Monday: Christmas Trees Erosion, Dog Days, Legislature Convenes

By Beacon Staff

Happy New Year! On the Beacon today, Mark Lorang, a research assistant professor for the University of Montana at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, heads an annual project in which Christmas trees are collected and then used to slow erosion in Flathead Lake and the lower Flathead River. In a story from our Escape Winter edition, we examine the legacy of Whitefish’s skiing pioneers. Flathead Sled Dogs Days, held on Jan. 7-9 in Olney, was born out of a love for dogs. A Polson fire chief says he wants to start charging drivers responsible for accidents a fee when local fire departments are called to respond.

Authorities in Billings say the side of a waste water pond used by Western Sugar Cooperative has collapsed, flooding the factory and some downtown streets. Montana Republicans in dominant control of the Legislature start work this week on an ambitious plan to tackle everything from medical marijuana to the way the state takes federal money to run its programs. A Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman says icy weather has backed up trains on New Year’s Day and forced it to halt Amtrak service on its tracks across Montana and North Dakota. Jason Christ, much in the news at the beginning of 2010 for his traveling “cannabis caravans” that signed up medical marijuana patients, ended the year entangled in lawsuits and facing a felony intimidation charge. A raft of fish- and wildlife-related bills will be making their way through the Legislature in the coming months. Charles Johnson looks at the debate over “structural balance” likely to consume much of the Legislature’s budget negotiations. Lee also features profiles of Republican legislative leadership, with House Speaker Mike Milburn and Senate President Jim Peterson.

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