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Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

MISSOULA, Montana - Another intense fire season is expected and just around the corner in Montana. Could the solution to severe fire years in the future actually be putting more burns on the landscape? 

Mark Finney, a research forester at the U.S. Forest Service's Missoula Fire Sciences Lab, says fires have historically burned across Montana with less intensity. He notes the present strategy for dealing with fires is focused on suppression, and it's something firefighters in the West are good at. 

But the most intense infernos have escaped managers' control. Finney says big fires makeup about two percent of blazes but burn 90 percent of the total acreage.

"The only options we have are when to have and what kind to have," says Finney. "And if we insist on trying to remove all of the fire all the time we can, then the consequences of that choice are to have only the most extreme fires roaming the landscape."

Finney says removing small and moderate fires means biomass that would usually burn instead builds up and turns into fuel for massive fires every few years. About 1.4 million acres burned during Montana's 2017 fire season, the most in state history.

Finney says the history of management could be a guide to maintenance in the future. He notes that the benefits of fire are not as ingrained in western culture as they are in other parts of the country, such as the Southeast. However, knowledge of the need for fires is there. 

California timber companies in the late 1800s used prescribed burning to maintain their land. Then, Finney says, a devastating fire at the turn of the century changed the Forest Service's view of management.

"The 1910 fires, which were on the Idaho-Montana divide there, really, really catalyzed the notion that we were going to have to suppress fires and remove them from our forestlands to protect timber supplies, and that they were a threat to professional management," says Finney.

The Great Fire of 1910 in Montana, Idaho and Washington is believed to be the largest single fire in U.S. history. It killed 87 people.

Finney says in fire-dependent ecosystems, there's no substitute for fires. He says it will require a culture change in the West to get used to this idea, but adds that it should be part of the region's management scheme.

"Find out how much and where we need to have fire and how often," says Finney. "And so fire has to be built into our land-management planning, our land-management activities, at a scale that is really unprecedented in the last century or so."



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Thursday, May 17, 2018 - President Trump’s financial disclosure is referred to the Department of Justice. Also on the rundown: US Senate votes to

block FCC’s rollback of net neutrality; plus we’ll let you know why students want Nevada universities to divest from investments in fossil fuels. 



May 16, 2018
In the following press release, Sheriff Ed Lester describes the pursuit and apprehension of an armed suspect

(Silver Bow County) At approximately 3am on May 16th, Butte Police were attempting to locate Troy Johnson (age 52), a suspect in a homicide that occurred in Anaconda, Montana on May 14th or 15th.  Butte Police located a white 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier that possibly contained Johnson.  Officers effected a traffic stop on the vehicle on Montana Street, south of Front Street.  The female driver exited he car.  The male suspect, who had been a passenger, exited the vehicle and reached into his waistband as though reaching for a weapon.  He then re-entered the car and drove away at high speed.  The female was taken into custody at that location.

Officers pursued the suspect vehicle south on Montana Street and then South on Hansen Road.  An officer attempted to deploy tire deflation device on Hansen Road near the intersection with Holmes Avenue.  The suspect vehicle failed to negotiate a left turn, left the roadway, and rolled into a residential yard, striking a tree.

As officers approached, the suspect exited the vehicle and pointed what appeared to be a weapon at an officer.  One officer fired his handgun at the suspect multiple times.  The suspect then fled from the area, on foot, in a westerly direction.

The Butte-Silver Bow Canine unit as well as Life Flight Helicopter assisted in the search.  Shortly before 7 am an officer spotted the suspect near Little Basin Creek Road.  Numerous officers pursued the suspect during a lengthy foot pursuit.  During the pursuit, the suspect was armed with a knife.  He refused to drop the knife and charged at officers.

Officers deployed a Taser and the suspect was taken into custody.

No one was injured during the incident.

Johnson is in custody at the Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center at this time.

The incident is currently being investigated by the Anaconda-Deer Lodge Police, The Montana Criminal Division of Investigation, the Montana Highway Patrol, and the Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement Department.

Investigation continues…

Sheriff Ed Lester


Keep Montana Green celebrates Wildfire Awareness Month with art and youth!


Missoula, MT, May 15, 2018 – In celebration of Wildfire Awareness Month, Keep Montana Green (KMG) will be showcasing student’s artwork throughout the months of May and June.

Businesses across the state will be displaying student’s artwork along with a social media campaign. Be sure to check out and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see all the great artwork and receive prevention tips just in time for the summer months! #WildfireAwarenessMonth #ArtKMG

60% of Montana’s wildfires are human-caused. KMG’s mission and the goal of the art contest are to promote awareness on how to we can prevent human-caused wildfires. The contest theme this year was, “Prepare, Protect, Prevent”.

This year marks KMG’s 57th art contest, in which schools from across the state participated. The art entries are first judged regionally where first, second, third are decided. Then, those entries are sent to Missoula, Montana, to be judged with winners from all six regions. The state winners receive ribbons, cash prizes and statewide recognition.

Statewide Winners:

The statewide all division winner is Davin Graves, 3rd grade, Graff Elementary School, Laurel, MT!

Primary Division (K-3)

1 - Davin Graves, 3rd grade, Graff Elementary School, Mrs. Sullivan

2 - Tavin Shilhanek, 3rd grade, Graff Elementary School, Mrs. Sullivan

3 - Abbey Dotson, 3rd grade, Rau Elementary School, Mrs. Hill

Intermediate Division (4-6)

1 - Jersi Morse, 6th grade, Havre Middle School, Mrs Hansard

2 - Valentina Sacca, 4th grade, West Glacier Elementary, Ms Kempke

3 - Amelia Mason, 6th grade, Fair-Mont-Egan School, Mrs. Rohletter

Junior Division (7-9)

1 - Cate Cota, 8th grade, Roundup Jr./Sr. High School, Mrs. Unterseher

2 - Jasper Fairchild, 7th grade, Lewistown Jr. High, Mrs. Ferguson

3 - Malayna Nelson, 8th grade, Three Forks School, Mr. Palmer

Senior Division (10-12)

1 - Jesse Mae Cummings, 12th grade, Plains High School, Mrs. Cole

2 - Victoria Schneider, 10th grade, Fromberg Public School, Ms. O'Brien

3 - Edna Borntrager, 10th grade, Roundup Jr./Sr. High School, Mrs. Unterseher

Computer Generated Division

1 - Libby Jenkins, 9th grade, Whitefish High School, Mr. Collinsworth

2 - Jacob Novak - 3rd grade, Graff Elementary School, Mrs. Sullivan

3 - Dakota Auk - 9th grade, Hobson Public School, Mrs. Wichman

Special Education K-6

1 - Dominik Balsdon, 3rd grade, Fort Shaw Elementary, Mrs Polich

2 - Matty Clark, 3rd grade, Fort Shaw Elementary, Mrs Polich

3 - James Clark, 4th grade, Fort Shaw Elementary, Mrs Polich

Special Education 7-12

1 - Jacob Kinn, 11th grade, Terry Public School, Ms Huckins

2 - Colin Stone, 7th grade, Washington Middle School, Mr Fischer

3 - Kiara Srader, 8th grade, Washington Middle School, Mr Fischer

Our Story

Since KMG’s formation at the end of World War II, the organization has been dedicated to the prevention of human-caused wildfires. KMG was formed in 1945, chartered as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in 1961 and is governed by a Board of Directors representative of its membership. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has supported KMG since its inception and continues to provide the association with an Executive Director and office facilities. KMG maintains active public education and media programs focused on the prevention of wildfires in Montana.

The Art Contest
Each year, Montana students generate amazing ideas and impressive artwork that promotes Keep Montana Green Association’s mission of preventing human-caused wildland fires. The contest theme this year was, “One Less Spark One Less Wildfire,” with a goal of students learning about and discussing the different ways wildfires start in Montana.

Find Out More

In Montana, all things wildfire prevention start with KMG. Visit www.keepgreen.orgLike Us on, and don’t forget to Follow Us Crystal Beckman, Executive Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 406-542-4251.

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From the Billings Police Department’s 2016 annual report.

The other two officers suspended in a sex scandal within the Billings Police Department have, apparently, now identified themselves.

Local television station KULR-8 is reporting that Scheveck and Salminen Law, the local firm representing the officers, said officers M. Edwards and Clint Anglin released statements exclusively to KULR-8, saying they were the other two officers.

Former officer Paul LaMantia announced earlier in the day, exclusively to “The Big J Show,” a radio program, that he had already resigned for his involvement in the sex scandal.

This has been a strange story that just keeps getting stranger. On Monday, when Yellowstone County District Judge Donald Harris ruled, after an open hearing, that the names of the officers should be made public, he gave Scheveck and Salminen 48 hours to produce arguments for what they said would an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.

A bit earlier in the proceedings, Harris asked the three lawyers for the officers how much time they would like to have, if any were granted by the court. One of the lawyers, Vince Salminen, said he’d like to have two weeks.

Asked why by Harris, Salminen responded, “so they (the officers) can take the story into their own hands.” Asked by the judge what he meant by that, Salminen simply repeated himself, using slightly different words.

Today, they appear to have taken the story into their hands, by releasing individual letters of explanation and apology to “The Big J Show.” LaMantia’s letter was posted on the Big J Facebook page in the morning and letters from the other two were posted at about noon.

“M. Edwards” was identified on that Facebook page as officer Matt Edwards. KULR reported that Anglin has been an police officer since 2010 and Edwards since 2012.

Based on earlier reports, both officers were suspended for two weeks without pay for having sex with a departmental clerk while on duty, one of them in the basement of City Hall and one in or on a patrol car parked on private property.

LaMantia had been suspended without pay at least once before, and placed under a “last chance agreement,” but it is not known whether Anglin or Edwards had been subjected to any previous disciplinary actions.

Last Best News had already asked the City Attorney’s Office for complete disciplinary records for all three officers, if and when their names were released. That request is pending.

Anglin is mentioned in Billings Gazette archives only in relation to his hiring. The only story about Edwards was published in 2016, when he received the Billings Optimist Club’s Respect for the Law Community Award.

The story said he was a Youth Football League coach who was “involved in the Work for Life Career Home Economics program in schools,” and “has taken several students for ride-alongs, always promoting his profession and exposing these students to the positive side of law enforcement.”

In his letter of apology, Edwards said the activities for which he was suspended “took place several years ago during a moment of weakness and poor decision making.”
“My family never deserved any of this,” he went on. “I will have to live with that fact that I put them through this for the rest of my life. … It has caused embarrassment to everyone it has touched, most importantly my wife and children. They have experienced everything from stares and whispers to public shaming.”
Anglin use similar words, saying he wanted to “directly apologize to my family and friends for causing any embarrassment in their lives but also thank them for the valued support that have provided during this difficult process.”
Both officers complained of having been portrayed negatively by some “media outlets” — they both used that term — but it was not clear what they meant, since they have not been named publicly until today.

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