Weekend Wrapup: Idaho Killing Ravens to Save Sage Grouse

Here’s your weekend wrapup before you take off to enjoy a weekend in Montana- in no particular order…

Here’s a suprisingly balanced report on the Missoula shooting from The New York Times: In Youth’s Death, Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong

Teenagers call it garage hopping. The goal was to sneak into an open garage, steal some beer or other items and slip away into the night. It was dumb and clearly illegal. It was not supposed to be deadly.

Around midnight on April 27, a 17-year-old exchange student from Germany named Diren Dede left the host home where he played Xbox and drained cans of Sprite to set off with a friend through his dark hillside neighborhood. They passed a home whose garage door hung partially open. Using a cellphone for light, Mr. Dede headed in.

By the way, the attorney for the homeowner tells me that at least two suspects believed to have been involved in some of these burglaries in Missoula have been arrested, but I have not received a call back from the Missoula Police Department with confirmation at this time.  

Earlier this week, I pointed out the attention coming to Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath.  Some are saying he should recuse himself from a case that could deny Montanans the right to vote for a Supreme Court Justice this Fall.  Well, it looks like Wheat & McGrath have stayed out of the decision-making process thus far.  Will they do it in the decisions yet to come?  (Including a say in who picks any replacement justices to make a potential decision) 

From a newspaper in Billings:

The Montana Supreme Court ruled as moot on Wednesday a motion by Lawrence VanDyke to recuse Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Mike Wheat from hearing his appeal of a District Court decision removing him as a justice candidate on the ballot.

McGrath and Wheat had already recused themselves, or stepped down, from the case last month, the court said. On April 9, the court granted to a limited extent VanDyke’s petition asking that it take supervisory control of a lawsuit challenging his candidacy.

Northern Ag Network: Poisoning Ravens to Protect Sage Grouse?

Wildlife officials will spend as much as $100,000 over two years to poison ravens in three areas of Idaho, but officials don’t know whether that kill will permanently boost sage grouse populations as intended.
Ravens are a main predator of sage grouse eggs, and their numbers have increased throughout Idaho and the West, said Ann Moser, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game.

AP: Wyoming First to Reject Next Gen Science Standards

Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state, is the first to reject new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups mainly because of global warming components.

The Wyoming Board of Education decided recently that the Next Generation Science Standards need more review after questions were raised about the treatment of man-made global warming.

Amy Edmonds, of the Wyoming Liberty Group, said teaching “one view of what is not settled science about global warming” is just one of a number of problems with the standards.

Missoula Indy: Nail in Colstrip’s Coffin

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dealt a cross-border blow last week to Montana’s controversial Colstrip power plant, clearly stating his intention to wean his state off imported coal-generated electricity in favor of renewable energy alternatives. Environmental advocates greeted the announcement as further confirmation that officials and citizens on the West Coast are getting more serious about addressing climate change.

Anne Hedges, deputy director at the Montana Environmental Information Center, calls Inslee’s April 29 announcement “one more nail in the coffin of that plant.” The governor’s executive order, which also established a 21-member Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force, is specifically aimed at bringing Washington closer to reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. While Inslee offered no specific timeline for when PSE and other Washington utilities—including another Colstrip co-owner, Avista Corp.—would need to officially cease importing coal-fired electricity, the commitment came as a boon for longtime critics of Colstrip.

If you care about jobs in Montana, and the community of Colstrip- let’s just hope this isn’t a nail in the coffin…

Heritage Foundation: Who Owns One-Third of American Land — And How It’s Holding Us Back

In fact, true to form, the federal government is getting in the way of domestic energy and American jobs.
“Inaccessibility and unnecessary regulations inhibit economic growth in various parts of the country,” says Heritage expert Nicolas Loris, the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow. He points to a recent study showing that “opening up offshore areas for drilling in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf — just one region where offshore drilling is possible but not permitted — would create 280,000 jobs in that region alone.”

To see how federal lands lag behind, take this example: Total daily federal onshore oil production is only about one-third of what is produced every day at North Dakota’s Bakken formation alone.

From Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) office earlier this week:

Today, Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke about a new report from the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses that highlights examples of how states, not Washington, are leading the way when it comes to environmental stewardship.

Full report can be found here.

BLM Press Release: BLM Oil and Gas Sale Nets Over $10 Million (h/t Politico’s “Morning Energy”)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) generated over $10 million for leasing rights on parcels offered at the BLM’s quarterly federal oil and gas lease auction held May 6, in Cheyenne. Almost half of the bid and rental receipts go to the State of Wyoming.

Bids ranged from the federally mandated minimum of $2 per acre to a high bid of $1,525 per acre. Successful bidders also pay a $150 per parcel one-time administrative fee and a yearly rental of $1.50 per acre for the first five years of the lease and $2 per acre in years six through 10.

Wall Street Journal: Highway Trust Fund Is Running on Fumes

Sometime this summer, the Transportation Department is expected to begin delaying payments to states for road and bridge projects because the Highway Trust Fund is rapidly exhausting its reserves.
Congress has tackled or punted many of the “must pass” bills of 2014, but evaporating highway money looms like a pothole on the road to the midterm elections. Resolving the issue is important for lawmakers because constituents care about their local roads and bridges–but they also pay close attention to any changes in tax and spending rules.
The highway trust fund’s balance will be just $2 billion at the end of September, because gasoline-tax revenue isn’t keeping up with spending.

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