Claims of Montana's deer-collision risk may be overstated

An insurance company claims that drivers are at higher risk of hitting a deer in Montana than in other states. But Montana might not deserve the ranking.

State Farm Insurance released its annual calculation that seems to show that Montana ranks second in the nation as far as a driver's likelihood of hitting a deer, elk or moose. Montanans are supposed to have a 1-in-58 chance of hitting a deer. West Virginia takes top honors with a 1-in-41 chance, and Pennsylvania comes in third.

But since the company’s purpose is to sell car insurance, a smart consumer might give those calculations another look. Data can show certain trends that may not be so when put in the proper context.

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Counties seek predator bounties as Wildlife Services funding drops

Wildlife Services helps Montana livestock producers kill thousands of wild predators every year. But as its funding decreases, the agency may have to leave producers to their own devices, which may include bounties.

On Friday, John Steuber, Montana State Director of Wildlife Services, told the Montana Board of Livestock that Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, probably couldn’t continue killing predators without the money it gets from the state, especially from cattle producers who pitch in 50 cents to a dollar per head.

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Poll finds Montanans shifting to renewable energy, more public access

While polls repeatedly show that a majority of Montanans value open lands for recreation, hunting and fishing, some have assumed that those in the east - where private property predominates - cared less. Now a new poll finds that eastern Montanans don’t think too differently from those in the rest of the state.

A bipartisan team of pollsters asked the opinions of more than 500 Montanans on everything from energy sources to public land issues between Sept. 1 and Sept. 8. They found that overall, a majority supports renewable energy; phasing out Colstrip instead of fighting to keep it open; funding public-land access programs; and protecting rivers with federal designations.

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Legislators oppose changes to wolf management, hatchery trout

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks requested state legislators’ blessings for a dozen proposed bills, but two dealing with wolves and trout didn’t get the nod.

On Thursday, FWP Director Jeff Hagener stepped the Environmental Quality Council through 12 bills that would either improve FWP procedures or help preserve a few species. But Hagener got an earful from Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, when he described a bill intended to allow the Fort Peck Hatchery to produce a few more cold-water fish.

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Groups challenge Rock Creek Mine water permit

Four environmental organizations contend that a copper-sliver mine proposed to tunnel beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness would rob the region’s streams of water.

On Aug. 31, the groups sent a formal objection to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, asking that the agency not grant a water-right permit to the Rock Creek Mine. They argue that the DNRC would be breaking three state laws if it allowed the Helca Mining Company to use the groundwater that would seep into the shafts as miners worked their way underground.

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State Parks mistake prompts legislative audit request

Fish, Wildlife & Parks is scrambling to resolve a land issue that could threaten federal funding, but its efforts could now be delayed by a legislative audit.

FWP may need to come up with about $7 million, either in cash or property value, to trade for part of West Shore State Park, FWP Chief of Staff Paul Sihler told the legislative Environmental Quality Council on Wednesday. If that’s not possible, the department could lose as much as $27 million in federal Pittman-Robertson money, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

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