Montana DEQ proposes changes to aluminum plant's discharge permit
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co.'s wastewater discharge permit, and is taking public comment on those updates through April 4.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; Feb. 28
Project supports transfer of disease-free bison from Yellowstone Park
An experiment to transfer bison found free of brucellosis from Yellowstone National Park to other areas of Montana appears to be working, according to the results of the pilot project.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Feb. 28
Researchers: Data reflect stable grizzly bear population in Yellowstone
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team said a re-evaluation of data collected on grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem over the past several decades indicates that the population is stable, and not in decline.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Feb. 28
Montana residents raise questions about drilling firm's record in Penn.
At the Montana Board of Oil and Gas hearing held Thursday in Billings, landowners near where West Virginia-based Energy Corporation of America plans to explore for oil raised the company's environmental record in Pennsylvania and questioned the state's ability to effectively monitor a level of energy development that ECA has described as "bringing the Bakken to the Beartooths."
Billings Gazette; Feb. 28
Missoula County Public Schools are closed. UM classes are canceled. A Carousel for Missoula is not open. Also not open: MCT and MAM. And Missoula Public Library closes at 2 p.m.
This, however, is happening:
SATURDAY UPDATE: After Friday night's avalanche on Mt. Jumbo, officials are warning of extremely unstable snow in the area. Officials have asked people to stay off Mt. Sentinel, where this video was shot days ago, and Mt. Jumbo.
WildEarth Guardians petitions to ban coal mining in sage grouse habitat
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining has 90 days to respond to the petition filed by WildEarth Guardians on Wednesday that seeks a ban on coal mining in areas that are prime habitat for sage grouse, a species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); Feb. 27
Canada again rejects Taseko's proposed open-pit mine in B.C.
On Wednesday, Canada's Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the adverse environmental consequences of Taseko Mines' proposed New Prosperity open-pit gold-copper mine in the interior of British Columbia could not be justified.
Vancouver Sun; Feb. 27
When Ted Rogers first stepped into the Stahl farm’s 100-year-old barn off West Mullan, it was on the cusp of becoming another dirt-encrusted storage space. But Rogers saw potential in the hand-hewn beams, an idea that after a year of pressure-washing, linseed oil treatment and extensive renovation stands poised to become reality.
“In my mind, what I saw was the ability to turn it into a country store that was appealing to the Western mind,” Rogers says. “Rustic but clean.”
John Stahl’s farm has become something of a novelty in the Missoula area, almost as familiar as the sheep he grazes on weeds along Mount Jumbo. Dozens of visitors flock here nightly in late March and April for what’s known as the Running of the Lambs—the capstone for the free 7 p.m. farm tours Stahl began offering several years ago. In 2012, Stahl and his wife Cheryl started to capitalize on the attraction by selling custom-painted coffee mugs. Now they hope to create even more buzz by throwing open the doors of their barn-turned-country store March 25.
“Four years ago, you would have told me this and I would have gone, ‘Are you crazy?’” Stahl says of the new venture, through which he’ll be selling eggs, produce and sheep products straight from the farm. “Now I’m proving myself wrong. I had to be converted to it myself.”
The Stahls had initially hired Rogers, a private contractor in Missoula, to renovate their home. But his barn conversion idea proved contagious. Rogers says the timing just seemed right for such an undertaking. The rise in buy-local mentality has already helped push the number of farmers markets in Missoula County to seven.
“Having something like this where it’s wholly sustainable—they’re growing their own food, they raise the sheep on Mount Jumbo, they have their own goats for goat milk—it all becomes this movable feast,” Rogers says. “Having a store gives them the unique opportunity to have an everyday farmers market.”
For the Stahls, a country store is merely the beginning. Standing in a stiff winter wind outside the old barn, John talks of selling wool, honey and handmade soaps and giving the public a taste of the “great lifestyle we have.” Of course, to a rancher known largely for herding his sheep annually through town, there’s new business in exposure as well.
“If you’re not growing,” he says, “you’re dying.”
U.S. issues emergency order regulating shipments of crude oil by rail
On Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Department issued an emergency order that requires all crude oil shipped by rail to be tested for volatility, and requiring that crude oil shipments meet requirements for shipping of hazardous materials.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Feb. 26
BNSF train carrying Wyoming coal derails in Montana
The last 29 cars of a 115-car coal train derailed near Terry on Monday evening, although Santa Fe Burlington Northern Railway officials were not certain how much of the coal carried by those cars spilled in the Montana derailment.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 26
Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): The battles you've been waging these last ten months have been worthy of you. They've tested your mettle and grown your courage. But I suspect that your relationship with these battles is due for a shift. In the future they may not serve you as well as they have up until now. At the very least, you will need to alter your strategy and tactics. It's also possible that now is the time to leave them behind entirely—to graduate from them and search for a new cause that will activate the next phase of your evolution as an enlightened warrior. What do you think?
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): "Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony," said Lou Reed. That might be an accurate assessment for most people much of the time, but I don't think it will be true for you in the coming days. On the contrary: You will have a special capacity to make contact and establish connection. You've heard of dog whisperers and ghost whisperers? You will be like an all-purpose, jack-of-all-trades whisperer—able to commune and communicate with nervous creatures and alien life forms and pretty much everything else. If anyone can get a pony to understand Sanskrit, it will be you.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Does Kim Kardashian tweak and groom her baby daughter's eyebrows? They look pretty amazing, after all—elegant, neat, perfectly shaped. What do you think, Gemini? HA! I was just messing with you. I was checking to see if you're susceptible to getting distracted by meaningless fluff like celebrity kids' grooming habits. The cosmic truth of the matter is that you should be laser-focused on the epic possibilities that your destiny is bringing to your attention. It's time to reframe your life story. How? Here's my suggestion: See yourself as being on a mythic quest to discover and fully express your soul's code.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): The 19th-century American folk hero known as Wild Bill Hickok was born James Butler Hickok. At various times in his life he was a scout for the army, a lawman for violent frontier towns, a professional gambler, and a performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Women found him charismatic, and he once killed an attacking bear with a knife. He had a brother Lorenzo who came to be known as Tame Bill Hickok. In contrast to Wild Bill, Tame Bill was quiet, gentle, and cautious. He lived an uneventful life as a wagon master, and children loved him. Right now, Cancerian, I'm meditating on how I'd like to see your inner Wild Bill come out to play for a while, even as your inner Tame Bill takes some time off.
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): "If I was a love poet," writes Rudy Francisco, addressing a lover, "I'd write about how you have the audacity to be beautiful even on days when everything around you is ugly." I suspect you have that kind of audacity right now, Leo. In fact, I bet the ugliness you encounter will actually incite you to amplify the gorgeous charisma you're radiating. The sheer volume of lyrical soulfulness that pours out of you will have so much healing power that you may even make the ugly stuff less ugly. I'm betting that you will lift up everything you touch, nudging it in the direction of grace and elegance and charm.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," says hockey great Wayne Gretzky. In other words, you shouldn't be timid about shooting the puck toward the goal. Don't worry about whether you have enough skill or confidence or luck. Just take the damn shot. You'll never score if you don't shoot. Or so the theory goes. But an event in a recent pro hockey game showed there's an exception to the rule. A New York player named Chris Kreider was guiding the puck with his stick as he skated toward the Minnesota team's goalie. But when Kreider cocked and swung his stick, he missed the puck entirely. He whiffed. And yet the puck kept sliding slowly along all by itself. It somehow flummoxed the goalie, sneaking past him right into the net. Goal! New rule: You miss only 99.9 percent of the shots you don't take. I believe you will soon benefit from this loophole, Virgo.
Mike Magone, the superintendent of the Lolo School District, stands in a cramped bathroom in the lower building of the K-8 school that sits on a hill at the edge of U.S. Highway 93. With one toilet and two urinals, he says it is the only available bathroom for more than 30 sixth grade boys. In a nearby classroom, he points to a plastic bucket on the floor. “We don’t even have a sink in our science classroom,” he laments.
Outside, traffic on the highway roars within 150 feet of that lower building — a remodeled one-room school house with two additional wings that hasn’t seen new construction since the 1960s.
“We have our school on Highway 93, kids going out into the highway, running across,” Magone says. “When we have crossing guards here it is one thing, but during after-school hours we don’t.”
The extra doors and entryways on campus are a security concern. The windows don’t open properly and are a fire hazard. The ancient boiler is energy inefficient and expensive. The school is so overcrowded students only get seven to 10 minutes for lunch. The list goes on and on.
Magone is sick of the safety and capacity problems at the current Lolo school. Along with the school board and some parents, he is leading the charge to build a new K-4 school on a 20-acre plot in east Lolo. He wants half of the students to move to the new building while the rest, grades five through eight, remain on the old campus.
To accomplish the goal, the school district is trying to pass a revised $10.5 million school bond. A mail-in ballot arrived at Lolo homes on Feb. 20. This is the district’s second attempt to get a bond passed after its first campaign failed by a 43-vote margin in October.
“People say, ‘Well, can’t you just do some things to fix this building?’ But the approximate cost to take care of the ADA accessibility and the boiler and all those things is a million and a half dollars,” says Magone. “Okay, that is less than building a new school but the bigger picture is that ... you are just trying to fix an old building. You haven’t increased your capacity for students. You haven’t solved the problem.”
The bond has caused friction in Lolo. Drive down Highway 93 and on one side of the road you will see white signs in support of the proposal. Across the way, red placards on wooden legs tell residents to “VOTE NO.” Leading the opposition is Frank Miller, a local businessman who owns KT’s Hayloft Saloon and Deli and at least 10 other properties near the school. He helped defeat the bond campaign in October.
The Miller family’s local holdings are worth more than $4 million, according to 2012 appraisals. Frank says his tax burden will be “tremendous” if the school bond passes. Though taxes concern him, he says he opposes the bond primarily because he disagrees with the school district’s plan.
“We only want one school, we want a conventional school,” says Miller, whose daughter once attended the Lolo school. “We can’t afford two schools. There will be duplication of services.”
Miller explains his position while standing in the headquarters of his business operation, where he and his staff produce signs and fliers to drum up opposition to the project. He is using every conceivable argument to defeat the bond.
A recent flier he mailed to residents contains a list of reasons why people should vote no: Competitive bidding was not used to select contractors, it claims. Services will be duplicated at the new school and the project design is too complex, it declares in loud blue letters. Miller is also telling his tenants that their rents will go up if the bond issue passes. He says he would only support a school bond if it financed a single K-8 school that accommodated all 602 of the district’s students—even if that bond was more expensive for taxpayers.
“We are not fighting education,” Miller says. “I am willing to pay a higher tax base for a conventional school.”
Superintendent Magone disputes Miller’s claims and disapproves of his methods. He says that the Lolo School District would be interested in building an entire K-8 facility at the new location if it could. Lolo’s bonding capacity, however, is less than $11 million and the school district cannot raise enough money for a larger project. He says the move to the new site has to happen in increments and with community support or it won’t happen at all.
“Part of his information is absolutely false. He says it was not competitively bid, it was, the whole process has been competitive,” says Magone, adding that the school district repeatedly invited Miller to participate in the planning process and he consistently declined the offer. “I am not sure why he is putting false information out on the table but he is. If it is because he is opposed to a tax increase, then okay, great, that is a solid reason to be opposed to it. But to be putting incorrect and misleading information out there and saying this is the reason you shouldn’t pass it, to me that is unethical.”
Magone is optimistic the bond will pass. Miller says it will fail. Lolo voters have until March 12 to make their decision and mail back their ballots.
Josh Quick's "Camp Sleepover" appears every Tuesday online, and can be seen in the Indy's printed pages every Thursday.
U.S. Supreme Court takes up case on EPA's authority
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in two cases that challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, such as power plants.
New York Times; Feb. 25
Study finds bear crossings in Alberta national park promote genetic diversity
A study done by scientists at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University found that the bear crossings put in place along the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park in Alberta helped promote species diversity for both black bears and grizzly bears.
Billings Gazette (MSU News Service); Feb. 25
Slice master: Tagliare owner Cheryl Bregen stands in the shop’s close-quarters kitchen and meticulously assembles an antipasto platter. It contains meats and cheeses arranged in a ring around a glistening mound of marinated olives. The selected cuts are as hard to pronounce as they are delicious—smoked muscovy duck, two kinds of soppressata, speck, manchego, mozzarella, beemster, stuffed peppadews and bresaola. That last one, bresaola, is air-dried salted beef aged for about three months and looks a little purple. This is the kind of exotic (and expensive) stuff Bregen is slinging, and it’s what Tagliare—the italian verb for “to cut” or “to slice”—is all about.
Unsung specialties: Everyone knows Tagliare as a sandwich shop. From the “Kiss” to the “Megadeath,” its music-themed hoagie menu draws loyal customers week after week. But Bregen says her 5-year-old storefront is first and foremost a deli, and her sliced meats are the under-appreciated bedrock of her business.
“We are a deli that sells sandwiches, rather than a sandwich shop that happens to have sliced meats,” she says. “So we are trying to bring that back a little bit more, more deli.”
A slight shift: By St. Patrick’s Day at the latest, Bregen says she will be coming out with new options at her deli counter, such as grilled portobellos, eggplant and tortellini salads. She says she also wants to add more of those savory sliced meats to the popular sandwich options. “There is sort of a a shift coming … but the sandwiches aren’t going anywhere. I don’t want rocks through my window. If I take away the Megadeath, it will be over,” she says with a laugh.
Where to find it: Try the meats and cheeses at Tagliare Delicatessen, 1433 S. Higgins Ave.
Hangriest Hour serves up fresh details on western Montana eats. To recommend a restaurant, dish or chef for Hangriest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a petition to sign to stop him?
I'm not sure this will be made right until Marc Racicot is in the ground.
I am dumbfounded by this. A handful of people who cannot tolerate the idea that…