Letter: Public comments oppose Tongue River Railroad – Billings Gazette, Nov. 25, 2012

November 26, 2012

Categories: Agriculture, Landowner Rights, Letters

http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/mailbag/public-comments-oppose-tongue-river-railroad/article_59e2d1bd-5144-5145-ae75-fae863f21540.html

I attended a scoping hearing on the Tongue River Railroad at Forsyth and, of 16 people who testified at the hearing, only one favored the railroad. Others expressed concerns about agriculture, wildlife and health impacts. I spoke about the railroad’s negative impacts on Montana’s second largest economy, travel and tourism. Mining is low on the list of Montana’s economic drivers.

I live in Billings and have concerns about how increased rail traffic from coal exports will affect Billings. I also own land on Otter Creek and recognize the impacts that could occur in that area if the Tongue River Railroad is built. People unfamiliar with southeastern Montana may think of it as a vast wasteland. In reality, southeastern Montana’s valleys, grasslands and breaks are home to more wildlife and fish species than Western Montana.

Hunting, fishing and recreation, as well as agriculture, archaeology, forestry and cultural history, should be preserved.

The TRR will cross and degrade the Tongue River Ranch — state land set aside for public recreation. Two private ranches in the valley are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wolf Mountain and Rosebud Battlefields are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

Tourists don’t visit Montana to see strip mines or railroad. In southeastern Montana, they come because of the wildlife and other natural and historic treasures.

Public testimony, especially at the evening hearings, has overwhelmingly opposed the railroad. I hope the Surface Transportation Board listens to the public’s concerns in their analysis of this ill-conceived proposal.

Eileen Morris
Billings

 

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