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New West Daily Roundup for May 24, 2013

Making news in the New West today: plotting the future of the former Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. property, a properly reverential visit to the Shire of Montana from a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings nerd, the opening of the Beartooth Highway, the return of Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche, and a study indicating Montana pets live longer.

The future of the former Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. property in Missoula remains in limbo, as city officials and the property owners spar over the proper clean-up procedures. The owner, M2Green Redevelopment LLC, wants to see the city oversee remediation, but the city wants to designate the site for Superfund cleanup, which brings in the feds and, of course, federal funding. With Superfund designation, the process will become more complex and probably more elaborate than M2Green wants to see. Still, it’s hard to argue against city officials who see out-of-state money coming to clean up a still-undefined area. From the Missoulian:

Missoula County Environmental Health Supervisor Peter Nielsen said the local government supported the federal move as the best way to ensure the site got proper attention.

“The issue isn’t what label you put on it, the issue is contamination in the ground,” Nielsen said. “Bankers know that, and they won’t lend money unless you’re dealing with it. It was a pulp mill that operated for 57 years and there’s contamination there. Everybody knows that.”

The Castle Doctrine is alive and well in the New West, as one would-be burglar was killed and three more thwarted after homeowners opened fire on intruders. In Colorado Springs, three burglars attempted to enter a home while brandishing weapons; they were scared off after the homeowner fired several shots. In Helena, a burglar was killed after the homeowner arrived home with the crime in progress. It doesn’t sound like there was a warning shot here: Henry Thomas Johnson III was shot dead after a single direct shot to the chest. Police say Johnson is a suspect in other burglaries in the area. Still, there’s evidence of violence in Johnson’s past, and there’s nothing in the police report to indicate the homeowner was threatened.

This may not be cutting-edge design, but it is fun: familiar face Kate Whittle visits the Shire of Montana while at the same time coming to terms with her inner nerd. No, we can’t imaging seeing Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 20 times, but more power to Whittle. From the Missoula Independent:

I grinned like an idiot as soon as I saw the “Hobbit Lane” street sign. I drove my ’92 Oldsmobile up the steep driveway through the forested mountainside and there it was: The Hobbit House, just like in pictures, tucked into the side of the hill, surrounded by an entire intricate village. Smaller decorative hobbit houses, with short, round doors, are set into the hill, with doormat-sized front yards. Signs label Bilbo and Frodo’s homes. Scattered throughout the pine trees, birdhouse-sized fairy, dwarf and elf homes cluster in little neighborhoods, with tiny tools, wheelbarrows and even little dresses hanging on clotheslines out front. Ornate doors the size of playing cards are set into the bark at the bases of several trees. (I feel compelled to note that fairies and sprites aren’t really in Lord of the Rings, and dwarves and elves are, of course, not supposed to be that small.) A giant several-hundred-year-old cedar trunk is hollowed out, fitted with a door and labeled the “Troll House.” Nearby, a stone troll-mine set into the earth has a club leaning against it and a light that comes on at night to ward off any lurking trolls. A bridge over a small creek has motion sensors and hidden speakers that play the sounds of children’s laughter. As I stood there, a group of mule deer picked their way past the elf houses and stared at me before leaping away.

If it’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s time for the opening of the Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge and Cooke City. The opening was set for today, but snow and ice on the Beartooth Pass has delayed things indefinitely. Yellowstone Insider has all the details.

A sports hiring of note: Patrick Roy is the new coach and vice president of hockey operations for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, brought in to turn around the fortunes of the sagging franchise. Roy, of course, is the former Avs goalie who was a central part of two Stanley Cup winners in Denver. After his playing career ended, he took over as coach and GM of the Quebec Remparts in 2005. From a release issued by the team:

“This is an unbelievable day for me. It’s a new and exciting challenge that I am really looking forward to. I would like to thank Stan and Josh Kroenke for this opportunity as well as Joe Sakic for the trust they are putting in me. Almost 10 years to the day that I announced my retirement as a player, I am back in Denver and hope the fans are as excited as I am.”

Finally, this tidbit from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: in a study from a national vet chain, Montana pets came out amongst the healthiest in the nation. From the study:

Montana dogs live an extra year and a half longer than the national average of 11 years.

Nationally, Montana cats were first in average lifespan, while dogs were second….

The Banfield Pet Hospital collected data on 2.6 million pets, including 2.2 million dogs and 460,000 cats, to produce the lifespan report.

No surprise: pets in Montana are exceptionally well-loved. At times Main Street resembles more a dog parade than a commercial drag.

The only dismaying part of this report? The most popular dog name in Montana is Maggie.

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