Montana senator to escort Pope Francis into Congress session
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana, will escort Pope Francis into Thursday’s joint session of Congress.
The Billings Gazette reports that Tester was chosen as one of 18 Democrats to walk with the pope and 18 Republicans. Inside the House chambers, Francis will give an address.
Tester is not Catholic. He was chosen as one of the escorts by Senate Democratic leadership.
State praises sage grouse decision, criticizes feds’ plans
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials are relieved by the Interior Department’s decision not to recommend endangered species protections for the greater sage grouse, but they are critical of the new conservation plans meant to protect the bird’s habitat on federal lands.
The final amendments to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s land-use plans were released Tuesday along with the Interior Department’s announcement that more sweeping protections aren’t warranted.
The BLM plans call for restrictions on 67 million acres throughout the West. About 9 million acres of sage grouse habitat in Montana are in federally controlled lands.
Gov. Steve Bullock has criticized the BLM plans as being more restrictive than the state’s own sage grouse conservation plan. Bullock spokesman Mike Wessler says state officials will pressure the BLM to adjust its plans to make them more consistent with Montana’s.
Survey: Youth smoking, drinking, meth use down
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A survey shows the percentage of Montana high school students who smoke, drink and use drugs continues to decrease while time in front of computer screens and obesity rates are increasing.
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released Tuesday, found that 13.1 percent of students smoked within the past month, down from 30.7 percent in 1993. Just over a third of students said they had an alcoholic drink within the past month, down from 55.7 percent in 1993. Only 3 percent of students report having ever used meth, down from 13.5 percent in 1999.
The proportion of overweight and obese students increased while 34.2 percent report spending at least three hours a day in front of a computer, compared to 16.2 percent seeing that much screen time in 2007.
Blackfeet Tribe receives $800K for public housing repairs
(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The Blackfeet Tribe in Montana has been awarded $800,000 to remove mold and improve the safety of its low-income housing.
The Great Falls Tribune reports the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the grant Monday. The money will go toward 16 homes administered by the Blackfeet Housing Authority and will cover mold problems, new concrete foundations, drain systems and other needs.
Many of the 1,400 homes the housing authority administrates throughout the reservation were built around 35 years ago. Concerns surrounding the safety of the homes have grown over the years.
The Blackfeet were one of 18 tribes in 13 states to receive mold mitigation funding through the Indian Community Development Block Grant program.
Construction on the homes is scheduled for next spring.
Northern Cheyenne officials reject coal railroad plans
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council has voted against the proposed Tongue River Railroad, saying the $403 million project would harm the reservation’s cultural sites and resources.
The council voted unanimously Monday for the Surface Transportation Board to take no action on the railroad, which would stretch from Colstrip to Ashland and open southeast Montana to large-scale coal mining in Asia.
The council announced in July that it would further investigate the impacts of the railroad on sacred sites.
BNSF Railway has said that any cultural sites identified would be protected.
According to the council’s resolution, the reservation would be negatively impacted and a strain would be placed on resources if the proposal were to move forward.
Comment on an environmental impact report by the transportation board expires Wednesday.
Montana State fraternity suspended over members’ parties
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana State University has placed a fraternity on interim suspension and warned students against attending parties in an area southwest of campus while school officials investigate reports that party-goers were assaulted and drinks may have been drugged.
MSU Dean of Students Matt Caires said the Hawks’ Ridge condominium development, which is known as “The Block” to students, has been the site of numerous parties since the start of the semester.
The university is investigating allegations that some drinks were drugged, two men were struck in the head and needed medical attention and underage drinking was allowed.
The school suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity during the investigation. The SAE fraternity house is not in the Hawks Ridge complex, but several fraternity members are believed to have hosted some of the parties.
Former coach gets 15 years for sexually assaulting player
(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A former high school girls’ basketball coach who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting one of his players has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports District Judge John Brown sentenced 23-year-old Cyle Kokot on Tuesday to 25 years with 10 suspended. He ordered Kokot to pay nearly $3,000 in restitution and complete sexual offender treatment.
Kokot was arrested in August 2014 and charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent. He posted bond, but was returned to jail in February 2015 after violating the conditions of his release by contacting one of his accusers and talking to witnesses.
He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge in May.
Kokot was the girls’ basketball coach at Lone Peak High during the 2013-14 season.
Victims of Box Elder-area crash identified
HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — Hill County officials have released the names of two women who were killed in a weekend crash on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
Sheriff Don Brostrom says 23-year-old Rylin Burns of Rocky Boy and 26-year-old Leandra Thomas of Hays died in the head-on crash early Saturday near Box Elder.
The Montana Highway Patrol says a southbound car crossed the centerline and struck the car in which Burns and Thomas were riding. The drivers of both vehicles also were injured.
Missoula boy reported missing has been located
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 13-year-old Missoula boy who had been reported missing has been found safe.
A missing an endangered person advisory issued for Austin Soden was canceled on Tuesday morning. He had been reported missing on Monday morning.
Kalispell bow hunter reported missing near Wisdom
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Beaverhead County officials are searching for a 53-year-old Kalispell man who did not return from a bow hunting trip near Wisdom.
Robert Carter Jr. had been expected to return Sunday night. However, his wife called the sheriff’s office on Saturday because he hadn’t contacted her by cellphone or Facebook since Wednesday night.
Beaverhead Search and Rescue crews found Carter’s campsite west of the Big Hole Battlefield National Park. They found his pickup truck about 5 miles north of his campsite, and other hunters said he had left there on foot Thursday morning.
Air and ground searches on Sunday and Monday turned up no other sign of Carter.
He is a white man, 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs about 185 pounds. He has grey-blonde hair and was wearing camouflage gear.