Montana Briefs

The Associated Press

More groups sue over grizzly bear protections

HELENA (AP) — Three more conservation groups are suing to restore federal protections to grizzly bears living in and around Yellowstone National Park.

The complaint filed Wednesday by Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds Project and Native Ecosystems Council brings the total number of lawsuits to at least five opposed to the U.S. government’s decision to remove grizzlies from the threatened species list.

Most include similar claims that the 700 Yellowstone bears are still threatened because climate change has made traditional food sources scarce and because of increasing conflicts with humans.

One challenge filed by Native Americans from seven states and Canada says hunting bears goes against their religious and spiritual beliefs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the Yellowstone grizzly population has recovered and turned management of the species over to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.


Interior secretary’s wife backs newcomer for US Senate seat

HELENA (AP) — The wife of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is backing a political newcomer for the U.S. Senate seat that Montana Republicans had hoped Zinke would run for himself.

Troy Downing said Wednesday that Lolita Zinke will be his campaign chairwoman, assisting Downing and his campaign staff.

Downing is making his first run for office in a crowded field of Republican contenders to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.

Ryan Zinke is a former congressman who was the Montana GOP’s top choice to take on Tester until President Donald Trump picked him for the cabinet post.

Both Zinke and Downing are military veterans with residences in Montana and California.

Lolita Zinke said in a statement released by the Downing campaign that she believes this is the perfect time for Downing to serve his state and country again.


People separate bear from cubs; cubs sent to rehab center

BILLINGS (AP) — Montana wildlife officials say people trying to take photos of two young bear cubs ended up separating them from their mother.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Nick Taylor says the bears were near the town of Harlowton over the weekend when people stopped to take pictures. At some point, people chased the bears and got between the mother and her still-nursing cubs.

Wildlife officials captured the two cubs and held them for a day to try to find the mother, but she had left the area. They warned people to leave wildlife alone.

Taylor tells The Billings Gazette that the cubs were taken to the department’s wildlife rehabilitation center. Center manager Lisa Rhodin says they will be cared for through the winter and released next spring.


DEQ grants wastewater permit for proposed water bottling

KALISPELL (AP) — Montana environmental regulators have granted a wastewater discharge permit for a company that wants to bottle drinking water east of Kalispell.

The Daily Inter Lake reports the Montana Artesian Water Co. already has a preliminary water rights permit from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to pull up to 231.5 million gallons of water from the underground aquifer near Creston. An administrative hearing on the water rights is set for Sept. 19 in Kalispell.

The discharge permit, granted by the Department of Environmental Quality, sets limits and monitoring requirements to protect water quality. The discharged water will have been used for a temperature control system or to rinse out bottles prior to filling them.

Some residents have been trying to stop the plant by expanding an agricultural zoning district to include the proposed plant property.


Governor touts low 

unemployment in report

HELENA (AP) — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is touting the state’s low unemployment rate as his administration releases its annual Labor Day report on the economy.

The report released Tuesday highlights Montana’s 4.1 percent unemployment rate in 2016, its $3.2 billion manufacturing sector and its relatively high number of entrepreneurs.

Bullock said in a news conference the unemployment rate is ideal and more Montanans are working than ever before.

Outgoing Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy repeated past years’ warnings that Montana’s aging workforce will mean labor shortages without trained younger workers.

The Bullock administration has encouraged job training through apprenticeships in fields such as manufacturing.

The rosy economic picture in the report is somewhat dampened by an upcoming round of budget cuts meant to fill a projected $227 million shortfall in state government.


Pedestrian struck and killed crossing Missoula street

MISSOULA (AP) — A man was struck and killed while crossing a street in Missoula early Thursday.

Police tell ABC FOX Montana that two men were crossing Reserve Street at about 4:45 a.m. when one of them was struck by a northbound vehicle. The second pedestrian was not injured.

The crash remains under investigation. The man’s name has not been released.