The Chronicle was too nice in its recent editorial, “State leaving tourist dollars on the table.” I was recently thinking that for a state that likes to call itself “the last best place,” collectively, we are quite stupid.

Bozeman and Gallatin County are bursting at the seams and budgets are being stretched to the limit. Everywhere I look I see out-of-state tags. Tourists are using our roads, trails and infrastructure, and we don’t collect a cent from them. Sure the Chamber CEO grins and tells us how much they are enriching the coffers of our local businesses, but most of us are not business owners. In fact, many of us are on a fixed pension and we are watching our property taxes continue to soar.

As an independent, I am amazed that we continue to elect politicians, Republicans mostly, who refuse to do anything about this problem. Many of them do not grasp that Montana’s “new economy” is based on preserving a high quality environment. That’s why all these tourists come here. It’s why many high-tech companies locate here. They don’t come here to tour timber clear cuts, mines and coal-fired power plants. Sure mining and logging have a place, but protecting our natural environment—its wild places, scenic streams, clean air and clean water—is the key to Montana’s future.

Yet, our politicians (Republicans mostly) continue to stick their collective noses in the sand, and ignore this. They refuse to engage in wise planning for our explosive growth. They work to reduce wild areas. They promote development along our scenic streams. They refuse to tap the tourism for revenue. They even blame forest fires on a lack of logging (talk about stupid!) The “last best place?” For how much longer? We only have ourselves to blame.

Orville Bach

Bozeman