Settlement forces US to decide whether 9 species endangered
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. government will decide if federal protections are needed for a small, fanged predator of the Northern Rockies, massive alligator snapping turtles in the South and seven other species.
Deadlines for the decisions to be made over the next several years were detailed in a Tuesday legal settlement.
The Center for Biological Diversity had sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March after officials missed previous decision deadlines, sometimes by years.
One of the first species to be decided on, by October 2017, is the Northern Rockies fisher.
The cat-sized predator once ranged across at least five states. It’s now limited to an area along the Montana-Idaho border.
A decision on the alligator snapping turtle, which can weigh up to 175 pounds, is due in 2020.
Legislative committee endorses air ambulance bill
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An interim legislative committee has endorsed a proposal that that would leave air ambulance patients out of the bill negotiations between their insurance program and out-of-network ambulance providers.
Jesse Laslovich, chief counsel for the state Auditor’s Office, says the bill sets a framework for the two sides to agree to a reimbursement rate or they could take the issue to court.
Either way, the insurance company would have to pay at least as much as it would pay an in-network provider and the consumer would be responsible only for their co-pay and deductible.
The Air Ambulance Working Group developed the proposal and presented it to the Economic Affairs Inter Committee on Tuesday.
Non-hospital based air ambulance companies supported the legislation, while insurers said it would create a disincentive for providers to agree to network contracts that help control costs.
Wildlife advocates argue for protections for Montana fish
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates seeking to impose federal protections for a fish found in Montana say state efforts to improve conditions for the Arctic grayling won’t be enough to save it from the effects of climate change.
The advocates, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, asked a federal judge Tuesday to reverse the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision in 2014 not to list the Artic grayling as a threatened or endangered species.
Arctic grayling are abundant in Alaska and Canada. In the Lower 48 states, the fish can only be found in Montana’s upper Missouri River drainages.
In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Serve determined the Montana fish warranted federal protections but that other species took precedence.
Federal officials reversed that determination after new genetic information showed stable or increasing Arctic grayling populations.
Man gets life in prison for double shooting in Eureka
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Canadian man convicted of shooting his ex-girlfriend and a man during what prosecutors say was a jealous rage has been sentenced to life in prison.
The Flathead Beacon reports 41-year-old Michael Ilk, of Alberta, was sentenced Monday on two counts of attempted deliberate homicide and two counts of aggravated assault.
Prosecutors say he fired about 10 shots at his ex-girlfriend, Hadassah Pereslete, and Tyler Wilson, at a construction site where Pereslete worked. Pereslete and Wilson, both of Eureka, each were hit twice during the April 15, 2015, shooting.
Ilk followed them to the Eureka Law Enforcement Center, where he was arrested.
Defense attorneys argued that Wilson shot first and that Ilk fired back in self-defense. Ilk maintained his innocence in a letter he read at his sentencing hearing.
Former state lawmaker charged with threatening tenant
HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A former state lawmaker from Havre is charged with threatening a tenant as she was moving out of a rental property.
The Havre Daily News reports 52-year-old Bob Bergren was charged Monday with assault with a weapon. He did not enter a plea and was appointed a public defender. He remained jailed Tuesday morning.
The tenant called police Sunday to report that Bergren had been harassing her, including standing by the mailbox and yelling at her while holding a shotgun.
Court records say Bergren acknowledged being at the residence with the gun, but said he didn’t aim it at her. The officer said the gun had a round in the chamber.
Bergren told the newspaper he felt threatened and was protecting his property.
Bergren, a Democrat, served in the Legislature from 2003-2010 and was Speaker of the House during the 2009 session.
Yellowstone south entrance reopens Tuesday
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — The south entrance to Yellowstone National Park has reopened after being closed for more than a week because of a wildfire in neighboring Grand Teton National Park.
Firefighters doused hot spots and cleared downed and dangerous burned trees along the highway that runs up the east side of Grand Teton and to the Yellowstone entrance. The highway reopened overnight, and the Yellowstone gate opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Closing the entrance over the last week forced visitors coming up from the popular Jackson Hole area to take a detour that added about an hour of drive time to reach Yellowstone through Idaho and West Yellowstone, Montana.
The fires in Yellowstone and Grand Teton remain active and continue to grow. But all major tourist attractions and roads in Yellowstone are open.