Friday, September 30, 2016

Rockies Today, September 30

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Texas tycoons lock up Idaho land, lock out hunters

Brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who made their fortune in the oil well services business, have been buying up land all over the West and closing off access. In southern Idaho, hunters recently learned that 172,000 acres of timberland and a vast road system in Adams, Valley and Boise counties will no longer be open to hunting.

The story about the Wilkes’ purchase has taken on a life of its own. Opponents to the transfer or sale of public lands are using the closures as Exhibit A of what can happen if lands that are traditionally open to the public go into private hands.
But it’s the way the story affects snowmobilers, four-wheelers, loggers and hunters such as Wolfinger that has given this story legs, as well as the Wilkses’ unwillingness to talk to anyone about their actions or their plans

Colorado law limits oil-worker safety enforcement

Part 4 of The Denver Post’s four-part special report “Drilling Through Danger.”

Colorado oil and gas regulators receive dozens of reports about workplace accidents every year. But the regulators, lacking legislative authority, don’t punish companies with repeated worker safety problems or share the reports with federal safety officials. And the majority of deaths in the industry go undocumented by the regulators, The Denver Post has found.

Study: Mercury pervasive across the West

USGS research ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith recently published a study of mercury contamination in the West and found it to be “widespread, at various levels across western North America in air, soil, sediment, plants, fish and wildlife.”

According to the study, mercury can come from a number of different natural and manmade sources. In Idaho, historic gold and silver mining is one source — as the element gets released into the environment, flowing into downstream watersheds. But Collin Eagles-Smith says that’s not the only way mercury is released. The scientist says western wildfires burn vegetation that’s a natural holder of mercury.
“So depending on where you have a burn, you could have hundreds of years of accumulated mercury released into the atmosphere in one pulse.”

Inside the coal cleanup crisis

In the following video, Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson and The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier examine the problem of coal mine reclamation, from Pennsylvania to Wyoming.

Transboundary tribal treaty opposes grizzly delisting

Tribal leaders from the U.S. and Canada, concerned about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to remove the grizzly bear from the federal endangered species list, plan to sign a joint treaty today aimed at blocking the proposed hunting of grizzly bears in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

“There should be no doubt that delisting and trophy hunting the grizzly bear on ancestral tribal and treaty lands threatens irreparable harm to tribal rights if it is not challenged,” said Stanley Grier, chief of the Piikani Nation in Brocket, Alberta.

Officials promote Colorado-to-Oregon gas pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled against the $5.3 billion project in the spring, but several western Colorado officials will travel to Coos Bay, Oregon, next week in hopes of persuading FERC to reconsider. The pipeline would carry natural gas from Colorado’s Piceance Basin to an export terminal at Jordan Cove on Coos Bay.

Canada’s approval of a similar project, which would compete with Jordan Cove for customers in China, Korea, Japan and other Pacific Rim nations, illustrates the need to move quickly, [Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn] Bolton said.
“It just floors me,” Bolton said. “They’re going to beat us to the market, which is completely asinine for this country to let that happen.”

Canada increasingly vulnerable to wildfire

The acreage consumed by wildfires every year in Canada is expected to at least double by the end of the century, according to a new report by Natural Resources Canada.

The annual report, The State of Canada’s Forests, noted that even if the world manages to limit global warming to an average 2 degrees Celsius, Canada could still experience a temperature rise of 4 degrees C by 2100. The report said such warmer conditions will change the species composition, size, and age distribution of Canada’s forests, a natural resource that generated more than $22 billion in gross domestic product for the country in 2015.

As High Country News has reported:

The ancient, stunted boreal forests that ring the Arctic Circle contain 30 percent of the world’s land-based carbon, and when they burn, that carbon is released into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming.
But most emissions from boreal fires don’t come from the trees at all — they’re released from the tundra-like peat that makes up the forest floor. The ground literally burns.

Cellphones and serenity in Yellowstone

Is Yellowstone National Park a refuge from ringing cellphones? Not anymore.

Signal coverage maps for two of Yellowstone’s five cellphone towers show calls can now be received in large swaths of Yellowstone’s interior, such as the picturesque Lamar Valley and other areas until just recently out of reach.
The maps were obtained by a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has for years fought against new telecommunications infrastructure in the first national park in the U.S.
“The ability to disconnect, the serenity value of that, is a park resource that they’ve given away without a thought,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director. “They have ceded the telecommunications programs to the companies.”

OPEC move signals increase in U.S. drilling, fracking

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries promised its first production cut in eight years, seemingly ending an effort led by Saudi Arabia to flood the global crude market and push higher-cost shale companies out of business. It worked: More than 60 oil companies declared bankruptcy over the last 30 months.

Total production from the three biggest U.S. shale oil plays — the Permian and Eagle Ford in Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota — may rise by 30,000 barrels a day next year if explorers can set their budgets with $50 crude. If crude trades between $55 and $65 next year, the three plays may add an additional 700,000 barrels in 2018, the [Bloomberg Intelligence] analysts said.

Uber a boon for Bozeman

After almost two months after its arrival in Montana, Uber, the ride-hailing service, is proving popular among drivers and riders alike.

“My experience has been really good,” [Sarah] Martinez said. “There is not any other job where I could drop my kids off, work three hours, and then pick my kids up from school.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

City makes aggressive move against Merc lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 10:03 AM

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent wants Preserve Historic Missoula out of the way of the impending Missoula Mercantile demolition, and he wants them gone quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Nugent and his staff fired off a response to the group’s lawsuit only 24 hours after learning about it on Sept. 15, then followed up with a 17-page, shotgun-style motion to dismiss two business days later.

What’s more: The city hadn’t even been served with the complaint yet.

“We were just trying to activate it so this would be expedited,” Nugent says. “This is a big community issue and the public deserves to have this resolved.”

Preserve Historic Missoula attorney Michael Doggett describes the city’s move as rare, saying he hasn’t seen it during his five years practicing law.

Doggett spoke with the Indy outside the Missoula County Courthouse on Sept. 27 after shuffling away from the case’s first scheduling hearing in District Court, where its David versus Goliath nature was on display. In District Court Judge Dusty Deschamps’ courtroom, Doggett sat across from four lawyers representing the various defendants, including the city, developers HomeBase Montana and the Merc’s property owners. Deschamps commented that he didn’t know Doggett, then proceeded to explain the basics of court briefing procedure. When the hearing was over, Doggett didn’t mingle to meet his counterparts or the reporters standing around. He just headed for the stairs.
The city responded to a placeholder complaint filed by Preserve Historic Missoula, setting the group's lawsuit to block demolition of the Missoula Mercantile in motion before it had intended. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • The city responded to a placeholder complaint filed by Preserve Historic Missoula, setting the group's lawsuit to block demolition of the Missoula Mercantile in motion before it had intended.
Preserve Historic Missoula’s administrative appeal, which seeks to vacate the demolition permit approval issued by Missoula City Council Aug. 1, is a last-ditch effort to stop HomeBase from tearing down the Merc. With its first move, the city signaled how aggressively it intends to defend council’s decision.

Nugent says he sprung into action after reading a comment from Preserve Historic Missoula president Page Goode in a recent Indy cover story indicating the group planned to take its Merc fight to court. His office checked court records, saw the initial paperwork Doggett filed two weeks prior and decided not to wait.

“They weren’t planning to serve [the lawsuit] anytime in the near future,” Nugent says.

The initial, vague complaint was filed as a placeholder to preserve his clients’ rights, Doggett says, and was prepared before council had even published its findings of fact upon which council members based their decision. But after the city, by responding, initiated court proceedings, Preserve Historic Missoula’s unfinished allegations were repeated in local media.

The group sought to explain itself in a Sept. 22 press release by arguing that its actions were not a “lawsuit” per se, “but simply asking the District Court to uphold and enforce the Missoula Historic Preservation Ordinance as written.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Deschamps and attorneys for all parties, including the preservationists, agreed to pursue an expedited court schedule.

“I think everyone wants to know one way or another what’s going to happen,” Doggett says.

Scheduling, however, was delayed two weeks. Doggett had filed an amended complaint the evening prior, and neither the opposing attorneys nor Deschamps had time to review it.

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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): What's the difference between a love warrior and  a love worrier? Love warriors work diligently to keep enhancing their empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. Love worriers fret so much about not getting the love they want that they neglect to develop their intimacy skills. Love warriors are always vigilant for how their own ignorance may be sabotaging togetherness, while love worriers dwell on how their partner's ignorance is sabotaging togetherness. Love warriors stay focused on their relationship's highest goals, while love worriers are preoccupied with every little relationship glitch. I bring this to your attention, Aries, because the next seven weeks will be an excellent time to become less of a love worrier and more of a love warrior.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): How will you deal with a provocative opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate your approach to work? My guess is that if you ignore this challenge, it will devolve into an obstruction. If you embrace it, on the other hand, you will be led to unforeseen improvements in the way you earn money and structure your daily routine. Here's the paradox: Being open to seemingly impractical considerations will ultimately turn out to be quite practical.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Is it possible that you're on the verge of reclaiming some of the innocent wisdom you had as a child? Judging from the current astrological omens,  
suspect it is. If all goes well, you will soon be gifted with a long glimpse of your true destiny – a close replica of the vision that bloomed in you at a tender age. And this will, in turn, enable you to actually see magic unicorns and play with mischievous fairies and eat clouds that dip down close to the earth. And not only that: Having a holy vision of your original self will make you even smarter than you already are. For example, you could get insights about how to express previously inexpressible parts of yourself. You might discover secrets about how to attract more of the love you have always felt deprived of.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): I'm not asking you to tell me about the places and situations where you feel safe and fragile and timid. I want to know about where you feel safe and strong and bold. Are there sanctuaries that nurture your audacious wisdom? Are there natural sites that tease out your primal willpower and help you clarify your goals? Go to those power spots. Allow them to exalt you with their transformative blessings. Pray and sing and dance there. And maybe find a new oasis to excite and incite you, as well. Your creative savvy will bloom in November if you nurture yourself now with this magic.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): One of your old reliable formulas may temporarily be useless or even deceptive. An ally could be withholding an important detail from you. Your favorite psychological crutch is in disrepair, and your go-to excuse is no longer viable. And yet I think you're going to be just fine, Leo. Plan B will probably work better than Plan A. Secondary sources and substitutes should provide you with all the leverage you need. And I
bet you will finally capitalize on an advantage that you have previously neglected. For best results, be vigilant for unexpected help.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Attention! Warning! One of your signature fears is losing its chokehold on your imagination. If this trend continues, its power to scare you may diminish more than 70 percent by November 1. And then what will you do? How can you continue to plug away at your goals if you don't have worry and angst and dread to motivate you? I suppose you could shop around for a replacement fear – a new prod to keep you on the true and righteous path. But you might also want to consider an alternative: the possibility of drawing more of the energy you need by feeding your lust for life.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Thank you for 
all the entertainment you've provided in the past 12 months, Libra. Since shortly before your birthday in 2015, you have taken lively and gallant actions to rewrite history. You have banished a pesky demon and repaired a hole in your soul. You've educated the most immature part of yourself and nurtured the most neglected part of yourself. To my joyful shock, you have even worked to transform a dysfunctional romantic habit that in previous years had subtly undermined your ability to get the kind of intimacy you seek. What's next? Here's my guess: an unprecedented exemption from the demands of the past.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rockies Today, September 27

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 5:51 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Missoula OKs gun sale background checks

In Missoula City Council’s boldest move since, well, wrestling the city’s water utility from a global equity firm, Monday night it approved the state’s first ordinance requiring background checks for private firearms sales.

City council member Bryan von Lossberg drafted the proposed legislation. He says the ordinance is all about saving lives and reducing suicides and domestic violence. He also says the goal is to decrease the number of guns in the hands of those not allowed to legally possess firearms. That includes but is not limited to convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens or minors.
“First and foremost it’s just a responsible action to do. Nobody is under any illusion, especially myself, that this solves all issues. It doesn’t. It’s one tool in a whole suite of tools and actions and programs, but I’m convinced by the data that it saves lives,” von Lossberg added.

For context, read the Missoula Independent’s recent feature story on Councilman von Lossberg’s controversial ordinance:

Safety suffers when drillers use subcontractors

Part 2 of The Denver Post’s four-part special report “Drilling Through Danger.”

The Denver Post found documentation for 38 deaths in the state’s oil and gas industry between 2003 and 2014 — and the large majority of those, 34, involved workers for subcontractors. Details of another 13 deaths that the Bureau of Labor Statistics said occurred in that time span were not available.
“Oil and gas has been a poster child for the ways in which contracting out a lot of very hazardous work can be a fatal mistake and cause a lot of really serious problems,” said Peter Dooley, a safety and health project consultant with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

Investigating harassment claims in Yellowstone

Federal investigators are visiting Yellowstone National Park today to look into an employee’s claims of sexual exploitation of female workers and financial misconduct.

In Yellowstone, the sexual exploitation of female employees has been rife in the park’s special projects division, which does construction and maintenance, equipment operator Robert Hester said in a statement submitted last week to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In one case, a supervisor kept a young female worker drunk and she was in effect paid to have sex, a situation that was common knowledge in the park, Hester said.

Off-the-grid couple could upend Colorado water law

“Living off the grid in Colorado’s vast San Luis Valley, Chuck and Barbara Tidd needed to find a source of energy to supplement their solar panels. Their solution, to use a creek on their property to generate power, led to a legal battle that went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court — where they won. That decision worries some who say their new right could upend water law that goes back 150 years.”

A Casper businessman wants the state to trade him land in the Laramie Range in southeast Wyoming for another parcel somewhere else, saying it will make it easier to manage his ranch. But sportsmen argue losing the state parcel would lock them out of more than 4,000 acres of public land used for hunting and recreation.

“That is the №1 spot. It’s the best elk hunting experience I’ve had on public land in Wyoming,” said Guy Litt, a Laramie hunter. “The layout of the proposed exchange would isolate so much BLM and Forest Service land so it would no longer be accessible by foot.”

What would the Clean Power Plan change for you?

As legal arguments commence over the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan—the country’s most ambitious attempt yet to fight climate change—let’s pause and ask: How big of a deal is the Clean Power Plan, and what will it actually change for you?

The last hours of Wyoming alpinist Kim Schmitz

…when word of the Jackson climber’s death in a car crash in Idaho spread through the climbing world last week, it stirred emotions. Life was pain for Schmitz. But death, especially in a car wreck, seemed a cruel and banal ending to a heroic life. A California native who grew up in Oregon, he was as tough as they come but his armored shell shielded a gentle soul.

Wolves in Washington’s crosshairs remain elusive

Wildlife managers are struggling to find and kill the remaining wolves in northeast Washington’s Profanity Peak pack after officials confirmed at least eight cattle were injured or killed by the wolves this summer.

In the first three weeks of August, wildlife managers shot and killed five adults and one pup from the pack. The department says they are still hunting six wolves, including four pups, in rugged forested terrain. The hunt has garnered national media attention and has been denounced by some environmental and animal rights groups.

More on Washington’s wolf packs:

$12M won’t go far in restoring Yellowstone River

Exxon’s paying $12 million to settle damages caused by a burst pipeline that sullied 85 miles of the Yellowstone River and its banks in 2011. That’s not much money.

“There’s an exhaustive list for specific projects, but how we get that winnowed down … into a project to put money into is what this next month is about,” said Bob Gibson, Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman in Billings.

Wildfire-cost reform stalls in Congress

The cost of the Idaho’s Pioneer Fire, the largest in the nation, exceeded $93 million by Thursday, and with 430 firefighters still on the ground, the cost is certain to exceed $100 million before it is done.

Ralph Rau, the chief of fire management for the Agency’s Northern Region in Missoula, Mont., told a Western Governors’ Association workshop on Sept. 20 that the agency still has flexibility to use fire people in other roles. But like a bipartisan coalition of senators, conservation groups and timber companies, he says Congress needs to address what it calls a fire-borrowing problem.
When the Forest Service exceeds its wildfire suppression budget, it borrows from other funds that pay for fuels management, trail work, wildlife habitat improvement and other duties. That makes it stop efforts to reduce fuels and carry on other tasks.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rockies Today, September 26

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 11:31 AM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Colorado’s ‘regulatory vacuum’ compounds drilling risks

Part 1 of The Denver Post’s four-part special report “Drilling Through Danger.”

In a 12-year span, an oil and gas worker died once every three months on average in Colorado, victims of a system focused more on protecting the industry than its employees.
There are no uniform rules, and companies have special immunity from lawsuits. The Denver Post spent a year investigating safety in the petroleum extraction industry.

Sexual harassment in Yellowstone and Yosemite

Congress again grills the National Park Service over the lack of action.

During the opening statements, [Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah] quoted the Yosemite investigator, also a Park Service employee: “The number of employees interviewed about the horrific working conditions lead us to believe that the environment is toxic, hostile, repressive, and harassing.”

Utah’s giant genetic database

Anyone born in Utah, or who has been treated for a health issue while living there, or has had common interactions with state government, such as voting or registering a marriage, is likely included in the Utah Population Database. It’s used for biomedical and health-related research, which has contributed to the discovery of genes that cause breast and colon cancers, for example, as well as genes for cardiac arrhythmia.

Researchers’ ability to fill in family histories — and hopefully discover new genes that cause diseases — is about to get even better.
Database staff members are currently inputting an additional 90 million genealogical records for individuals who have some kind of connection to Utah, which will make it more of a worldwide database — making it unlike any other in the world, said Ken Smith, database director.

How many fish died in the Yellowstone River?

Old data will have renewed relevance as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tries to understand exactly what happened on the river in August.

Pipeline standoff: What constitutes ‘consultation’?

“What constitutes real, meaningful consultation has become central to the fight, both on the ground and in court, over the Dakota Access pipeline.”

…why do these two parties have such vastly different views on the same process?
“Sometimes what the agencies think of as adequate and with all good intentions do not feel adequate from the tribal side. Either because the process isn’t meaningful to them, it doesn’t accord with their timeframe or decision frame. And frankly with their staffing abilities,” [Sarah Krakoff, a professor at University of Colorado specializing in American Indian Law and Natural Resources Law, said.”

Wyoming service sector reeling amid bust

The slowdown in oil, gas and coal is being felt all through Casper’s support services industry, where machinists, welders and construction workers make a living serving exploration and production industries.

Business owners like [Mark] Tews wonder how long they can hold out. Some have shuttered their windows and locked their doors for the last time. Others have cut workers and reduced overhead, hunkering down until the economy recovers.
In Wyoming, the number of service-sector workers exceeds those employed directly in oil, gas and coal. In Casper, that component of the workforce has dwindled since the bust.

Meanwhile, in regards to Casper’s housing market…

What happened to American coal?

Inside Energy and The Allegheny Front look at the collapse of coal in America in the following video documentary.

Sam Western’s ‘New Wyoming Narrative’

Commodities, Western said last week, will always force a roller coaster of booms and busts, so industries like coal and other commodities should be the icing on the cake, not the batter. “We need not just diverse communities, but resilient communities,” he said.

“I’m worried that our political and cultural narrative is on a collision course with our economic narrative,” Western said Monday.
He added that Wyoming residents and leaders have gotten a “hall pass” for years to avoid difficult conversations about the future of Wyoming’s economy. While Wyoming clings to the energy industry — primarily coal — Western said, the rest of the world is working to reduce the amount of carbon-based fuels it uses.

EPA: Utah oil-shale analysis woefully inadequate

The EPA has panned the BLM’s analysis of a utility corridor proposed by would-be oil shale developers, and accuses the company seeking a right-of-way across public lands, Enefit American Oil, of withholding information as it looks to access a 9,000-acre mining and processing operation in the eastern Uinta Basin.

“Despite the fact this is a very large project, involving surface mining, processing, retorting and upgrading oil shale, the Draft EIS contains very little to no quantitative analysis of the expected impacts. That omission is even more striking given the available information suggests that the South Project would have potentially very serious implications for climate change, and has the potential to exacerbate existing impaired water and air quality conditions,” EPA regional administrator Shaun McGrath wrote in a July 15 letter.

Yellowstone’s shifting ecosystem

How has the 2 degrees of warming since 1900 affected the Greater Yellowstone region?

The tough questions about coping with climate change remain unanswered, however. What will be the social and economic costs of adapting to future dramatic warming? Will climate change exceed thresholds whereby Greater Yellowstone shifts to a dessert shrub ecosystem and people are required to make fundamental changes in agriculture, development patterns, employment, and lifestyle?
In answering these questions, we should factor in the constraints imposed by our rapidly-growing population. For wildlife it will come down to habitat. Nearly 4000 homes are added to the 20 counties of Greater Yellowstone each year and natural habitats have been lost to development at a rate of about 60,000 acres (2.2 percent) per year since 1970. Thus demand for land and resources are increasing while the habitats that allow fish and wildlife to cope with climate change are decreasing.


The Scottish man asking women for piggyback rides (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Insanity Defined
Police and prosecutors in Dallas, appropriately sensitive at having been the site of the 1963 killing of President Kennedy, have apparently taken out their shame on assassination buff Robert Groden. As the Dallas Observer reported in September, Groden has been ticketed by police dozens of times for operating book sales booths near the "grassy knoll" (site of the alleged "second shooter" of the president) – and yet he prevails in court every single time (82 straight, and counting). (Tip for visitors from the Observer: Never publicly utter "grassy knoll" in Dallas, as it seems particularly to offend the police.)

The Continuing Crisis
Stephen Mader, 25, native of Weirton, West Virginia, and former Weirton police officer, is fighting to get his job back after being fired for not being quick enough on the trigger. When Ronald Williams Jr., in May, made a ham-handed attempt at "suicide by cop," it was Mader who, rather than shooting, tried to talk Williams down (based on his Marine Corps and police academy training), but when Williams pointed his unloaded gun at two of Mader's colleagues, and one of them quickly shot the man to death, police officials fired Mader for having been insufficiently aggressive.
Can't Possibly Be True: Few U.S. forces in Afghanistan speak the native Pashto or Dari, and the war prospects would be dim were it not for courageous Afghan civilians who aid the U.S. as interpreters under promise of protection and future emigration to the U.S. However, the congressional battle over immigration policy has delayed entry for about 10,000 interpreters, who (along with their families) face imminent death if they remain in Afghanistan. Some in Congress also regard Afghans as riskier immigrants (despite the interpreters' demonstrated loyalty).

Suspicions Confirmed
Master baker Stefan Fischer filed a lawsuit recently against Bakery of New York for wrongful firing  because he refused to use "bug-infested" flour to make batches of bread. According to Fischer, when he informed management of the bugs in the facility's 3,000-pound flour silo, he was told simply to make "multigrain" bread, which Fischer took to mean that fewer diners would complain if they heard "crunching" while eating multigrain.

Leading Economic Indicators
News Corporation Australia reported in September the enviable success of a 16-year-old British entrepreneur, Ms. Beau Jessup, who has so far earned about $84,000 with a simple online app to help rich Chinese parents select prosperous-sounding English names for their babies. Users choose among 12 personality traits they hope their baby to have, then receive three suggestions (including a list of famous people with those names). Jessup got the idea when living in China and noticing that some babies of the rich were given lame names, such as "Gandalf" and "Cinderella."
Chinese Management Techniques: (1) About 200 employees at a travel service in Shandong Province were fined the equivalent of $6.50 each recently for failing to comply with orders to "comment" (favorably, one supposes) on the general manager's daily posts to the Twitter-like Internet site Sina Weibo. (2) In June, a motivational trainer working with employees of the Changzhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank reportedly told the poor-performing bank personnel (among the 200 at the session) to "prepare to be beaten." He then walked among the workers, whacking some with a stick, shaving the heads of the males and cutting the hair of the females.

Continue reading »

Friday, September 23, 2016

UM enrollment tumbles to 25-year low at main campus

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 3:26 PM

Figures released Friday show fall enrollment at the University of Montana took the steepest drop yet in its six-year descent from record highs, leaving main campus with roughly the same number of students it had in 1991.

Overall student numbers, in terms of the budgeting metric known as "full-time equivalents," declined to 10,223 FTE from 10,959 FTE last fall—a 6.7 percent drop. Total student FTE count is down nearly 24 percent from an all-time high in Fall 2010.

Raw student headcount, which is less reflective of the university's financial picture, dropped 6.1 percent on main campus to 10,329 students and 4.8 percent overall, to 12,419 students.

Most notably, however, UM's incoming freshman class continued to shrink—by over 9 percent on main campus—to the lowest level in recent memory. Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Tom Crady told reporters during a press conference he is particularly concerned by the small freshman class, as it will hinder overall enrollment for several years.

UM budget makers had planned for a flat freshman class, Vice President for Administration and Finance Mike Reid said earlier this month, but other bright spots appear to have kept overall enrollment in line with the budget approved last week by the Montana Board of Regents. Crady notes the enrollment target was adjusted downward sometime last spring, before he arrived on campus.

Encouragingly, the number of out-of-state freshman, whose premium-priced tuition is crucial to UM's budget, rebounded from 2015's dismal class back to previous levels. Graduate students also increased, as did dual enrollment students at Missoula College.
Enrollment at the University of Montana dropped again this fall, including the smallest freshman class in recent memory. - P­HOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • p­hoto by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Enrollment at the University of Montana dropped again this fall, including the smallest freshman class in recent memory.
Officials took a guarded approach to enrollment figures in recent months, a departure from last spring when, in wake of layoffs, former Provost Perry Brown said he believed an overhaul in UM's recruiting he oversaw would begin producing results this fall. On Thursday, Crady made clear that he doesn't believe those changes went far enough, listing a series of efforts already undertaken and currently planned to double UM's applicant pool over time.

"I don't want to rail the provost, I don't think that's appropriate," Crady says of Brown's prediction. "I don't know what led him to believe it would be a more optimistic situation."

Crady worked in enrollment management at private universities for more than a decade, most recently at Gustavus Adolphus College, before joining UM in July on a $70,000 signing bonus. He says UM continues to lack the recruitment processes in place at more competitive universities but is working quickly to get up to speed. 

"I've probably implemented more recommendations in the last three months than I would do in three years," he says.

The press conference, led by Crady alone, appeared designed to showcase his ongoing work and signaled the degree to which UM is relying on his expertise to reverse its enrollment trend. Crady said he was given carte blanche by President Royce Engstrom to rework university recruitment and admissions practices.

Engstrom did not attend the press conference.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rockies Today, September 21

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 12:58 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit

Exxon pays $12M in Yellowstone River oil spill settlement

The 2011 pipeline break upstream of Billings left oil along an 85-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a months-long cleanup.

A victim of the spill recently reflected on it:

In the end, over 63,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River from what I learned later was a “guillotine cut” in the Exxon Silvertip pipeline that lay in a trench around five feet beneath the Yellowstone River. During heavy flooding, the river bottom was scoured away and the pipe became exposed. All it took was a heavy object being tossed down the river to break the pipe in half. After spending $135 million dollars on the cleanup, Exxon recovered less than 1 percent of the oil spilled.

Find the draft restoration plan here.

John Craighead, pioneering conservationist, dies

“I have listened to the voice of the mountain for most of my life,” said John Craighead upon receiving The Wildlife Society’s Aldo Leopold Memorial Award in 1998. The mountains lost one of their most avid listeners Sunday morning when Craighead died in his sleep at his home in Missoula.

John and Frank Craighead wrote much of the text for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that was passed by Congress in 1968, even as they conducted a 12-year study of grizzly bears in Yellowstone. The study is credited with helping save the bears from extinction.

Belt tightening in Colorado

Credit rating agency Moody’s said in a recent report that Colorado’s “fairly insulated” from the depressed energy sector because severance taxes make up a small part of the state’s total tax revenue. Still, a slew of factors have lawmakers eyeing spending cuts to avert a general fund shortfall next fiscal year.

The price-driven downturn in Colorado’s energy sector has leveled off, meaning lost jobs and stalled investment won’t be more of a drag on an economy whose growth is being led by consumer spending, analysts told the Joint Budget Committee.
That spending, however, has been dampened by high housing costs in the Denver metropolitan area, said Natalie Mullis, chief legislative economist. Uncertainty surrounding future U.S. interest rates, export demand and the November elections could curb corporate investment in Colorado, Mullis said.
That, coupled with new obligations such as nearly $100 million in the severance tax rebates, could produce an estimated $63 million shortfall in funding for education, prisons and other obligations, she said.

Wyoming’s hobbled cash cow

“Has the Powder River Basin ever had a real bust? Not really,” said Matt Preston, a research director at the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “This year is a total collapse.”

Canadian farmers wary of agribusiness mergers

A flurry of multibillion-dollar mergers has some farm groups in Alberta and Saskatchewan voicing concern about further consolidation among seed companies.

Terry Boehm, who farms southeast of Saskatoon and serves on the executive of the National Farmers Union, … said he believes farmers are losing their independence and autonomy as a result of consolidation in the agribusiness sector.
“You become dependent on a couple of mega-corporations for all your input supplies on one side, and then you have to market to the mega-corporations who control the grain trade and they all have close relationships with the suppliers,” Boehm said. “As a farmer, you basically end up working for the company store.”

Utah releases draft water plan, seeks comment

A draft state water strategy, which calls for the construction of the Lake Powell Pipeline and other controversial measures, has been released to the public. Read the draft and comment here by Oct. 24.

Taxpayers can expect to pay up to 72 percent of the Lake Powell Pipeline’s costs, according to University of Utah economists.

Colorado health insurance rates soar

Residents who buy their health insurance through the state exchange will pay 20 percent more on average in 2017. In some parts of rural Colorado, premium increases will top 40 percent.

…Colorado’s increases in 2017 could be worse than those nationally. An analysis done this summer by the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at potential rate increases in 16 major cities, including Denver, and projected that the average increase of plans in the most popular tier of the Obamacare exchanges would be 9 percent in those cities.

Meanwhile, in Montana, the hike in average rates may be even higher than Colorado’s.

In Wyoming, rates are set to climb an average of 7 percent.

Wyoming seeks to regain control of wolves

Two years ago a federal judge rejected Wyoming’s wolf management plan because of the state’s “nonbinding promises” to maintain a particular number of wolves. On Friday, state lawyers go before a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking to override the 2014 ruling.

For two years before [U.S. District Judge Amy Berman] Jackson’s ruling, Wyoming had managed its own wolf population, declaring them unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most of the state and classifying them as trophy game animals subject to regulated hunting around the borders of Yellowstone National Park.

Feds spend millions more to save greater sage grouse

At least $211 million is intended to further spur states, landowners and developers to save the imperiled greater sage grouse voluntarily across a sagebrush steppe area spanning 11 western states.

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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): Even if you are a wild-eyed adventure-seeker with extremist views
 and melodramatic yearnings, you'll benefit from taking a moderate approach to life in the coming weeks. In fact, you're most likely to attract the help and inspiration you need if you adopt the strategy used by Goldilocks in the fairy tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears": neither excessive nor underdone, neither extravagant nor restrained, neither bawdy, loud, and in-your-face nor demure, quiet, and passive – but rather just right.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Some of my readers love me but also hate me. They are drawn to my horoscopes in the hope that I will help relieve them of their habitual pain, but then get mad at me when I do just that. In retrospect, they feel lost without the familiar companionship of their habitual pain. It had been a centerpiece of their identity, a source of stability, and when it's gone, they don't know who they are any more. Are you like these people, Taurus? If so, you might want to avoid my horoscopes for a while. I will be engaged in a subtle crusade to dissolve your angst and agitation. And it all starts now with this magic spell: Your wound is a blessing. Discover why.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): In my dream last night, bad guys wearing white hats constrained you in a canvas straitjacket, then further wrapped you up with heavy steel chain secured by three padlocks. They drove you to a weedy field behind an abandoned warehouse and left you there in the pitch dark. But you were indomitable. By dawn, you had miraculously wriggled your way out of your confinement. Then you walked back home, free and undaunted. Here's my interpretation of the dream: You now have special skills as an escape artist. No cage can hold you. No riddle can stump you. No tangle can confuse you. (P.S.: For best results, trust yourself even more than you usually do.)

CANCER (June 21-July 22): The next four weeks will be a favorable time to come all the way home. Here are nine prompts for how to accomplish that: 1. Nourish your roots. 2. Strengthen your foundations. 3. Meditate about where you truly belong. 4. Upgrade the way you attend to your self-care. 5. Honor your living traditions. 6. Make a pilgrimage to the land where your ancestors lived. 7. Deepen your intimacy with the earth. 8. Be ingenious about expressing your tenderness. 9. Reinvigorate your commitment to the influences that nurture and support you.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): What tools will work best for the tasks you'll be invited to perform in the coming weeks? A sledgehammer or tweezers? Pruning shears or a sewing machine? A monkey wrench or a screwdriver? Here's my guess: Always have your entire toolbox on hand. You may need to change tools in mid-task – or even use several tools for the same task. I can envision at least one situation that would benefit from you alternating between a sledgehammer and tweezers.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I'm confident that I will never again need to moonlight as a janitor or dishwasher in order to pay my bills. My gig as a horoscope columnist provides me with enough money to eat well, so it's no longer necessary to shoplift bread or scavenge for dented cans of beets in grocery store dumpsters. What accounts for my growing financial luck? I mean besides the fact that I have been steadily improving my skills as an oracle and writer? I suspect it may in part have to do with my determination to cultivate generosity. As I've become better at expressing compassion and bestowing blessings, money has flowed to me in greater abundance. Would this strategy work for you? The coming weeks and months will be a good time to experiment.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Here's my translation of a passage from the ancient Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic text about the teachings of Jesus: "If you do not awaken and develop the potential talents that lie within you, they will damage you. If you do awaken and develop the potential talents that lie within you, they will heal you." Whether you actually awaken and develop those talents or not depends on two things: your ability to identify them clearly and your determination to bring them to life with the graceful force of your willpower. I call this to your attention, Libra, because the coming months will be a highly favorable time to expedite the ripening of your talents. And it all starts NOW.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mike Fellows dies while campaigning for U.S. House

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 7:04 PM

Mike Fellows’ absence from breakfast on Monday was noticed by members of Missoula’s American Legion Post 27, according to Commander John Angwin, even if it wasn’t particularly surprising. Fellows, a first vice commander, wasn’t known for missing events, but the 59-year-old had been ailing lately, admitted to Providence St. Patrick Hospital twice in recent months as his kidneys failed. And yet at 5:30 that same Monday evening, Fellows hobbled with the help of a walker into the Seeley Lake community hall, 45 miles away, to talk about his latest race for U.S. House as the Libertarian candidate. He was the only House candidate to attend the town forum.

Fellows’ remarks to the audience of around 30 people were his last. After giving his closing statement, he began driving home, alone, in his old Lexus sedan that had a few campaign stickers affixed to the rear bumper. Around 9 p.m., according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Fellows crossed the center line near Potomac, colliding head-on with an oncoming car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fellows was the face of the Montana Libertarian Party for 20 years, running in every statewide election while serving as its chairman. “The Montana Libertarian Party was Mike’s life,” says Andrew Forcier, state director for the Gary Johnson campaign. He typically polled in the single digits, but did garner over 40 percent of the vote—a national Libertarian party record—in the 2014 race for clerk of the Supreme Court when Republicans didn’t field a candidate. Political observers credit Fellows’ efforts for ensuring the Libertarian Party has kept a foothold in the state.

Still, campaigning on the political fringe could be a lonely endeavor, and Fellows’ idiosyncrasies seemed to match his outsider status. He mumbled from the podium in a voice Seeley Lake Community Council Chair Klaus von Stutterheim says was difficult to understand. Longtime state politics reporter Chuck Johnson recalls that Fellows refused to disclose personal details, including his exact age, because he considered the information private.
Fellows was killed during a head-on collision on Highway 200 near Potomac while driving his Lexus sedan. - PHOTO COURTESY MONTANA LIBERTARIAN PARTY FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Montana Libertarian Party Facebook page
  • Fellows was killed during a head-on collision on Highway 200 near Potomac while driving his Lexus sedan.

Even his colleagues at Missoula Community Access Television, where he worked as a producer for 24 years and served as treasurer, found Fellows inscrutable. “I really enjoyed Mike’s personality, his sense of humor,” says General Manager Joel Baird, who worked with Fellows since he started a pair of local programs in the ’90s. “In the conventional sense of, ‘Who is his family? What friends does he hang out with? Does he have any romantic interests ever?,’ nobody here could tell you.”

They did notice, however, as Fellows’ health deteriorated. Baird says Fellows appeared “incredibly frail” in recent weeks, having only begun dialysis after months of resistance.

“Part of his Libertarian principle seemed to be that he didn’t want medical help, he didn’t want to release to medical authorities the information,” Baird says.

Fellows was first admitted to St. Pat’s this spring after another MCAT producer convinced Fellows to go to the emergency room, then again in August just before a pair of scheduled debates. Fellows explained his absence to the Billings Gazette by saying he didn’t think it was safe to drive long distances in his current health.

Less than three weeks later, Fellows was back on the trail.

“He continued to campaign because he was that committed to it,” Forcier says. “He acknowledged at different points in time that he was putting his health behind his candidacy.”

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