The Supply Ditch diversion dam that crosses the Bitterroot River near Corvallis doesn’t look like much, but this low strip of concrete has caused a number of serious boating accidents—one of which resulted in the death of a 6-year-old girl in June 2013. While Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued strong warnings about the dam’s dangers and posted signs urging boaters to portage around the hazard, a pair of accidents early this spring convinced FWP to take a more drastic measure. On April 11, the agency closed the approximately 5-mile stretch between the Woodside and Tucker Crossing fishing access sites, where the dam is located.
Though there’s no dispute over the dam’s danger, recreational boaters and anglers, as well as professional guides and outfitters, have criticized the closure as overregulation that could set a troubling precedent. It’s an inconvenience that’s not going to make or break the local fishing industry, but it does raise questions about further FWP intervention.
“Every time there’s an accident, whether the person involved was being negligent or not, does FWP have the responsibility to step in and create some type of regulation, close a piece of river, limit public and commercial access?” asks Missoula-based fishing guide Evan Phillippe. “That’s a frightening path to go down.”
FWP fisheries manager Pat Saffel acknowledges this concern, but he argues the closure is a rare exception rather than a precedent-setting rule.
“We don’t want to get in the business of telling people what’s safe or not,” he says. “But this one had proven issues that we tried to address and, still, people were getting into trouble, and we thought it was severe enough that we needed some time to better inform people about what’s going on.”
What Saffel, Phillippe and area boaters want is for this section of the river to be made permanently safe. Efforts to find and fund such a solution, however, have been complicated by uncertainty about who owns the dam. FWP and others assumed Supply Ditch Association, a Stevensville-based irrigation company, owns the dam, which diverts water for agricultural use. Supply Ditch Chairman Hans McPherson, however, disputes that notion. “I don’t know that Supply Ditch owns it,” he says.
McPherson believes the dam was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program of the 1930s. Therefore, he thinks the dam is property of the U.S. government—but he isn’t certain. “I’ve never established that,” says McPherson. “That’s what we’d like to know, too.”
With so much uncertainty about who owns the dam and when it will be made more safe, a permanent solution still appears far off.
Bakken oil field in N.D., Montana hits 1-billion-barrel mark in production
Oil production in the Bakken oil field in western North Dakota and eastern Montana hit the 1-billion-barrel production mark, and Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc., one of the companies that has been operating in the fields there the longest, said two-thirds of that oil has occurred within the past three years.
Flathead Beacon (AP); April 30
Report cites wildfire smoke in Montana counties' poor air quality
The American Lung Association released its annual "State of the Air" report for the year 2012, and again, wildfire smoke was a factor in poor grades given to Silver Bow, Lewis and Clark, Missoula and Ravalli counties in Montana.
Montana Standard; April 30
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): "Dear Astrologer: We Aries people have an intense fire burning inside us. It's an honor and a privilege. We're lucky to be animated with such a generous share of the big energy that gives life to all of nature. But sometimes the fire gets too wild and strong for us. We can't manage it. It gets out of our control. That's how I'm feeling lately. These beloved flames that normally move me and excite me are now the very thing that's making me crazy. What to do? —Aries." Dear Aries: Learn from what firefighters do to fight forest fires. They use digging tools to create wide strips of dirt around the fire, removing all the flammable brush and wood debris. When the fire reaches this path, it's deprived of fuel. Close your eyes and visualize that scene.
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): "My personal philosophy is not to undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible." So said Taurus-born Edwin Land, the man who invented the Polaroid camera. I have a feeling these might be useful words for you to live by between your birthday in 2014 and your birthday in 2015. In the coming 12 months, you will have the potential of homing in on a dream that will fuel your passions for years. It may seem to be nearly impossible, but that's exactly what will excite you about it so much—and keep you going for as long as it takes to actually accomplish.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): I wish there was a way you could play around with construction equipment for a few hours. I'd love it if you could get behind the wheel of a bulldozer and flatten a small hill. It would be good for you to use an excavator to destroy a decrepit old shed or clear some land of stumps and dead trees. Metaphorically speaking, that's the kind of work you need to do in your inner landscape: move around big, heavy stuff; demolish outworn structures; reshape the real estate to make way for new building projects.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): In the Transformers movies, Optimus Prime is a giant extraterrestrial warrior robot. His body contains an array of weapons that he uses for righteous causes, like protecting Earth's creatures. His character is voiced by actor Peter Cullen. Cullen has also worked extensively for another entertainment franchise, Winnie the Pooh. He does the vocals for Eeyore, a gloomy donkey who writes poetry and has a pink ribbon tied in a bow on his tail. Let's make Cullen your role model for now. I'm hoping this will inspire you to get the Eeyore side of your personality to work together with the Optimus Prime part of you. What's that you say? You don't have an Optimus Prime part of you? Well, that's what Eeyore might say, but I say different.
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Do you finally understand that you don't have to imitate the stress-addled workaholics and self-wounding overachievers in order to be as proficient as they are? Are you coming to see that if you want to fix, heal, and change the world around you, you have to fix, heal, and change yourself? Is it becoming clear that if you hope to gain more power to shape the institutions you're part of, you've got to strengthen your power over yourself? Are you ready to see that if you'd like to reach the next level of success, you must dissolve some of your fears of success?
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): "Beauty is the purgation of superfluities," said Michelangelo. Do you agree? Could you make your life more marvelous by giving up some of your trivial pursuits? Would you become more attractive if you got rid of one of your unimportant desires? Is it possible you'd experience more lyrical grace if you sloughed off your irrelevant worries? I suggest you meditate on questions like these, Virgo. According to my interpretation of the astrological omens, experiencing beauty is not a luxury right now, but rather a necessity. For the sake of your mental, physical, and spiritual health, you need to be in its presence as much as possible.
This week’s Grant Creek shooting that left a 17-year-old Big Sky High School German exchange student dead and a local homeowner in jail is shaping up to ignite a political firestorm over a controversial law that, according to at least one state legislator, encourages vigilante justice.
On April 28, state Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, initiated efforts to repeal changes made in 2009 to what’s called the “castle doctrine,” a law that she believes enables homeowners “to shoot first and ask questions later.” Hill expects the move to be met with a fight.
“I know that the National Rifle Association will come after me,” she says.
Hill’s actions come in response to the April 27 killing of Diren Dede, who, prosecutors say, was shot to death by Markus Hendrik Kaarma, a 29-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter. Court documents indicate Kaarma was home with his common-law wife, Janelle Pflager, when a motion sensor notified them of someone entering their garage. The alert prompted Kaarma to grab a shotgun, approach the structure from the outside and allegedly fire four shots into the garage. Dede died from a bullet wound to the head.
On April 28, the Missoula County Attorney’s Office charged Kaarma with deliberate homicide. Court filings by the county portray Kaarma and Pflager as a couple who, frustrated by two recent home burglaries, laid a trap to prevent such a thing from happening again.
Charging documents note that, despite having been burglarized, Pflager left the garage door open and a purse with catalogued personal items in the structure, so, as she allegedly told law enforcement, “they would take it.” The documents also detail a conversation between Kaarma and a hair stylist during which Kaarma allegedly said he’d been waiting up at night “with his shotgun to shoot some fucking kid.”
Paul Ryan, Kaarma’s Missoula attorney, argues the couple was scared and only acted to protect their family, including their 10-month-old son. “They felt there was no other option,” Ryan says.
Ryan adds his client’s actions are protected by the castle doctrine, which the Montana Legislature revised five years ago to authorize the use of lethal force if an individual “reasonably believes” the action will “terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.”
Prior to the revision, individuals could only lawfully use deadly force against an intruder if the intruder acted in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner.”
Hill says this week’s shooting illuminates how badly the 2009 legislature erred. Despite the expected fight once lawmakers reconvene in 2015, Hill believes something had to change. “This is the minimum I think we can do,” she says.
Utah declares federal appeals decision on road, just a battle not the war
Harry Souvall, public lands section chief for the Utah Attorney General's Office, said last week's decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected the state's and San Juan County's claim of ownership of a road in Canyonlands National Park would not affect the state's overall strategy in claiming ownership to some 12,000 other roads on federal lands.
Deseret News; April 29
Utah proposes a crow hunting season
Blair Stringham, migratory game bird coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), said a proposal to allow crow hunting would put the Beehive State in line with its western neighbors.
Salt Lake Tribune; April 29
Josh Quick's "Camp Sleepover" appears every Tuesday online, and can be seen in the Indy's printed pages every Thursday.
USFS cites budget restraints for closures in national forest in Montana
Bitterroot National Forest officials said the 11-campsite Warm Spring Campground on the Sula District won't open this summer, nor will the Medicine Point Lookout be available for rental due to budget cuts, and hazardous trees will require the temporary closure of the Slate Creek Campground in the Montana forest.
Ravalli Republic; April 28
Montana, Alberta researchers report result of wolverine study
A $1.7-million study begun in 2009 by Parks Canada, the Miistakis Institute in Calgary and the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University to survey the wolverine populations in mountain parks has been completed, with 64 different wolverines identified.
Calgary Herald; April 27
Curses, Foiled Again
Police investigating the burglary of a restaurant in San Mateo, Calif., arrested Keveen Quintanilla, 31, after he stopped to flirt with bartender Ashleigh Cullen, 22, who was taking out the recycling. “He said he’d seen me around and wanted to hang out, which was strange since it was already 1 a.m. when he approached me,” Cullen said. After she realized the restaurant had been burglarized, she gave police Quintanilla’s name and phone number. Pretending to be Cullen, officers texted the suspect and arranged a date, then arrested him when he showed up. (San Jose’s KNTV-TV)
Police investigating the theft of a laptop computer from a home in Dover, N.H., identified Casey Wentworth, 24, as their suspect after he called Apple customer service for help unlocking it. Detectives had already given Apple technical support the computer’s serial number. (Manchester’s WMUR-TV)
The 22nd annual Garden City BrewFest is still a week away, but for the third year in a row, Missoula has one heck of a primer in store. Sunday marks the beginning of Missoula Craft Beer Week, a seven-day lead-up to BrewFest that's crammed about as full of awesome events as you can imagine. The celebration—founded by local brew fanatics Ryan Newhouse and Alan McCormick and sponsored by Draught Works and the Missoula Downtown Association—promises to be a party befitting this state's booming craft beer industry. This year's docket includes upwards of 30 separate event listings, from all-day blind beer tastings at the Rhino to brewer's dinners at various local breweries and restaurants. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Brews on the Block (Party): Immediately following Draught Works' Bacon 'n' Beer breakfast Sunday, beer drinkers will be congregating along Toole Avenue between the brewery and Summer Sun Garden and Brew for a massive block party from 12:30 to 6 p.m. The afternoon includes bar games, brewing demos, outdoor cinema and rides on Missoula's Thirst Gear brew bike.
Kettlehouse's Female Cream Ale: At 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Kettlehouse Northside will be tapping a limited special release of its popular Female Cream Ale, a recipe crafted by former K-Hole brewer Colleen Bitter Stiles and current brewer Corey Regini. Word from Regini is that she invited all of Kettlehouse's female employees to lend a hand in brewing this batch. "We didn't let testosterone touch it," she says. Regini is also working to launch a state or regional chapter of the Pink Boots Society.
Inaugural Craft Beer Cup: Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., teams of locals will be participating in the Craft Beer Cup, a competition that stretches across nine bars. It's mini-golf meets pub crawl, with teams of four to six people drinking beer from nine breweries while putting nine different holes. Registration fee is $20 per person, and the event promises to be replete with brew swag and prizes. The costume theme is "Tweeds 'N Knickers."
Of course, we're just scratching the surface here. Bayern Brewing is tapping its first batch of Dump Truck next week. Glacier Ice Rink is hosting a beer-based hockey and figure skating showcase. The Top Hat is screening a beer documentary. Check out www.missoulabeerweek.com for the full rundown.
Between June and December of last year, pollers from Gallup called some 30,000 Americans and asked them what they thought of the state where they lived. And guess what? Montanans responded more positively than the residents of any other state.
Those interviewed were asked if their state was “the best possible state to live in,” “one of the best possible states to live in,” “as good as any to live in” or “the worst possible state to live in.” Essentially zero percent of Montanans considered Montana the worst possible state to live in, while some 77 percent considered the Treasure State to be the best or among the best states. Compare that to, say, Illinois, where a full quarter of respondents said their state was the worst and only 19 percent considered it among the best.
Alaska came in a close second in the poll, with a preponderance of relatively remote, cold and unpopulated states—Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Minnesota—rounding out the top ten and indicating that what people want is to be far away from their fellow man, no matter how much cold they have to endure in order to maintain that distance.
While Gallup notes that “a greater standard of living, higher trust in state government and less resentment toward the amount they pay in state taxes” are also important factors in state pride, the venerable polling agency points to a less likely source for Americans’ happiness: proximity to Canada. “In fact,” the report declares, “the two states most highly rated by their residents—Montana and Alaska—are among not only the nation's coldest states but also both border Canada.” With this new data potentially confirming the infectiousness of Canadian contentment, the mystery of why so many people keep moving to Arizona (where a mere 41% of respondents considered their state among the best) only deepens.
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