US to cancel lease on land sacred to Blackfoot Indian tribes
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials say they will cancel a long-suspended oil and gas drilling lease near Glacier National Park that’s on land considered sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. Department of Interior attorneys disclosed the agency’s plans in court documents filed Monday.
The attorneys say the lease was improperly issued, in part because a 1981 environmental study did not consider the effects of drilling on the tribes’ religious values.
The lease is in northwestern Montana’s Badger Two-Medicine area, which is the site of the creation story for the tribes.
Lease owner Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had sued the government in 2013 to force a decision after the dispute dragged on for decades.
It could be canceled as early as next month.
Winter storm forecast for Montana, Wyoming
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A storm moving into Montana and Wyoming is expected to bring snow and strong winds, creating hazardous travel conditions in the days before Thanksgiving.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning from 11 a.m. Tuesday through 11 p.m. Wednesday for western Montana and into the central part of the state.
Meteorologist Jonathan Suk of Great Falls says 3 to 6 inches of snow will fall at lower elevations. Gusty winds will reduce visibility to less than a mile and create hazardous wind chill temperatures.
The service says the storm’s peak will hit central Wyoming between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Gusting wind and snow could create treacherous driving along Interstate 80.
The weather service recommends emergency travel only in the areas most affected by the storm.
Media groups say Montana case could have national influence
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Four media organizations say a public-records lawsuit pending before the Montana Supreme Court could have national consequences.
The high court on Friday allowed the Student Press Law Center, Montana Newspaper Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society of Professional Journalists to file a friend-of-the-court brief.
They will file their argument in an appeal of a judge’s order for the state to release records to author Jon Krakauer about a University of Montana quarterback who was accused of raping another student in 2012.
State attorneys say federal law prevents Montana from releasing the records, and the state could lose education funding.
The organizations argue that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling against compelling states to expand Medicaid requires a re-examination of laws that threaten to cut funding if federal standards aren’t upheld.
Montana State football coach Rob Ash fired
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana State football coach Rob Ash has been fired after the team went 5-6 this season, including just 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference.
Athletic director Peter Fields said Monday that the team didn’t meet expectations.
The Bobcats shared league titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and advanced to the FCS playoffs in those three years and in 2014. However, the team has struggled late during the past three seasons.
Ash was 70-38 over nine seasons at Montana State, but only 2-7 against rival Montana, including a 54-35 loss Saturday.
Ash came to Montana State from Drake in June 2007. He was charged with improving the team’s academic and off-the-field reputation.
Fields said the school will begin a national search for a new coach immediately.
Woman saved from modular home fire in Mineral County
ALBERTON, Mont. (AP) — An Alberton woman was saved from a modular home fire when a passing driver saw the blaze, jumped a fence and brought her outside.
Frenchtown Rural Fire spokesman Mel Holtz says the fire was reported Sunday after a motorist on the Interstate saw the flames and called 911 before going inside to find the victim.
The victim is described as a woman in her 40s or 50s. She was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Holtz says the fire appeared to be suspicious, prompting an investigation by the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Montana hosts South Dakota State in FCS playoffs
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana football team, which struggled to a 3-3 record in mid-October, finished its regular season with a three-game winning streak and earned a spot in the FCS playoffs.
The 16th-ranked Grizzlies (7-4) will play host to No. 10 South Dakota State (8-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner will play at four-time defending champion and second-ranked North Dakota State (9-2) on Dec. 5.
Quarterback Brady Gustafson missed six games with an injury, but returned to help Montana beat Eastern Washington 57-16 and Montana State 54-35.
South Dakota State opened the season with a 41-38 win over Kansas, beat Big Sky Conference champion Southern Utah 55-10 and lost 28-7 to North Dakota State — a team Montana beat 38-35 in the season opener.
Montana has a 7-0 record against South Dakota State, including a 61-48 win in the 2009 playoffs. Montana had trailed 48-21 with 5:40 left in the third quarter before running off 40 straight points.