Montana travelers reminded of upcoming Real ID requirements
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Travel professionals are reminding their customers that Montana’s state-issued driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted as a valid form of identification for commercial flights next year.
The Billings Gazette reports that beginning Jan. 22, passengers must produce a passport or some other form of identification that complies with Real ID, a 2005 law that sought to boost security by mandating nationwide standards for identification.
For more than a decade, Montana politicians of all stripes have criticized Real ID as a federal overreach and a potential invitation to identity theft.
The Department of Homeland Security has granted Montana two extensions for compliance. But after the second expired last year, Gov. Steve Bullock sent a letter urging federal officials to suspend implementation of Real ID.
Meanwhile, Montana’s two U.S. senators have introduced legislation to repeal Real ID.
Conservation group maps land protection strategy in 3 states
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A conservation group has created maps identifying key landscapes in the Pacific Northwest most likely to sustain native species amid climate change, and is distributing money to protect private lands through use-limiting easements or outright purchases.
The Nature Conservancy says it received $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that it’s now distributing among local land trusts in Idaho, Oregon and Washington for easements or acquisitions.
In all, the publicly available maps cover some 355,000 square miles in those three states plus portions of Montana, Nevada, California and Utah.
The Nature Conservancy says so far about $4.5 million in grants have been identified to conserve about 70 square miles of private land.
Libertarians pick Inverness rancher for congressional race
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Libertarian Party has picked Mark Wicks to be its candidate in the May 25 special election to fill the state’s vacant congressional seat.
The 46-year-old cattle rancher and writer from Inverness will be contending against Democrat Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte, who unsuccessfully ran for governor last fall.
The Libertarian Party selected Wicks during a nominating convention Saturday in Helena attended by about three dozen people.
Wicks acknowledged the long odds against him. He said he would draw votes from Republicans and Democrats alike, but rejected that he would act as a spoiler.
In the 2016 gubernatorial campaign, the Libertarian ticket drew 3 percent of the vote — below the 4 percent margin between Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock, who was re-elected.
The Latest: Trump tried to call prosecutor before firing
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump reached out through a secretary to Manhattan’s top prosecutor two days before he was fired by the Justice Department, but the two men never spoke.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (buh-RAH’-ruh) reported the call to the Justice Department and it was agreed he shouldn’t speak directly to Trump. That’s the latest twist in the unusual dynamic between Trump and the high-profile prosecutor who’s made public corruption a favorite quest.
The interaction was described Saturday by a person told about the conversations who requested anonymity because of the talks’ private nature. The White House referred comment requests to the Justice Department.
Bharara was fired Saturday after refusing to quit. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Friday asked for over 40 prosecutors who served under former President Barack Obama to step down.
Montana veterans faced health referral delays half the time
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A report finds that Montana veterans referred to health specialists in 2015 faced delays in getting appointments or receiving needed medical services nearly half the time.
Friday’s report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s Office found four patients may have been harmed by the delays.
Investigators inspected the VA Montana Healthcare System at Fort Harrison in Helena at the request of U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines.
They found almost 26,000 delays out of 51,941 referrals — also called consults — ordered in 2015.
VA Montana spokesman Mike Garcia says the backlog of referrals has been reduced since 2015, but 500 to 700 referrals are still generated every day in the VA Montana system.
Garcia says a delayed appointment does not mean a patient’s been harmed.
Regents ban naming school buildings for political candidates
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Buildings at Montana universities will no longer be named after politicians.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that the Montana Board of Regents voted Friday to end the practice of naming places or programs after political candidates or statewide officeholders. The regents also moved to give the public earlier notice of name changes and a greater opportunity to weigh in.
Several Montana State University protested last year when the university sought to name a new auditorium and the Gianforte School of Computing after an $8 million donation from Greg Gianforte, who was at the time a Republican gubernatorial candidate. Students opposed his stances on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender discrimination.
The University of Montana drew protests when it asked to rename its law school after a $10 million donation from Great Falls attorney Alexander Blewett II with only 48 hours of public notice.