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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.
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.
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.
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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