A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

Summer blogging schedule

For a variety of reasons, among them allowing the editor and janitor to enjoy the fine weather, Flathead Memois on a blogging lite schedule for July and August, and may not post every day.

27 July 2017 — 1514 mdt

Flathead County’s Stage II fire regulations
may be dangerously solicitous of agriculture

Yesterday, the Flathead County Commission abruptly imposed State II fire restrictions (PDF) on private land within the county — with one glaring exception.

Agricultural activities pursuant to § 76-2-901, et seq., M.C.A.

Here’s the “farming is too important to be subjected to equal protection under the law” section of Montana’s statutes:

76-2-901. Agricultural activities — legislative finding and purpose.

(1) The legislature finds that agricultural lands and the ability and right of farmers and ranchers to produce a safe, abundant, and secure food and fiber supply have been the basis of economic growth and development of all sectors of Montana’s economy. In order to sustain Montana’s valuable farm economy and land bases associated with it, farmers and ranchers must be encouraged and have the right to stay in farming.

(2) It is therefore the intent of the legislature to protect agricultural activities from governmental zoning and nuisance ordinances.

It gets just as hot and dry on a farm as it does in a suburban backyard, and a stray spark ignites flammable material just as easily. The only difference is that most farms are open land, and thus may be a bit breezier than a suburban backyard in which trees break the wind. Once ignited, a fire may spread faster and farther in a farm’s field than in a sheltered suburban backyard.

The commissioners are rolling the dice. Hoping that no farmer gets careless or unlucky, the commissioners are holding farmers to a lower standard than the rest of us so that farmers with a day job can fire up their tractors during the late afternoon, when the heat of the day peaks, relative humidity is lowest, the wind is rising, and the risk of fire is the greatest.

If you live in the suburbs, don’t mow your lawn after lunch — just keep your garden hose and your cell phone handy in case Farmer Jones, home at last from a day in the sawmill, weary and possibly not fully attentive, makes a mistake and sets the neighborhood on fire. First, call 911 to summon the fire brigade. Then call the commissions to give them hell for gambling with fire.

Commissioners must stop scanning documents to PDFs

The county’s Stage II fire edict is a two-page PDF. It was written on a computer, probably using Microsoft Word, but instead of being saved as a text-based PDF that’s searchable and from which text can be copied and pasted, the document was converted to a raster image, then output to a PDF.

Governments, and some private entities, do this to prevent the document from being indexed by search engines; and to make it as hard as possible for readers to search the document and to extract text from it. Bastards. And, hypocrites. They know what they’re doing, and after they’ve done it, they have the temerity to complain that voters have a dim view of government and public officials.