Dec. 11 Montana News Briefs


Montana cherry growers vote to oversee research, development

KALISPELL (AP) — Montana cherry growers have voted to end a “checkoff” based on sales that funded research and development programs over the last dozen years.

Bruce Johnson, president of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers cooperative, tells the Flathead Beacon that the co-op paid about 80 percent of the checkoff dollars, but occasionally its priorities — like managing fruit flies — were put on the back burner.

In a recent mail ballot, the growers voted 52-17 to end the checkoff. By law, any remaining checkoff funds will revert to the state’s general fund.

Johnson says work funded by the checkoff will continue, but the co-op will oversee the efforts rather than going through the Department of Agriculture and a five-person research and development committee. He says the move will help simplify the process.


Officials say pretrial subsidy program has saved county $2M

BILLINGS, (AP) — A southern Montana county is subsidizing the cost of pretrial monitoring — an effort that officials say has saved the county more than $2 million by reducing its jail population.

The Billings Gazette reports Yellowstone County has spent about $300,000 helping defendants pay for their court ordered location, drug and alcohol monitoring since 2015.

Under the subsidy program, the county pays up to $9 a day for 35 defendants who qualify for pretrial release. Defendants in the program often pay just a $1 per day depending on the type of monitoring.

The county spends nearly a $100 per person to jail someone for a day.

All counties in the state will take steps to reduce jail populations next year after a new law is enacted that calls for more diversion.


Montana approves hunt to survey for chronic wasting disease

LAUREL (AP) — Wildlife officials approved a special hunt to learn more about the prevalence of chronic wasting disease in Montana.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted Thursday to allow the hunt that will begin Friday. Licenses go on sale Monday.

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks official Greg Lemon says the hunt follows the first finding of chronic wasting disease in wild deer in Montana this fall.

Lemon says every animal that is killed must be sampled during this hunt. He says hunters have 72 hours to submit the animal for sampling.

Whole carcasses, heads, and spinal columns won’t be allowed outside the designated area in order to prevent potential spread of chronic wasting disease.

The hunt area spans more than 1,200 square miles south of Laurel.


Soda Butte Creek set to be removed from impaired list

BOZEMAN (AP) — A creek that flows into the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park is set to be removed from a list of impaired waterways next year.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Sunday that officials with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality say that Soda Butte Creek now meets quality standards for heavy metals thanks to abandoned mine cleanups that started in the 1990s. The department has received preliminary approval from the EPA to remove the creek from the list in 2018.

The department’s abandoned mine lands program manager, Autumn Coleman, says it will be the first time a stream will be de-listed in the state as the result of a mine cleanup.

The creek flows past the town of Cooke City before entering Yellowstone, where it feeds into the Lamar River.


Senator proposes act to subtract from Wilderness Study Areas

GREAT FALLS (AP) — Republican Montana Sen. Steve Daines introduced the “Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act” to remove more than 700 square miles from the state’s Wilderness Study Areas.

The Great Falls Tribune reports Daines describes the act as an effort to follow bottom-up requests from the state legislature and local communities.

The Wilderness Study Areas included in Daines’ proposed legislation are the same areas included in Republican Rep. Kerry White of Bozeman’s House Joint Resolution 9, which asked Congress to address Montana’s seven Wilderness Study Areas on National Forest System Lands.

Daines describes the West Pioneer Wilderness Study Areas, Sapphire Wilderness Study Area, Middle Fork Judith Wilderness Study Area, Big Snowies Wilderness Study Area and the Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area as “improperly managed public lands.”