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New West Daily Roundup for Mar. 9, 2016

Today in New West news: Vivint Solar calls off merger with SunEdison Inc., Montana Artesian Water Co. plans plant along Flathead River, and Denver among worst for mobile performance in U.S.

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Famed Polar Explorer Brings Mission, Amazing Photos, to UM

Polar explorer Will Steger, one of the most accomplished Arctic adventurers of all time, has seen and done things that most mortals can't imagine. In 1986 he led the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole without resupply; in 1988, he traversed Greenland by dogsled, a 1,600-mile trip that was the longest of its kind ever; in 1989 he launched the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica, a seven-month, 3,471-mile journey. What Steger never expected to see was the end of ice. And what he never expected to be doing is what he's engaged in right now: a battle to fight climate change and save the planet. Global warming doubters might refute the scientific studies, Steger says. What they can't do, he believes, is refute eyewitness reports and photos from someone who's explored the territory for 45 years. So Steger has taken the injured Arctic on the road.

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Where Have All the Ski Bums Gone?

They’re not on the ski slopes. They’re not in the bars. Have all the ski bums left Big Sky? “A lot of guys are skiing backcountry now because it’s free,” said John the physical therapist. “Also, a lot of them worked construction to support their skiing habits. Those jobs don’t exist any more.” A footnote to the current recession is its effect on Big Sky’s ski bum culture—girls and guys who live to ski and will work for ski passes or at part-time jobs that permit time off on powder days.

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Former Blixseth Land: Private Mountain Ranch Could Become Public Again

A piece of land near Kila that was involved in a public-private exchange with Tim Blixseth in the 1990s may again return to public ownership. The owners of Haskill Mountain Ranch have been in discussions with federal officials – including Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. – regarding a possible sale of their 2,660-acre property, which is located about 20 miles west of Kalispell. Greg Carter, a partner in Haskill Mountain Ranch Inc., said the deal would likely follow the blueprint of The Montana Legacy Project, in which two conservation groups agreed to buy 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land for conservation purposes. Carter, who is based out of Whitefish, said the motivation for seeking the deal is public desire.

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Property Reappraisals Illegal? New Lawsuits Say Yes

Saddled with soaring tax bills, several Montana residents -- most of them from Flathead and Lake counties -- have filed lawsuits against the Montana Department of Revenue, challenging how the state carried out its property reappraisal. On Jan. 19, Kalispell attorney Dale McGarvey sued the Revenue Department in Flathead District Court over the reappraisal of two Whitefish Lake properties owned by the McGarvey Family Limited Partnership, Elsie Taylor (formerly McGarvey) and himself. The same day, William Solem and his wife, Ellen, of Chinook, filed a suit in Flathead District Court over the tax assessment of property they own in Lakeside which accuses the Revenue Department’s reappraisal process of being “fundamentally flawed in that it is speculative, arbitrary and capricious resulting in the unlawful taking of property.”

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One of World’s Best Skiers is From Whitefish–And 13

For its February issue, the national ski magazine, “Powder,” published a feature called “The Draft,” identifying the world’s best 20 skiers age 18 and under. While the list was populated mainly by 17- and 18-year-olds, it also included a boy from Whitefish who is barely a teenager: Mitch Gilman. “A 13-year-old who can throw 1260s in the pipe,” the article says, “Mitch Gilman could be the Tiger Woods prodigy of skiing.”

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Toddler Drowning: Attorney Says Septic Tank Tragedy Was Preventable

A Kalispell attorney is suing the Evergreen Water and Sewer District, and the developers and designers of a septic system that he says resulted in the drowning death of a 3-year-old boy in 2007. Attorney Lee Henning spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon in his office, where he described Loic Rogers’ tragic death as one that could have been prevented had the septic system manufacturer installed an inexpensive guard called a “kid catcher,” over the top of septic tanks. “For $10 worth of plastic, a whole bunch of children’s lives could be saved,” Henning said. “My intent is not just to protect the children of Flathead County, I want this to affect the entire septic industry throughout the nation.”

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Local Lawmakers Assess Montana’s Dwindling Budget

Montana lawmakers adjourned the Legislature in the spring of 2009 with what looked, at the time, like a budget equipped to fund the state through one of the worst economies in a generation. Yet barely nine months later, with Gov. Brian Schweitzer slashing spending and telling his departments to find ways to save amid plummeting revenue forecasts, the state does not look nearly as strong. And while most Flathead lawmakers seem to agree that a special session in 2010 is unlikely, no one would rule it out completely, saying it depends on how much worse Montana’s budget outlook appears. “If important cuts need to be made, I think the Legislature has to be involved,” Sen. John Brueggeman, R-Polson, said. “It would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to come to town, but that’s what we were elected to do.”

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Census Workers Aim to Fix 2000 Troubles in 2010

In 2010, Montanans will have an opportunity to increase their state’s federal funding, and even take steps toward adding to the Big Sky state’s representation in Congress. It’s not about voting; it’s about the U.S. Census, and this year, those administering the national data-gathering campaign are redoubling their efforts in Montana. The ten-question survey will begin appearing in the mailboxes of Montana’s urban areas in March, with federal workers depositing them on doorsteps of the state’s more sparsely populated and difficult-to-reach homes around the same time. (Census forms cannot be mailed to P.O. boxes.) In 2000, census workers undercounted Montana’s population by 14,390 people, an error that cost the state roughly $43 million in federal funds over the last decade, according to Mary Craigle, bureau chief for the Montana Department of Commerce’s Census & Economic Information Center.

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Don’t Buy Fool’s Gold

During a bout of insomnia last night, I watched CNBC to see if any of the talking financial heads thought my retirement funds might stop disappearing, and there it was. Perhaps the biggest environmental, wildlife habitat and water quality problem we don't like to discuss. Yes, it's touchy, but that has never stopped me, so why start now. We all need to stop buying fool's gold.

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