Holiday huckleberries to all those who worked extra hard this year to make the season a little more magical at a time when most people could really use it. Though this season has been tougher for many and we are still facing some dark, cold days ahead, we take comfort in the unfailing care and generosity of our neighbors throughout western Montana.
Montanans throughout the state have good reason for cheer — and huckleberries — thanks to the passage of major legislation through Congress this week. Included with the $900 billion in COVID-19 relief and $1.4 trillion in federal spending is a historic $1.9 billion water settlement and nearly $50 million in Department of Defense funding for research, development and training at the University of Montana and Montana State University.
Huckleberry icing on the cake to the passage of the historic Montana Water Rights Protection Act, which has collected strong bipartisan support over the years as it was negotiated, approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015 and then forwarded for federal and tribal ratification. The act quantifies the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water rights on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation, and transfers management of the National Bison Range to the tribes. U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R) are the act’s original sponsor and cosponsor, and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is a supporter as well. Attached to the omnibus spending bill approved earlier this week, the act will create a $1.9 billion trust to handle water claims and to rehabilitate hundreds of miles of irrigation canals.
“This is one of the most significant days in the history of our people and one that will have a profound and positive impact on the future of the Flathead Reservation for the next century,” CSKT Chair Shelly R. Fyant wrote in an email the morning before Congress voted.
A bright red sleigh full of huckleberries to the many volunteers and local businesses who helped bring Santa’s sleigh back to Missoula’s skies after a 16-year absence. A longtime tradition until the last flight in 2004, the latest visible visit from Santa last Saturday night was made possible thanks to the efforts of a team of supporters organized through the Bring Back Santa Fly Over group on Facebook, spearheaded by Lynn and Brian Lease. A sponsorship from the Missoula Downtown Foundation and individual donations from more than 200 people totaling more than $6,000 helped cover the costs of adorning the sleigh with more than 600 LED lights and preparing it for flight led by Rudolph with help from a helicopter, thanks to donations from more than 200 people totaling more than $6,000. And a boost of support from local businesses and the Missoula Downtown Foundation.
And finally, a big box of huckleberries tied with a bow to all the synagogues, churches, nonprofits, community groups, business owners and families who opted to celebrate the holidays safely instead of hosting large gatherings this year. From the drive-by Parade of Lights downtown to the socially distanced Hellgate High School carolers who sang in local shops instead of an assembly, these actions allowed Missoulians to enjoy some of their favorite seasonal traditions without putting the community’s health at risk. The happiest of holidays to them — and to you.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Regional Editor David McCumber and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.