Feb. 6 Montana News Briefs

Campaign launched for wilderness study areas

BILLINGS (AP) — Public lands advocates in Montana have launched a campaign to protect wilderness study areas in response to a Republican lawmaker’s push to remove the federal designation from five sites.

Organizers of the Our Land, Our Legacy campaign announced Monday that they will be running newspaper advertisements across the state as they seek to protect the sites from changes.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines in December introduced a bill to remove more than 700 square miles from the state’s wilderness study Areas.

Daines has said the five sites were improperly managed and should be opened to additional public uses.

They are 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.

Snowstorm hits much of Montana, another on the way

HELENA (AP) — A snowstorm dumped heavy snow and caused hazardous driving conditions across central and eastern Montana.

National Weather Service forecaster Ryan Walsh said Billings had received up to 10 inches by Monday with an inch or two more expected through Tuesday.

So far this season, Montana’s largest city has received 52 inches of snow — almost equaling its 55-inch annual average.

On the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, the small town of Busby received two feet of snow.

Major highways remained open, but long stretches of Interstates 15, 90 and 94 were slick with snow and ice.

Avalanche warnings were posted for the mountains of west-central Montana and the Gallatin National Forest near Cooke City.

Another storm system was expected to hit the state later this week.

Student facing charges for bringing gun to school

HARDIN (AP) — A southeastern Montana high school student who allegedly brought a gun to school and used it to threaten a fellow student to steal his lunch money is facing criminal charges including attempted robbery.

The Billings Gazette reports that the 17-year-old student from Hardin High School is due to be arraigned in state court on Feb. 27.

He also faces charges of carrying a concealed weapon and having a weapon in a school building.

The Associated Press generally does not name juveniles accused of crimes.

Court records say another student found the gun later that day and gave it to teacher Nora Block.

Block faces charges of evidence tampering and obstructing justice for not immediately turning over the gun to school officials.

Man dies in ice climbing accident at Cataract Falls

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A Montana man who died while ice climbing in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest has been identified as 74-year-old Elton J. Adams, of Great Falls.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says the man was reported to have slipped and fallen 90 feet while climbing Cataract Falls on Sunday.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that authorities received a call at 1:12 p.m.

Dutton says the victim, an avid climber, was climbing with four other people.

He says a person who reported the accident had to drive out several miles to obtain cell coverage, then waited to guide first responders into the area.

Dutton says the death was accidental.

Cataract Falls is about 150 feet tall and is considered a beginner to intermediate ice climbing area.

$600K to be divvied up among rural Montana fire departments

HELENA (AP) — More than $600,000 has been distributed primarily to volunteer fire departments in Montana thanks to a fundraising campaign sparked by last year’s wildfire season.

The Independent Record reports grants ranging from $600 to $15,000 from the Montana Wildfire Relief Fund were recently announced to 81 departments and organizations.

The Montana Community Foundation and the Montana Television Network started the fundraising efforts.

Montana Community Foundation Marketing and Communication Director Riley Meredith says the foundation, which specializes in charitable endowments, is looking to create some type of permanent natural disaster fund.