Handful of huckleberries

Acres of huckleberries to the most recent addition to Missoula’s stock of open space, an acquisition that promises to conserve local agricultural soils while also protecting important habitat for wildlife along Miller Creek. The 168 acres of land between Missoula and Lolo is currently home to a cattle ranch and will be protected against encroaching development thanks to the use of $175,000 from the Open Space Bond Program and matching contributions from landowners Bart and Wendy Morris, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Five Valleys Land Trust.

Back-to-school chokecherries to interim University of Montana President Sheila Stearns’s decision not to give the traditional State of the University address this fall. In previous years, UM presidents have used the opportunity to energize and motivate the entire campus while updating the wider Missoula community on the latest plans for the university heading into the new school year. This year, however, Stearns opted to speak only informally at a “welcome convocation” for employees this past Wednesday. The lack of a formal, comprehensive address at the beginning of the year contributes to the unfortunate – and incorrect – impression that UM is starting the fall semester lacking stable leadership or a clear direction. While the new permanent president, once named, will doubtless dispel this impression, there’s no reason to leave any students, staff and faculty feeling rudderless or demoralized in the meantime.

Huckleberry hops to the new partnership between the University of Montana and Big Sky Brewing Company that led to the creation of a new craft beer and a new licensing revenue stream for the university. Griz Montana Lager will be sold by the local brewing company into 2018, when UM will also mark its 125th anniversary. Big Sky Brewing, the largest brewery in Montana, has strong ties and deep roots with the university; co-founder Bjorn Nabozney, a UM School of Business graduate, wrote the original plan for the business in a finance class. The university intends to use its share of the profits from this licensing venture to support an alcohol abuse awareness and prevention program, and help fund the bus shuttle that provides late-night service to downtown Missoula.

Fake chokecherries to the person who called in a hoax hostage situation to the Missoula Police Department last Monday morning. The department received a call from a man who claimed he was holding hostages in an apartment on the corner of Broadway and Pattee Street; he further claimed that one person had been shot and demanded $20,000. Law enforcement responded to the threat appropriately, shutting down the surrounding area to ensure public safety while they tracked down the person who lives in the apartment and determined that the call was a fake. Unfortunately, this meant critical public safety resources had to be pulled away from real police work – a waste of local law enforcement’s valuable time, talents and resources.

Huckleberries to Andrew Laue, the licensed clinical social worker hired by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office last year. The Missoula County Attorney’s Office was recognized this summer by the National Association of Counties for its understanding of secondary trauma and for providing trauma support to its employees. Recently, Laue offered to expand his services to include officers, deputies, detectives, prosecutors, emergency medical staff, firefighters and other first responders who sometimes have to respond to the most horrific acts of violence and cruelty, take note of every gory detail and then sift through those details for weeks or months while working a case. Our deepest gratitude, huckleberries – and hats off – to them all.

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