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Jessica Mayrer

Puppy Love on Valentine’s Day

“You Can’t Hurry Love” serenades shoppers from the PA system as a middle-aged woman stops to eye the Pet Smart Valentine’s Day display, overflowing with heart-shaped squeak toys, pink dog beds embroidered with hearts, and sleeveless dresses for the dainty pooch. Turns out Valentine's Day is a popular holiday for pet owners. “People kind of treat their dogs like their kids,” says store manager Jason McCulloch. One pet lover says, “That’s what happens when you get old and crazy and your kids go away."

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Showing Kids an Open Road on “The Little Red Truck”

"Nobody likes me because I smell like feet," young, boisterous actors shout out one after the other. The director then tells them to holler like a scary monster that lives in the closet. So begins the documentary about the Missoula Children's Theatre The Little Red Truck by Missoula filmmakers Pam Voth and Rob Whitehair, set to be released at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. MCT has taken its show on the road for more than 30 years, empowering kids in communities around the world. They pull their red trucks into towns, hold auditions, rehearse tirelessly, and after six days a cast of little actors hits the stage in front of family and friends -- and they're all a little different than they were just six days before.

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Steve Running on the Perils of Pseudo Science

University of Montana scientist Steve Running, who shares a piece of the Nobel Prize, told a packed City Club Missoula audience Friday that Americans need to learn how to decipher pseudo science from substantiated research in order to understand global warming. Much of the discussion centered on Running’s canceled speech to a group of Choteau high school students last week. Some locals in the north-central Montana town complained Running's talk would contain only one side of the global warming debate. That concern prompted the school superintendent to cancel the discussion altogether. “OK, what is the other side?” Running asked. “And how do people come to the conclusion that another side is needed?”

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Arts Pump $34 Million into Missoula Yearly

Not only does the non-profit arts sector in Missoula generate nearly 1,174 jobs and $34 million in economic activity yearly, it enables people to reflect, grow and interpret the world around them, two local art enthusiasts told City Club Missoula on Friday. “That’s a good argument for public as well as private investment in the arts,” said Tom Bensen, director of the Missoula Cultural Council, who shared the findings of a national study examining how art affects economic prosperity. Communities that invest in culture reap tangible and intangible benefits such as jobs, economic growth and an improved quality of life, he said. And because tourism is the second biggest industry in Montana, paying special attention to keeping local culture alive is just smart business, he said.

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Council OKs Urban Chicken Ordinance

Santa Claus read a poem encouraging the Missoula City Council to vote in favor of the urban chicken ordinance at Monday night’s meeting. As it is the week before Christmas, the council obliged, passing the measure by 8-4. If all goes as planned, Missoulians will be able to keep up to six hens in city limits. Fowl must be fenced and housed in an enclosed coup 20-feet away from neighbors’ homes, food must be stored in a predator-proof container, and chicken owners will be required to pay a $15 licensing fee to offset the potential costs of enforcing the chicken law.

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Upper Rattlesnake Subdivision Approved

After locals came out in droves to protest a proposed 37-lot subdivision in the Rattlesnake Valley, the Missoula City Council approved the Sonata Park Subdivision by a 10-2 vote. The development, which will allow the construction of approximately one house per acre near Missoula’s North Hills, passed despite the vocal opposition. Ward 6’s Marilyn Marler said it was inevitable. “It’s going to get developed. It’s not going to be preserved,” she said.

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Beyond Open Space, Public Money Preserving Working Lands

Editor's note: This is the second story in a series on how Missoula's $10 million open space bond is being put to work. Click here for the first installment. Missoula County's open space bond, passed by voters last November, rounded up $10 million dollars to ensure the protection of area lands for perpetuity. But it's not just for treasured viewsheds like the hills around Missoula. Traditional agricultural and timber lands -- working lands -- protect Montana's heritage, too. An example, and one of Missoula County's first open space pay outs, is the Hayes family Circle Bar One Ranch in Potomac, east of Missoula in the Blackfoot Valley. The county bought the property's development rights in the form of a conservation easement -- a tool that's allowing the city and county to stretch their open space dollars, says Jackie Corday, Missoula open space program manager. Plus, she says, "it keeps farmers on the land." As Jim Berkey of the Five Valleys Land Trust says, “We’re not going to have petroleum forever. It’s important to keep some land open for growing food nearby.”

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Missoula Drops Proposal to Buy Power From Electric City Power

The Missoula City Council Monday approved Mayor John Engen’s motion to officially withdraw a proposal for purchasing energy from a Great Falls public power company with plans to build a coal-fired power plant. Nearly three weeks ago, after getting the city council’s approval, Engen signed a non-binding letter of intent to buy energy from Electric City Power, Inc. He cited the benefits of buying energy from the local non-profit and a potential savings of up to $70,000 per year. Since then, the move has drawn opposition over Electric City Power’s plans to build a coal-fired power plant near Highwood and the potential environmental impacts. “I have heard relentlessly from the constituents that they don’t like the idea,” Engen said.

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Missoula Council Sends Chicken Ordinance Back To Committee

After Missoula City Council members got an earful Monday night about the benefits, and the dangers, of keeping chickens within city limits, the council ultimately sent the proposed ordinance back to committee for further tweaking. Missoulians by the dozens came out to talk about the chicken ordinance, which would give urbanites the option to keep as many as six hens. Raising chickens enables low-income people to eat high-protein food cheaply, said Bonnie Buckingham from the Missoula Food Bank and the Community Food Agriculture Coalition. The coalition aims to address local food and agriculture needs. Raising chickens is a step toward creating a “food democracy,” said Neva Hassanein, also from CFAC. She and others pointed to the benefits of raising food locally instead of importing it from other regions.

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Black Cat Fire Remains Active Friday

With a day of gusty winds, the Black Cat Fire continued to grow under a blanket of smoke. The current estimates of the size of the fire weren't available Friday night, said fire information office, Peter D'Aquanni. Fire officials will conduct an infrared flight of the fire late Friday to get an accurate size. However, D'Aquanni expects the fire to have grown, particularly on the east and northwest flanks. However, Friday's fire behavior was nothing like Thursday afternoon and evening, when the Black Cat fire increased from 850 acres to 4,500, burning south and west through a mix of grass, brush, and timber and into residential neighborhoods. Structures were lost, including three vacant mobile homes, one vacant house, and a few outbuildings. The fire forced the evacuations of at least 200 residences. Because much of Thursday's activity occurred on a grassy face just north of I-90, everything that could have burned did. In that area only Mill Creek Road above Spring Hill Road remain evacuated. Residences west of Highway 93 from mile marker 3.5 to mile marker 6 remain evacuated, as do residences on Grooms Road and Beargrass Mountain Road. Despite many evacuation orders lifted, officials warn that things can change very quickly.

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