A well-placed plate of huckleberries to the announcement from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s office this week that a location has been chosen for a new Veterans Affairs clinic in Missoula. The new center comes courtesy of bipartisan legislation passed in 2017 with the support of Montana’s other senator, Steve Daines, and allocates nearly $7 million for a new clinic and additional staff in Missoula. The new Community Based Outpatient Clinic will be constructed on what is currently a vacant plot of land on West Broadway, and at more than 52,500 square feet of net usable space, will be significantly larger than the facility on Palmer Street. It is expected to provide care for more than 47,000 veterans once it opens in 2022.

A blanket of snow-covered chokecherries to last weekend’s weird winter weather, which arrived unusually early in the season and knocked down trees and power lines in Missoula and throughout the Rocky Mountain Front region. Browning was walloped with 52 inches of snow, setting a new two-day record for September snowfall, and emergency services on the Blackfeet Reservation received more than 40 ambulance calls, according to the Blackfeet Nation’s emergency manager. The Blackfeet Nation and Gov. Steve Bullock both declared emergencies in order to mobilize resources to clear roads and help residents dig out from the snow.

Huckleberries in a strong safety net to the Missoula Urban Indian Health Center, which recently learned it will receive a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help tackle the problem of human tracking of Native Americans at the local level. The highly competitive grant was awarded to only seven organizations in the United States, and will be used by the Missoula center to fund the Missoula Beacon, a new three-year project in partnership with other local service organizations aiming to improve services for survivors of sex trafficking.

Imitation chokecherries to the Republican National Committee for mailing a fake “Census Document” to Montana residents that is actually a fundraising solicitation. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that Gallatin County residents received a “policy survey” from the RNC asking about media bias against Donald Trump and Republicans, and seeking a $15 “processing fee.” Real U.S. Census documents will not be mailed until March 2020, and will not request money from respondents.

Wild and free huckleberries to the settlement of a 7,640-acre energy exploration lease in the Badger-Two Medicine, which wilderness advocates and the Blackfeet Nation have long sought to protect from oil and gas interests. An out-of-court settlement between Moncrief Oil and Gas Master LLC and The Wilderness Society resulted in the permanent retirement of one of the last remaining leases in the area held sacred by the tribe, and on one side by the reservation, by the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex on another and by Glacier National Park as well.

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