By John S. Adams, MontanaFreePress.com
Two Montana conservation groups are suing the federal government alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to recover endangered bull trout is inadequate and threatens to drive the iconic Western fish to extinction.
The Helena-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Bigfork-based Friends of the Wild Swan argued in a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oregon that the federal wildlife agency’s plan “fails to ensure the long-term survival and recovery” of bull trout.
Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said Wednesday that bull trout have lost an estimated 60 percent of their historical habitat range before they were even listed as “threatened” on the federal endangered species list.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has dragged its feet on bull trout for over 20 years now and the sad truth is that the only actions the agency has taken to keep these iconic native fish from going extinct are those the court has mandated due to lawsuits by conservationists over the decades,” Garrity said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public affairs officer Brent Lawrence said Wednesday the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
An email to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was not immediately returned.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bull trout are cold-water fish that require “pristine stream and lake habitats in western North America” to survive and reproduce.
Bull trout were once abundant in lakes and streams in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana.
According to the agency, bull trout were once found in about 60 percent of the Columbia River Basin but now their populations occur in less than half of their historic range.
The lawsuit states that “human activities in bull trout habitat over the last century, such as logging, road construction, dams, mining, grazing and urban development, have negatively impacted bull trout habitat, causing widespread and significant population declines…”
Garrity said those impacts to bull trout habitat have been well-documented.
“Yet the recovery plan issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service fails to clearly identify and address those threats,” Garrity said. “The fact is the plan doesn’t even call for actually monitoring bull trout populations to see if they are recovering, continuing to decline, or even test for genetic inbreeding.”
The complaint alleges the agency’s plan to recovery the species and get it off the Endangered Species List doesn’t actually do anything to improve habitat for the fish, but rather lowers the bar for species recovery.
The plan allows 25 percent of the Coastal, Mid-Columbia, Upper Snake, and Columbia Headwaters Recovery Units to be extirpated, according to the complaint.
“This plan allows bull trout populations to decline even further and doesn’t address the looming threat of climate change,” said Arlene Montgomery, program director for Friends of the Wild Swan, one of the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “That’s not recovery. We sent the Service detailed comments that included relevant science and threats facing bull trout but it was totally ignored.”
Garrity said Tuesday’s lawsuit marks the seventh time in 20 years conservationists have sued the agency to require it to comply with the legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act to list bull trout, designate critical habitat, and establish a recovery plan for the species that will lead to the conservation, recovery and eventual de-listing of bull trout.
“We are certainly not thrilled to have to go to court again to force a recalcitrant government agency to do its job under the Endangered Species Act but the alternative is to simply let bull trout slide inexorably into inbreeding, extirpation and extinction, and that we will not allow, ” Garrity said.
By John S. Adams, montanafreepress.com
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of two stories looking at the 2016 presidential primary race ahead of Montana’s June 7 primary election. On April 11 we looked at the Republican presidential race).
As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination heads deeper into spring, some Montana Democrats are wondering if lightning will strike twice.
That’s because for the second time in eight years their party may not have a clear-cut presidential nominee by the time Montana’s June 7 primary rolls around.
The last time that happened was in 2008, when former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and first-term Sen. Barack Obama brought their campaigns to the Treasure State in the run-up to a historic primary showdown.
While the delegate math this time around heavily favors front-runner and former First Lady Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the scrappy self-described Democratic Socialist, isn’t throwing in the towel. Sanders has racked up victories in seven of the last primary contests, including recent wins in neighboring Idaho and Wyoming.
Sanders is also raising lots of money along the way. His campaign topped $44 million in receipts in March compared to $29.5 million Clinton’s campaign raised during that same period.
Sanders is showing no signs of slowing down, which could be a signal the Democratic nominating contest will return to big sky country between now and June 7.
“I think [Sanders] is going to take the race all the way to the convention,” said Geoffrey Skelley, an associate editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Skelley said it will be difficult for Sanders to significantly cut into Clinton’s delegate lead, but that won’t stop him from campaigning in places like Montana as he takes his “political revolution” to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Obama easily won Montana in 2008, topping Clinton with 57 percent of the Democratic vote here. Those 2008 numbers favor Sanders in states that divvy up their delegates on a proportional basis, Skelley said.
“Sanders has to win 58 percent of the delegates from here on out to keep up with [Clinton] in the pledged delegate count,” Skelley said. “Given his success in nearby states, there’s no reason to think Bernie wouldn’t win Montana.”
Skelley said he expect Sanders to campaign on the ground in Montana in an effort to “run up the score as much as possible.”
Clinton, meanwhile, will likely focus most of her time and energy on California, which also holds its primary election on June 7. That state will send 546 delegates to the national convention.
“I’m not poo-pooing Montana, but given the fact that Sanders is going to have substantial advantage in Montana, Clinton is probably making sure she locks down California,” Skelley said.
North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico and New Jersey also hold primaries on June 7.
Emails to the presidential campaigns inquiring about Montana campaign stops were not immediately returned.
As of Tuesday Clinton has 1,287 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,037, but the margin widens when the so-called “super delegates” are factored in.
Those are delegates — usually elected Democratic party officials and other party elders or dignitaries — who can pledge their support at the Democratic National Convention to whichever candidate they choose, regardless of the outcome of their state’s primary.
Counting super delegates, Clinton leads with 1,756 total delegates to Sanders’ 1,068.
Montana Democrats will send 21 pledged delegates and six super delegates to Philadelphia.
Montana’s super delegates are Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Jon Tester, party Chairman Jim Larson, party Vice-Chair Jacquie Helt, National Committeewoman Jean Lemire Dahlman, and National Committeeman Jorge Quintana.
Montana Democratic Party rules require that the 21 pledged delegates be distributed to the candidates based on the proportion of the vote the candidates receive.
Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said Montana’s super delegates usually don’t pledge their allegiance to a candidate until after the state’s June primary.
“I think the tradition has been to let Montana Democratic voters speak and then decide,” Keenan said.
Keenan said even though the race for the Democratic nomination isn’t as tight as it was in 2008 she still expects high turnout among Democrats for the June 7 primary.
“I think that people still want their voices heard,” Keenan said.
By John S. Adams
Courtesy of MontanaFreePress.com
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories looking at the 2016 primary race ahead of Montana’s June 7 primary election. On Tuesday we’ll look at the Democratic race.)
In 2008, with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton nearly deadlocked in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Montana voters headed to the polls on June 3 not knowing who the party’s nominee would be.
It was an exciting time for Montana Democrats because the state’s June primary election is usually too late in the nominating process to have an impact on the outcome. The presidential nominees are usually decided long before voters here get a chance to cast their ballots.
But for the second time in just eight years Montana will see presidential campaigns come to the treasure state.
This year it’s Montana Republicans who are most looking to June 7 for a chance to have a say in the process.
That’s because the battle for the GOP nomination between front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich probably won’t be decided before the July 18 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
Though Trump has a commanding lead in the GOP delegate count, many political observers believe he’ll have a difficult time picking up enough delegates in the remaining primary contests to get to the 1,237 he needs to secure his party’s nomination.
That means Montana could play an important role in the final outcome of the race.
“[Trump’s] shortfall in Wisconsin leaves it pretty tough for him to get to a majority of the delegates,” said Geoffrey Skelley, an associate editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Skelley said as June 7 approaches, the 27 delegates up for grabs in Montana’s GOP primary could be vital to choosing the nominee.
“Montana Republicans are in a much better position to have an impact on the nomination process this year,” Skelley said. “The only way Trump can reach 1,237 delegates is on June 7. Everyone will be paying a lot of attention to California, but the 27 delegates in Montana are no laughing matter.”
Jeff Essmann, chairman of the Montana Republican Party, said voters here are excited to have a chance to participate in a meaningful way for the first time in 40 years.
“We’ll play a role, one way or another,” Essmann said.
Montana’s delegate convention – where the party faithful gather to pick the 27 individuals who will represent the treasure state at the national convention in Cleveland – takes place May 14 in Billings.
According to state party rules, the 27 GOP delegates elected at the state convention are bound to the winner of Montana’s June 7 primary and must vote for that candidate on the first ballot at the national convention. However, if the winner of Montana’s primary election doesn’t end up with enough delegates to get to 1,237 and win the nomination on the first ballot, then Montana’s delegates are released and can vote for the candidate of their choosing on subsequent ballots.
If the national GOP convention becomes contested, then the political allegiance of delegates becomes very important, said Skelley.
“The moment you get to a second ballot, a huge number of delegates are freed up and can vote their personal feelings on the matter,” Skelley said. “Ted Cruz is almost surely making the most progress on this, based on everything I’ve read, to get double-agent delegates.”
At least two of the GOP presidential candidates, Cruz and Kasich, have campaigns on the ground in Montana working to get their supporters elected as delegates to the national convention.
Essmann said he is not aware of an active pro-Trump campaign working in Montana.
Skelley said given what’s at stake at the national convention this year, he doesn’t expect Montana to be a “flyover state” for GOP candidates.
“Montana is very much the kind of state Ted Cruz should do well in,” Skelley said. “Given where he’s been successful so-far geographically, I would definitely expect to see him there.”
Skelley said he also wouldn’t be shocked to see Trump make a few stops in Big Sky Country.
“I don’t like to guess what Trump is going to do because he’s so difficult to predict. For sure I’d be shocked if Cruz didn’t make a stop in Montana,” Skelley said.
Essmann said he thinks it’s far too early to predict what will happen at the national convention. Essmann said it all comes down to who ends up on the rules committee and what rules they set for this year’s convention.
“When it convenes the most important vote will be the first vote, which will adopt the temporary rules of the convention,” Essmann said. “At this point anyone who says ‘this is going to happen or that is going to happen’ is hazarding a guess because nobody knows the rules yet.”
Essmann, one of Montana’s three “automatic delegates,” said he hopes to be on that committee.
Essmann, who served as president of the Montana Senate during an exceptionally contentious 2013 legislative session, said he has “a lot of interest in rules.”
“I have a lot of experience with rules, especially executing them under times of stress,” he said.
by Jim Larson
April, 8, 2011
Rob O'Neill was arrested for DUI refusal at 2:30 this morning in Butte.
He was found at the Town Pump at 531 South Montana Street. Mr. O'Neill was asleep at the wheel of a 2005 Nissan. The car was running. The car was a family vehicle, police said.
Mr. O'Neill is best known as the member of Navy Seal Team Six who shot Osama bin Laden.
O'Neill failed a portion of the field sobriety maneuvers administered at the scene, and he failed the balance of the test at the detention center, police said.
O'Neill was in Butte to attend a birthday celebration at The Butte Depot, a local bar. Mr. O'Neill turns 40 on Saturday, according to local reporter John Emeigh.
Officers were called to the scene at 2:29 am, and they arrived one minute later.
Two officers processed Mr. O'Neill, while two others interviewed the clerk inside the convenience store.
A Town Pump employee called police. He told them that five or six persons had entered the store and reported that a man was asleep at the wheel outside. Witnesses said that the man's vehicle was running, police reported.
Officers arriving at the scene confirmed what the witnesses had reported. They noted that the vehicle's brake lights were on.
They approached the car and opened the door, waking Mr. O'Neill.
He stepped out of the vehicle.
Police administered the part of the field sobriety maneuver test that ascertains a subject's ability to track with his eyes. Mr. O'Neill failed that test, and he failed the rest of the test at the county detention center.
Mr. O'Neill refused to take a breath test, and he was booked for DUI refusal, police said.
Mr. O'Neill appeared to be confused at the scene, officers said. At one point, he told them that he had taken an Ambien, but later said that he had not taken the sleep aid. He also said that he had had one drink, but then said that he had not had a drink, Undersheriff George Skuletich told reporters.
Whether Mr. O'Neill was under the influence of a sleep aid or alcohol, "He was obviously unable to operate a vehicle," Skuletich said.
Mr. O'Neill told police that he was tired. He said that he had flown in from overseas the previous day. In his confusion, he told police that he had come in from South America, but also told them that he had flown in from Europe, Skuletich said.
Mr. O'Neill has been released. His license has been revoked, and he has been issued a temporary 72-hour driving permit, Skuletich said. Mr. O'Neill will appear in city court today or Monday, the undersheriff said at today's police briefing.
Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester said in a statement sent by text, "I have great respect for Rob O'Neill and what he has done for our country. That being said, this incident was handled the same way as any other DUI investigation. Mr. O'Neill has the same presumption of innocence as any other citizen. We will let the county attorney and the court proceed from this point."