A 20-year supply of huckleberries to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for extending the ban on new mining claims near Yellowstone National Park this week. The new two-decade ban furthers restrictions put in place two years ago to protect about 30,000 acres of public lands from mineral development after a couple of gold mining companies expressed interest in the Paradise Valley and Gardiner Basin. The ban is technically temporary, but Montana’s congressional delegates are working on legislation to make it permanent. Last month, the House Natural Resources Committee forwarded a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte that mirrors a bill called the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act that was introduced in the Senate last year by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. And last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is a member, gave its stamp of approval as well, putting this bill on track for a rare bipartisan blessing from an otherwise sharply divided Congress.
A string of chokecherries to the Seeley Lake sewer district debacle, which continues to drag on after 26 years with no noticeable progress toward actually installing a community sewer system. A former member of the Seeley Lake Sewer District Board, joined by about 50 other residents and business owners in the district, sued in an attempt to force the district to get more public participation before moving forward. A Missoula District Court judge ruled that the district can go ahead with its planning, but the four members of the sewer board don’t agree on whether to start the first phase of the project or delay it until they can answer the concerns brought up in the lawsuit.
Healthy huckleberries to the Center for Translational Medicine at the University of Montana for earning more than $22 million in contracts and grants from the National Institutes of Health over the past few months. The new center was created two years ago after staff of the former pharmaceutical facility in Hamilton were told they were being moved out of Montana but chose to stay and negotiate a deal with UM. Now, they are working on several significant projects, including the development of a universal flu vaccine that will protect people from multiple strains of influenza for multiple years with just one dose.
Flame-resistant chokecherries to the high number of homes built in high or moderate wildfire risk zones in Missoula and Ravalli counties — far more than any other county in Montana. Fully half of all new homes in Missoula County from 1990 to 2016 were built in such areas, while more than 90 percent of homes in Ravalli County were in “high wildfire hazard” areas. The numbers come courtesy of a new report from Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics, available online at headwaterseconomics.org.
Extra, extra huckleberries in celebration of National Newspaper Week, now marking its 78th year of urging widespread recognition of the important role of newspapers in our system of government, and in our local communities. Newspapers provide a vital public service, offering readers local coverage of events, accidents and issues, public notices, watchdog services and in-depth investigations. Courtesy of the Newspaper Association Managers, journalists, editors and readers alike are urged to join together in observance of this year’s theme: “Journalism matters. NOW more than ever.”