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Huckleberries

A survival bag stuffed with huckleberries to the safe recovery of Kaden Laga, who was lost in the deep wilds of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness for five days, and ate huckleberries, thimbleberries and grasshoppers to survive until he eventually stumbled into a search camp. The 25-year-old Utah man recounted the full story in a riveting interview with the Ravalli Republic’s Perry Backus, crediting “the quiet whispering of the Spirit and God” with giving him the encouragement he needed to keep going.

Mucky chokecherries to the cancellation of six Missoula Osprey home games this season, made necessary by field damage from an Aug. 11 deluge of both rain and Mumford & Sons fans. Although the concert promoter took extensive — and expensive — steps to prevent any damage to Ogren-Allegiance Park, the weather, as it so often does, won this round. Now, the Osprey are working quickly to fix up the field in time for next week’s home game, offering refunds for ticket-holders who missed out on canceled games, and putting together special promotions for fans who want to support the home baseball team.

Huckleberry-emblazoned flags to H. Rafael Chacón, director of the Montana Museum of Arts and Culture and award-winning flag researcher who is proposing that Montana redesign its state flag. And why not? Although treasured perhaps by traditionalists, Montana’s flag is rather, uh, forgettable; it’s too similar to many other state flags (compare it to Idaho’s, for a nearby example). Chacón’s suggestion of holding a public redesign competition sounds like a fun way to make use of good ol’ Montana creativity and maybe come up with a better one.

A locked box of chokecherries to the more than 6 million inaccessible acres of public land in 11 Western states – including more than 1.5 million in Montana. Using technology from Missoula-based mapping company onX, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, with offices in D.C. and Missoula, identified state public lands currently completely surrounded by private land. Last year, a similar report took a snapshot of federal lands, and found that 9.5 million public acres lacked permanent public access – more than 1.5 million of them in Montana. That makes more than 3 million acres of public lands in Montana that Montanans cannot access without first getting permission from an adjacent private landowner.

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Chokecherry-print hospital gowns to the loss of federal funding for Planned Parenthood in Montana. The national organization decided to forgo federal money after the Trump administration said it would deny funding to any clinics that make abortion referrals. Rather than limit their physicians’ ability to fully inform pregnant patients, their patients’ constitutionally protected right to choose and their mission to provide comprehensive health care, Planned Parenthood choose instead to make up the financial loss from other sources. In Montana, the cut amounts to about $760,000 a year for the largest provider of reproductive and related health care in the state.

Huckleberries and a hardhat to Missoula County’s addition of more jobs over the past year than any other county in Montana. Take that, Billings and Bozeman! Montana Department of Labor and Industry statistics show that Missoula has added 1,720 jobs to its work force since July 2018. Meanwhile, Yellowstone County added 1,216 jobs, Ravalli County added 814 and Gallatin County added 154. Somewhat surprisingly, Flathead County lost 723. Could those jobs be migrating south? Whatever the case, these employment numbers indicate strong economic growth in Missoula.

A picnic basket of huckleberries to Glacier National Park officials for prudently opting to close down portions of the park to avoid visitor encounters with bears. After observing “unusual grizzly bear activity” in the Granite Chalet area, park officials temporarily closed the Granite Park campground and surrounding trails. They also began requiring that visitors at the Rising Sun Campground stay in hard-sided campers or RVs after a black bear clawed at an unoccupied tent that had no food inside. While the closures are disappointing for those who yearn to see these amazing places, park officials should be applauded for taking a proactive approach to keeping both people and bears safe.

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