Montana News

Daines celebrates outdoor month

U.S. Senator Steve Daines last week celebrated National Great Outdoors Month on the U.S. Senate floor.

June is National Great Outdoors Month and Daines is encouraging Montanans to enjoy public lands and support Montana’s economy. Daines is Chairman of the  U.S. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks.

 

Bullock says “no” to National Monument changes

Governor Steve Bullock today sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke urging no changes be made to the designation of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

“I strongly recommend that no change in the size or to the designation of the Monument should be made,” wrote Governor Bullock. “The Missouri River Breaks offers world-class, once-in-a-lifetime public lands hunting opportunities for trophy mule-deer, elk and bighorn sheep.”

Bullock also detailed the positive economic impact of the Monument to Montana’s economy.

“Today, the area attracts over 130,000 visitors per year, providing an annual influx of approximately $10 million to the local economy. The local economy has come to depend on this,” Bullock wrote. “In addition to attracting more visitors, the region has sustained growth in many measures of local economic health and prosperity…including a 23% increase in real capita income.”

Bullock concluded the letter with a call to preserve the Monument for future generations, stating “The Missouri Breaks has remained largely unchanged for over 200 years. The monument designation helps keep it that way for our children and our grandchildren.”

 

Bullock declares drought emergency

Governor Steve Bullock last wek issued an Executive Order declaring the following counties are in a drought emergency:

Blaine, Carter, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Garfield, Hill, McCone, Petroleum, Phillips, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sheridan, Valley, and Wibaux Counties, as well as the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation

“Farmers and ranchers from many Eastern Montana communities are feeling the impacts of drought conditions,” said Governor Bullock. “My administration is committed to making sure these impacts are minimized and will continue to work closely with these communities to monitor conditions and provide further assistance.”

Parts of these counties have seen record low precipitation, high temperatures, and excessive wind in the last two months. These conditions rapidly deteriorated crop and forage viability after a winter of below average precipitation.

The onset of drought became most notable when reports from many eastern and northeastern counties indicated producers were culling herds, buying hay, cutting crops early, and not seeing crops emerge 4-6 weeks after planting. Crops such as oats, spring wheat, edible dry peas, and sugarbeets are all suffering. In addition, pasture and range conditions are poor to very poor, per the June 18, 2017 Crop Progress Report. Ranchers reported extreme dust has made it difficult to keep track of all head, even during branding.

Governor Bullock also sent a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a Secretarial Drought Disaster Designation, which would also allow Montana producers in affected counties and reservations to be eligible for the Livestock Forage Program, Emergency Conservation Program, and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. Earlier today, USDA authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands in Montana.

 

Draft environmental assessment decision issued for Flag and Crossroads project

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) has issued a decision notice for a draft environmental assessment for the Flag and Crossroads Interpretive Plaza at Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, MT. The decision notice recommends moving forward with creation a new interpretive area reusing an existing trail and creating a new trail to facilitate access to the parking area.

 

The project will also include the installation of new interpretive signage, the relocation of some existing signage, the installation of four new flag poles in the proposed interpretive area and a new underground irrigation system to areas surrounding the plaza. The new plaza will provide a place for guided tours and school field trips to commence and serve as an ideal location for photo opportunities. This area will also better illustrate the historic crossroads of this site, providing a deeper interpretive experience for visitors.

It was determined that the proposed action would have no significant effects on the human or physical environment. Therefore, an environmental impact statement will not be prepared. By notification of this Decision Notice, the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) is hereby made the Final EA.

The public comment process for the proposed project was open from May 4, 2017 through June 5, 2017. Six comments were received; all showing support of the proposal. Comments are summarized in the Decision Notice.