Nov. 29 Regional News Briefs


Officials plan to cull at least 600 Yellowstone bison

PRAY (AP) — Bison managers expect between 600 and 900 of the animals at Yellowstone National Park will be culled this winter by hunting or slaughter.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports federal, state and tribal officials on Tuesday worked out the details for a winter management plan of the herds.

Park officials estimate there are nearly 5,000 bison in the two park herds. Park biologists say the removal of 600 bison would keep the population relatively stable while the removing 900 might lead to a slight decrease.

An interagency agreement calls for a population of about 3,000 bison and limits where the animals are allowed to roam in Montana. So a number of bison are culled each year.

More than 1,200 bison were removed last winter with most shipped to slaughter.


Texas, Montana men avoid prison for North Dakota well crime

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Men from Texas and Montana who were convicted of illegally operating a saltwater disposal well in North Dakota have avoided prison time.

Federal Judge Daniel Hovland this week ordered 44-year-old Jason Halek, of Southlake, Texas, to serve up to one year in a halfway house with work-release privileges, pay a $50,000 fine and serve three years of supervised release.

The judge sentenced 48-year-old Nathan Garber, of Kalispell, Montana, to three years of supervised release.

The Bismarck Tribune reports both men had earlier pleaded guilty. The charges against Halek were connected to a state case against Halek Operating which was fined a state-record $1.5 million in 2013.

The state also is requesting restitution estimated at $115,000 to plug and reclaim the well. The matter will be decided later.


Montana man pleads guilty to causing 2-year-old baby’s death

BILLINGS (AP) — A Montana man has pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide for the beating death of his 2-year-old daughter.

The Billings Gazette reports that 24-year-old Dana Redding Jr. entered his plea on Tuesday after being charged in April. He was charged alongside Kevannah George Grace, the child’s mother. She pleaded not guilty to criminal child endangerment.

Medical staff at the hospital the girl died in told authorities that the child suffered a “massive amount of bruising” on her entire body, as well as an open wound on the back of her head.

Deputy County Attorney Randen Schoppe said that a joint plea agreement with Redding Jr.’s attorney recommends a sentence of 50 years in prison.

Redding Jr.’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 16.


Pair of state employee unions moving toward merger

HELENA  (AP) — Two state employee unions are moving toward merging into an organization with a membership of about 27,000.

Delegates with the MEA-MFT and with the Montana Public Employees Association voted this spring to merge.

The Great Falls Tribune reports the two groups are set to meet in Helena on Jan. 20 to consider a proposed constitution for the new Montana Federation of Public Employees. The combined union will meet April 6-7 in Helena to elect officers and board members.

Officials expect the merger to be complete by Sept. 1.

The MEA-MFT represents about 20,000 state workers and was the result of the merger of the Montana Education Association and the Montana Federation of Teachers in 2000. The MPEA reports a membership of 7,000 state, university, local government and school district employees.


Fall harvest in South Dakota nearly wrapped up

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The fall harvest in South Dakota is nearly wrapped up after another week of unseasonably warm weather.

The federal Agriculture Department says in its weekly crop report that the sunflower harvest is 94 percent complete, the sorghum harvest is 95 percent done and the corn harvest is 97 percent complete. The state’s winter wheat crop is rated 62 percent fair, good or excellent.

In the ranching community, pasture and range conditions are rated 55 percent poor or very poor. Stock water supplies are 51 percent short or very short.


Late-season harvest winding down in North Dakota

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The late-season harvest is winding down in North Dakota after another week of warm weather.

The federal Agriculture Department says in its weekly crop report that the state’s sunflower harvest is 93 percent done and the corn harvest is 94 percent complete.

The state’s winter wheat crop is rated 66 percent in fair, good or excellent condition.

In the ranching community, pasture and range conditions are rated 64 percent poor or very poor. Stock water supplies are 54 percent short or very short.


Rare Arctic snowy owls visit South Dakota dam

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — Snowy owls have made a temporary home in the area surrounding a dam near the South Dakota and Nebraska border, a rare sighting for many residents.

Yankton resident and birdwatcher Roger Dietrich says two snowy owls were spotted near the Gavins Point Dam. He says the unusual sighting could mean that there’s an abundance of lemmings in the Arctic this year.

The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reports that snowy owls have a high nesting success rate when there are more lemmings. With a larger population of snowy owls in their natural habitat, it’s more likely they’ll spread out and fly to unknown areas like Yankton.

Dietrich warns those who want to observe the owls to stay in their vehicles because they can be unpredictable in an unfamiliar environment.