August 24, 2016


- In the past twenty-four hours  there have been reported 5 new fires totaling 20,036 acres from Northern Rockies Coordination Center. There have been some scattered showers and isolated wetting storms but central and eastern Montana will be mainly sunny with coll conditions. 

Sheridan Fire - Unknown cause, 7,400+ acres twenty miles southwest of Plentywood. There are county and DNRC resources on the scene. 

Bierney Creek Fire - Unknown cause, eighty acres, 0% contained, 108 personnel, crews are strengthening and building fire line around the perimeter and putting out hot spots. 

Colorado Gulch - Missoula County, four miles north of I90 in the Grant Creek area. Unknown cause, 15 acres, 100% contained. Mop-up in progress. 

Copper King - Seven miles east of Thompson Falls. Started 7/31, full suppression management strategy. Unknown cause, 21,045 acres, 15% contained, 516 personnel, approximate cost-to-date 10M. Burning in timber, with active fire behavior and uphill runs.
Residences, BPA power lines, Big Hole Peak Lookout and municipal watershed threatened. 
Evacuation, road, area and trail closures in effect. Anticipated containment 10/31.

Maple Fire - 27,101 acres effected, 6% contained, 81 personnel. Approximate cost-to-date 500K. Burning in timber and grass with active fire behavior, short crown runs, group torching and long-range spotting. Structures threatened, trail closures in effect. 

Aug. 23, 2016
Big Sky Connection
Suzanne Potter

HELENA, Mont. - Montana lawmakers will meet Monday in Helena to finalize changes to proposed state laws on crimes involving sexual violence - bills that could then be introduced in the 2017 legislative session.

The Montana Law and Justice Interim Committee reviewed the latest drafts of six bills. One declares that consent cannot be inferred from the way a victim is dressed or whether the victim is dating the accused. It would also clarify consent to mean words or overt actions indicating agreement, and remove the requirement for use of force in the definition of rape.

Robin Turner, public policy and legal director with the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, explained that some victims are passive.

"While some people may be able to fight off the person who's assaulting them, other people freeze, or they were incapacitated," Turner said. "And so, this definition of consent and this evolution will help prosecutors charge cases where it doesn't appear on-face that there was force."

Another proposed law would remove the requirement to register as a sex offender for someone convicted of statutory rape if the victim was over 14, the accused is over 18, and the conduct was consensual. But sex with a minor over age 14 would still remain a crime, punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Caitlin Borgmann, executive director with the Montana American Civil Liberties Union, said legally, it's harmful to criminalize consensual sex between teenagers.

"Our view is that there should be an exception to statutory rape for consensual sex, where at least one of the participants is a teenager and the age difference between the two is three years or less," Borgmann said.

Another of the proposed laws would make it a crime to disseminate nude photos or video if they were created without a person's consent.

A final bill would allow a rape victim who conceives a child from the attack to sue to terminate the parental rights of the accused rapist in civil court, even without a criminal conviction.

Proposal to change rape definition (LCLJ01) is here: http://pnsne.ws/2bmA1QR. Sex offender registry proposal (LCLJ03) is here: http://pnsne.ws/2b7sm9V. Proposal about disseminating photos (LCLJ2B) is here: http://pnsne.ws/2b9bD4B.

August 22, 2016

Butte - In the past 24 hours 6 new fires totaling 3, 817 acres were reported from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center. 
Copper King Fire - Lolo National Forest. Full suppression management strategy. Unknown cause. 6,400 acres: 30% contained; 317 personnel.
Cost-to-date 8.1 million. 
Burning in timber, extreme fire behavior with uphill runs, torching and long range spotting. 
Road, area and trail closures in effect. anticipated containment 10/31.

Boundary - Yellowstone NP. Full management strategy. Human caused. 192 acres; 85% contained; 62 personnel.
Cost-to-date 1.1M

Race Horse Gulch Fire - Flathead Agency, Full suppression management strategy. Lightning caused. 4,580 acres; 96% contained; 17 personnel.
Cost-to-date 925K. Anticipate containment 8/23.

Tatanka Complex - Yellowstone NP 6 miles NE of W Yellowstone. 155 personnel. Cost-to-date 630K. Numerous structures threatened. Trail and area closures in effect. Anticipates containment 10/15.

Black Mountain Fire - Helena National Forest. 

New numbers show that stores carrying "bee-friendly" products are seeing an uptick in sales while lowering the use of toxic pesticides. (Mark Holloway/flickr)


Aug. 18,2016
Big Sky Connection
by Eric Tegethoff

HELENA, Mont. - New tests found significant decreases in the use of bee-killing pesticides on "bee-friendly" plants. That's good news for bees.

Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute took samples of plants in 13 U.S. cities and compared them to samples taken in 2013 and 2014. They were looking for neonicotinoid insecticides in plants sold to gardeners and home owners.

In the previous tests, half of the plants tested positive for the toxins. This time, only 23 percent did. Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's are starting to sell "bee-friendly" plants.

"Almost 70 retailers across the U.S. have made commitments to stop selling plants - and in some cases, products - that contain bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides," Finck-Haynes said. "And so that's what's really shifting the entire garden industry."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Montana beekeepers reported between 40 and 50 percent of their colonies died in 2014. Researchers blame pesticides and varroa mites as two of the primary issues leading to bee population decline. Montana is ranked second in the nation for honey production.

Bee losses have to stop, Finck-Haynes said. But some retailers are still selling plants pre-treated with pesticides. She said she hopes consumers will put pressure on those companies.

"Over 50 percent of Americans are more likely to shop at a Lowe's or a Home Depot because they've made that commitment to stop selling these bee-killing pesticides," Finck-Haynes said. "So, this really demonstrates to Walmart, Ace and True Value that they could potentially lose their customers if they don't make these formal commitments."

More than 100 businesses, cities, universities, states and countries have restricted use of pesticides that are lethal to bees. According to a survey by Greenhouse Grower magazine, nearly three-quarters of growers who supply mass merchants and home-improvement chains said they will not use neonicotinoids this year.

A list of retailer's and grower's policies on pesticide use is available here.

Festival Organizer Matt Boyle talks about what to expect at the 2016 Original Festival.