Yellowstone softens stance on bison slaughter targets
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park is backing off its proposal to kill roughly 1,000 wild bison this winter as officials seek to reduce the animals’ annual migration into Montana.
Park officials met with representatives of American Indian tribes, the state and other federal agencies Thursday.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the park proposed delaying trapping until Feb. 15 and eliminating a target number to be removed from the herd. But some tribal governments called for trapping to be delayed until late March.
The eventual plan will give guidelines to bison managers during the winter months as they try to bring the population down from 5,000 to 3,000. It must be finalized by Dec. 31 or the previous winter plan will be used.
Bison managers are now moving away from setting a numeric goal.
Author Greg Mortenson to retire from charity
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Central Asia Institute officials say “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson will retire in January from the charity he co-founded nearly 20 years ago to build schools in Pakistan.
The announcement Thursday comes more than four years after accusations that Mortenson fabricated events in his best-selling book and an investigation into mismanagement of the charity’s assets.
A resulting settlement restructured the Bozeman, Montana-based charity, removed Mortenson as a voting board member and stripped him of any financial oversight.
Central Asia Institute chairman Steve Barrett and executive director Jim Thaden says the decision to retire was Mortenson’s and they agreed with the timing.
Mortenson was traveling Thursday and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He has denied the allegations.
Thaden says Mortenson has agreed to occasionally consult with the charity for its overseas programs.
Helicopter crashed, killing 2, as pilot practiced landings
CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — A helicopter crash that killed two men at a California airport occurred as the pilot was practicing landings.
The San Diego County medical examiner’s office says the helicopter’s tail struck the ground during a landing Wednesday and it spun out of control at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. Both men aboard died at the scene.
The medical examiner identified the pilot as 65-year-old Bruce Allen Erickson. American Bank of Montana confirmed Thursday that Erickson was its chairman and CEO. Also killed was his friend, 60-year-old Wayne Frank Lewis of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California.
The bank’s website says Erickson had more than 25,000 hours of flight time and ratings to fly various types of airplanes and helicopters.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash of the Airbus AS350 helicopter.
Montana selected to conduct VA pilot program
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Montana has been selected to conduct a pilot program with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that is aimed at speeding up processing of veterans’ benefit claims.
The Great Falls Tribune reports that the Digits to Digits program will allow selected veterans service organizations to submit electronic claims directly to the VA.
The pilot program agreement is scheduled to be finalized late November and put in to operation by mid-December.
The Montana Veterans Affairs Division will submit claims directly to the VA’s claim processing system. The hope is that this system will process claims quicker so veterans can receive their benefits quicker.
The Montana Veterans Affairs Division is responsible for more than 75 percent of the Montana-based veteran benefit claim products submitted to the Fort Harrison VA Center.
Another charge for man charged with drugging, raping girl
HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A 33-year-old Hamilton man charged with kidnapping, drugging and repeatedly raping a 17-year-old girl over several days in early February is now charged with capturing some of the assaults on video.
Byron Craig Hall pleaded not guilty Wednesday to sexual abuse of children. The Ravalli Republic reports the new charge was filed after investigators found three videos taken with the webcam on Hall’s laptop between Feb. 6 and 9 that included sexual content involving the girl.
Hall pleaded not guilty in March to felony aggravated kidnapping, sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated assault, child criminal endangerment and two drug charges. District Judge Jeffrey Langton set his bail at $750,000. He remains jailed without bond for violating his parole on an earlier drug lab conviction.
Hall’s trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 29, 2016.
County against moving trial of man accused of killing child
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Prosecutors are opposing a motion to move the trial of an Evergreen man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son out of Flathead County.
Brandon Newberry’s attorneys made a request in October to move the trial to a different populated area because of the misinformation, rumors and inflammatory news articles circulating the county.
The Daily Inter Lake reports the in a filing Tuesday, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Clegg wrote that the defense’s request is based only on allegations and is therefore insufficient proof that the trial needs to be moved.
Newberry has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the February death of Forrest Groshelle.
Prosecutors say Forrest died of laceration of the small intestine after being hit multiple times in the stomach.
If convicted, Newberry could face up to 100 years in prison.
South Dakota State, Montana State to play in 2017, 2018
BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota State and Montana State have agreed to terms on a two-game football series to be played during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The series is scheduled to kick off on Sept. 2, 2017, with a season opener at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana. Montana State returns to Brookings the next year for a Sept. 8 matchup.
South Dakota State Athletic Director Justin Sell he’s pleased to be able to sign a home-and-home contract with a quality opponent out of the Big Sky Conference.
SDSU and Montana State have played 13 previous times dating back to 1956, and the Bobcats hold a 10-3 series lead.
The Jackrabbits won the last meeting, topping Montana State 47-40 in Bozeman in a first-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game in 2014.