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Huckleberries

Sky-high piles of huckleberries to the tens of thousands of Missoula County voters who turned out in record numbers for last Tuesday’s elections, and to the hundreds of elections staff and volunteers who put in long hours to make sure every vote was counted. Not only did the county receive a record number of absentee ballots this year — nearly 49,000 — the overall turnout reached a whopping 69 percent, which is notably higher than the 2014 midterms, which saw only 49 percent turnout.

Chokecherries in molasses to the lengthy time it took to finalize election returns from key counties in Montana, including Missoula, Cascade, Gallatin and Yellowstone. In a handful of polling locations in Missoula, machines had problems processing the second ballot page, leading to slightly longer waits for some voters on Election Day. One ballot-counting machine also sat broken for about seven hours on Wednesday morning. Well into Thursday, the Montana Secretary of State’s website was still posting only partial returns from Missoula County’s 52 precincts.

Huckleberries for snack time at Missoula’s Jeannette Rankin Elementary School, which will welcome students for their first day of classes in a brand-new building this Monday, Nov. 12. The school on Big Fork Road replaces the old Cold Springs Elementary School as part of the Smart Schools 2020 initiative approved by voters in November 2015. Its name was chosen after two fifth-graders, Mary Jaeger and Ella Seaver, led a successful campaign to dub the new school after the first woman elected to federal office in the United States.

Chokecherry bait to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its lax rules that allow endangered Canada lynx to be caught in traps set for bobcats. This week, U.S. District Judge Don Molloy ruled that the agency’s rules were “both overbroad and underinclusive,” and failed to follow the requirements outlined by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Each year tens of thousands of bobcat pelts are authorized for export, roughly 1,400 of which come from Montana. Meanwhile, the most recent population estimate for lynx pegged the number at between just 350 and 500 in remote pockets of western Montana.

Generations of huckleberries to the students, campuses and supporters at campuses across Montana who participated in yesterday’s First Generation College Celebration. Held each year on the anniversary of the 1965 Higher Education Act, the day is aimed at recognizing the unique challenges faced by students who are the first in their families to earn a college degree. In Montana, students were invited to share their stories, help design a First Gen Day logo and enter to win scholarships made possible through partnerships and programs like TRIO Student Support Services.

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