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Slinging Salmon Didn't Help Situation

by Editors
Missoulian Editorial - September 18, 2000

From a "get the message out" standpoint, throwing paint on a fur coat was a brilliant move. Nothing got attention quicker for animal-rights groups that opposed killing animals for the wardrobes of wealthy people.

But most toss-and-yell protests aren't effective. Nobody remembers much about the 1997 incident where bison guts were thrown onto a table before Montana's governor and U.S. senators, and the U.S. secretary of agriculture. It changed no policy or public sentiment about bison killings, and the identity of the gut-tosser faded quickly.

And so it will be for Saturday's fish-flake flinger, Randall Mark, who tossed canned salmon at U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho as she opened a congressional hearing at the University of Montana on forest health. What Mark protested was unclear: Was it the plight of salmon in waterways that are dammed? Or was it how we manage and propose to manage forests in the West?

What Mark managed to do was disrupt a meeting of intense importance to Montanans and delay the kind of discussion that will really make a difference in the end. Careful, respectful, crisp and thoughtful review of history, science, nature and politics will shape the future of Montana's land and economy, not a single man's rude protest.

Environmental groups, Montana Rep. Rick Hill, Gov. Marc Racicot, Chenoweth-Hage and many others handled the situation well, condemning Mark's tactic and isolating it for what it was one zealot's personal attack.

There is already enough controversy and division about these topics. Discussions will be hard enough without silly sideshows.

Slinging Salmon Didn't Help Situation
Missoulian, September 18, 2000

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