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Saaster

Law-abiding huckleberries to the new statewide program aimed at curbing drug trafficking in Montana. This week Attorney General Tim Fox announced that a team of six Montana Highway Patrol troopers and two Division of Criminal Investigation agents would be working in coordination with other agencies to both stop drugs and track down their source. The new program will also focus on human trafficking and firearms trafficking as it seeks to stop organized crime in the state, thanks to a $1.7 million appropriation from the 2017 Legislature.

Chokecherry juice to the high levels of potentially harmful substances found in 26 drinking water systems in Montana. Nationwide testing of nearly 50,000 water utilities by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group turned up evidence of higher-than-recommended levels of nitrates and total trihalomethanes in a neighborhood in Flathead County, the city of Colstrip and even a nonprofit that serves youth in Yellowstone County. While there are multiple sources of the nitrates and tracing them back to a single source of contamination is not easy, one likely cause is the overuse of fertilizers that then runoff into public water supplies; TTHMS, meanwhile, is a byproduct of chlorine water treatments.

Stabilized huckleberries to the first phase of work completed on Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park, and to the many people whose generous private donations helped fundraisers exceed their goals. The Glacier National Park Conservancy led the fundraising effort that collected a total of more than $111,000 – and counting – from hundreds of donors from nearly every state in the United States, and from countries around the world. These funds helped ensure critical work to stabilize the century-old building could be completed well ahead of winter, allowing the structure that was nearly destroyed by fire this summer to survive until spring arrives and park officials determine the next phase of its future.

Flattened chokecherries to the slight decline in ACT scores from Montana’s high-school juniors. Scores were down in every tested area – English, math, science and reading – with the overage average going from 20.0 last year to 19.7, on a 36-point scale. The most recent scores in writing have not been reported yet. While Missoula’s students slipped a tiny bit too, dropping from 21.0 to 20.6, they remain higher than the state average. Nice plump huckleberries, meanwhile, to Missoula’s Sentinel High School, whose students bucked the statewide trend and earned the only score increase in Missoula County Public Schools, going from an average of 21.2 to 21.5.

Millions of huckleberries to the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation for its most recent gift of $10 million to the University of Montana to expand programs in the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences. However, the donation was only the latest from the Washington family’s foundation, which has given $48.5 million to the university and is UM’s largest donor. And millions more huckleberries to Dennis and Gretchen Eck, whose $8.3 million donation allowed for a massive renovation and update for UM’s Liberal Arts Building, henceforth known as Eck Hall.

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