from LWCF. Nearly 70 percent of public fishing accesses in Montana were created with help from LWCF.
America's national parks have more than $11 billion in maintenance backlogs. Montana state parks have millions in maintenance needs. Billings struggles every year to decide which city park will get the limited park dollars while other needs go unmet.
While campaigning for re-election, Rep. Greg Gianforte said : "I will continue being a strong advocate for increasing public access to our public lands, permanently reauthorizing LWCF, and fully funding it."
A U.S. Senate committee has already approved a bill permanently reauthorizing and fully funding LWCF.
As Daines said last week, "This should not be a tough debate."
Tester said LWCF is "the best conservation tool we have."
However, the Trump administration proposed this year to nearly eliminate the conservation fund and slash its appropriation to a meager $10 million for the entire country for an entire year.
Congress must not let that happen. The royalties from tapping the public's offshore natural resources should be used to keep America's public lands natural and open to the public. Congress must act soon to restore and fully fund the LWCF.
Daily Inter Lake, Dec. 2, on finding balance in tourism and quality of life:
Flathead Valley locals tend to love this time of year — after Labor Day and before ski season — when the sidewalks are a little less crowded and it's easier to get a table at popular restaurants. This "shoulder season," as it's called, gives us a little breathing room before the next onslaught of visitors.
Dealing with the brisk tourist traffic that fills up every crevice of our valley, especially during the summer months, is a love-hate relationship for many year-round residents. We know tourism is a vital part of the local economy and we love the money they bring our businesses, but we loath the upswing in traffic on roads and trails, and the overall congestion of packing thousands of visitors into our space.
With this in mind, it's encouraging to learn about two innovative approaches being used in Glacier National Park to deal with increased park visitation. Reporter Duncan Adams writes in today's Inter Lake about Preventative Search and Rescue, a program that's been used successfully in other national parks to help visitors be more prepared, self-sufficient and responsible for their own safety.
Given that there were 76 search-and-rescue operations and 157 medical calls in Glacier this summer season, it makes a lot of sense. The other tactic is called "Wildlife Jammers," a program that arranges for paid staff and volunteers to respond to wildlife jams, with the goal of educating visitors about keeping a safe distance from wildlife and moving motorists along.
One startling statistic from Glacier's 2018 season is that there were 872 "wildlife jams" or similar incidents.
Safety concerns are real, not only on the trails and in the park, but also on the water. A study of Flathead River system use found that 5,411 watercraft were counted in 60 days below Moccasin Creek on the Middle Fork of the Flathead. That's a lot of boats and rafts, and a lot of potential for mishaps.
It's not just Glacier Park officials who are taking a proactive approach to increased visitation. Earlier this year Whitefish turned to its business owners and community members for feedback about how to make tourism continue to benefit the city. A tourism master plan steering committee held its first forum in May to gauge the public's feelings about the resort town's growth as a tourist destination.
At that forum, one woman said she's come to feel like Whitefish citizens are being asked to put on a show for visitors, that Whitefish has become on par with Disneyland. "It makes me feel like we're characters, like we're here for a tourist's pleasure," she said.
People come to the Flathead for its authenticity, its beauty and its people. Creating a clear vision for how tourism can safely grow while still allowing locals to maintain our quality of life is a necessary endeavor for both visitors and those of us lucky to call this place home.