Friday, February 22, 2013

Dems pitch federal gun buyback grants

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Firearms buyback programs have swept the country in recent weeks, a reaction on the part of municipalities, organizations and concerned citizens to the tragic December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and the subsequent debate over how to combat gun violence. As we wrote in this week's Indy, the Montana chapter of the newly formed grassroots group Moms Demand Action is planning to host just such an event right here in Missoula. The trend has led to the voluntary exchange and destruction of hundreds of illegally obtained or illegally modified firearms nationwide.

The widespread success of recent buybacks seems to have caught some attention in Washington, D.C. A group of 19 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill late last week requiring the Attorney General to establish a federal grant program to fund firearms buyback programs like those already held in New Jersey, New York, Washington, California and elsewhere. Sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, House Resolution 793 would establish the grant program by imposing a 10-percent excise tax on concealable firearms.

Sanchez unveiled the proposal to the public yesterday outside the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. She delivered a speech, flanked by high-level Los Angeles law enforcement officials who are also supportive of the measure. The LA Times quoted Sanchez saying, "It is time to give our law enforcement agencies all the necessary resources to prevent gun violence." HR 793, which would impose the new tax on the sellers of concealable firearms, was introduced in the House on Feb. 15 and referred to the House Ways and Means and House Judiciary Committees. But as popular as gun buyback programs have proven this winter, it seems doubtful Sanchez's bill will fare any better than the hotly contested assault weapons ban; according to the prognosis on, HR 793 has a 1 percent chance of making it onto the House floor.

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Rockies Today, Feb. 22

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Federal government OKs rare-earth mineral work on Montana-Idaho border
Arkansas-based U.S. Rare Earths will begin drilling for rare earth minerals on Lemhi Pass in Montana in May.
Billings Gazette; Feb. 22

BLM begins moving wild horses to ranch in Montana
Despite a pending appeal of the Bureau of Land Management's decision to put 700 wild horses on a privately-owned ranch near Ennis, the agency began moving horses in holding facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma to the Montana ranch.
Montana Standard; Feb. 22

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rockies Today, Feb. 21

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Montana senators try again on Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act
On Wednesday, Montana U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester reintroduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, legislation that narrowly missed passing during the last session of Congress.
Great Falls Tribune; Feb. 21

In Montana county, guns are a way of making a living
Montana's Flathead County is home to a number of high-end gun manufacturers, and the state has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, and few homicides.
New York Times; Feb. 21

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Schweitzer beats Baucus? Racicot beats Schweitzer?!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Public Policy Polling released its latest match-ups for the 2014 election cycle yesterday, once again dragging former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer back into the national spotlight.

Not content with positing on Schweitzer's chances in a 2016 presidential primary, PPP is once again pitting the Red State Democrat against six-term Sen. Max Baucus in the 2014 primary—a habit PPP formed as far back as 2011. And as usual, the pollster has Schweitzer thoroughly trouncing the incumbent, this time by a margin of 54 to 35. A link to the poll popped up on Schweitzer's Facebook wall shortly after its release.

The match-up quickly went national, as any bit of punditry with Schweitzer's name on it is wont to do. But lost in the Schweitzer-Baucus kerfuffle was a more intriguing prediction. While PPP has Schweitzer narrowly beating newly elected U.S. Rep. Steve Daines in a hypothetical 2014 general election face-off, it appears the folksy Dem would have his hands full in a race against former Republican Montana governor Marc Racicot. PPP predicts Racicot squeaking past Schweitzer by a margin of 46 to 45. In fact, in a lineup of Republicans that includes Missoula Rep. Champ Edmunds, 2012 gubernatorial candidate Corey Stapleton and Attorney General Tim Fox, Racicot tops the pile.

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Rockies Today, Feb. 20

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Montana U.S. Sen. Tester introduces bill on geothermal energy
The Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act introduced by Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester would create a direct loan program for developers of geothermal energy, and would encourage co-leasing of land with both geothermal and oil resources.
Great Falls Tribune; Feb. 20

Geologist questions assumptions about U.S. shale gas resources
David Hughes, a geologist and former research manager with the Geological Survey of Canada, released the results of his study commissioned by the California-based Post Carbon Institute, which promotes sustainable energy, that said the amount of recoverable shale gas resources in the United States has been grossly exaggerated, production in the fields will fall dramatically within the next decade, and plans for the U.S. will be a net exporter of liquefied natural gas won't materialize.
Toronto Globe and Mail; Feb. 20

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 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): In the course of her world travels, writer Jane Brunette has seen many wonderful things — as well as a lot of trash. The most beautiful litter, she says, is in Bali. She loves the "woven palm leaf offerings, colorful cloth left from a ceremony, and flowers that dry into exquisite wrinkles of color." Even the shiny candy wrappers strewn by the side of the road are fun to behold. Your assignment, Aries, is to adopt a perceptual filter akin to Brunette's. Is there any stuff other people regard as worthless or outworn that you might find useful, interesting, or even charming? I'm speaking metaphorically as well as literally.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tribes, preservationists voice concerns over county road abandonment

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Missoula County commissioners last month began reviewing a petition to abandon a roughly 300-foot patch of unused county road west of Lolo. But the proposal, put forth by a neighboring landowner keen to acquire the property, is turning heads in the preservation community. Some contend this scrap of dirt is part of a bigger story: The 1877 flight of the Nez Perce from eastern Oregon to Canada.

  • Courtesy Nez Perce Trail Foundation

As executive director of the Nez Perce Trail Foundation, based in Salmon, Idaho, Jim Evans has worked for decades to preserve large swaths of the federally recognized trail in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. He’s led pack trips and hikers along the 1,170-mile route. Development and privatization have become a constant threat, he says. Roughly 61 percent of the trail is under private ownership, with easements allowing public access across some of that property.

“Particularly in some of the areas where development has taken place, we’ve been very close to losing access to the route,” Evans says. Of the Lolo road abandonment, he adds “this is probably one of the bigger threats we’ve had in the last five or six years.”

Landowner Dave Trusty has been pushing the petition since 1992, claiming that the road, which dead-ends on his property, is encumbering his ability to sell the parcel. According to Commissioner Michele Landquist, Trusty has already been using the county land for years. But the historic concerns over this particular plot arose only recently, she says, after a representative from the Salish tribe attended a viewing of the abandonment site.

Landquist declined to comment on how consideration for the Nez Perce trail might impact the abandonment. But she questions why the parties now raising those concerns didn’t do so earlier.

There’s little doubt in Evans’ mind that the road in question was long ago trod by nearly 800 Nez Perce as they descended into what is now Lolo. The word “trail” is misleading, Evans says. “There’s no such a thing as a trail, because when you have 2,500 head of horses and 800 people, you don’t go head-to-toe on an 18-inch tread.” Even if Trusty puts the parcel up for sale, Evans says his group doesn’t have the funds to purchase and protect it.

Landquist says the Missoula County Board of County Commission is scheduled to continue its review of the abandonment petition during a public meeting Feb. 27. That meeting will be the primary opportunity for public comment.

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Rockies Today, Feb. 19

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.


Plan to help Montana communities deal with oil boom moves forward
Montana lawmakers believe legislation that would provide funds to communities dealing with the oil boom will get approved by the Legislature, although a plan has yet to be introduced, but legislation proposed by Sen. Christine Kaufmann to remove the tax "holiday" for oil and gas operators during the first year a well is producing, has much less support.
Helena Independent Record; Feb. 17

Alberta lawmaker says precedent exists to impose limits on oilsands
Just seven years ago, mercury contamination in Alberta's lakes was traced back to coal-burning power plants and new regulations were put in place to limit such emissions, and now that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been found near Alberta's oilsands operations and linked to those operations, there is a call for the province to impose new regulations on that industry.
Edmonton Journal; Feb. 16

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Monday, February 18, 2013

GOP "solves" corner-crossing question, by reducing funds for wildlife habitat

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Republicans in the Montana Legislature today claimed they’ve found a solution to the recently debated issue of corner-crossing in Montana. House Bill 404, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flynn of Townsend, passed its second reading on the House floor this afternoon by a 66-34 vote. The measure, now on its way to the House Appropriations Committee, calls for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to increase funding for block management in the state, and is part of a two-bill package the GOP believes will answer a question that’s plagued scores of sportsmen for decades.

The timing couldn’t have been more ironic for HB 404. Its moment on the House floor came several weeks after Missoula Democratic Rep. Ellie Hill introduced her own fix, HB 235, to the House Judiciary Committee. Hill sought to legalize corner-crossing outright, and the move was strongly backed by sportsmen. But her bill failed when every Republican on the committee—including HB 235 co-sponsor and committee chair Rep. Krayton Kerns—voted against it claiming the proposal constituted an unconstitutional take of private property rights.

Hill attempted to blast the measure to the House floor this afternoon, but the motion failed. HB 235 proponents had flocked to the Capitol hours before, many sporting hunter orange, for a support rally.

The GOP didn’t hesitate to steal the wind from Hill’s sails, with the Montana Republican Party announcing via Twitter shortly before the HB 404 vote that “Republicans will begin solving the corner crossing/trespass issue.” However, HB 404 stops far short of HB 235 in solving the legality of corner-crossing. While the gist of the Republicans’ companion bill has yet to be announced, HB 404 alone merely allows the state to “incentivize landowner participation through the use of leases, easements, or block management programs.” The success of the bill, if passed into law, in opening hundreds of thousands of acres of isolated public land will depend entirely on the willingness of private landowners to accommodate public passage.

Where exactly did Flynn and his fellow Republicans find additional spending in FWP’s already too-tight budget to fund this block management increase? Therein lies what could be HB 404’s biggest hitch. According to the bill’s language, 25 percent of the money collected through state hunting license and permit sales would be allocated to such private landowner agreements. The allocation will be made possible by a reduction in the amount of license money FWP is directed to spend “to secure wildlife habitat”—a reduction from 80 percent to 55 percent, to be exact.

In short, the GOP’s corner-crossing solution seems to be: pay private landowners for permission to access public land, using money that would normally go toward protecting the very resource sportsmen want access to.

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Our crossword puzzle was especially difficult last week

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Did you have some trouble with the Indy's weekly "Jonesin'" crossword puzzle, titled "Free to Be," in last week's issue? Well, I don't blame you.

Due to a production error, the "down" clues were for a different puzzle. I'm no expert when it comes to crosswordin', but my guess is that mistake makes coming up with the correct answers just a wee bit more difficult.

First off, our apologies for the confusion and potential frustration. Second, if you've been studiously completing our crossword puzzle every week for six years — as one caller professed on our voice mail over the weekend — or you're just looking for something to do on this holiday Monday and now have a hankering to check out the puzzle, we've supplied the correct "down" clues below, as well as the ones for "across."

As always, answers will appear in the next printed issue.

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