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Tuesday, September 27th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT
YELLOWSTONE-SEXUAL HARASSMENT-THE LATEST

The Latest: Yosemite park superintendent apologizes to staff

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — The head of Yosemite National Park has apologized to staff members following recently revealed allegations of harassment and other misconduct.

Superintendent Don Neubacher sent the apology Sunday in an email to all park employees, referencing "some serious staff concerns related to Yosemite's workplace environment."

It comes after a congressional oversight committee unveiled that at least 18 Yosemite staffers complained of a toxic work environment.

Officials say they're also investigating complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation at Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks.

Neubacher says he has been Yosemite's superintendent for nearly seven years and wasn't aware of the concerns until recently, which make him sad. He says his goal has always been to make the park a positive workplace.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman declined to comment Monday.

BODY FOUND-BOZEMAN

Authorities ID man found dead in canyon near Bozeman

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

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who was found dead in a canyon near Bozeman.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports 27-year-old Jeffrey Theodore Baysinger, of Belgrade, was found dead in Hyalite Canyon on Friday after state troopers found his vehicle abandoned in a ditch the previous Wednesday.

An autopsy is planned, but Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin says it appears Baysinger died of exposure.

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FATAL CRASH-BILLINGS

Man killed in 2-vehicle crash west of Billings

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says a man was killed in a two-vehicle crash west of Billings.

Sgt. Craig Baum says a 37-year-old Billings man was driving a pickup east on South Frontage Road on Monday morning when a truck headed the opposite direction crossed the centerline. The Billings Gazette reports the driver of the vehicle that crossed into the opposing lane died at the scene.

His name has not been released, but the coroner's office says he is 35 years old and from Billings.

The 37-year-old man was not injured.

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING INVESTIGATION

Man charged in sex trafficking scheme with underage girls

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a man brought two women and three teenage girls into a sex trafficking scheme and had one of the women drive him to court for a probation hearing for a prior prostitution conviction.

Terrance Tyrell Edwards has been charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion after he was arrested last week at a Billings hotel.

A sworn statement by Missoula police detective Guy Baker says Edwards arranged for one woman to meet men for money in Billings, Missoula and Salt Lake City.

Baker says Edwards brought in another woman from Washington state. Two days before he was arrested, he picked up three girls, ages 15, 16 and 17, in Fargo, North Dakota, and brought them to Billings.

Edwards is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday.

OBIT-BEN STEELE

Bataan Death March survivor, artist Ben Steele dies at 98

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Bataan Death March survivor, artist and educator Ben Steele has died in Montana. He was 98.

Julie Jorgenson tells The Billings Gazette her father died Sunday in Billings surrounded by his family.

Steele was born in the small Montana town of Roundup and grew up riding horses, roping cattle and occasionally delivering supplies to western artist Will James.

He was a U.S. Army Air Corps private in the Philippines when the Japanese captured his unit in 1942.

Thousands of soldiers died during the 66-mile march under a scorching tropical sun.

Steele was bayoneted, starved and beaten and suffered dysentery, malaria, pneumonia and septicemia. He said he kept his sanity by sketching.

When he returned to Montana, Steele taught art at Eastern Montana College which became Montana State University Billings.

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GREAT FALLS STABBING DEATH

Great Falls High student stabbed to death

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A senior at Great Falls High School was stabbed to death over the weekend and police say they have detained persons of interest.

Cascade County coroner Lt. Bob Rospial says Megan Meriwether was stabbed in an alley Friday night and her death was being investigated as a homicide. Officers did not identify those who were detained.

Assistant schools superintendent Tom Moore says school officials worked over the weekend to ensure counselors would be available for students on Monday.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, September 26th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT
FOREST SERVICE PARTNERSHIPS

Forest Service wants partnerships to help manage forests

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says his agency is depending on partnerships with states and private organizations to manage 60 million acres in need of restoration because of staff and budget cuts.

The agency plans to set priorities on where to focus their efforts to prevent disease, wildfires and drought, especially in areas where public and private lands converge.

Tidwell tells the Missoulian there are economic benefits to local communities from national forests and those communities have a stake in the process.

Tidwell says there are 44 million homes near national forests and they're at risk being destroyed by fast-moving wildfires that can be prevented.

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ROBOT-GROUNDBREAKING

Robot breaks ground for MSU engineering building

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

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A prototype of a lunar mining robot built by Montana State University engineering and computer science students for a NASA competition helped dedicate a new College of Engineering.

The robot dug up symbolic scoops of sand and dignitaries used ceremonial shovels for the dedication.

The college is being funded by a $50 million gift from MSU alumnus Norm Asbjornson.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle , construction is expected to be completed in 2018.

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NO HOMEWORK

Goodbye to homework for some elementary schools and classes

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A small but growing number of elementary schools and teachers are doing away with homework to allow kids more time to play sports, spend time with families, read and sleep.

The principal at Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont, says the kindergarten-through-5th-grade school eliminated homework this year, based on research he's found that says there's little to no correlation between homework and achievement for elementary school kids.

But other education experts say that homework is vital and less of it may be the key.

At some elementary schools, like the Orchard School, students' daily home assignment includes reading, playing, extra-curricular activities, dinner with family and sleeping well.

The president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals says the pushback is coming from parents who say their students are stretched too thin.

WYOMING ENERGY ECONOMY

Author Sam Western urges new take on Wyoming's economy

(Information from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/)

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Author Sam Western urged a gathering of mostly graduates of leadership programs in Sheridan County to begin a new conversation on Wyoming's economic future.

Western says Wyoming residents and leaders have gotten a pass for years to avoid difficult conversations about the future of Wyoming's economy. While Wyoming clings to the energy industry — primarily coal — Western says, the rest of the world is working to reduce the amount of carbon-based fuels it uses.

The Sheridan Press reports that Western is teaching a class at Sheridan College that discusses the state's economy.

Western said he's not anti-coal and said he believes coal and carbon-based fuels will continue to be a part of the world's energy portfolio.

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SOLAR PROJECTS

Complaint filed over Montana suspension of solar payments

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked to step in after Montana officials suspended payment for solar projects until a rate structure can be determined.

The Montana Environmental Information Center and Vote Solar filed a complaint after the Public Service Commission decided to review standard rates for small solar energy developers in Montana.

Supporters say the commission violated federal regulations that encourage renewable energy production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

According to the Great Falls Tribune , dozens of solar projects are in limbo because of the decision.

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WILLISTON ANIMAL SHELTER

Williston breaks ground on $5M animal shelter

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A new $5 million animal shelter is planned in Williston.

City officials broke ground on the planned facility last week.

Officials say the exterior of the 18,000-square-foot building is on track to be finished by December. Space for veterinary and grooming services for rescued dogs and cats is expected to be finished in about a year.

Officials say the facility will serve Williams and McKenzie counties, along with eastern Montana.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, September 25th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT
SOLAR PROJECTS

Complaint filed over Montana suspension of solar payments

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked to step in after Montana officials suspended payment for solar projects until a rate structure can be determined.

The Montana Environmental Information Center and Vote Solar filed a complaint after the Public Service Commission decided to review standard rates for small solar energy developers in Montana.

Supporters say the commission violated federal regulations that encourage renewable energy production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

According to the Great Falls Tribune , dozens of solar projects are in limbo because of the decision.

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WILDFIRE SEASON

Yellowstone wildfire season called one of worst in decades

(Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com)

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — The wildfire season this summer in Yellowstone is being called the worst in decades.

A larger percentage of Yellowstone National Park burned this summer than in any year since 1988. The wildfire season of 2003 was also one of the worst in terms of drought and acreage burned.

According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide , a dry spell that began in mid-July left ignitable fuels on forest floors.

The cost of fighting the wildfires in the region will run tens of millions of dollars.

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TRAVEL INCREASE

Glacier Park airport traffic hits summer passenger record

(Information from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Air travel is up 4 percent statewide.

The Flathead Beacon reports Glacier Park International Airport saw a record number of summer passengers.

Increases in ridership through August were also recorded at airports in Missoula, Bozeman, Billings and Great Falls.

Flights to and from Kalispell carried almost 200 more passengers than last summer.

Glacier Park is also hosting bigger crowds and is on track to break a record for the third straight year.

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NEW WEST INSURANCE

Montana insurer to shut down in 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials for a Montana health insurance company say the company will shut down next year.

Ryan O'Connell of New West Health Services said Friday the company will cease operations after it fulfills its requirements for this year's insurance plans.

Company CEO Angela Huschka says the company is not able to be financially successful with health insurance industry's increasing complexity and new challenges.

The company will continue to process claims from this year in 2017.

New West has 15,000 customers, including 14,000 with Medicare Advantage coverage. It employs 84 people in Helena, Kalispell and Billings.

Policyholders can choose another health plan beginning next month.

In 2012, New West sold its 10,600 hospital employee policies to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and its commercial health insurance business to PacificSource.

MONTANA ELECTIONS-GOVERNOR

Bullock opponent questions 'most fiscally prudent' claim

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has repeatedly claimed Montana is the most fiscally prudent state in the nation in his re-election campaign.

But the 2014 report the Democrat cites was updated this year with state data collected under new reporting requirements. Montana now ranks 26th.

The 2014 report by JP Morgan's Michael Cembalest analyzed what percentage of revenue each state pays toward its debt and pension obligations.

Montana fared best among states in that report. Its ranking fell when Cembalest updated the report in May with data submitted by the states under the new reporting requirements.

Bullock budget director Dan Villa said Friday the new requirements skew the results, and Montana's finances have only improved.

Aaron Flint, spokesman for Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, criticized Bullock for trying to discredit the update of the report he had been touting.

UM ENROLLMENT

University of Montana fall enrollment down

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Fall enrollment at the University of Montana's main campus is down 6.1 percent compared to last year, continuing a downward trend since it reported a peak enrollment of 13,198 students in 2010.

Tom Crady, UM's new vice president for enrollment management, said Friday he plans to increase the numbers by marketing the school to more prospective students, contacting them as sophomores instead of when they're juniors and improving the speed with which applications are processed and applicant questions are answered.

The fall headcount at UM is 10,329 students, down from 10,999 last fall and down 22 percent since 2010.

Crady says the university has an extraordinarily positive reputation outside the state and is more affordable than many schools. He plans to focus his initial efforts on increasing freshman enrollment, because that impacts enrollment for four or five years.

He also notes the campus, dorms and classrooms aren't overcrowded.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.