Resource shortage means some Montana fires burning unchecked
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — So many wildfires are burning across the Northern Rockies that fire officials are allowing some to burn because all the manpower and equipment is committed elsewhere.
The Northern Rockies Coordination Center lists 86 active fires in Montana and Idaho as of Monday morning. Seven in Montana are listed as unstaffed due to a lack of resources.
They are all small fires burning in relatively remote areas in northwestern Montana and don’t pose any immediate safety threats.
The coordination center’s Liz Slown says it is an unusually active fire period because of last week’s hot weather and lightning in drought-parched areas.
She says all wildland firefighting agencies’ resources are in use and are being cycled through as quickly as possible.
Slown says more favorable weather forecast this week should help firefighters.
Medicaid expansion oversight panel starts work
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A committee appointed to oversee the implementation of Medicaid expansion in Montana has started its work by hearing from state officials who say they’re moving so fast they don’t expect the rollout to be perfect.
The nine-member Medicaid expansion oversight committee made up of mostly lawmakers and health care officials met Monday. The group will evaluate and make recommendations to state agencies handling different aspects of the program.
Department of Health and Human Resources Division Administrator Duane Preshinger says although the federal government will have the final say, the state is doing its part to start enrollment by Nov. 1.
That work involves filing a waiver with the federal government once the public comment period ends, hiring a health insurance company to run the program and setting up a job-assessment component of the program.
Gianforte files for exploratory governor campaign
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte has filed paperwork that says he is exploring a run for Montana governor in 2016.
The 53-year-old Republican founder of RightNow Technologies in Bozeman has previously said he was considering challenging Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
On Monday, he filed a candidate statement with the Commissioner of Political Practices for an exploratory campaign. It is not a declaration of candidacy, but the filing will allow him to start raising money.
Spokeswoman Amy Lunde provided a statement from Gianforte that says he looks forward to hearing ideas from Montanans about how to make the state better.
Montana Democratic Party spokeswoman Nancy Keenan says voters will reject Gianforte once they see his record of supporting policies that discriminate, hurt employment and protect dark money.
Feds set timeline to decide on drilling lease near Glacier
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. government officials plan to decide this fall whether to move ahead with lifting the suspension of an energy lease on land sacred to Native Americans or to cancel it.
The court-ordered schedule for resolving the decades-old suspension of the lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area near Glacier National Park was filed Monday.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Solenex LLC has sued to lift the suspension for the 6,200-acre lease. The suspension has been in place since 1993 while federal officials consider the environmental and cultural impacts.
Department of Justice attorney Ruth Ann Storey says in the filing that the Bureau of Land Management will decide whether to start the cancellation process by Nov. 30.
If the agency decides against cancellation, it could take until July 2017 to issue a drilling permit.
Coroner determines wrong cause of death for Big Sky boy
(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The parents of a Big Sky boy say incorrect autopsy results led to an unnecessary and painful investigation into the cause of their 6-year-old son’s death.
Harbor deWaard died on Jan. 12 after collapsing at his father’s home. He had been diagnosed with croup and physicians at St. Vincent Hospital said he died of complications from a respiratory virus.
The Missoulian reports an autopsy by Dr. Thomas Bennett determined the boy died of accidental head trauma.
When investigators could find no evidence of injury, the coroner asked the state’s medical examiners to review the case. They determined Harbor died of parainfluenza and what appeared to be brain injuries were the effects of being kept on life support so he could donate his organs.
Missing hiker found dead after fall
(Information in the following story is from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com)
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A 59-year-old Eureka man who was reported missing after failing to return from a day hike in the Swan Lake area has been found dead.
Lake County Sheriff Don Bell tells the Daily Inter Lake that William Hendrix was found dead Sunday afternoon in a rugged area off the hiking trail. Bell says it appears he died in a fall, but an autopsy was planned.
Hendrix left for a hike early on Aug. 11 and was planning to hike to Thunderbolt Mountain on the Swan Crest. His wife reported him missing when he didn’t return that evening.
His pickup truck was found at the North Lost Creek Trailhead.
The Lake County sheriff’s office along with Swan Mission Search and Rescue, North Valley Search and Rescue and Two Bear Air aided in the search.
Stillwater Mining to lay off 119
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The nation’s only platinum and palladium mine has announced it will lay off 119 employees and put into effect a contract that union workers have rejected twice.
The new contract for workers at the Stillwater Mining Co. mine at Nye takes effect on Sept. 1 and replaces one that expired on June 12.
Stillwater announced a $27.5 million second-quarter loss on July 31 and said it would reduce its salaried and hourly workforce in order to save between $10 million and $15 million. The layoffs were announced Monday. Stillwater has 864 miners at Nye.
Company officials said they would continue to monitor market conditions and may make other adjustments as necessary.
Over the past year, platinum and palladium prices have fallen by about a third.
Groups seek to block coal mine expansion
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Three conservation groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop an expansion of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain coal mine in Montana.
The lawsuit filed Monday by Montana Elders for a Livable Tomorrow, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club alleges the U.S. government failed to consider several factors when it approved the 7,000-acre expansion near Roundup.
The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining decided in January that the expansion would have no significant impact.
The conservation groups say the agency should have ordered a more detailed environmental study. They say the government did not look closely enough at the effects of the expansion on waterways, air pollution and the health of people who live along the coal’s shipping routes.
Interior spokeswoman Emily Beyer says the agency won’t comment on pending litigation.
Contaminated beef caught before leaving Montana meat plant
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Livestock officials say an equipment malfunction allowed E. coli to survive in beef at a Montana meat plant.
Meat Inspection Bureau Chief Gary Hamel will report to the Board of Livestock on Monday that contaminated ground beef was identified during a weekly sampling in early June and destroyed. He says none of it was shipped to consumers.
Hamel says a water machine used to clean cow carcasses at the facility was clogged and could not reach a high enough temperature to kill pathogens.
The machine was fixed and the bureau increased inspections at that facility.
Board of Livestock Executive Officer Christian Mackay and Hamel say they cannot release the name of the plant or its location because no recall was necessary.
Hamel says it was the first positive sample the inspection bureau has seen since it was formed in 1989.
Foul play unlikely in death of albino buck struck by vehicle
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Deputies say foul play isn’t suspected in the death of an albino buck that was struck by a vehicle east of Roundup.
The Billings Gazette reports the Musselshell County Sheriff’s Office says the animal was likely hit late Saturday or early Sunday.
The deer died of injuries sustained in the collision.