Healthful huckleberries to Missoula County for reaching a hard-fought milestone in community coronavirus protection. With at least 60% of the eligible population having gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the number of new cases remaining low, the Missoula City-County Health Department replaced the local mask requirement with a strong mask recommendation.
Unchecked chokecherries to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s signing of House Bill 257, which removes the ability of a local health department to enforce mask mandates. With any luck, and some common-sense adherence to good hygiene, communities like Missoula will not see a spike in new virus cases. But if too many people throw caution to the wind and the number of new cases does increase, local boards of health will now have less ability to contain it quickly with effective, science-based responses.
Sustainably harvested Montana-grown huckleberries to Gianforte’s signing of House Bill 14, the long-range building bonding program sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, that includes $25 million in bonds for a new forestry complex at the University of Montana. The legislation also allows an additional $20 million to be raised to construct a new W.A. Franke College of Forestry building. The new facility is expected to showcase Montana’s forest-based industries while providing more space for a growing forestry program that saw a year-over-year increase in admissions of 88% this spring.
Chokecherry fizzles to the bomb threat that disrupted the Montana Trappers Association banquet in Dillon last weekend. The phoned-in threat forced attendees to evacuate while the Dillon Police Department investigated and ultimately determined the building was safe. Now, their investigation has turned to tracking down the person or persons responsible, with help from the FBI. As the Dillon police chief pointed out, if the intent of the bomb threat was to express opposition to trapping, “It doesn’t help their cause at all. What it does is hurt the community.”
An unclosed case of huckleberries to the positive identification, after 36 years, of the remains of a young woman discovered near Crystal Creek. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Othram labs to conduct a forensic genealogy investigation that included an advanced DNA analysis, and their efforts eventually led them to family members of Janet Lee Lucas, who was 23 years old at the time of her death. The sheriff’s department is sharing her picture and asking for help from anyone who may have seen Lucas in the Missoula area in 1983 or ’84 as they carry out a cold case homicide investigation that may be linked to serial killer Wayne Nance.
Well-connected huckleberries for the new ConnectMT Act, which will use $275 million in federal funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act to expand broadband in Montana, which lags far behind the national average for broadband access. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, saw strong bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Gianforte earlier this week.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Executive Editor David McCumber and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.