Huckleberry high-fives to U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines for successfully pushing the federal Department of Education to overturn a ridiculous decision to reject funding for first-generation college students based on a clerical error. The University of Montana's Upward Bound program had been denied a grant because its application wasn't double-spaced on a single page of its 65-page submission. Tester and Daines pushed back hard and Tester confirmed Wednesday that UM will get the full amount it had requested over five years. Too bad Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's delay in seeing reason caused the summer Upward Bound program to be canceled, damaging opportunities for 55 students.
Huckleberry Smarties to the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office for embracing smartphone push notifications to keep people informed in emergencies. The office's new app debuted just in time for this summer's fierce fire season and is the fastest way for residents to learn about new evacuations, road closures and when they can return to their homes. We hope the Missoula County Sheriff's Office is taking notes and will roll out something similar soon.
Chokecherry jam to the Montana Department of Transportation for unnecessarily scheduling a road construction project to begin the day of the eclipse, thus triggering an hour-long traffic jam on Interstate 15. The department has apologized, but given all the hype around the eclipse, the apology — and the traffic back-up — could have been avoided if someone had looked at a calendar and connected the dots.
A huckleberry surprise for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who told the AP Thursday he will recommend that none of the nation's national monuments be eliminated. Zinke said his recommendation to President Donald Trump, who ordered the monument review, could include boundary changes shrinking some of the monuments and left open the door for oil and gas exploration on the public lands. But conservation groups had feared a wholesale rollback of the monument designations.
Huckleberry rainbows to Mary Poole and Soft Landing Missoula for taking the lead in welcoming 117 refugees to our city in the last 12 months, and to our newest residents for enriching the lives of the community we now share. All of the refugee families have housing and 95 percent of the households have an employed adult in the home, says Jen Barile, director of the International Rescue Committee's Missoula office. Moreover, the new Missoulians — Eritreans, Congolese, Iraqis, Syrians and Ethiopians — are embracing English and learning it faster than anyone expected. Thanks to our newest residents, we have a new theater troupe, new cuisine at the farmer's market, a new soccer tournament and, most important, more diversity and a broader world view. Missoula's experience shows that the vetting process is effective and that rural America, despite fear mongering, can successfully embrace refugees who believe America's promise to welcome those yearning to breathe free.
A heaping helping of huckleberries to Sarah Coefield, Missoula City-County Health Department air quality specialist. Her twice-daily smoke updates not only inform residents of the dangers posed by wildfire smoke and what they can do to protect themselves, they also educate us in lively and sometimes blunt language. That's critical in keeping attention focused on a health hazard unfolding over weeks, not days.
And because this feature can give them a bad name, we offer up a sweet bucket of huckleberries for the return of chokecherry season. While the latter berries are pucker producing, chokecherries make tasty jelly and syrup and are part of the bounty of living in the Rocky Mountain area.