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Huckleberries

Huckleberry ink to Montana’s congressional delegates for helping to pass a significant public lands package that was signed by President Trump this week. The legislation, named the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, includes the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act and permanently reauthorizes the long-suffering Land and Water Conservation Fund, both of which hold immeasurable promise for Montana.

Shriveled-up chokecherries to President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal, which would drain millions of dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund is filled by diverting a portion of offshore oil and gas royalties. It’s authorized for up to $900 million a year, but Congress has seldom seen fit to set aside this entire amount. For fiscal year 2019, for instance, only $425 million was appropriated by Congress for LWCF. Trump’s budget proposes to reduce this fund even further, by about $23 million. Fortunately, both Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines are members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, putting them in key position to restore the missing money.

Brightly lit huckleberries to Senator Tester’s continued attention to Sunshine Week, the annual period in which newspapers across the nation call for increased transparency and openness in government. This year, Tester highlighted three steps taken during the week in support of these efforts: He proposed a constitutional amendment to undo the Citizens United decision, stating that corporations are not people and cutting down the amount of “dark money” in elections; he reintroduced the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits Act to require the disclosure of major donators to tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activity; and he sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission, asking it to require that online political advertisements identify the source of their funding, just as television and newspaper ads are required to do.

Billowing bags of chokecherries to Republic Services for not having a better plan in place to stop trash from blowing outside the landfill. This week the company’s general manager described a plan to employ temporary workers to help collect all the garbage scattered by recent high winds and accumulating along chain-link fences lining the nearby interstate. Frozen soil prevented Republic Services from covering the refuse before it could blow away, which is understandable. However, freezing temperatures naturally come with winter weather, and the landfill should plan accordingly.

All-star huckleberries to the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival, marking its 39th anniversary this year with yet another impressive lineup of stellar musicians, along with dozens of ensembles from middle and high schools from across the Northwest. The two-day festival wraps up tonight with a can’t-miss concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Dennison Theatre on the University of Montana campus.

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