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Sunday, September 24th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT
GRIZZLY-LIVESTOCK

10 calves killed by grizzlies in central Montana

(Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials say grizzly bears have killed ten calves on a central Montana ranch.

The Daily Inter Lake reported that the dead animals were found recently in a creek bottom on a ranch near Dupuyer in Teton County.

Wildlife officials say at least 12 grizzlies have been present in the area. It's uncertain which were responsible for attacking the calves.

The owner of the calves will be eligible for compensation from the livestock loss fund.

Grizzly bears have been spreading into agricultural areas and encountering conflicts with humans along central Montana's Rocky Mountain Front as they population continues to recover from widespread extermination last century.

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VERIZON CONTRACTS TERMINATED-MONTANA

Verizon will keep serving eastern Montana customers for now

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Verizon says it will give hundreds of rural customers in eastern Montana more time to switch plans or find a new provider after members of the state's Congressional delegation objected to the company's plans to end services.

Company spokeswoman Meagan Dorsch said rural customers in dozens of small towns will have until Dec. 1 to switch plans or providers.

Verizon had sent letters more than 900 eastern Montana customers in recent weeks letting them know their service would be terminated after Oct. 17.

The company said the costs of data roaming in parts of eastern Montana were exceeding the amount some customers paid under their monthly plans.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte had asked Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam to continue the services.

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PULSE CROPS

New plant to process Montana's booming pulse crop harvest

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An Oregon-based company is building a large crop processing plant in northeast Montana that it says will double the amount of peas and lentils it takes from 150 farmers.

The investment by Columbia Grain was reported by the Billings Gazette and comes as Montana has emerged as the largest producer of so-called pulse crops such as lentils, peas and chickpeas.

Tim McGreevey of the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council says the new plant in Plentywood will be the largest such processing facility in Montana.

The new processing plant is expected to be completed by July 2018, in time for next year's harvest.

Acreage of pulse crops harvested in Montana has nearly tripled since the start of the decade.

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TRANSMISSION PARTNERSHIP

Utilities in Rockies seek to join larger transmission group

(Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com)

DENVER (AP) — Utilities serving customers in Colorado, Wyoming and portions of adjoining states are moving to join a larger transmission system in a move they say could reduce costs.

The Denver Post reports the Mountain States Transmission Group said Friday it's moving to join the Southwest Power Pool.

The larger group has nearly 100 member companies and an electricity transmission system serving 14 states.

The Mountain West group is an informal alliance of utilities formed in 2013 serving more than 6 million customers. It includes Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Basin Electric Power and others.

Supporters say the deal could bring customer benefits, but regulators warned it could leave the region more vulnerable to outages if not done right.

The deal could be finalized by late 2019.

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BLM LEASE SALE

BLM sale in Wyoming nets $38.7 million in bonus bids

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Bureau of Land Management quarterly oil and gas lease sale in Wyoming has brought in about $38.7 million in bonus bids.

The sale on Thursday resulted in competitive bids for more than 106,000 acres (42,900 hectares). Nearly 113,000 acres (45,700 hectares) were offered in the sale.

The bonus bids from the sale will be distributed between the federal government and state of Wyoming.

The BLM offered 137 parcels in Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Johnson, Niobrara, Sheridan, Washakie, and Weston counties. The highest bid per acre was $16,851.

ENDANGERED CHILDREN-STALKING

Child protection agency critic charge with stalking worker

(Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A critic of Montana's child protection agency is charged with using Facebook to stalk one of its caseworkers in violation of a restraining order.

The Great Falls Tribune reports 73-year-old John "Jay" Walton appeared in District Court in Great Falls on a felony stalking charge. He did not enter a plea Friday. The judge told him to stay off Facebook.

Prosecutors say Walton took pictures from the caseworker's Facebook page and posted them on his own page with derogatory comments.

The restraining order was issued in 2015 after several caseworkers complained about Walton's harassing them after his grandchildren were removed from his house.

Also in 2015, Walton was charged with criminal contempt for sharing a confidential Child and Family Services report in an effort to change the placement of one of his grandchildren.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, September 23rd 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT
ENDANGERED CHILDREN-STALKING

Child protection agency critic charge with stalking worker

(Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A critic of Montana's child protection agency is charged with using Facebook to stalk one of its caseworkers in violation of a restraining order.

The Great Falls Tribune reports 73-year-old John "Jay" Walton appeared in District Court in Great Falls on a felony stalking charge. He did not enter a plea Friday. The judge told him to stay off Facebook.

Prosecutors say Walton took pictures from the caseworker's Facebook page and posted them on his own page with derogatory comments.

The restraining order was issued in 2015 after several caseworkers complained about Walton's harassing them after his grandchildren were removed from his house.

Also in 2015, Walton was charged with criminal contempt for sharing a confidential Child and Family Services report in an effort to change the placement of one of his grandchildren.

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YELLOWSTONE-GOLD EXPLORATION

Groups sue to stop mining exploration north of Yellowstone

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Opponents of mining outside Yellowstone National Park are challenging a decision by Montana environmental regulators to allow a Canadian company to explore for precious metals just north of the park.

The Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition sued the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Lucky Minerals, Inc. on Friday in state District Court in Park County.

Lucky Minerals was given approval to drill on private land in the Absaroka Mountains southeast of Emigrant to gauge its copper, gold, silver and molybdenum deposits.

Plaintiff's attorney Jenny Harbine says the state's analysis of the company's proposal should have considered the potential for a large-scale mine to be built at the exploration site.

Representatives of the state and company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

MONTANA BUDGET

Gov: Montana residents not talking about budget shortfall

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana's governor says residents don't seem to be aware of the state's budget issues and the magnitude of the problem may not sink in until state services are cut.

Gov. Steve Bullock told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle editorial board on Thursday that lawmakers could look at new revenue streams if he called a special session, but he doesn't want to call one if Republican lawmakers aren't in agreement. Bullock said even with some tax increases, cuts are still inevitable.

State agencies were asked for ways to cut their budgets by 10 percent and the budget director recommended $229 million in cuts this week. They include eliminating some jobs, holding others open, cutting travel and training and reducing or eliminating some services for vulnerable or disabled residents.

The Legislative Finance Committee will make its recommendation next month.

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PABLO SHOOTING DEATH

Self-defense being investigated in Pablo shooting death

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

RONAN, Mont. (AP) — A suspect in the shooting death of a man in northwestern Montana has been released from jail while law enforcement officers investigate whether the shooting was a case of self-defense.

The 28-year-old Pablo man was arrested on suspicion of deliberate homicide for the Sept. 16 death of 34-year-old Johnny McKeever. The shooting occurred outside the suspect's house south of Pablo.

Lake County Attorney Steve Eschenbacher tells the Missoulian that investigators are looking at the possibility that the suspect may have shot McKeever in self-defense.

McKeever's body was taken to the state crime lab in Missoula for an autopsy.

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LAME DEER-FATAL ASSAULT

Montana man dies of injuries suffered in weekend assault

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The FBI says a 30-year-old Lame Deer man has died of injuries suffered in an assault last weekend.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has a man in custody in the death of Ozzy Lee Wilson. The suspect's name has not been released.

Officers responded to a residence in Lame Deer on Sunday to a report of a man who had been assaulted and was unresponsive. Wilson died early Friday at a Billings hospital.

FBI Supervisory Agent Travis Burrows said an autopsy was planned on Friday.

RANCHING STANDOFF TRIAL-NEVADA

Cliven Bundy firing lawyer with trial approaching in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Cliven Bundy's defense attorney says the Nevada cattleman and state's rights figure is firing him, less than three weeks before trial stemming from a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents.

Attorney Bret Whipple filed documents Thursday asking Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro for a hearing as soon as possible about withdrawing from the case.

Whipple says the decision is Bundy's. He says he doesn't know if Bundy has another lawyer or intends to represent himself.

It wasn't immediately clear if the move will affect the trial schedule.

Jury selection is set to start Oct. 10 for Bundy, two sons and four other men — including two defendants whose retrial ended last month with acquittal on most charges and no verdicts on assault on a federal officer and weapon counts.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, September 22nd 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT
BANKRUPT BROWNING

Judge orders Browning to turn over assets to Blackfeet tribe

A state judge has ordered the town of Browning to turn over most of its assets to the Blackfeet Tribe to settle lawsuits between the two governments.

The settlement agreement, approved by District Judge James Reynolds last month, is part of Browning's efforts to disincorporate as a town. Glacier County and the tribe will take over municipal services for Browning residents, including water, sewer and garbage services and fire protection.

The settlement calls for the town to hand over to the tribe all water and sewer infrastructure, water rights and other assets.

The town of Browning announced in December 2015 that it was on the verge of bankruptcy. At the time, the city council blamed the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. Tribal officials have said the town is responsible for its financial troubles.

MONTANA CLIMATE

Study: Montana's average temperature continues to increase

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Montana climate study found the state's average temperature continues to increase, winter snowpack is decreasing and the fire and growing seasons are lasting longer while drought conditions are expected to increase in frequency and duration.

The Montana Climate Assessment , carried out by the Montana University System's Institute on Ecosystem, suggests Montana may need to start storing more water and farmers and ranchers may need to switch to crops that do better in the drought conditions.

The two-year study looked at past climate data and the impact on the state's water, forests and agriculture.

MSU Professor Cathy Whitlock said Wednesday the assessment is meant to help Montanans plan and make better decisions. The authors plan to travel the state over the next year to discuss the findings.

SMITH RIVER-ALGAE BLOOMS

Montana agencies ask Smith River floaters to document algae

(Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials will ask those who receive a permit to float the Smith River to help record algae blooms on the water next year.

The Independent Record reported on Thursday that the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Fish, Wildlife and Parks department are launching a project to collect data that's difficult for researchers to obtain from the remote river.

Recipients of the roughly 1,500 peak season permits that are granted will be sent instructions to download an app where they can upload photos of the blooms.

While algae is natural to the river, it can have negative effects on the water quality and wildlife. Officials from the agencies hope the data will help them to better understand the algae's scope.

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ASBESTOS TOWN-THE LATEST

The Latest: Montana preparing to take over asbestos cleanup

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — State and local officials have begun preparations to take over management of the cleanup of a northwest Montana community where health officials say hundreds of people have been killed by asbestos exposure.

The Libby Asbestos Superfund Advisory Team meets for the first time Thursday after being established by the Montana Legislature earlier this year.

The five-member group will work with state and federal environmental agencies to come up with ways to prevent further exposures to asbestos that remains beneath the soil and in the walls of many houses in the towns of Libby and Troy.

A cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has removed more than a million cubic yards of dirt and building materials from properties in the area. That work is expected to finish in coming months.

TRANSGENDER BATHROOM INITIATIVE

Montana must rewrite transgender bathroom ballot language

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has ordered the attorney general to rewrite ballot language for an initiative that would require people to use public restrooms designated for their gender at birth.

The court ruled Tuesday in a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, saying the language didn't include the initiative's specific definition of "sex" and was otherwise vague.

The justices wrote that the language doesn't say the law would apply to local government buildings and public education facilities and doesn't include how much it would cost for them to comply.

It also fails to note that people could sue for emotional or mental distress if they encounter a transgender person in a public bathroom and the facility hadn't taken reasonable steps to prevent it.

The conservative Montana Family Foundation has until June to gather nearly 26,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

MONTANA BUDGET

Montana budget director recommends $229M in spending cuts

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The governor's budget director is recommending Montana agencies cut $229 million in general fund spending over the next two years to balance the state's budget due to lower revenues than expected and this summer's higher firefighting costs this summer.

Most of the cuts recommended by Budget Director Dan Villa were proposed by state agencies when they were asked to list how they'd cut 10 percent of their budget. However, Villa is recommending against cuts proposed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation because it would impact Montana's ability to fight fires.

He also recommended against 50 jobs cuts in the Department of Revenue because they would hurt the state's ability to collect business income taxes.

The Legislative Finance Committee will consider the proposed cuts next month before Gov. Steve Bullock makes his final recommendations.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.