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| April 10, 2003

Now just hold your gol dern horses you reactionary tree huggers. There are two types of “environmental crimes.” There’s your pouring-sand-into-the-Caterpillar’s-gas-tank variety, then there’s your dumping-toxic-chemicals-in-the-river-variety. Lately there seems to be some confusion over which type will be featured at the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department’s environmental crimes workshop on April 14 and 15. Folks on the Missoula Community News list serve have insinuated the workshop’s syllabus will focus on targeting activists as environmental terrorists based on their politics. But these people have it backwards says lieutenant Willis Hintz.

“They’re not talking about the tree-spiking and stuff like that,” he says. “If you’re running a chroming business out of your backyard up in Potomac—and this actually happened—and you’re dumping all the chemicals into the river, that becomes an environmental crime. Or running your drug lab up in the wilderness and dumping your stuff. That becomes an environmental crime.”

The workshop is reserved for law enforcement, judicial and regulatory agency personnel and its purpose is to train these agencies to investigate and prosecute these crimes and to work together, says Hintz. So don’t worry, this isn’t another case of The Man learning how to better beat up on the little guy (the little guy being a radical environmentalist in this case). It’s actually a case of The Man learning how to better beat up on the guy who’s dumping battery acid into the town well.

But more than likely, nobody’s going to get the chance to learn about environmental crimes of any sort. It looks like not enough people signed up.

“They were trying to get 30 or more and they didn’t get it,” says Hintz.

Seems like what folks should be pissed about is the fact that city and county government together can’t raise 30 people interested in learning more about how to keep rivers clean and forests healthy.

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Who says society isn’t making progress? Beating both the university system and the city to the punch, Missoula County will be extending their insurance plan to unmarried domestic partners. This makes it possible for same-sex couples to receive the same benefits heterosexual married couples enjoy. Despite the bank-breaking forecast critics have suggested, only a dozen or so employees are expected to take advantage of the benefits.

“There’s nothing that says adding this is going to add to the financial burden of our plan,” says Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss. “This is about equity.”

To receive benefits, a county employee must sign an affidavit declaring their domestic partner is actually, well, their domestic partner—according to the county this means (among other things) they’ve been living together for at least a year and are in a committed relationship. The affidavit conveniently leaves off questions about the sexual orientation and gender of domestic partners.

While the city is still looking into adopting a similar policy, lately efforts have been stalled. Also, the state Supreme Court is still considering offering Montana University system employees benefits for their unmarried domestic partners.

•••

Lee Newspapers better step the f—k off! Alternative weeklies around the state are kickin’ ass and takin’ names (albeit on the micro level). Last month the Billings Outpost doubled its staff (5 from 10), the Clark Fork Wagon Wheel just celebrated its second anniversary and is expanding distribution, and now the Bozeman Tributary has been sold to some ambitions new owners. But Bozemaniacs need not fear losing their alternative news outlet, says new owner Corinne Garcia. Instead she and her business partner promise more of the same—hopefully lots more.

The obligatory long-term goal is of course to transform the monthly into a weekly, since that’s clearly where the action is.

“Big Sky is now supporting two weeklies,” she says. “And Bozeman doesn’t even have one.”

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