brief

FWP kills two grizzlies near Ovando after human conflicts

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife managers euthanized two grizzly bears last week that had at least 10 conflicts with humans in the upper Blackfoot Valley.

The bears broke into multiple grain sheds and visited areas humans frequent even after FWP helped landowners put up electric fencing, as reported in the Missoulian.

The agency said the bears’ behavior revealed they were “conditioned to unnatural food sources” after they broke into multiple structures around Monture Creek and lingered around the Monture Creek Campground and Guard Station.

After tracking the bears since they started causing conflicts in mid-July, FWP worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to capture the bears after determining euthanization was the only way to avoid endangering humans in the area.

Montana Department of Agriculture loses $344K to phishing scam

A report released by the Legislative Audit Division showed the Montana Department of Agriculture lost $344,000 in an email phishing attack in October 2020.

The Daily Montanan reported last week the department lost the money from a person impersonating a grant recipient. The audit also revealed an employee purchased $1,000 in gift cards in a separate phishing scam, but the employee notified their supervisor and they were refunded the full amount.

Although the department did not initially tell state auditors, it reported its losses to its chief attorney, the Governor’s Office and the Department of Administration’s Risk Management and Tort Defense. The Department of Agriculture agreed with the auditor’s report and said it will increase internal financial controls.

The report also found an issue with the Agricultural Sciences Division’s registration system for pesticides, MT Plants. The system cannot refund customers’ overpayments unless a customer requests it in writing.The auditors also could not track how many people have outstanding credit balances in the “older system with limited capabilities.” 

Judge strikes down three state laws affecting MT students

A Gallatin County District Court judge deemed three laws affecting student political group funding, speech on campus and trans participation in athletics at public universities as unconstitutional on Sept. 14.

Judge Rienna H. McElyea stated in a written decision each law’s regulations should fall into the hands of the Board of Regents, which oversees public universities, and not the state legislature. McElyea cited the Board of Regents v. State of Montana, which blocked part of House Bill 102 that would have allowed firearms on campuses in 2021, as precedent in the ruling.

The ruling struck down House Bill 349, which protected student speech against school punishment unless it disrupts their education. Rep. Mike Hopkins from Missoula said the bill aimed to stop cancel culture on campuses.

The decision also blocked House Bill 112, which would require transgender athletes to compete based on their sex assigned at birth, and Senate Bill 319, which required students to opt into additional fees for political committee organizations like MontPIRG.

Governor awards Missoula Fire Department for rescuing a paraglider 

Gov. Gianforte awarded the Missoula Fire Department with the “Spirit of Montana” award on Sept. 15 for rescuing a paraglider in July.

A press release from the fire department reported fire crews found a paraglider trapped 70 feet off the ground on July 16 in a ponderosa tree on Cinnabar Drive. It was the glider’s second flight as a student. His instructor called 911 immediately.

The firefighters reached the traumatically injured paraglider with a ladder extending from a truck, then used a chainsaw to cut through the branches and reach them. The rescuers got the paraglider down within an hour after his instructor placed the call.

Gianforte presented the award to Missoula Fire Capt. Bill Bennett, Capt. Robert Hanneman and Dave Farmer.