The Billings Gazette, Sept. 11, on remembering 9/11 and honoring Montana soldiers in Afghanistan:

On the 18th anniversary of the attacks on America, more than 250 Montana Air National Guard members are deployed to support and supply U.S. troops and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The 120th Airlift Wing arrived at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, on July 3 with C-130 cargo planes that are flying personnel, equipment and supplies throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in southwest Asia, according to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. The Montana Air Guard unit and Connecticut Air Guard replaced guard units from Rhode Island and California. The air crews and maintenance teams "seamlessly transitioned" within 48 hours of the Montanans' arrival so there was no interruption in the mission, according to a news release from 386th Public Affairs.

Over the years, 1,805 Montana National Guard airmen have deployed to the region of Afghanistan or Iraq, according to Capt. Daniel Bushnell, public affairs officer for the Montana National Guard in Helena. Montana has had someone from the wing deploy to southwest Asia just about every year since 2002.

Likewise, the Montana Army National Guard has served in Afghanistan or Iraq for a generation. Almost immediately after the Sept. 1, 2001, attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., Montana Army National Guard members mobilized for airport security.

The largest number of Army guardsmen deployed at one time was the 1,147 who were mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-2005. Altogether, nearly 3,000 Montana Army National Guard members have been deployed far from home to combat zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and related regions. Since 2001, Montana Army National Guardsmen (men and women) have answered the call to render aid after Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, along with continual overseas deployments.

Next month, 574 Montana Army National Guardsmen will leave for a full year stint at various locations in southwest Asia, Bushnell said.

Montanans should be proud of the ongoing service of our National Guardsmen. Montana Air Guard units have been deployed in support of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq or other Middle East locations virtually nonstop.

This nation has asked much of our "citizen soldiers" who volunteer to train part-time in the military while working other full-time jobs. For the past 18 years, being a guardsman has meant being prepared for full-time military duty far beyond Montana for months or even a year at a time.

These courageous, hardworking Montanans deserve our gratitude. Their families deserve the thanks of our state and nation for sacrificing precious time with their loved ones. We also commend the Montana employers who keep jobs open for guardsmen so they can resume work when deployments end.

In addition to Montana National Guard personnel, many Montanans have served in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines since 9/11. Some of the guard and regular military members didn't return, they made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Many more came home with wounds — seen and unseen.

The debt America owes to those who served, those wounded, their families and the families of those who died cannot be fully paid. Montanans must speak up to ensure that national and state leaders fulfill obligations to provide the benefits and compensation these military heroes have earned.

America must never forget 9/11; America must always remember the military veterans it created.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2m48riq

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The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Sept. 10, on preparing to provide community input to the Human Resource Development Council:

Mark your calendars. Opportunities to weigh in on important policy issues that will shape our collective future are coming in the weeks ahead.

The Human Resource Development Council is planning a series of 11 meetings beginning this month throughout Gallatin County and neighboring counties to gather input on where the nonprofit should place its priorities in the coming months and years. In advance of those meetings, the organization is conducting an online survey to identify community needs.

And the Gallatin County Planning Coordination Committee is planning open houses during the first weeks of November on the Triangle Community Plan — a document that will guide growth in the most densely populated part of the county.

These are events that anyone with a stake in the area's future will want to attend.

The HRDC administers grants that fund numerous programs aimed at improving health care, housing, transportation, public safety, workforce development and many other community needs. As it plans for the future, the organization wants to hear from people throughout the region about their most pressing needs. The online survey asks respondents to rate the quality of local services. The HRDC's priorities will have great influence over what life will be like here in the future.

The Triangle Community Plan will address critical issues within the area defined by Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners along adjacent areas. This is the fastest-growing part of Gallatin County and home to the lion's share of county residents. These issues include sprawling and mixed use development, open space preservation, the availability of emergency services and trail development.

Access the HRDC survey and find a complete schedule of meetings by going to https://thehrdc.org/news-info/community-needs-assessment/.

Specific times and locations have not been set for the Planning Coordination Committee meetings but they're expected to be finalized this month.

The greater Bozeman area will soon graduate from a micropolitan to a metropolitan area and how growth is managed during this period will be critical to future quality of life here. HRDC policy priorities and the final version of the Triangle Community Plan will play big roles in this process.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2kfcc4c

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Daily Inter Lake, Sept. 8, on effects new electric bike order has on National Park Service:

A recent secretarial order from the Interior Department classifies electric-powered bicycles as non-motorized bikes. While seemingly insignificant at first glance, this order could alter the recreational landscape of the West — for better or worse.

Essentially, the order mandates that the National Park Service implement new policies allowing electric bicycles — e-bikes — on roads and trails that allow regular bikes, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The order also impacts all Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation lands. E-bikes would be prohibited in wilderness, just as regular bicycles are.

In simple terms, an e-bike is a bicycle with a small electric motor that provides a power assist. These bikes are relatively new on the scene but are quickly growing in popularity, especially among aging baby boomers and those with physical limitations.

In fact, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says that's the point of his order. He states that the new policy "is intended to increase recreational opportunities for all Americans, especially those with physical limitations."

We certainly agree that expanding access to the joys of outdoor recreation is a good thing. Time spent outdoors improves health, reduces stress and enhances the overall well-being of a community. We could all use more time outdoors.

Yet, there could be some unintended consequences with this order, particularly in Glacier National Park.

While there aren't many trails in Glacier that allow bicycles, cycling along Going-to-the-Sun Road has grown immensely over the last decade. In the spring before the scenic highway is fully opened to vehicles, cyclists enjoy the road at a more quiet pace while park crews plow and prep the road for summer.

There's no doubt that packs of e-bikers whizzing by at 30 mph would change this experience.

We also worry about e-bikes on the road during peak summer season when millions of visitors flock to the park. Currently, Glacier allows bicycles on the alpine section of the Sun Road after 4 p.m. in the summer. Can you imagine two lanes of traffic trying to navigate this curvy, narrow road while also passing e-bikers? Yikes! It's a tragedy in waiting.

The National Park Conservation Association isn't opposed to e-bikes, but is expressing initial reservations about the order and the initial lack of public process.

"E-bikes have a place on national parks' roads and motorized trails. But this announcement disregards well-established policies for how visitors can enjoyably and safely experience the backcountry in national parks," said Kristen Brengel, senior vice president of the NPCA. "For generations we've agreed that there are some places so special that they should be protected for visitors to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This new policy carelessly ignores those longstanding protections for backcountry areas."

Luckily, Secretary Bernhardt's directive gives managers in national parks 30 days to come up with an e-bike policy. Glacier expects to announce its public involvement process soon — now is the time to let your opinion be heard.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2kElwyH

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