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Latest Montana News
Friday, June 22nd 2018
Associated Press Montana News
AP-MT--1st Right Now
Jun 22, 2018 3:20AM (GMT 09:20) - 910 words
SEVERE WEATHER

Trapped campers, swimming bears in Montana as floods hit US

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Helicopters have rescued people stranded by flooding in Texas and Montana, including 140 children and counselors stuck in a mountain bible camp for two days.

Campers were lifted out Thursday after a washed-out road cut off the only exit. Montana was just drying out from spring flooding caused by near-record snowfall over the winter when a storm unleashed rain over the past three days.

Severe storms have swept the Rockies and the Midwest this week. The soaking comes in stark contrast to the tinder-dry conditions in the Southwest, which is experiencing drought and an early wildfire season.

Forecasters say rain is expected to move out of far South Texas by Friday but much of the central and southeast U.S. will be at risk of severe storms as the weekend approaches.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING-MONTANA

Montana man gets 30-year prison sentence for sex trafficking

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula man has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after authorities say he lured women and girls into the commercial sex trade.

The Billings Gazette reports 35-year-old Terrance Tyrell Edwards was sentenced Tuesday in Billings federal court after he was found guilty in February on multiple counts of sex trafficking by force, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution and obstructing a sex trafficking investigation.

Prosecutors say he enlisted as many five women in his sex trafficking scheme, bullying and abusing them so they'd keep working for him.

Before his sentence was issued, Edwards told the court he was innocent of nine of his 10 convictions.

Attorney Palmer Hoovestal says Edwards intends to appeal his case.

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GLACIER PARK-BURNED CHALET

Report: Fire risk to Glacier chalet was 'underestimated'

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A report indicates that fire managers had "underestimated" the risk posed to a Glacier National Park backcountry dormitory that burned last year.

The Missoulian reports the investigation report by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service notes lessons learned following the lightning-caused fire that damaged the dining hall and destroyed the dormitory of the Sperry Chalet last August.

A learning analysis notes that fire staff incorrectly believed that the building's fire-retardant shingles was adequate when coupled with the expectation that water could be applied to all areas of the roofs. Firefighters had lacked water pressure during the blaze.

The analysis also notes that park firefighters were not trained in fall protection that could have allowed them climb onto the building to wrap the roof in fire-resistant materials.

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AP-US-INTERIOR-SECRETARY-HALLIBURTON-THE-LATEST

The Latest: Lawmakers seek probe of Interior boss' land deal

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Democratic lawmakers are calling for an investigation into U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's involvement in a land deal with the chairman of an energy services company that does business with the agency.

A foundation created by Zinke has been dealing with a company co-owned by Halliburton Chairman David Lesar on a commercial development in Whitefish, Montana — Zinke's hometown.

Democrats led by Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona on Thursday asked Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall to examine whether Zinke used his office for personal gain.

The lawmakers released emails obtained under a public records request showing Zinke met with Lesar last August, more than five months after he left the foundation involved in the real estate deal.

Halliburton spokeswoman Emily Mir says the meetings were unrelated to the company.

BEAR ATTACK-THE LATEST

The Latest: Bear attack victim says recovery is slow

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A grizzly bear researcher who was attacked by a grizzly bear last month says the encounter has done nothing to change her mind about her career path.

Amber Kornak said Thursday that she is slowly recovering from the May 17 attack by a male grizzly in northwestern Montana's Cabinet Mountains.

She was conducting research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when she surprised the bear. It bit her skull and clawed her arm and back before she deployed her bear spray and it ran away.

The 28-year-old Kornak says she still to be a bear manager. She says if anything, the accident just helped her career.

State wildlife officials concluded the bear acted defensively, and Kornak agreed. She says she wouldn't want anything to happen to it.

WYOMING-GRIZZLY HUNT

Gov. Mead signs off on Wyoming's 1st griz hunt in 44 years

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has signed off on the state's first hunt for grizzly bears in 44 years.

Mead approved the rules Thursday that pave the way for the fall hunt, which will be the biggest in the lower 48 states since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed protections for grizzlies in the Yellowstone region in 2017.

The hunt's rules will allow up to 22 grizzlies to be killed in a wide area east and south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission heard from hunt supporters and opponents before voting unanimously in favor of it in May.

Mead says grizzlies have "exceeded their recovery goals for over a decade."

Idaho has approved hunting one grizzly this fall, and Montana has decided for now that it won't allow grizzly hunting.

Thursday, June 21st 2018
Associated Press Montana News
AP-MT--1st Right Now
Jun 21, 2018 3:20AM (GMT 09:20) - 856 words
MONTANA FLOODING-THE LATEST

Montana governor declares flood emergency

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has declared a state of emergency ahead of possible major flooding in several Montana communities.

Bullock's Wednesday order applies to Cascade County, Lewis and Clark County and the City of Great Falls.

It comes after the National Weather Service issued a flood warning along portions of the Missouri River.

Major flooding is expected at Ulm, 10 miles southwest of Great Falls. Flooding is expected along Woodland Estates Road, which is between bends in the river southwest of Great Falls, as well as the marina along Lower River Road in Great Falls.

Flooding could occur at homes near the Great Falls Country Club, as well.

Bullock said other communities may be added to the declaration as the situation develops.

FATAL STRUCTURE FIRE

1 person dead after structure fire in eastern Montana

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say one person is dead after a structure fire in eastern Montana.

Dawson County Attorney Brett Irigoin tells The Billings Gazette the victim, whose name has not been released, was pulled from the fire north of Glendive on Tuesday evening. The sheriff's office and the Montana State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating.

Irigoin did not release any details about the victim, how the fire started or what kind of structure was involved.

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SAGE GROUSE-FOREST SERVICE

Forest Service proposes changes to sage grouse protections

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is proposing changes to sage grouse protections in six Western states by eliminating special designations for crucial habitat as well as keeping areas open for mining.

The agency in documents made public Wednesday also says restrictions on water development for livestock will be removed as will other requirements that could limit livestock grazing.

The plans cover 9,500 square miles (24,500 square kilometers) of greater sage grouse habitat in Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah and Montana.

Public comments are being taken until July 20.

The Obama administration in 2015 didn't list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act but imposed land-use restrictions.

The Forest Service says the proposed changes to the 2015 plan are intended to be neutral or improve habitat for sage grouse.

MONTANA STANDOFF-INQUEST-THE LATEST

The Latest: Family says they could have helped in standoff

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Family members of a man killed by Montana police after a 10-hour standoff in which more than 100 shots were fired say the suspect's life could have been spared if authorities had worked harder to defuse the situation.

Anita Little Head said Wednesday that her brother, suspect Frank Joe Half, Jr., was a Crow Indian who might have given himself up if police had brought in a relative to reason with him.

Half's uncle, Ben Cloud, said he was en route to the scene of the standoff last November when Half was killed.

A coroner's jury is considering whether Half's killing was justified. Police say Half broke into a Billings sporting goods store, armed himself with several weapons and appeared intent on ambushing officers.

KALISPELL REGIONAL-INVESTIGATION

Feds investigating Kalispell hospital over doctor pay

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

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Kalispell Regional Healthcare is under federal investigation over "compensation to certain physicians" and recently told employees it has set aside $21.5 million for a potential settlement.

Hospital spokeswoman Mellody Sharpton told the Flathead Beacon she couldn't provide details on the allegations, but the hospital denies any wrongdoing.

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the investigation.

Hospital attorney William Gibson told the Beacon on June 13 the hospital was negotiating a settlement.

The hospital has a substantial year-to-date deficit, but Sharpton couldn't confirm the exact total.

Kalispell Regional has three major building projects going on and expects to lose about $6.6 million due to state cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates. The hospital recently laid off less than 40 employees due to the state cuts.

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This story has been corrected to show the hospital recently laid off less than 40 employees.

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CHILD DEATH

Montana man accused of fatally beating 5-year-old girl

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A southern Montana man accused of beating a 5-year-old girl to death has been charged with deliberate homicide and aggravated assault.

The Billings Gazette reports 34-year-old Bridger Boyd was charged in Big Horn County District Court after the girl died Monday.

Boyd and his wife brought the unresponsive girl to a hospital Monday morning, and investigators say he acknowledged slamming the child's head against the wall and striking her with his fists several days earlier at their home near Busby.

The couple had several foster children in their care. All of the children have been removed from the household.

Boyd was arrested in Billings on Tuesday and is being held in the Yellowstone County jail on $1 million bail. Booking documents do not indicate if he has hired an attorney.

Wednesday, June 20th 2018
Associated Press Montana News
AP-MT--1st Right Now
Jun 20, 2018 3:20AM (GMT 09:20) - 822 words
INTERIOR SECRETARY-HALLIBURTON

Land deal ties Interior secretary's family, Halliburton boss

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Records show U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's family is involved in a land deal with the head of an energy services giant that does business with the Interior Department.

Politico first reported the Zinkes' dealings with Halliburton chairman David Lesar involving a commercial development in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana.

A charitable foundation created by Zinke and run by his wife, Lola, is allowing a company co-owned by Lesar and his family to use a portion of its land as a parking lot for the development.

The land was donated to Zinke's Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation to create a park.

Whitefish city planner Dave Taylor said Tuesday that the development plans pre-date Zinke's tenure as Interior secretary.

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift didn't have immediate comment. Zinke told Politico that he's no longer involved with the foundation.

MONTANA FLOODING-THE LATEST

Flooding closes more roadways in central Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials have closed a stretch of Montana Highway 200 over Rogers Pass after a culvert failed and flooded the roadway.

State Department of Transportation officials say the highway is closed east of Lincoln to the intersection with Montana Highway 287.

Heavy rain over the past few days has also led to the flooding of the Sun River and the closure of all roads leading to the town of Augusta about 35 miles north of Rogers Pass.

Red Cross officials say they're opening a shelter for people affected by the flooding at 7 p.m. in Choteau at the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

CHILD DEATH

Montana man accused of fatally beating 5-year-old girl

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A southern Montana man accused of beating a 5-year-old girl to death has been charged with deliberate homicide and aggravated assault.

The Billings Gazette reports 34-year-old Bridger Boyd was charged in Big Horn County District Court after the girl died Monday.

Boyd and his wife brought the unresponsive girl to a hospital Monday morning, and investigators say he acknowledged slamming the child's head against the wall and striking her with his fists several days earlier at their home near Busby.

The couple had several foster children in their care. All of the children have been removed from the household.

Boyd was arrested in Billings on Tuesday and is being held in the Yellowstone County jail on $1 million bail. Booking documents do not indicate if he has hired an attorney.

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RAFTING FATAL

Man who drowned in rafting accident in western Montana ID'd

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who drowned when his raft overturned on a creek in western Montana.

Granite County Sheriff Scott Dunkerson says a raft carrying 71-year-old Alfred Tully, of Missoula, capsized on a log jam on lower Rock Creek on Sunday afternoon. Another person in the raft made it to shore, but Tully could not.

The Missoulian reports his body was recovered a few hours later about 4 miles downstream.

Dunkerson says the river is dangerous in the area, and more so after rain on Monday and Tuesday.

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MINING INITIATIVE

Montana court allows mining ballot initiative to proceed

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has denied a request by the Montana Mining Association to toss out a proposed ballot initiative for being legally insufficient to put before voters.

Sponsors are collecting signatures for the initiative to require future mines to submit reclamation plans that don't require the perpetual cleanup of polluted water after the mines close.

The mining association says the vaguely worded initiative would allow environmental activists to sue to block any new mines from opening in Montana. It asked the state Supreme Court to toss the initiative on a technical claim that the measure's effective date conflicts with state law.

The Supreme Court in a 5-0 opinion Tuesday upheld Attorney General Tim Fox's finding that the initiative is legally sufficient and wrote the mining association's argument falls outside of the scope of Fox's pre-election review.

TV-YELLOWSTONE

'Yellowstone' boasts Costner, strong Native American co-star

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Yellowstone" has everything a worthwhile Western should, including breathtaking vistas, battles over land and Kevin Costner in the lead role.

There's also something rare in the contemporary Paramount Network series: prominent Native American story lines and roles, including one filled by an actor formidable enough to stand up to Costner and his ranching baron.

Gil Birmingham plays Thomas Rainwater, a tribal chief and casino owner who's ready and able to oppose those whose interests conflict with the well-being of the people he represents.

The 10-part drama series "Yellowstone" debuts Wednesday on the Paramount Network, formerly Spike TV.

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