Handful of huckleberries
Saaster

A forest of huckleberries to the new National Museum of Forest Service History visitor center and interpretive trail. The nonprofit museum, which notes that it is entirely separate from the U.S. Forest Service, unveiled its newest public features at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held this week on its 36-acre campus near the Missoula International Airport. The museum is the realization of a dream that began nearly 30 years ago, and which continues with efforts to build a 30,000-square-feet education center that will eventually welcome an estimated 100,000 visitors a year. In the meantime, visitors can stroll along the new Forest Discovery Trail and learn more about the history of the Forest Service and forest conservation in the United States, and western Montana’s unique role in that history.

International incidents of chokecherries to the Chinese authorities who are detaining a University of Montana student, holding him without charges while demanding “settlement” money from his mother. Guthrie McLean, a senior enrolled in East Asian studies with a minor in media arts, was arrested on Sunday, July 16, after coming to his mom’s aid during a dispute with a taxi driver, according to Jennifer McLean. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ office is working with the U.S. Embassy, Chinese Embassy and Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing to expedite the case and ensure a consulate meets Guthrie McLean. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is also urging action, writing to both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to urge “diplomatic intervention to secure his timely release." In the meantime, Jennifer McLean has not been allowed to visit her son, or even to speak with the U.S. Embassy or consulate representative. And a family friend worries the police are deliberatively stalling in an attempt to coerce a worried mother into paying them thousands of dollars she doesn’t have.

Eventful huckleberries to the The Event at Rebecca Farm, which is marking its 16th year of hosting world-class equestrian competitions this week. The Event in Kalispell has grown steadily over the years thanks to the efforts of Sarah Broussard and hundreds of volunteers. This year’s triathlon will bring more than 650 competitors to check out a number of new features, including a horsemanship class for kids. As if that wasn’t enough, the Event has also raised almost $325,000 in donations for “Halt Cancer at X,” an initiative created in memory of Broussard’s mother that helps local women with breast cancer and supports national research to find a cure.

Silent chokecherries to the lack of public comment on the Missoula city budget. The latest proposed fiscal year 2018 budget includes a property tax increase of more than 4 percent. Whether Missoulians love or hate the proposed budget, and agree or disagree with its priorities, they ought to take a moment to look at the preliminary budget documents available on the City of Missoula’s website (https://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/2202/FY18-Preliminary-Budget) and let their ward representatives know what they think now – rather than after the budget has been approved and it’s too late to make changes. The next opportunity to weigh in on budget matters will be at the council’s regular Monday evening meeting held in Council Chambers starting at 7 p.m. on July 24.

Heartbroken huckleberries to all the firefighters out there doing their jobs, putting their lives on the line to keep forest fires at bay, and mourning the loss of one of their own this week. Mere chokecherries cannot convey the depths of our sorrow upon learning that, on July 19, 19-year-old Missoula resident Trenton Johnson, who was employed by Oregon-based Grayback Forestry, Inc., was struck by a falling tree and killed while fighting a fire in the Lolo National Forest. His death is yet another reminder of the dangerous, important work carried out by firefighters every year – and the need for us all to support them.

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