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Peter Metcalf

The ‘Process’ of Rebuilding a Local Food Economy

Inside a plain strip mall just off U.S. Highway 93 in Lolo, Mont., Skip Cleek stands on teal drain boards surrounded by stainless steel sinks, counters, and a vacuum packer as rests his hand on a suitcase-size machine he calls the “coiner.” His baseball cap drawn tight, the ebullient handle-bar mustachioed Cleek boasts the machine can process in excess of 800 lbs of carrots an hour, “if you can feed them in that fast.” Cleek manages the recently opened Montana Food Products, LLC, the state’s first for-profit contract packaging facility, or “co-pack” in industry lingo. President Ron Oberlander of Florence opened the facility because he wanted a place to process his line of U.S. Omega3 Food products. He also saw a business opportunity in a facility that other food product entrepreneurs could utilize such as the couple who were in making the salsa they sell in area restaurants shortly before my visit.

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Conservationists: Montana’s Legislative Session Has Been ‘Rotten’ on Environment

There’s only a short time left in a legislative session that one environmentalist says has been just plain “rotten.” “There really is very little good coming out of this session,” Anne Hedges, program director for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said.

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Montana Governor Rejects Bill to Limit Environmental Appeals

Governor Brian Schweitzer offered 37 amendments Thursday to a controversial bill that would restrict the conditions under which citizens may appeal permits to energy development projects. Sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, House Bill 483 aims to streamline the Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting process for new energy development projects, such as coal-fired power plants, by placing strict new limits on public challenges.

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Group Circulates Petition to Stop Missoula Zoning Rewrite

An anonymous group of Missoula city property owners want to put a stop to the process of updating the City’s zoning regulations. Earlier this week the group began circulating a petition that asks property owners to sign a formal “notice of protest” to the consolidated draft version of the zoning code. “People are waking up to this (proposal) and they don’t know what to do,” said Lee Clemmensen, one of the people circulating the petition.

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Missoula Zoning Debate Heats Up

According to the current draft document updating Missoula’s zoning codes, a canopy is “a permanent roof-like structure extending from part or all of a building.” But a canopy can also be free-standing such as the covers over the pumps at a gas station, Gary Bakke of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce said. One man from the Rattlesnake suggested a definition for “density” be added. Another asked that language on “group living” be more specific. And several people took aim at what is termed “accessory dwelling units,” essentially a second housing unit on the same lot. They argued the document’s language, if not tightened, will allow a proliferation of cheap rental units and substandard living conditions in established neighborhoods. So it went Wednesday evening as the Missoula Consolidated Planning Board heard comment on a much-anticipated update of the city's zoing and planning regulations. Whatever final form the definitions ultimately take will guide how terminology is interpreted throughout the document. The chapter on “Terminology” is a departure from the old documents scattered definitions and exemplify the revisions intention to make the updated zoning regulations more user friendly. “The idea (for the chapter) was a one stop shop for the jargon,” the Planning Board’s Don MacArthur said.

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Montana Conservationists Urge Congress to Pass a Montana Wilderness Bill

A group of Montana conservationists mailed a letter last week to Montana’s U.S. Congressional delegation encouraging them to make Wilderness designation in the state a top priority. “There are some areas in Montana that deserve consideration for wilderness and its time to do a statewide wilderness bill,” said Dale Bosworth, retired chief of the U.S. Forest Service and one of fourteen signatories. The signatories included retired U.S. and local lawmakers, former Forest Service employees, and representatives from the ranching, faith, business and outfitting communities.

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Compassion and Artistry Collide for Missoula Musician David Boone

Listen to prolific Missoula rocker David Boone sing and its clear he loves to make music. Listen to him talk and it’s clear he is a man of vision. So when he released his critically acclaimed seventh album Tale of Gold just over a year go, he did something unheard of in the Missoula music scene. He held a benefit concert. At the Wilma. With around a 1000-seat capacity the Wilma’s sheer size is problematic for local musicians, fellow guitar picker and sometimes Boone stage mate Tom Catmull said. Four or five hundred people in a bar and the energy is fantastic. Four or five hundred people in the Wilma and the place feels empty.

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Big Sky High Students Get Expert Lessons in Documentary

When it comes to documentary filmmakers, it’s safe to say most students in Missoula have heard of say a Michael Moore, but probably not a Mike Bonfiglio. But that didn’t matter one bit to Big Sky High School senior Danielle Winn, who called Bonfiglio’s visit to her filmmaking class Thursday afternoon “awesome.” “I thought it was really interesting, especially hearing about his experience with film school and the business side of things. I hadn’t thought about that before,” Winn, who plans to attend film school at Montana State, said.

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Big Sky Rivers Act Would Create Streamside Setbacks on 10 Montana Rivers

When it comes to passing streamside setback legislation in Montana, river advocates hope the third time’s the charm. House Bill 455, also known as the Big Sky Rivers Act would effectively limit new housing development along select major rivers in Montana. The House Local Government Committee will hear the legislation Thursday. The bill would establish a 250-foot setback on all or parts ten rivers in Montana, including the Yellowstone, Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson, Smith, Missouri, Clark Fork, Blackfoot, Bitterroot and Flathead. These 10 rivers were selected for their habitat and recreation values and intense development pressure.

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Explorer Helen Thayer in Missoula To Speak About Change in the Gobi

Six days of intense heat had passed in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and world renowned explorer Helen Thayer and her husband Bill were almost out of water. “We were desperate then,” she said. A camel accident had left them with only five gallons of water and considering they had been drinking a gallon and a half a day, "by day seven we were out and we knew that if we didn’t find water on day seven we would die by day eight,” Thayer said. The couple managed to find a small pool that at the time looked fresh and magnificent, but in hindsight was terrible and dirty. Nevertheless, “It saved our lives,” she said. For 81 days in 2001, she and her husband Bill, then age 63 and 74 respectively, walked with two camels 1600 miles across the Gobi Desert, dodging drug smugglers, surviving violent wind and sand storms, and sharing time milking sheep and goats and herding camels and horses with the region’s nomadic people. Thayer will recount the missteps and discoveries of that journey Tuesday at the University of Montana. Her talk, “Walking the Gobi: Environmental change in the Mongolian Desert” is the second installment of the 2009 Wilderness Expeditions Lecture Series. Thayer will be speaking in room 106 of the Gallagher Business Building 7 p.m. All presentations in the series are free and open to the public.

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