28,10,0,50,1
600,600,60,1,3000,5000,25,800
90,150,1,50,12,30,50,1,70,12,1,50,1,1,1,5000
0,1,0,0,0,40,10,5,0,1,0,15,0,1
Montana COVID-19 testing
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Boulder River Bridge view
Boulder River Bridge view
Combat Crochet
Combat Crochet
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Goat Fire mapped at 300 acres
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate

Fairview Mountain in the Crazy Mountains. Credit: Ecoflight

An island range patterned with checkerboard land ownership, the Crazy Mountains are the backdrop to one of the most “vexing” land-use debates in the state. Crow Indians, the Northern Pacific Railroad, the U.S. Forest Service, ranchers, recreationists and politicians have all claimed ownership in parts of the Crazy Mountains at various times, seeding more than a century of access and land-use disputes that continue today. Between an active lawsuit, two land-swap proposals winding through Forest Service administrative channels, and pending development of some of the largest private properties in the foothills of the Crazies, the future of one of the state’s most iconic and disputed landscapes is playing out now. Today we publish Part III of a three-part series exploring the past, present and future of Montana’s Crazy Mountains.

The Crazy Mountains tend to be quiet. If your ears are sensitive enough and your eyes are sharp enough, the Crazies might deliver an encounter with a lynx sunning on a rock or a mountain goat navigating a talus field. The isolated range rising out of central Montana grassland is quiet largely because it’s relatively unpeopled and undeveloped. Whereas a steady stream of residents and tourists frequent ranges to the southwest like the Gallatins and the Madisons, the Crazies are far enough from a population center — and sufficiently complicated by a stubborn tangle of access issues — that they’ve largely evaded the destination designation that’s spurred growth and fertilized economic activity in neighboring Gallatin County.

 

That’s largely due to what has — or, more precisely, what hasn’t — happened on the 70-plus square miles of private property scattered inside the boundaries of the Custer Gallatin and Lewis and Clark national forests, remnants of a checkerboard ownership pattern established more than a century ago. Several large landowners run cattle or sheep ranches, maybe an outfitting business for extra income, but the human footprint is pretty small overall. 

That’s shaping up to change. The rumored sale of the 18,000-acre Crazy Mountain Ranch in the grassy foothills of the southern Crazies and reports of heliskiing on private inholdings along the range’s rocky spine have many observers wondering if this isolated island mountain range is poised to lose some of the quietly wild character that defines it.

 

More than a year after the U.S.-Canada border was closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, Lincoln County residents worry about long-term impacts to the economy and community.
The Port of Roosville north of Eureka. Montana Canada border
The Port of Roosville north of Eureka. Credit: Flathead Beacon File Photo

No one thought it would last this long. 

On March 18, 2020, the United States and Canada announced they would “temporarily” close the world’s longest border to nonessential travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 16 months later, it’s still “temporarily” closed.

While the country and Montana emerge from the pandemic and the economic downturn it created, recovery in the Eureka area has been stunted by the ongoing border closure. For years, the Tobacco Valley’s economy was supported by tourism, specifically from Canadians visiting Lincoln and Flathead counties. Many even purchased second homes along the shore of Lake Koocanusa. And while American tourists are flooding the nearby Flathead Valley, filling short-term rentals and visiting Glacier National Park in record numbers — the northern part of Lincoln County is considerably quieter.

“We’re hurting hard,” said Larry Stewart, owner of Abayance Bay Marina in Rexford. “For years, the Canadians kept our restaurant and marina full.”

This month, Canada began easing its border-crossing restrictions. Specifically, Canadian citizens who are vaccinated and have traveled out of the country no longer have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning home. But the accepted reasons for travel remain limited. All nonessential travel between the U.S. and Canada, including tourism, remains prohibited until at least July 21

 

Court was unwilling to redefine quorum to mean majority of a majority

 
House Judiciary Chairman Barry Usher, R-Billings in a meeting on Feb. 16, 2021 at the Capitol (Montana Public Access Network).

A Lewis and Clark County District Court judge has dismissed a case brought by Montana media organizations alleging the chairman of a legislative committee violated Montana’s constitutional right to know by denying a reporter access to a meeting where committee members discussed proposed legislation.

Petitioners, which include a handful of Montana media organizations including the Daily Montanan, argued in a February lawsuit that convening large groups of Republicans but not quite enough to trigger a quorum — the number of people needed to take action officially — violates the state constitution because it doesn’t allow the public to see the deliberations and the decision-making process. Specifically, the suit alleged that Republicans violated Article II, Sections 9 and 10 of the state constitution.

The House Judiciary Committee — the committee named in the lawsuit — has 19 members, 12 of which are Republicans. Nine Republican members attended the February meeting at the center of the suit, while three Republican members were told to wait outside to intentionally avoid opening the meeting to the media. When a Montana Free Press reporter attempted to enter the meeting held in the basement of the Capitol, Judiciary Committee Chair Barry Usher, R-Billings, denied access saying it was closed because a majority of the complete committee was not present.

 

 

propublica.org

 

In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.

Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, amassing little wealth and paying the federal government a percentage of their income that rises if they earn more. In recent years, the median American household earned about $70,000 annually and paid 14% in federal taxes. The highest income tax rate, 37%, kicked in this year, for couples, on earnings above $628,300.

The confidential tax records obtained by ProPublica show that the ultrarich effectively sidestep this system.