A coalition of Montana mining, timber, and construction lobbyists yesterday called on the state legislature to cut funding for the University of Montana’s environmental studies department, calling it “insidious” and a threat to the state economy. Speaking to the state’s Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Ellen Engstedt of the Montana Wood Products Association said, “We object to the use of public funds to put businesses out of business.” Engstedt cited a university class on how to organize a campaign as an example of public dollars being used to teach students to block timber sales. Some university administrators and state lawmakers, who were surprised by the coalition’s actions, said the proposed funding cut amounted to little more than an effort to curb academic freedom.