By Tim Leeds
Sunshine Morsette, an eighth-grader at St. Jude-Havre Central, was selected to represent Montana at the RespecTeen National Youth Forum in Washington, D.C.
Morsette and her mother, Kathie, have won an all-expense paid trip to the nation's capitol to attend the forum, held on April 29-May 4.
To enter the contest, Morsette wrote a letter to Congressman Rick Hill. Morsette's letter said the land between Fort Benton and the Fred Robinson Bridge on Highway 191, including the Missouri Breaks, should not be made into a national conservation area. The letter was also submitted to the Havre Daily News.
Morsette said they will be meeting with congressmen at the forum, and take trips to capitol hill. She said they will have sessions at the motel to teach the students about the legislative process.
She said she and her family travel a lot, so the trip itself is nothing new, although she's excited about the forum. "I think it's cool to represent the state of Montana," she said, "to be chosen to be there with other kids form the United States."
Morsette said she doesn't plan to be a congressman from Montana. "I'm not really interested in being a legislator," she said. "I might want to be president after I go to college."
She said Alma Seidel, eighth-grade teacher at Havre Central, assigned writing a letter for the contest to her class. She said she picked conservation for her letter because it seemed to be a significant issue when they were searching for a topic.
"I think Montana should belong to Montanans," she said. "Farmers should be able to keep their own land."
Morsette researched the topic extensively. She said she found information on the internet, at congress and Bureau of Land Manangement sites, and talked to people involved in the issue from this area.
Morsette wrote that the area has many farmers and ranchers in the area who would be affected by making it into a conservation area. She wrote that the land already supports wildlife, fisheries, hunting and sightseeing, and further conservation isn't needed.
Morsette also wrote that placing the area into conservation will remove it from the tax roll in the counties affected. "Will the government make up the difference in taxes?" she wrote. "I ask you to stick up for Montanans and make the right decision since you know what would happen to property owners and their lives."
Morsette is the second Havre Central student chosen for the forum. Nikki Baltrusch, daughter of Greg and Shari Baltrusch, was chosen in 1997.
Seidel said the national forum, sponsored by the Lutheran Brotherhood, began in 1989. The program's goal is to help young people become more active citizens, and help them learn how to communicate effectively with their members of Congress, to investigate and take position on national issues, and to recognize how they can take action to solve problems.