(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana has banned fraternities and sororities from holding events involving alcohol, citing the chapters’ poor behavior over homecoming weekend.
Caitlin Parker, interim assistant director of UM’s Office for Fraternity and Sorority Involvement, wrote in a letter to Greek chapter leaders that the decision was made because of “underage drinking, poor community relations, lack of mutual respect to fellow fraternity and sorority members, and a general lack of accountability.”
The Missoulian reports the ban will not be lifted until at least the end of October, and any fraternities or sororities that don’t abide by it could face probation.
Parker says she spoke with alumni in town for homecoming celebrations and other members of the community who were disappointed in the behavior of some fraternities and sororities.
Montana to open mental health facility in Galen
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana will open a mental health treatment facility to relieve overcrowding at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.
The 54-bed facility will house adults convicted or accused of crimes and committed to the state because judges have ruled them mentally ill. It will also be used by people who have been ordered to undergo mental-health evaluations or who have been determined to be unfit for court proceedings.
Gov. Steve Bullock’s office said Tuesday the facility will be leased from Community Counseling and Corrections Services Inc. in Galen, five miles north of Warm Springs. The facility is now a youth detention center.
Governor’s officials say operations are expected to begin Feb. 1. It is meant to reduce pressure on the state hospital, which is 37 patients over its 216-bed capacity.
Governors: Make species delisting process more predictable
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Governors of two western states say the process of removing Endangered Species Act protections from species that have rebounded in number ought to be more straightforward and predictable.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock testified Tuesday before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Montana and Wyoming both are home to wolves and grizzly bears, animals that have bounced off and back on the endangered and threatened lists even though their numbers are up significantly.
Republican senators are looking into possible Endangered Species Act reforms. Mead likewise has made changing the act a priority now that he is chairman of the Western Governors’ Association.
Mead says long-term uncertainty over the status of threatened and endangered species translates into uncertainty for business.
Officials: Black bear attacked elderly woman inside her home
(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials say a black bear that seriously injured an elderly woman attacked her inside her northwestern Montana home.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley says the department doesn’t know how the bear got into the woman’s home Sunday, but that it left through a window.
Fraley says bears near the woman’s residence west of Kalispell have been “extensively fed” with bird feed and other sources. He declined to say who was feeding the animals or if they might face charges.
It is illegal to provide supplemental feed to deer, elk, bears or mountain lions. Wardens were still trying to trap the bear Tuesday.
Hospital officials tell the Flathead Beacon newspaper of Kalispell that the woman was “resting comfortably and doing well.” Her name hasn’t been released.
Man charged with sexually assaulting girls in foster care
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 68-year-old Billings man is charged with sexually assaulting two girls who are in foster care.
The Billings Gazette reports Gary Eugene Smith was charged Monday with sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of sexual assault against the girls, ages 15 and 14. He did not enter a plea.
Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore Lance Lundvall set Smith’s bail at $75,000. Smith remained jailed on Tuesday.
Charging documents say the girls were staying with Smith and his wife on Friday while their primary foster parents had a free weekend. Smith’s wife was getting ready for bed when she heard one of the girls calling for her. They said Smith touched them inappropriately.
Court records say Smith’s wife told officers that he said he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to do.
Montana, Virginia tribes make case for federal recognition
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Seven Native American tribes in Montana and Virginia are making their case to a congressional panel to grant them federal recognition that would make them eligible for government benefits from education to health care.
Tuesday’s hearing before the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs is on legislation sponsored by Republican U.S. Reps. Ryan Zinke of Montana and Robert Wittman of Virginia.
If they pass, the bills would make the members of the seven tribes eligible for government services and benefits from the U.S. Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs, whether or not they have tribal reservations.
Similar bills have advanced from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and are awaiting action by the full Senate.
There are at least 566 federally recognized Native American tribes.
Fairview man denies killing girlfriend, hiding body
SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — An eastern Montana man has denied allegations that he killed his former girlfriend in February 2013 and hid her body.
Officials in Richland County say 36-year-old Cody Wayne Johnston of Fairview pleaded not guilty Tuesday to deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence in the suspected death of 31-year-old Nicole Waller of Kalispell. Her body has not been found.
District Judge Greg Pinski of Great Falls is overseeing the case and appeared via video for Johnston’s arraignment.
Johnston remains jailed in Sidney with his bail set at $250,000.
Court records said investigators learned that Johnston and Waller had argued, he lied about where he was the morning she went missing and he had someone help him move her vehicle. Prosecutors say he texted another girlfriend and told her that Waller left and was gone for good.
Dismissal of wrongful death lawsuit against Idaho reversed
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game filed after a helicopter crash that killed the pilot and two agency biologists.
The court on Friday said the lawsuit by the father of the pilot killed in the crash can proceed because of the possible liability of state officials.
Perry Krinitt filed the lawsuit following the 2010 crash in northern Idaho that killed 43-year-old Perry J. Krinitt Jr. of Belgrade, Montana.
The crash also killed 47-year-old Larry Barrett and 34-year-old Danielle Schiff, biologists planning to count salmon spawning nests in the Selway River.
Federal aviation officials say a clipboard Schiff carried into the craft somehow fell out and hit the tail rotor.
Keystone XL developer drops landowner lawsuits in Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline is reversing course in Nebraska and will drop its eminent domain lawsuits against landowners who don’t want the pipeline running through their property.
TransCanada Inc. announced Tuesday that it will stop pushing for the project under a state law that’s now being challenged in the courts.
The company says it will instead seek approval through the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an agency that regulates pipelines, warehouses and grain bins.
TransCanada won approval from former Gov. Dave Heineman, but the state law that allowed him to do so remains mired in court. TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper says the company believes that applying through the commission will reduce the local conflicts.
Jane Kleeb, a leading pipeline opponent, says the company was losing ground in Nebraska.