This week Montana took several huckleberry-worthy strides toward the front lines of the national discussion on public lands policy. First, Congressman Ryan Zinke’s nomination to become Interior secretary was approved after a week-long delay and sent to the full Senate for a final vote. Then, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines was appointed chairman of the Senate National Parks subcommittee, which dovetails neatly with his seat on the Public Lands, Forests and Mining subcommittee. And finally, Gov. Steve Bullock was named the Democratic co-chair of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus. Meanwhile, a new poll confirmed that, regardless of political party affiliation, a strong majority of Montanans support public lands conservation, improved public lands access and better infrastructure in national parks. With three prominent Montanans in national leadership positions, Montanans can bet that this perspective will be heard and will help shape any decisions regarding our shared outdoors.
Chokecherries to the “travel ban” for causing chaos at international airports and confusion among foreign nationals whose immigration status was suddenly thrown into question. At the University of Montana, 11 students and unknown numbers of staff and faculty were affected by President Trump’s executive order suspending nationals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria from international travel for at least 90 days, regardless of their current visa or green card status. In Missoula, which has welcomed 56 refugees in recent months, hundreds turned out to protest the prohibition, which was issued without review from the Justice Department and lacks enforcement guidelines that might bring some clarity to the screening process.
Huckleberries to every single one of the 100 members of Montana’s House of Representatives who voted unanimously to revise the laws regarding sexual abuse of children. House Bill 247, which criminalizes some of the sick behaviors sexual predators use to “groom” their victims, such as making them view pornographic images, was introduced by Missoula’s Rep. Kim Dudik, and received a rare 100 votes on its third reading. This perspicacious measure appears headed for well-deserved passage through the Legislature.
A flurry of chokecherries to sudden winter storms that reduce visibility and cause unsafe driving conditions. One such storm this past week resulted in the cancelation of a long-planned visit to Missoula from the Montana VA to discuss veterans’ benefits and health care. It also caused dozens of vehicle crashes in the Missoula area, including a rollover accident on Evaro Hill. Fortunately, none of the crashes resulted in serious injury.
Huckleberries to Sentinel High School for being the first in the state to offer the Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma program. The advanced diploma, developed by the not-for-profit College Board and implemented in 650 high schools around the world this year, will be awarded to Sentinel students who earn sufficiently high scores on six different AP exams. Sentinel is adding AP courses in Seminar and Research to complete the program designed to give graduates a head start in higher education.