KUFM Commentary

Art Ortenberg and Liz Claiborne's Legacy of Philanthropy and Forest Stewardship

This past winter, Art Ortenberg passed away at the age of 87, some 7 years after his longtime partner, wife and friend Liz Claiborne passed. Although they were very wealthy New Yorkers and could live anywhere in total seclusion, they chose a far more visible path-engaged and active in their communities. They loved Montana and the folks that live, work and play here.

Art and Liz were long time philanthropists and supporters of wildlife conservation and efforts that paralleled their values and vision. They came to Montana in the early 90’s to become a part of the communities of the Seeley-Swan Valley and Canyon Creek not apart from these communities. Art and Liz locally supported the Seeley Lake Elementary School’s pioneering school lunch program and the award winning pre-school program, Montana Public Radio, the Canyon Creek Fire Department, the Helena Public Library and many, many more. With their strong interest in getting kids outdoors and connected to the environment, they worked with the Montana Wildlife Federation to establish a youth elk hunting program on their Triple 8 Ranch near Canyon Creek. They also sponsored the Montana Natural Heritage Project at Seeley-Swan High School, allowing students to observe their natural environment and host a community gathering to share their findings.

In addition to being generous and a Montanan at heart, Art was a visionary and understood accomplishing conservation and habitat objectives required the involvement and support of Rural Community members. He was a proponent of community-based conservation and embraced the benefits of a wide variety of interests working together to help each other see more of their values on the ground. Beginning in 2001 in Red Lodge, Montana, Art brought together a group of conservationists, county commissioners, congressional folks, loggers, ranchers and agency leaders which served as an incubator for today’s collaboration.

Not only did Art envision the benefits from bringing folks together but, also showing them on the ground results that advanced stewardship and restoration. Pyramid Mountain Lumber had completed several such projects by 2003 on Art and Liz’s “Tranquility” ownership in the Swan Valley as well as the Clearwater Stewardship Pilot Project in Seeley Lake. Pyramid Mountain Lumber is a family owned mill in Seeley Lake with a long history and reputation for working with diverse interests to accomplish mutual objectives.

That summer, Art invited National leadership from the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and The Wilderness Society to visit with various agency, industry and community members and to visually review on the ground treatments on “Tranquility” and Clearwater Stewardship. They viewed protection of old growth veteran trees, habitat restoration for fisheries and wildlife, fuel reduction in the wildland urban interface, recreational improvements and came to realize the benefit to rural communities in providing raw materials for processing which offset the cost of the restoration treatments while providing high paying jobs for local workers and contractors.

Convening this group was a landmark event in moving the dialogue between conservation community interests, timber industry folks, and other community members supporting active forest management in Rural Communities. Many current efforts in advancing collaboration to get the right thing done on the ground for the right reason started as a direct result of Art’s invitation.

In our many discussions over treatments on their Triple 8 Ranch to restore the Ponderosa Pine Savanna landscape that Lewis & Clark would have observed, it was clear that Art Ortenberg and Liz Claiborne had a deep appreciation and respect for Montanans and their diverse perspectives. Also, they were deeply attached to Montana’s incredible landscapes and its distinctive wildlife. So, as they worked worldwide to support the conservation and recovery of tigers, elephants and a variety of other endangered species and their habitats, rest assured they were grounded in Montana and their legacy is living their lives, dedicated to making a difference.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Gordy Sanders, thanks for listening.

First Constitutional Amendment and Civil Discourse

At 3 o’clock today, every American was asked to stop and take a moment to pause, remember and pay special tribute to our nation’s men and women who have made the ultimate service and sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom and of the liberties we all presently enjoy.

Even though many of us visited our loved ones at a cemetery this Memorial holiday, it is important to remember what this day signifies and pay homage to our fallen soldiers and the millions of veterans whose only public marker may be that of a gravestone. This Memorial Day, we honor those who have died in service to our country, veterans who have moved on, and thank the many men and women currently serving in our armed forces.

In this modern age of public rancor and ideological division, it is only fitting that we pause and remember the words carved into the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., that “Freedom is not free”. These words are not about the cost of defending our freedom. It is the fact that the rights and freedoms defined in our U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights were paid by their ultimate sacrifice.

America was built through the exercise of free speech and the protection of individual rights to assure a representative democracy. We hold our First Amendment rights sacred. And yet, the strident tenor of contemporary American discourse is threatening our cherished democracy and only serves to impair the development of sound policy.
Freedom of speech, and the values of civil discourse, should go hand-in-glove, but sadly, it doesn’t. Treating others with dignity and respect, even when we strongly disagree, should be a priority of every community. Civil discourse is described as "the language of dispassionate objectivity". “It requires respect of the other participants. It neither diminishes the other's moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant's experiences.”

Civil discourse is intended to enhance understanding. It is not the absence of critical analysis. It is the manner in which we share the territorial freedom of discussion. Yes, we all have the “right” to yell and scream our opinions, but being uncivil does not lay the foundation or opportunity to engage in civil discourse; nor does it pay homage to the 1.17 million Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our right to do so.

Sadly, incivility seems to be the norm anymore, especially lately when it come to discussions around public land management in Montana. Internet blogs and comment fields have become a cesspool, an incubator for incivility. The vitriol expressed has taken on new dimensions, to the point of deceit and downright bullying. Really? Is this the best we can do? I would like to suggest to those that apparently believe the way to sway public policy is to take up a “poison pen”, to remember your right to free speech was paid for by the blood of a nation, and you dishonor their memory when you choose this course.

It is important to remember that it is the veteran, not the preacher, who gave us freedom of religion. It is the veteran, not the reporter, who gave us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who gave us the freedom to assemble. It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who gave us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran, not the politician, who gave us the right to vote, and it is the veteran, not the poet, who gave us the freedom of speech.
As we take time to pause, reflect and pay tribute to those that have died for freedom and liberty, they sacrificed their own hopes and dreams to preserve the hope of a nation; and to remember, because those that fought the fight, the duty is now ours. We best honor our fallen soldiers, our veterans and our active military by not only caring for the living but by caring of the living. This is our duty. To do good works, to contribute, to be tolerant and to be respectful.

Don't be fooled by false and inflammatory statements

I simply have to shake my head at the blatantly false accusations and statements made in the press lately by a few fringe environmentalists concerning Governor Bullock’s priority landscape recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The accusations are so false and so out-of-line that they must be corrected.

Forestry provisions in the Farm Bill are the direct result of several national concerns, fire budgets, fire risk to public safety and infrastructure, lack of management on federal lands, litigation and jobs.

The Forestry Title of the 2014 Farm Bill sets into law new opportunities for governors and the U.S. Forest Service to work together on management of federal and non-federal lands within state boundaries.

The section receiving the most adverse attention is Section 8204, entitled “Insect and Disease Infestation”, which gave governors the authority to recommend priority treatment areas to the Secretary of Agriculture by April 9. Based on annual forest surveys, these areas are experiencing declining forest health, are at risk of experiencing substantially increased tree mortality over the next 15 years or in an area in which the risk of hazard trees poses an imminent risk to public infrastructure, health or safety.

Governor Bullock was one of 36 governors that chose to engage in the opportunity presented by congress. Based on the criteria specified in the Farm Bill, the governor recommended a priority designation on just under 5 million acres, of the 12.5 million acres identified in Forest Plans as suitable for timber harvest or production.

The Farm Bill is very specific regarding resource condition as the qualification, but completely void of specifying process. Idaho’s Governor Otter turned to established collaboratives to identify areas. Other governors used different processes. In the spirit of collaboration, Governor Bullock chose to gather an ad hoc working group of diverse interests. The Forest Service and state agencies pulled together layers of scientific data and maps. The Forest Service presented draft areas to Forest Supervisors, county elected officials, representatives of collaboratives, environmental groups and timber industry representatives for feedback.

All future projects, within the priority areas, are considered authorized hazardous fuel reduction projects and will be carried out in accordance with certain authorities in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003.

An additional provision not in HFRA is the ability to use up to a 3,000-acre categorical exclusion as long as the acres identified for treatment are recommended by a collaborative group or by a collaborative process. Categorical Exclusion applies to actions that “do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.” In addition, the use of a CE must not trigger “extraordinary circumstances” such as the potential to adversely impact threatened or endangered species, archaeological remains, historical sites, or other protected resources.

That’s it. That’s what the entire ruckus is about. So, the few that are crying foul have either not read the bill or are deliberately trying to sabotage a bill produced by a congressional conference committee and the outcomes it will produce.

Don’t be fooled by false and inflammatory statements; like a “secret logging deal”, or “Categorical Exclusions will treat an unlimited number of projects up to 3,000 acres or almost five square miles in size”, or that a CE could be used where this is “a likely to effect threatened or endangered species”, or that to “Treat” acres could mean a “full-on clearcut.” Farm Bill criteria and individual Forest Plans dictate pace and scale.

Collaborative conservation emphasizes the importance of local participation, sustainable natural and human communities and voluntary consent and compliance rather that enforcement by legal and regulatory coercion.

Over the past few years, mainstream environmental groups and the timber industry have invited the few fringe organizations to enter into a collaborative discussion or process on numerous occasions. However, they decline in favor of the failed status quo of attacking projects through pre-objection and litigation.

It is rather disingenuous for these people to cry foul now because they were not consulted. They sealed their own fate long ago by choosing the path of obstruction rather than construction.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.

Building tall with wood supports rural America

If we are serious about tackling climate change, then the solution may be found in building the city of tomorrow to look more like the city of yesterday. As glass and steel towers continue to rise, wood skyscrapers are likely to start sprouting alongside. Multi-story and high-rise wood buildings are already planned or rising in Europe and Canada. They are architecturally distinct, and they are made of the original green building material.

When the President signed the 2014 Farm Bill in February, he directed his Administration, working through the White House Rural Council, to lead a new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative. This initiative is charged with uniting federal resources to aid rural businesses and leaders to take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets both at home and abroad.

As a response, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsak, recently took the first step by announcing a partnership with Wood Works – an organization that provides support to the wood building industry – to educate architects and engineers on the potential of using wood as a commercial structural building material.

In addition, the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently hosted a workshop in Washington, D.C. as part of the Council’s work to enhance economic opportunity in rural America, entitled “Building with Wood: Jobs and the Environment.”

As a participant, I was invited to discuss the environmental benefits of building with wood and opportunities to advance the use of wood in high-rise construction. At this workshop, Secretary Vilsak said, “Wood may be one of the world’s oldest building materials, but it is now also one of the most advanced.” The Secretary went on to say, “Building stronger markets for innovative new wood products supports sustainable forestry, helps to counteract green house gas emissions, and puts rural America in the forefront of an emerging industry.”

At the launch of the International Year of the Forest last week, Secretary Vilsak announced a three-part plan addressing the Forest Service and USDA’s current green building practices. The strategy directs the Forest Service to preferentially select wood in new building construction while maintaining a commitment to certified green building materials. The Secretary asked the Forest Service to examine ways to increase its commitment to green building by reporting on ways to enhance the research and development being done around these materials and to actively look for opportunities to demonstrate the innovative use of wood for all new structures of 10,000 square feet or more.

In carrying out this plan, Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, issued a directive to all districts calling for increased use of locally milled timber in all new agency buildings and facilities. Secretary Vilsak also directed other USDA agencies to incorporate this policy of using domestic wood products as the preferred green building material for all future USDA buildings.

By making the case for more wood in construction, the USDA is calling attention to the value of sustainably grown and managed forests and the products they produce in storing carbon throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Emerging engineered wood technologies, and other wood products, can be used in industrial building projects such as high-rise construction. A 3-5 story building, made from wood, has the same emission control as taking up to 550 cars off the road for one year. Wood-based designs have also been demonstrated to improve energy efficiency, thereby reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling.

Increasing the demand for domestic sustainably harvested timber products will directly impact rural America. Presently, the market for wood and other related forest products supports over one million jobs, mostly in rural areas. In addition, the 22 million family forest owners (who actually own more timberland than the federal government) also rely on new economic opportunities as markets expand.

Even though the momentum around building tall with wood is exciting, what is even more encouraging is the recognition by our state and national leaders that forest health is directly tied to a sustainable forest products industry. To decouple is to lose both.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.

Sustainable forest management and climate change

What would the 1980’s have been without big hair, wine coolers and the discovery that the earth’s atmosphere had a hole in it over Antarctica! This blanket of ozone, or O3, blocks most of the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet rays. This discovery set the stage for the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

Today, the hole in the ozone is headed for a happy ending. Due to global mitigation measures, the hole is actually shrinking. Now however, some scientists say the environmental triumph of recovering the ozone layer could have a troubling side effect: boosting global warming, at least in the Antarctic region.

Ozone itself is a greenhouse gas. A thinner ozone layer not only reduced heat trapped over the region, it helped stir circumpolar winds, which in turn created sea spray that formed reflective, cooling clouds. Jonathan Shanklin, one of the British scientists that discovered the hole in the ozone, recently said, "It's very difficult to quantify the impact on a global scale, but I think the evidence suggests filling the hole will have a regional effect on the Antarctic, possibly leading to more warming for the bulk of the Antarctic. That could drastically change predictions about global sea level change."

Recently, an international panel of scientists suggested, with near certainty, that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a runaway pace.

On the other hand, Greenpeace co-founder, Dr. Patrick Moore, claims that man-made climate change is just a bunch of hot air, as it were. In his Capitol Hill testimony responding to the United Nations Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Moore — who earned a PhD in ecology — insisted that “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years … no actual proof, as it is understood in science, actually exists.”

No wonder the average person is so confused by the climate change debate. These mixed messages however, have not curbed the enthusiasm of those that would put more restrictions on emissions and emitters as the way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The president’s June 2013 Climate Change speech and Action Plan identified climate change as a high priority for the remainder of his presidency. Unfortunately, what was missing from the plan is the role of sustainable forest management in sequestrating atmospheric carbon.

No matter which side of the debate you’re on, sustainable forest management and carbon storage in wood products are significant countermeasures to greenhouse gas emissions. Forests are carbon sinks, as a result of natural processes such as growth, and human activities such as harvesting and afforestation. Harvested areas regenerate. In any year, there is substantial new carbon sequestration occurring on the areas previously harvested. The idea behind using forests to help mitigate climate change involves managing to reduce their potential to be a net carbon emitter (as in the case of wildfire) and increase their potential to sequester or store carbon. The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from harvesting is small compared with the amount released due to forest fires and other disturbances such insects and disease.

As well, much of the carbon removed from the forest is stored in durable wood commodities, pulp and paper and other value added products. Wood-based construction is generally considered to be an environmentally sound alternative to steel, aluminum and concrete. Another example is bioenergy produced from wood waste or other forest sources. It provides an alternative to fossil fuel. Biofuels are renewable resources that can be replenished as new forests grow. Recycling harvested wood and using waste wood for bioenergy are also important steps.

Forests absorb about one-quarter of the carbon emitted by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and the changing of land uses. Forest carbon uptake reduces the rate at which carbon accumulates in the atmosphere. How well forests will continue to remove the proportion of carbon now being emitted by direct or indirect human activities will affect the future rate of atmospheric carbon.

While experts engage in the climate change debate, one thing is certain, forests and the products they produce, will continue to remove and store carbon, as they have for centuries. Recognizing the importance of sustainable forest management is up to our state and national leaders.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.

Protecting the sage grouse from the Endangered Species Act

One could debate whether the recent recommendations by Governor Bullock’s Greater Sage Grouse Advisory Council went too far to protect the bird or not far enough. There certainly have been concerns expressed from both camps. However, one thing is certain, the best way to protect the bird, and the people that share its habitat, is to keep the sage grouse off the Endangered Species list.

The Endangered Species Act passed congress in 1973 in order to increase protection for, and to provide the recovery of, vanishing wildlife and vegetation. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. Therefore, over the past 40 years, ESA has been viewed as an obstacle to continued human use of resources within protected areas on federal and nonfederal lands. Additionally, declining species have become proxies for broader ecosystem conflicts, adding further to the controversy.

Under the Act, species are to be listed as threatened or endangered based solely on the best available science, without regard to economic considerations. In addition to entire species, distinct population segments may also be listed as threatened or endangered.

As of December 2013, a total of 1,268 species of animals and 877 species of plants were listed as either threatened or endangered, of which the majority occur in the United States. A total of $1.4 billion was spent in 2011, on behalf of listed species.

An annual expenditure of $1.4 billion is a lot of money. Are species protection and restoration working? The answer to this question depends upon what is measured. The major focus of the ESA is the recovery of species to the point at which ESA protection is no longer needed.

Over the past 40 years, 58 U.S. and foreign species or distinct populations have been delisted. Of the 58 only 30 were actually recovered. Ten species became extinct; seven were dropped off the list because of classification revisions and 11 species dropped off due to original data error or legislative actions. Of the remaining 1200 species, only 35 have been reclassified from endangered to threatened.

A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) only spent half of its recovery funds on the highest-priority species. A subsequent December 2008 study found that almost one-third of all recommendations made by Congress to strengthen ESA implementation over the previous 10 years had not been implemented. For instance, the FWS had not clarified the role of critical habitat and how and when it should be designated, nor had the agency periodically assessed expenditures on species in relation to their relative priority.

The ESA requires that a species’ status determination be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.” In several situations, legal, economic, and social disputes have resulted from this sole focus, including species that live in Montana, such as the bull trout, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and wolves.

The fact that the ESA has failed to recover species has not gone unnoticed by Congress, resource managers, and the public-at-large. Several attempts to amend the Act have come and gone over the years. Even in this current Congress there are six bills that either amend or restrict regulatory provisions. These may evaporate by the end of the year as well.

In the meantime, if Montana’s sage grouse are determined to be in peril, then taking steps to keep them off the Endangered Species list is important to the wellbeing of the bird and the people that share its habitat. The concerns whether the recommendations went to far may be legitimate. However, until Congress seriously addresses the failure of the Endangered Species Act to recover species, the ESA is no place for any species in jeopardy.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.

Sustainble growth in the forest economy

With the global financial crisis of 2007 (hopefully) behind us, it is time to look at the future and what opportunities lay ahead for the forest products industry.

The world is increasingly becoming a single market, with interdependent production systems, consumption of similar goods and consumers responding to similar conditions. We no longer compete only in a local economy.

Advancements in technology have definitely brought us to this juncture. The Director of Engineering at Google says the “law of accelerating returns,” suggests that “an analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘linear’ view. We will not experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will seem more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” In other words, technology is moving faster than we can grasp.

Technological advancement and shifting demographic patterns will fundamentally shape our economic outlook. According to recent reports, the global economy is growing as a result in exploding populations in areas outside of the United States. According to experts, the global population will increase to 8.3 billion by 2030. Sixty percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. There will be a 17 percent increase in urbanization in the United States and the middle class will see a 172 percent growth in developing countries.

A Global Trends 2030 report states, “Owing to rapid urbanization in the developing world, the volume of urban construction for housing, office space, and transport services over the next 40 years could roughly equal the entire volume of such construction to date in world history.”

What does this mean for the forest products industry? In addition to harvesting saw logs for traditional and essential commodity products, the exploding growth in the world economy likely means a greater emphasis on certified wood, an increased interest in cellulosic bio-energy, and new uses for wood fiber.

Where is the supply to meet the demand going to come from? Currently, there are roughly 400 million acres of timberland across all ownerships in the United States in need of restoration. Typically, restoration means removing excess forest biomass. Without market outlets for this excess; materials often accumulate until a wildfire event. Retaining and sustaining primary and secondary wood manufacturing, pulp and paper production, and creating high-value, market-based, outlets for excess forest biomass is vital to the success of accelerated forest restoration and meeting the emerging global demands for wood-based products.

In the late 1990’s, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of forests in the interior West is the over-accumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable, and catastrophically destructive wildfires.” This report prompted the development of the National Fire Plan in 2001, which suggested that $850 million annually would be required to address this problem. More recently, the GAO concluded that $69 billion is required over the next 16 years or $4.3 billion per year. Relying on tax payer dollars, the U. S. Forest Service has managed an average of only $300 million annually for hazardous fuel treatments. This current model simply will not restore forests let alone meet global demands.

Congress is not likely to cut a $69 billion check without some assurances that harvest levels are sustainable and treatments are ecologically and economically viable. Traditionally, well-managed forests in the United States have been able to earn the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council or the American Tree Farm seal of approval, demonstrating that harvest levels are sustainable, that bio-diversity and old growth are conserved, and water quality and wildlife habitats are protected.

Meeting the global demand for solid wood products and finding high-value, high-volume uses for low-value forest biomass is one of the most important challenges facing policy makers and the forest products industry today. There is little doubt that technological advancements and shifting demographic patterns will fundamentally shape our economic outlook and will shift environmental, economic and social conditions that will play out over the next few decades.

On behalf of the Montana Wood Products Association, I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.

A season of goodwill and cherished memories

I must confess I am one of the roughly 30 million people in the United States that bought a Christmas tree from a tree farm lot this year. I do have fond memories however of many a cold winter’s day in December, as a youngster, trampling through a deathly quiet forest – with only the sounds of an occasional “thud” as huge clumps of snow would fall from pine tree branches, and my own heavy breathing from struggling to extract myself from waist deep snow – in search of the “perfect” Christmas tree.

I was all too eager to pass my wonderful childhood memories along to my own family, as we carried on the tradition of chaining up the car, bundling up to look like a Michelin family, and with bungee cords in hand and a toboggan strapped to the top of the car, set off in search of the “perfect” Christmas tree. The reward, when we got back, was a steaming cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a stick of peppermint, Christmas carols and the scent of a fresh pine tree filling the house.

Fast forward to today. I am at an age that the thought of frost bitten toes and fingers, overrides the allure of the adventure. So, as I longingly and quite guiltily gazed at all the artificial Christmas tree options, I heard my youngest daughter’s admonition, “no way are we ever getting a fake tree!” Even though my children are adults now, their memories are still very vivid. It is first and foremost about the smell of a pine tree that permeates the entire house and then all that goes with the holiday season.

I know there is debate about whether a living tree should be cut as part of a holiday tradition, or whether choosing an artificial tree contributes to global warming or whether one should support a tree farmer instead of the above, but really it comes down to personal choice and circumstance. The memories we create, and the mark we leave, are way more important.

However, not everyone has fond memories of Christmases gone-by. Just being alone can make the holiday unbearable. Circumstances may find people (our neighbors) in need of food, clothing, and shelter; leading to the Christmas season being quite difficult for some.

This is probably why one-third of all charitable donations are made the last three months of the year with 18 percent of the annual total donated in December. In 2012, charitable donations increased by 3.5 percent for a sum of $316 billion dollars. Volunteers contribute over 15 billion hours every year. Charitable giving and volunteering (our actions) directly impacts communities.

Having been raised by a single mother, we didn’t have excess of anything, but we had a home, food, boxes of welcomed hand-me-down clothes, and toys under the tree on Christmas morning. Growing up, I didn’t realize our social circumstance because what we had, we shared year-round, especially at Christmas. My mother always made sure we invited (what she referred to as “shut-ins”) to our home for dinner. We entertained dinner guests for Christmas every year.


I guess the reason I am sharing this story, is because it is not unlike many others from the past or today. Even though growing-up we did not have an abundance of “things” we did had an abundance of goodwill, and isn’t goodwill really what Christmas is about? Giving to our community or helping a neighbor has long been an important part of Montana’s culture.

Whether you choose to be counted as part of the $316 billion in charitable donations, volunteer your time, provide toys or food for families in need, a Christmas tree (artificial or real) or Christmas dinner for a “shut-in”, our actions serve to help create lasting memories for our own family and for others.

On behalf of all the families of the Montana Wood Products Association we wish you cherished memories, a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I am Julia Altemus, thanks for listening.