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Quality huckleberries at a reasonable price to the city of Missoula, which recently scored the fourth-highest place in a ranking of the effectiveness of local leadership in 150 U.S. cities. Although Missoula scored near the bottom for financial stability – at 123th place – it placed near the top for education (sixth place) and total budget per capita (fourth place). The study by Washington D.C.-based WalletHub looked at 33 key performance indicators in six difference service categories to arrive at its findings, and while it gave higher scores to cities like Nampa and Boise in Idaho, it also gave a slightly lower ranking of seventh place to Billings, the only other Montana city to make the list.

Freight cars of chokecherries to Montana Rail Link for adding to western Montana’s worries – and firefighters’ workload – with a recent series of small train-sparked fires. The tracks through Mineral and Missoula counties became a busy scene last week after a slow-moving grinding train passed through, and another empty grain train left a trail of fire along the tracks near Arlee. Earlier this week, the grinding train started a fire on Evaro Hill that grew to five acres and threatened a home under construction. All the fires were quickly extinguished, fortunately, but local firefighters already have enough on their plates without having to deal with dozens of new blazes caused by passing trains. For its part, MRL has promised to cut its grinding maintenance time down from 30 days to just nine for the remainder of the summer, and to thoroughly soak all maintenance areas - a smart decision that probably should have been made earlier in the year.

Huckleberry ribbons to the official opening of the new KettleHouse Amphitheater in Bonner, an event marked by a ribbon-cutting with Gov. Steve Bullock this week. The 4,000-seat outdoor venue situated along the banks of the Blackfoot River on a portion of the former Stimson Lumber property is the result of a partnership between local business owners who recognize the importance of tourism to the local economy, as well as the value of arts and entertainment opportunities for locals and tourists alike. Extra helpings of huckleberries to the Missoula County employees who helped them cut through the red tape to get this new venue up and running without unnecessary delay.

Chokecherry interference to amateur drone operators who get in the way of wildfire-fighting efforts. Such efforts typically include low-flying helicopters and air tankers, which risk collision with similarly low-flying drones. Last year, agencies documented more than 40 instances of drones near wildfires in a dozen states, including Montana, and had to shut down firefighting efforts more than 20 times. This year, at least 17 aerial firefighting operations in nine different states have been suspended due to drone interference, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to team up with local, state and federal fire agencies to issue an urgent message pleading with drone operators to stay away from wildfires so that aerial firefighting operations can be carried out as quickly – and safely – as possible.

Rivers of huckleberries to the new Lincoln Community River Park, which will not mark its official opening until Sept. 9 but which is, thankfully, already open to the public. The new park promises a convenient way for Lincoln residents and visitors to access the Blackfoot River, a particularly welcome amenity on Montana’s hottest summer days. The nine-acre park, purchased through the Five Valleys Land Trust, will be maintained in the future, and enjoyed for many years to come, by members of the Lincoln community.

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