Montana ski town roiled by white supremacist ‘troll army’
The Montana ski resort town of Whitefish is an unlikely flashpoint between white supremacists and residents trying to preserve the small town’s reputation as a welcoming vacation destination.
But that’s just what happened after a so-called “alt-right” movement leader’s mother said last week she was being pressured to sell her property and denounce her son’s views.
Richard Spencer and his mother Sherry Spencer are part-time residents, and Spencer’s National Policy Institute is headquartered there.
A white supremacist website called for a “troll war” against members of the Whitefish Jewish community and their supporters.
One email warns the advocacy group Love Lives Here in the Flathead Valley to leave while they still can.
Rachel Carroll Rivas of the Montana Human Rights Network says the harassment has raised fears throughout the town.
License issued for Montana power storage project
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal energy regulators have issued a license for a 400-megawatt central Montana power storage project that’s intended to supplement electricity from wind turbines and other sources.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday released a 50-year license allowing Absaroka Energy to construct and operate the $1 billion project.
The Bozeman-based company plans to build the Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project on a 177-acre site near Martinsdale.
Excess power produced by wind farms or other sources would be used to pump water uphill to a reservoir on the site. During times of peak consumer electricity demand or when the wind isn’t blowing, the water would be released to turn hydropower turbines and keep electricity flowing.
Regulators concluded in September that the project would not have a significant environmental impact.
Forest Service approves Red Lodge Mountain land swap
RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has approved a land exchange between the Custer Gallatin National Forest and Red Lodge Mountain.
The Billings Gazette reports that Forest Service Supervisor Mary Erickson published her finding of no significant impact after an environmental assessment was completed.
Under the terms of the land exchange, two parcels of Custer Gallatin National Forest lands totaling 250 acres at the base and mid-mountain areas will be exchanged for 382 acres of Red Lodge Mountain lands.
The deal, valued at about $2.4 million, has been in the works since 2007 and is expected to be finalized next year.
Red Lodge Mountain Manager Jeff Schmidt says the land swap will allow ski area officials to own the base area, making it easier to get financing for improvements.
Woman pleads guilty to sexually assaulting teen
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Great Falls woman accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy has pleaded guilty.
The Great Falls Tribune reports that 41-year-old Kathi Linn Pederson on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one amended criminal count of sexual assault (attempt), a felony.
Pederson had been charged with eight counts, including sexual abuse of children; evidence tampering; and three counts of unlawful transactions with children.
According to court documents, Pederson sent sexually explicit messages to the victim repeatedly, and some of the messages were received by a Homeland Security Agent posing as the teen after the messages were reported to law enforcement.
According to the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 10 years with the Montana Department of Corrections with all time suspended.
Laurel grocery store robbed
LAUREL, Mont. (AP) — Police say a woman has robbed a grocery store in Laurel in southern Montana.
No arrests have been made in the robbery that occurred about 8:30 Wednesday night.
Laurel Chief of Police Rick Musson says a woman entered the store as employees were closing for the night. She walked to the cash register and displayed a black gun in her waistband. The woman took the employees’ cellphones and walked them to the business’s office where one employee retrieved money bags.
The suspect also bound their hands in zip ties before leaving with an undisclosed amount of money.
Laurel is about 15 miles southwest of Billings.
Federal government expands database access for Indian tribes
SEATTLE (AP) — The federal government is expanding a program that allows American Indian tribes to access national criminal databases.
The program also fixed a system that allowed a man to buy a gun that was later used in 2014 by his son to kill four classmates and himself at a Washington high school.
The Tribal Access Program, launched last year, lets tribes enter and search for records in the National Crime Information Database, used when someone tries to buy a firearm. The Justice Department chose 10 tribes, including two from Washington state, to participate in the initial phase of the program.
Officials announced this week that it has added 11 tribes to that list. During 2016, the tribes received a workstation that gave them access to national systems. The tribes used the program for variety of criminal agencies. Tribal civil agencies also used the program to check on staff who have control over children, child support agencies and others.