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Wednesday, December 11th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

MONTANA-WIFE SHOT-TRIAL

Montana man convicted of killing wife, injuring her roommate

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man accused of killing his estranged wife and critically injuring one of her roommates has been convicted. Joseph “Paul” DeWise was found guilty Tuesday of killing Lauren Walder DeWise in Belgrade in January 2018. He testified that prosecutors mischaracterized his statements throughout the investigation and “that's why whoever did this is still out there.” But his son said he was with his father when he shot Lauren DeWise and Ashley Van Hemert. DeWise's daughter also said her father confessed to shooting Lauren DeWise.

WESTERN GOVERNORS-INVASIVE SPECIES

Western governors form council to target invasive species

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Western governors say states need to work together to stop the spread of invasive species. The Western Governors' Association on Friday launched the Western Invasive Species Council and named representatives from 13 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The governors say invasive species are costing the U.S. $120 billion every year and pose a significant threat to Western rangelands and water systems infrastructure. Among the threats are feral swine, invasive annual grasses such as fire-prone cheatgrass, and aquatic quagga and zebra mussels. The governors say invasive species don't recognize state lines, so states need to coordinate activities.

CROPS-DISASTER REQUEST

Montana governor seeks federal disaster relief for crops

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's governor has requested a disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 11 counties that reported significant weather-related crop losses. The Billings Gazette reported Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has submitted the request to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Approval of the request covering 2019 weather damage would make affected producers eligible for emergency loans and other federal emergency assistance programs. Officials say approval or disapproval of a disaster designation is the final step in a multi-part review process after a governor submits a request. Richland County has cited a likely loss of $6.9 million in sugar beet crops alone.

HORSE RACING DEBT

Montana horse racing board pays $628K debt to state early

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A regulatory horse racing board in Montana has paid off a loan to the state three years ahead of schedule after making a $62,000 payment. Great Falls Tribune reported Monday that the Montana Board of Horse Racing erased a more than $628,000 debt to the state after making its final payment to the Department of Administration last month. A department spokeswoman confirmed Monday the payment had been made. The Montana Board of Horse Racing regulates the horse racing industry statewide, both live and simulcast. Board members say they are seeking ways to generate more money in the future.

TRIBAL RECOGNITION

Montana tribe's quest for recognition advances in Congress

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana lawmakers say Congress is on the cusp of approving legislation to recognize the state’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The proposal is included in the final language of a defense spending bill released Monday night by the U.S. House. The measure would provide the Little Shell 200 acres for a reservation and make its members eligible for health care benefits, education support and federal economic development programs. Final votes on the measure by the House and Senate are expected in the near future. The Little Shell tribe has around 5,400 enrolled members and was recognized by the state of Montana in 2000. It members have fought for decades to be recognized by the federal government and given the basic treaty rights offered to other American Indian tribes.

POWER PLANT FUTURE

NorthWestern Energy seeks to buy more of Colstrip coal plant

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — NorthWestern Energy says it wants to acquire part of Puget Sound Energy's share of the coal-fired Colstrip Power Plant for $1. The agreement would involve taking over the Washington utility's 25% ownership interest in Colstrip's Unit 4 and also purchasing more interest in the separate Colstrip Transmission System for as much as $3.75 million. That would boost South Dakota-based NorthWestern's ownership interest in the unit to 55% amid questions about the plant's future. Officials say customers' bills are not expected to increase.

Tuesday, December 10th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

GREAT FALLS-CHILD DEATH

Trials scheduled for Montana trio accused of killing boy

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge has scheduled trial dates in the cases of three people accused of the beating death of a 5-year-old boy. The Great Falls Tribune reports the trials of Racso James Birdtail, Stephanie Grace Byington and Emilio Emmanuel Renova Sr. have been scheduled for early 2021. Authorities say the trio beat Antonio Renova to death sometime during the night of Nov. 19-20 after they had been drinking. Byington and Renova Sr. are the victim's parents. Officials say the state plans to try the three defendants separately between January and April 2021. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.

AP-US-GRIZZLY-BEARS-RECOVERY

Feds agree to review grizzly protections in contiguous US

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials will review whether they are doing doing enough to protect grizzly bears across the contiguous U.S. states after advocates sued the government to try to restore the animals to more areas. A federal judge approved a settlement Monday and said the review must be completed by March 31, 2021. The Center for Biological Diversity said in a lawsuit that officials should consider restoring grizzlies to areas of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species in the U.S., except in Alaska. An estimated 1,900 bears live in portions of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington state.

LAKE PARK PLAN

Montana agencies working on permanent easement for lake park

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Two Montana agencies are working toward a permanent recreation easement for a state park on Flathead Lake. The Flathead Beacon reported Fish, Wildlife and Parks leases part of Big Arm State Park from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. A draft environmental analysis for the permanent easement is available for review and open to public input through Jan. 3. Officials say the lease has lasted for more than five decades and is currently set at 5% of the appraised value for the area in northwest Montana. The current lease is set to expire March 1.

SPORTS WAGERING-MONTANA

Montana Lottery taking applications for sports wagering

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Lottery has begun taking applications from businesses that want to offer sports wagering. The Montana Lottery Commission recently approved rules for sports betting, clearing the way for the lottery to take applications. As businesses become licensed, the lottery will begin statewide training followed by placing the new Sports Bet Montana equipment in licensed locations. Bets can only be placed through a Sports Bet Montana terminal inside a licensed location, either at the terminal or via a mobile app.

SCHOOL BUS CRASH

No injuries when Helena school bus rolls into ditch

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — No one was injured when a Helena school bus rolled into an irrigation ditch. The Montana Highway Patrol says the driver had finished his route Monday morning and stopped just north of the city to make sure there were no more children on the bus. Trooper Dave Gleich says the driver forgot to set his parking brake and the bus rolled into the ditch . The driver wasn't injured.

CHEMICAL RESTRAINTS-CHILDREN

Lawsuits filed against closed psychiatric facility

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A former patient and former employees of a now-closed children's psychiatric hospital in Montana have filed lawsuits against Tennessee-based Acadia Healthcare, which owned Acadia Montana in Butte. Acadia Montana closed its 108-bed hospital in July after Oregon officials questioned its use of injected medications to control the behavior of a 9-year-old girl. The former patient alleges negligence and assault while he was a patient at Acadia seven years ago. The former employees are seeking back pay alleging Acadia Healthcare violated a federal law that requires employers to give 60 days notice to employees before a layoff of more than 100 people. Acadia did not respond to the former patient's lawsuit and says by the time it closed it had just 30 employees.

Monday, December 9th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

U.S. officials will review whether grizzly bears have enough protections across the Lower 48 states after advocates sued the government in a bid to restore the animals to more areas. The review must be completed by March 31, 2021, under a settlement approved Monday by a federal judge. The Center for Biological Diversity said in a June lawsuit that officials should consider restoring grizzlies to areas of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species outside Alaska. An estimated 1,900 bears live in portions of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington state.

Montana agencies working on permanent easement for lake park
AP-MT--Lake Park Plan

Dec 09, 2019 12:18PM (GMT 19:18)
Two Montana agencies are working toward a permanent recreation easement for a state park on Flathead Lake. The Flathead Beacon reported Fish, Wildlife and Parks leases part of Big Arm State Park from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. A draft environmental analysis for the permanent easement is available for review and open to public input through Jan. 3. Officials say the lease has lasted for more than five decades and is currently set at 5% of the appraised value for the area in northwest Montana. The current lease is set to expire March 1.

Montana Lottery taking applications for sports wagering
AP-MT--Sports Wagering-Montana

Dec 09, 2019 11:48AM (GMT 18:48)
The Montana Lottery has begun taking applications from businesses that want to offer sports wagering. The Montana Lottery Commission recently approved rules for sports betting, clearing the way for the lottery to take applications. As businesses become licensed, the lottery will begin statewide training followed by placing the new Sports Bet Montana equipment in licensed locations. Bets can only be placed through a Sports Bet Montana terminal inside a licensed location, either at the terminal or via a mobile app.

Monday, December 9th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

No one was injured when a Helena school bus rolled into an irrigation ditch. The Montana Highway Patrol says the driver had finished his route Monday morning and stopped just north of the city to make sure there were no more children on the bus. Trooper Dave Gleich says the driver forgot to set his parking brake and the bus rolled into the ditch . The driver wasn't injured.

Lawsuits filed against closed psychiatric facility
AP-MT--Chemical Restraints-Children, 1st Ld-Writethru

Dec 09, 2019 10:17AM (GMT 17:17)
A former patient and former employees of a now-closed children's psychiatric hospital in Montana have filed lawsuits against Tennessee-based Acadia Healthcare, which owned Acadia Montana in Butte. Acadia Montana closed its 108-bed hospital in July after Oregon officials questioned its use of injected medications to control the behavior of a 9-year-old girl. The former patient alleges negligence and assault while he was a patient at Acadia seven years ago. The former employees are seeking back pay alleging Acadia Healthcare violated a federal law that requires employers to give 60 days notice to employees before a layoff of more than 100 people. Acadia did not respond to the former patient's lawsuit and says by the time it closed it had just 30 employees.

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Southwest Montana saw fewer hunters during the general hunting season this year, and the weather made it challenging for those hunters who did take the field. The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks says success rates for the season, which ended Dec. 1, were within long-term averages but varied across the region. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the Cameron check station south of Ennis saw 2,367 hunters this season — the lowest since 2013 when 2,212 passed through the station. Snow storms and cold weather deterred many hunters and made it difficult to find game.

Monday, December 9th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Crews have been working to dislodge boulders from a cliff to reduce the risk of rockfall on a neighborhood in Billings. A rock slide Sept. 21 sent a boulder into one home and left debris on a street. City workers want to clear the street but are wary of using explosives to break up the boulders. They don't want vibrations to send more rocks down from nearby cliffs. Crews on Friday worked to dislodge two loose boulders above the neighborhood. One boulder came down with help from a balloon inflated inside a crack. The other boulder resisted four attempts with explosives but workers plan to keep trying.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A ruling by the Montana Supreme Court clears the way for a trial alleging negligence on the part of two counties a decade after an 18-year-old high school basketball standout died of untreated alcohol withdrawal symptoms while he was jailed in Havre. The Supreme Court ruled that Hill County could not be held liable for mistakes made by Northern Montana Hospital in failing to properly diagnose and treat A.J. Longsoldier Jr. His estate is still seeking damages for negligence by employees of both Hill and Blaine counties for failing to recognize his serious medical issue and delaying his treatment. A trial date has not been set.

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Officials in northeast Wyoming are developing a plan to establish Campbell County as the premier place for the research, development and commercial deployment of advanced carbon technologies. It is called “Carbon Valley.” Campbell County energy consultant Jim Ford is developing the strategic plan. Ford tells the Gillette News Record that implementing the plan will take work and community support. He says community engagement and education should be one of the top priorities once the strategic plan is finalized. Ford says Campbell County must demonstrate its commitment to carbon tech development with time, money and people.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana residents who need to renew their driver's licenses are facing delays of two months or longer. That's because of the demand and documentation needed for the new REAL ID-compliant licenses that will be required to board domestic flights by next October. Montana's available appointments at driver's license stations in Bozeman are about 10 weeks out. Helena appointments aren't available for nine weeks and the earliest appointments in Billings are eight weeks from now. Officials say that's partially due to staffing shortages. The biggest problem people are encountering in getting a REAL ID is documenting name changes due to marriage or adoption.

Monday, December 9th 2019

Associated Press Montana News

BILLINGS BOULDERS

Crews work to dislodge boulders above Billings neighborhood

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Crews have been working to dislodge boulders from a cliff to reduce the risk of rockfall on a neighborhood in Billings. A rock slide Sept. 21 sent a boulder into one home and left debris on a street. City workers want to clear the street but are wary of using explosives to break up the boulders. They don't want vibrations to send more rocks down from nearby cliffs. Crews on Friday worked to dislodge two loose boulders above the neighborhood. One boulder came down with help from a balloon inflated inside a crack. The other boulder resisted four attempts with explosives but workers plan to keep trying.

INMATE DEATH

Ruling clears way for trial in Montana teen inmate's death

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A ruling by the Montana Supreme Court clears the way for a trial alleging negligence on the part of two counties a decade after an 18-year-old high school basketball standout died of untreated alcohol withdrawal symptoms while he was jailed in Havre. The Supreme Court ruled that Hill County could not be held liable for mistakes made by Northern Montana Hospital in failing to properly diagnose and treat A.J. Longsoldier Jr. His estate is still seeking damages for negligence by employees of both Hill and Blaine counties for failing to recognize his serious medical issue and delaying his treatment. A trial date has not been set.

CARBON VALLEY

Wyoming county developing strategic plan for Carbon Valley

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Officials in northeast Wyoming are developing a plan to establish Campbell County as the premier place for the research, development and commercial deployment of advanced carbon technologies. It is called “Carbon Valley.” Campbell County energy consultant Jim Ford is developing the strategic plan. Ford tells the Gillette News Record that implementing the plan will take work and community support. He says community engagement and education should be one of the top priorities once the strategic plan is finalized. Ford says Campbell County must demonstrate its commitment to carbon tech development with time, money and people.

MONTANA-REAL IDS

Montana residents urged to plan ahead to get REAL ID

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana residents who need to renew their driver's licenses are facing delays of two months or longer. That's because of the demand and documentation needed for the new REAL ID-compliant licenses that will be required to board domestic flights by next October. Montana's available appointments at driver's license stations in Bozeman are about 10 weeks out. Helena appointments aren't available for nine weeks and the earliest appointments in Billings are eight weeks from now. Officials say that's partially due to staffing shortages. The biggest problem people are encountering in getting a REAL ID is documenting name changes due to marriage or adoption.

TRIBAL WATER COMPACT

Water-rights bill to include $1.9 billion for Montana tribes

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines says he plans to introduce legislation to help settle a long-awaited water rights deal with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It would quantify the tribes' water rights on and off the reservation and pay $1.9 billion to settle their claims and rehabilitate the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. State lawmakers approved a water compact in 2015, but it hasn't been ratified by the federal and tribal governments. The proposed legislation has the backing of the tribes and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester plans to be a cosponsor of the bill.

HELENA FIRE-CITATION

Montana man pays $1K in fines for starting fire near Helena

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana resident has paid more than $1,000 to the Bureau of Land Management for starting a fire triggering the evacuation of about 500 homes near Helena this summer. The Independent Record reported that the East Helena man paid the agency for two citations issued after the fire burned about 8 square miles of land in July. Authorities say he is suspected of shooting an exploding target on an informal gun range on federal land. No criminal charges were filed at the state level.

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