The Billings Outpost

Park, wildlife fees may rise

By MICHAEL WRIGHT - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

In a Cracker Jack box of a room on the fourth floor of the Capitol, Jeff Hagener, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, took the podium in front of the Senate Fish and Game Committee.

“License fee increases of any kind are not easy,” Hagener said. “But this is one that’s extremely important.”

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks comes to the Legislature to fine tune its fees every 10 years. House Bill 140, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon, is the agency’s must-pass bill of the session, meant to stave off a $5.7 million budget shortfall. But the bill may become a political football. Already, Senate amendments have cut some of the funding and squeezed ideas from other bills into it.

On its face, the bill is expected to increase license revenue – the main funding source for FWP – by more than $5.5 million, according to the governor’s budget office.

Opponents of the bill say some key discounts were eliminated, and that the department spends money irresponsibly.

“They have plenty of money,” said Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman. “They just aren’t spending it correctly.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:30

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Special K readies plants for sale

By NANCY WHITE - For The Outpost

Walking into the Special K Ranch greenhouse, the first thing to notice is all of the color in the building. With thousands of plants lining the tables and shelves, it is nearly impossible not to notice the sheer beauty in the work that goes into the upkeep.

Next is the smell, a mixture of dirt, flowers and humidity. Each sense is able to perceive something new. In the middle of all the plants are a multitude of workers who spend their days prepping and readying these plants for sales and markets in Montana. Special K Greenhouse will sell and deliver the bedding plants to retailers, including shops like Ace Hardware, as far away as Miles City and Anaconda. 

The greenhouse is staffed with 31 residents and seven vocational advisers. The residents live at Special K Ranch, a working ranch for adults with developmental disabilities. The ranch provides these residents a place where they can live semi-independently, and have a stable job where they are able to earn a paycheck and stable income for all of the work that they do. Each resident is hard at work while sporting grins, despite a massive workload that might be considered daunting to others.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:29

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Ag finding pulse here

By WILBUR WOOD - For The Outpost

“Our current food system takes wealth out of our communities,” says Ken Meter. “An uncomfortable reality but essential to talk about.”

The U.S. food system, he says, is based on long distance travel of food — either from farms and ranches into centralized processing facilities or back from those facilities to consumers, including those same farmers and ranchers; it is a food system engineered to supply, and prop up, the global export-import system.

Meter wants to propose an alternative, “a vision for local food economies” that builds health, wealth, connection and capacity.

Health, because food produced closer to home tends to be safer and more nutritious.

Wealth, because money rolls around in the local economy instead of being exported out.

Connection? Yes, between producer and consumer, but he also mentions connections “routinely ignored” — then talks about families and friends gathered to “eat around a table.”

Capacity? To do what? Not only to grow more of our own food closer to home — but also to actually cook at home. He cites “kitchens with no pots or pans” in dwellings whose occupants think “cooking” means “microwaving or going out to a restaurant.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2015 11:05

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Rambunctious bison live on

Story and Photo - By CAL CUMIN - For The Outpost

Doc Woerner points to Henry’s femur while holding the femur of a Columbian mammoth.In the middle of winter several years ago, veterinarian Don Woerner of Laurel’s East Animal Center got a call for help. The Humane Society of Northwest Montana was asking him to assist in dealing with what was probably the largest animal rescue effort ever in the U.S.

Dr. Woerner had helped the Humane Society before as a veterinarian.

The 400-acre Montana Large Animal Sanctuary, spreading over 400 acres at Niaradia near Kalispell and operated by Brian and Kathryn Warrington, had managed to run out of funds and common sense to care for their 810 animals, many of which were dying from starvation and neglect.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 11:03

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