Associated Press Montana News Summary
Monday, October 8th 2012
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
TRAIN DERAILMENT

No injuries after train derails in Great Falls

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) Crews are working to get 12 cars of a freight train back on track after they derailed in Great Falls.

The 86-car BNSF train derailed Sunday afternoon near the police department and offices for the Great Falls Tribune.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas says the derailment occurred during a switch. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

Melonas says the cars were empty and no injuries were reported.

The Great Falls Tribune reports a few vehicles parked in a nearby parking lot were damaged, as was the railing along the railroad underpass.

Police closed roads on both sides of the underpass and ask that drivers avoid the area on River Drive South from 3rd Avenue South to 1st Avenue North.

The train was en route from Denver to Spokane, Wash.

DROUGHT-CATTLE LOSSES

Drought-stricken Mont. ranchers sell calves early

(Information in the following story is from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Some ranchers in Montana are selling calves early after a summer that left them battered by drought, fires and high feed prices.

Tim Keifer has a beef ranch north of Forsyth. He told the Billings Gazette that since the first of April, he's had just two inches of rain, and that means pastures that yielded 1,200 round hay bales last year couldn't muster even one this year.

With little forage, he weaned his calves and shipped them to sale yards five weeks earlier than normal.

Keifer isn't alone. The number of cattle moving through Billings and Miles City auction yards was up more than 1,000 head a sale compared to the same dates a year earlier.

That means they're selling with less weight and that's less money for ranchers.

MONTANA CELLPHONE BANS

Missoula last major Montana city without cell ban

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) Missoula is the last major city in Montana without an ordinance banning drivers from using cellphones, but a city leader is trying once again to get a no-cellphone rule passed.

The Missoulian reports that Butte, Billings, Great Falls, Whitefish, Havre, Hamilton, Bozeman and Helena all have bans in place. Missoula was the first large city in the state to consider banning drivers from using cellphones in 2009, but that effort failed.

Councilman Dave Strohmaier is asking the council to consider the matter again, in part because new councilors have been seated since 2009.

According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the use of a cellphone or electronic device was a contributing circumstance in five traffic fatalities in 2011.

CENTURYLINK STRIKE

CenturyLink, union fail to reach labor agreement

DENVER (AP) CenturyLink and the union representing 13,000 workers in 13 states in the West and Midwest have failed to reach a contract agreement, but have signed onto a day-to-day extension of the expired pact.

The Communications Workers of America made the announcement after the existing labor contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. CWA spokesman Al Kogler said in a statement that negotiations will continue and workers will remain on the job during the extension.

Kogler has said the union opposes a proposed increase in health care premiums and wants to bring more jobs back to the U.S. The union had authorized a strike in the event that a new deal couldn't be reached with the Monroe, La.-based telecommunications company.

CenturyLink workers in Montana, who are negotiating a separate contract, also agreed to the extension.

ANIMAL NEGLECT CASE-WARRANT

Dog breeder's lawyer tries to get evidence tossed

(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The attorney for a Jefferson County man charged with animal cruelty in Montana state court and manufacturing marijuana in federal court says a search warrant that allowed police to search his property should be thrown out.

The Helena Independent Review reports Michael Donohoe filed the court document on Mike Chilinski's behalf in Helena's U.S. District Court last week. In it, Donohoe says the judge who issued a search warrant for Chilinski's home last year did so based on an inaccurate statement from a police officer.

If a federal judge agrees, much of the evidence that prosecutors hope to use in their case against Chilinski will likely be inadmissible.

Chilinski was indicted on the drug charges by a grand jury in May.

TRAILS REOPENED

Some Montana trails open as snow dampens fires

(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Snowfall in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front region has prompted Lewis and Clark National Forest officials to open some trails that had been closed because of wildfires.

Up to a foot of snow fell in some parts of the Lewis and Clark National Forest last week, providing enough precipitation to dampen portions of the Elbow Pass Complex wildfire.

Complex spokeswoman Wendy Clark told the Helena Independent Record in an email that the Lewis and Clark portion of the blaze is now considered contained.

As a result, the Straight Creek Trail is reopened, along with the Hoadley Creek Trail and Stadler Pass Trail in the Flathead National Forest.

Other trails remain closed, and Clark says people can get the status of other trails from the Rocky Mountain Ranger District.

YELLOWSTONE VISITS

Yellowstone sees slight drop in Sept. visits

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) Yellowstone National Park saw slightly fewer visitors during September, compared to a year ago.

The park recorded 527,610 recreational visitors in September 2012, down 1.6 percent from last year. Despite the decline, it was still the third highest September visitation ever recorded.

Still, the number of recreational visitors entering Yellowstone for the first nine months of the calendar year is up 1.5 percent compared to 2011.

With three months left in the calendar year, more recreational visits to Yellowstone have been recorded this year than in all of 2007, which was previously the fourth highest visitation year on record.

July is typically the park's peak visitation month, followed by August, June, September and May.

BALLOT INITIATIVES

Ballot questions range from marijuana to abortion

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana voters are being asked to decide ballot questions dealing with medical marijuana, abortion, illegal immigrants, corporate rights and health insurance mandates.

One measure calls for a prohibition on governments from mandating that people buy health insurance. Another would create a state policy that says corporations are not people entitled to constitutional rights.

University of Montana law professor Anthony Johnstone says neither would be enforceable if passed because they conflict with federal laws.

A third ballot question asks voters to affirm or repeal a law that restricts who qualifies to register for medical marijuana and the drug's distribution.

The fourth would require parents to be notified prior to an abortion for a girl under 16.

The last measure seeks to deny some state services to illegal immigrants.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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