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Associated Press Montana News Summary
Thursday, September 3rd 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
EXECUTION DRUG

Trial over execution drug begins in Helena

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An anesthesiologist testifying on behalf of Montana's two death row inmates says one of the drugs used to execute state prisoners by lethal injection does not meet the standard set by lawmakers.

Dr. Mark Heath testified Wednesday in a trial over Montana's execution methods.

The barbiturate pentobarbital is one of two drugs that would be used in a Montana execution. Heath says pentobarbital is not used by doctors to induce anesthesia and is not one of the three barbiturates considered "ultra fast-acting" or "ultra short-acting."

State law requires the use of an "ultra fast-acting" barbiturate to render the condemned inmate unconscious almost immediately.

Assistant Attorney General Pam Collins attempted to paint Heath as an anti-death penalty advocate and pointed out medical literature that says pentobarbital takes effect in under a minute.

CHILD ABUSE-MONTANA

Montana insists it can't release child death information

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana child welfare officials insist a state law prohibits disclosure of information about child abuse deaths despite a warning from the federal government that continued secrecy could jeopardize grant money.

Officials at Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services say a state confidentiality law blocks them from releasing details about children who die at their caregivers' hands.

The agency says it will urge state lawmakers to pass a law bringing the state into compliance in 2017.

CROWDED NATIONAL PARKS

National parks seeing huge spikes in visitation this year

((Eds: Updates with details, comment throughout; With AP photos. With AP Photos.))

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — Visitors headed to the Grand Canyon lately know to expect two things: breathtaking views and long waits.

Tourists are showing up in big numbers at Grand Canyon and other national parks like Zion, Yellowstone and Yosemite. The crowds are driven by good weather, cheap gas and marketing campaigns ahead of next year's National Park Service centennial.

With the busy Labor Day weekend still ahead, the Park Service already has recorded 5 million more visitors from this time last year.

Park officials are making due with the resources they have and paying overtime to keep as many entrance gates open as possible. Visitors are encouraged to use shuttles.

The Park Service launched a campaign this year to reintroduce the parks and is giving free passes to fourth graders and their families.

ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP-COURT CASE

Opportunity residents win victory in court case

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that residents in Opportunity seeking an environmental cleanup will get their day in court.

The Montana Standard reports the state high court's Tuesday ruling partially overturns a legal decision made by a district court judge in 2013 that said the state's statute of limitations barred the case from going to trial.

The plaintiffs, who filed their lawsuit in 2008, are nearly 100 Opportunity residents who want the Atlantic Richfield Co. to clean up toxic contaminants left from decades of smelting.

The jury will consider cleanup costs, whether the proposal to clean up the residents' properties is reasonable and how long the project will take.

A spokesman for BP America, ARCO's parent company, didn't have comment Tuesday but said attorneys are reviewing the ruling.

PARK EMPLOYEES RESCUED

Search leads to rescue of 2 Glacier Park employees

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Two Glacier National Park employees who fell near a cliff face above Avalanche Lake were rescued with the help of an itinerary they'd left behind.

Glacier spokeswoman Katelyn Liming says the women were hiking Sunday in a high alpine area with rock cliffs, waterfalls, and slippery surfaces when a storm arrived, reducing visibility.

Rescue workers spotted the employees late Monday after a search involving more than 40 park staff and volunteers. Air support was provided by Two Bear Air and the U.S. Forest Service.

A helicopter lifted the women out of the area Tuesday morning.

Liming said the search was aided by the two telling someone about their plans.

Both employees work for the Science and Resource Management Division. Liming said they were hiking with proper footwear, clothing and equipment.

NAVY SUBMARINE-USS MONTANA

Navy says new attack submarine to be named USS Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — One of the U.S. Navy's new attack submarines will be named the USS Montana.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the designation for one of 10 planned Virginia-class submarines to be built over the next decade during a Wednesday ceremony in Billings. Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Gov. Steve Bullock and Billings Mayor Tom Hanel also attended.

The 377-foot-long USS Montana will cost an estimated $2 billion.

The last ship named in honor of the landlocked Treasure State was an armored cruiser commissioned in 1908. But that ship was later renamed the Missoula, and two subsequent attempts to name ships after Montana fell short.

Tester says it was gratifying to see it finally happen after working since 2007 to have a ship named after the state.

MINING CLAIM PROTEST

Mine owners reply to Forest Service lawsuit

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Two Montana miners are denying claims that their mine northwest of Helena fails to comply with U.S. Forest Service regulations.

George Kornec and Philip Nappo filed their response to a Forest Service lawsuit that asks a judge to declare the men acted illegally in building a garage, cutting down trees, opening a road and locking a gate near the unpatented White Hope mine claims near Lincoln.

Kornec and Nappo argue the mine falls under an 1872 law that grants both surface and subsurface rights on mine claims. The Forest Service said Kornec missed a deadline to re-affirm their claim, so it now falls under a 1955 law in which the Forest Service retains surface rights.

Kornec said he was going to file a new operating plan, but didn't due to "bad faith actions" by the Forest Service.

MONTANA STATE-IVAN DOIG

Ivan Doig papers going to Montana State University

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Manuscripts, drafts and other items belonging to renowned Western author Ivan Doig will be housed at Montana State University.

MSU Library Dean Kenning Arlitsch said Wednesday the library will digitize the collection to make it available online. MSU also plans to integrate Doig's papers in its teaching and research programs and plans a scholarly conference on Doig's legacy in 2017.

Doig died in April in Seattle. He was 75. His wife, Carol, chose Montana State over two other major universities to house her husband's papers, saying MSU supported him early in his writing career. He received an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1984, five years after he published "This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind." The poetic memoir was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Doig's final book, "Last Bus to Wisdom," was published last month.


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Wednesday, September 2nd 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
CAMPAIGN FINANCE-MONTANA

Court rejects appeal for full hearing on contribution limits

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal court has rejected Montana's request to rehear their defense of state campaign contribution limits.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that none of its 44 judges moved to reconsider the case that the court already decided was tried on out-of-date standards.

A panel of three federal judges decided in May that a state District Court must decide whether Montana's contribution limits are constitutional based on legal tests outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said Tuesday's opinion further clarified how the District Court should use the landmark campaign finance decision in its ruling.

Motl said Montana's current campaign contribution limits have remained in place throughout the case and will apply to 2016 campaigns.

TRIBES-OIL DRILLING

Judge asked to lift hold on drilling lease near Glacier park

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An attorney for a Louisiana oil company is asking a judge to reject the government's proposed timeline for lifting its hold on an energy lease in Montana that's on land sacred to American Indians.

The request comes as a federal historic preservation panel plans a public hearing Wednesday in Choteau on whether to allow drilling on the 6,200-acre lease site near Glacier National Park.

Solenex LLC attorney Steven Lechner says the government's schedule will add years to the three-decade delay the company already has endured.

Lechner wants U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to lift a suspension on the lease so the Baton Rouge company can begin drilling.

The Blackfeet tribes of the U.S. and Canada are opposed to drilling on what they consider their spiritual homeland.

FEDERAL WATER RULE-SCOPE

Attorneys file arguments over scope of water rule injunction

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys who have been arguing over state and federal powers have filed their written positions over whether a judge's decision to block a new Obama administration water rule applies nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson last week issued a temporary injunction requested by North Dakota and 12 other states to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating some small waterways under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA says in court documents filed Tuesday that the injunction applies only to the specific complaints alleged by the 13 states. Lawyers for the state say the judge's order contained no geographical limitation and its scope should "not now be restricted."

The states had argued that the regulation is an overreach by the federal government.

BEAR EUTHANIZED

Montana wildlife officials euthanize bear near Lockwood

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

LOCKWOOD, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials euthanized a female black bear that broke into at least one home in a neighborhood near Lockwood.

The Billings Gazette reports that game wardens with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks euthanized the bear Tuesday after it had also attempted to break into other buildings this week. The newspaper reports the bear had been seen wandering the Emerald Hills neighborhood and appeared unafraid of people.

This is the time of year when bears try to consume as much food as possible before hibernating during winter. Wildlife officials are advising residents to be careful not to leave trash or food easily accessible to bears.

MISSING DOCTOR

Hunters reminded to keep an eye out for missing ND doctor

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Law enforcement officials in southwestern Montana are asking hunters to keep an eye out for anything that might help them find a 74-year-old North Dakota doctor who was reported missing in early July.

A vehicle belonging to Dr. Patrick Fitzpatrick of Bismarck was found on July 4, on the edge of a bean field south of Willow Creek, which is southwest of Three Forks. Searchers have been unable to find Fitzpatrick or any sign of his whereabouts.

The Gallatin County sheriff's office issued a reminder Monday that Fitzpatrick is still missing and asked anyone hunting or recreating in the Willow Creek area to keep an eye out for any sign of him.

He was last seen at a Bozeman bank on July 2 wearing a green polo shirt and brown pants.

HOME FIRES-CHARGE

Man facing charge in fire that burned 3 homes

(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A man suspected of dropping a cigarette and causing a fire that burned at least three homes in August is facing a charge in Flathead County.

The Flathead Beacon reports Joseph DeVera was charged with misdemeanor negligent endangerment related to the 6.5-acre blaze on Aug. 5 that evacuated homes in Evergreen. He has not yet appeared in court.

Deputy County Attorney Kenneth Park says the fire caused over $500,000 in damage.

DeVera also recently pleaded not guilty to a felony theft charge involving a 2007 Chevy Impala that was stolen Aug. 13.

FATAL SEMI CRASH

Vaughn man strikes semi, dies in Highway 87 crash

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 46-year-old man has died after his pickup truck collided with a semi-truck on U.S. Highway 87 near Loma.

Chouteau County Undersheriff Larry Ophus (OH'-fuss) says William Harold Emerson of Vaughn died in the crash Monday afternoon.

The Montana Highway Patrol said Emerson was southbound in a Chevy pickup truck when he failed to negotiate a curve and crossed the center line. The truck then struck the front of a northbound semi-truck.

The 51-year-old man driving the semi was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

MOTHER CHARGED-NUDE PHOTOS

Woman pleads no contest to child sex abuse charge

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A woman who is facing a child sex abuse charge after having nude photos of her son's alleged rape victim on her cellphone has pleaded no contest to the charge.

The Billings Gazette reports Pamela Fink Coleman pleaded no contest to the charge Friday. The felony charge carries up to a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.

Court records state Coleman had shown nude cellphone photos to another woman, who contacted police.

The 14-year-old girl in the photo was one of two girls who accused Coleman's son of raping her. The girl told police 25-year-old Jordan Coleman had blackmailed her into taking the photo.

Jordan Coleman was sentenced in March to 30 years in prison. His mom's sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 17.


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Tuesday, September 1st 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
US-MOUNTAIN JESUS STATUE

Appeals court upholds Jesus statue on Montana mountain

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled a 6-foot tall statue of Jesus that has spent the last 60 years overlooking a northwestern Montana ski hill may stay there.

In Monday's ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects arguments from a group of atheists and agnostics that placing the statue on U.S. Forest Service land violates the separation of church and state.

The three-judge panel agreed with a federal judge from Montana, who found the statue's secular and irreverent uses — as a meeting place and for photo opportunities —outweigh its few religious uses.

The Knights of Columbus placed the statue on Big Mountain in 1955 as a memorial to World War II soldiers.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation argued the statue was a Catholic shrine.

LOGGING-GRIZZLY BEARS

Proposed grizzly bear protection settlement heads to judge

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana and three conservation groups are proposing measures to protect grizzly bears while still allowing logging in two state forests west of Glacier National Park.

On Monday, the state Land Board approved the proposed settlement that would create seven security zones totaling 34 square miles within the Stillwater and Coal Creek state forests.

No permanent roads would be built in the security zones. Logging would be barred except when bears are in their dens for winter, and then only below an elevation of 6,300 feet.

The state also would avoid or minimize helicopter flights over the zones.

The proposal would settle a lawsuit filed in 2013 by Friends of the Wild Swan, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

It must be approved by a federal judge.

JOBS REPORT

Labor report: Worker shortage begins as baby boomers retire

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State officials say Montana's low unemployment rate is driving up wages but a serious worker shortage is appearing on the horizon as baby boomers begin to retire.

The Department of Labor and Industry's Labor Day report released Monday shows at least 130,000 baby boomers in the state are expected to retire in the next decade.

Currently, Montana doesn't have enough younger people to fill those jobs even if every one of them entered the workforce.

Commissioner of Labor and Industry Pam Bucy says to address the issue, her department is partnering with colleges and businesses to streamline training and create apprenticeships in fast-growing industries such as health care.

The state is also continuing to add jobs with more than 2,000 per month added in the first six months of 2015.

CLOSED PRIMARY LAWSUIT

Deputy attorney general withdraws from closed primary case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A deputy attorney general will no longer be defending the state in a Republican challenge to the state's open primary elections after the party accused him of misconduct.

Attorney General Tim Fox filed a motion Friday to withdraw Republican Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion as counsel. Documents say the motion was submitted to prevent future misunderstandings with the party and to facilitate future communications.

Earlier this month, the GOP asked for Bennion's removal claiming he violated a code of conduct. They say he called GOP executive director Chris Shipp asking about matters related to the case without first notifying the party's attorney.

Ten Republican Central Committees involved in the lawsuit are still seeking a hearing in order to obtain documents related to the phone call.

ILLEGALLY CUT TREES

Man pleads not guilty to cutting trees from Montana refuge

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A man accused of illegally cutting down 52 Douglas fir trees from the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana has pleaded not guilty to theft of government property.

The Montana Standard reports Monday that the trees were valued at nearly $18,000 and that 64-year-old Bob Young is accused of cutting them from July 2012 until at least 2014. Young entered his plea on Aug. 18.

Court documents say Young is a real-estate agent who has a business of cutting and milling trees.

The documents say a deputy refuge manager first noticed multiple freshly cut trees on November 2014 and began to investigate. The manager says he saw Young transporting Douglas fir trees in the area in early 2014.

Young's trial date is Oct. 26 in Butte's federal courthouse.

INFANT DEATH-PLEA

Butte man pleads guilty to role in infant's death

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Butte man has pleaded guilty to his role in the death of his 3-month-old daughter in 2012.

The Billings Gazette reports 32-year-old Jeffrey James Fox pleaded guilty on Aug. 20 to negligent homicide, admitting he failed to stop his girlfriend, Amanda Rose Steffen, from abusing their baby.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Fox serve 20 years in prison.

District Judge Mike Moses scheduled sentencing for Nov. 3. Fox remains in custody.

The baby died on June 4, 2012.

In April 2014, Steffen went into a California police station and confessed to causing her daughter's death. She has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide under a plea agreement that calls for a 40-year prison sentence.

GLACIER PARK CHANGES

Hard-sided campers only at St. Mary; road access extended

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

ST. MARY, Mont. (AP) — Going-to-the-Sun Road is staying open longer as bears seeking berries have prompted a hard-sided camper rule at St. Mary Campground in Glacier National Park.

The Missoulian reports two weeks were added to the road's schedule to account for a closure caused by a fire near St. Mary Lake earlier this summer. The road from Logan Pass to St. Mary will remain open through Oct. 4.

Park officials are also saying the number of bears seeking berries near St. Mary Campground have heightened the possibility for negative interactions between the animals and humans.

Camping in the area has been indefinitely restricted to RVs, motorhomes, trailers and other hard-sided campers.

Park spokeswoman Katelyn Liming says rangers are trying to change the bears' behaviors by using negative reinforcement.

FEDERAL WATER RULE-INJUNCTION

Injunction against federal water rule may expand

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota is allowing arguments over the scope of his injunction blocking a new rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some smaller waterways.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo last week issued a temporary injunction requested by North Dakota and 12 other states to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating some small waterways under the Clean Water Act.

The EPA said the injunction applied only to the 13 states that sued. But North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who filed the injunction request, says his reading of the ruling was that it applied to all 50 states.

The judge gave attorneys until Tuesday afternoon to file briefs on the issue.


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