3 men charged in connection to Hamilton wildfire

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) – Three 18-year-old men have been released on their own recognizance after being charged with starting a wildfire near Hamilton that burned more than 13 square miles of forest land, destroyed 16 homes and 49 outbuildings.

KTMF-TV reports that Steven Banks, Tyler Landon Johnson and Cody William Knez made their initial court appearances Nov. 1 in Ravalli County Justice Court on felony and misdemeanor negligent arson charges.

County Attorney Bill Fulbright asked that they be released on their own recognizance. The judge said they could not bring or handle anything flammable on forest lands. Their District Court arraignments are set for later this month.

Prosecutors say the three Hamilton men and a 16-year-old girl failed to completely extinguish a campfire, sparking the Roaring Lion fire, which began on July 31 and led to the evacuation of around 600 homes. The girl is charged in Juvenile Court.

David O’Connor chosen ‘Lodging Persons of the Year’

 
MONTANA LODGING AND HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION

David O’Connor of Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky received the Lodging Persons of the Year Award during the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association’s annual awards banquet Oct. 25.
  
Steve Wahrlich, the chair of MLHA, presented the award to O’Connor and detailed his extensive record of achievements. He read portions of a nomination letter that stated, “David spent many years working his way up the Buck’s T-4 ladder to its pinnacle; a managing partner. At Buck’s he works tirelessly to both learn more from the constantly growing world of Montana tourism, and contributing his knowledge and experiences back to the hospitality and tourism industry selfishly throughout the state of Montana. 

“David’s passion for tourism is immediately evident the moment you sit down with him. His efforts are unmatched in his participation in several organizations both in our community as well as around the state. He also possesses a relentless desire to learn how to better promote and provide great service to the endless supply of visitors.”

O’Connor serves on the boards of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and the Big Sky Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. He also sits on the Yellowstone Country Board and is a Rotary Club member. He is active in many issues that affect the Big Sky community, including tourism promotion, workforce housing, and economic development. In 2006, O’Connor was named Big Sky’s Tourism Person of the Year by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce.

Can the Griz food drive competition continues through Nov. 19

The 17th annual Can the Griz food drive is an off-field competition between Montana State University and the University of Montana to see which school can collect the most donations for its local county food bank.

The competition began Nov. 5 and ends Saturday, Nov. 19, at the end of the first quarter of the “Brawl of the Wild” football game between MSU and UM, which will be held at UM. The winner of the competition will be announced during halftime.
 
Organizers of the drive ask that nonperishable food donations be taken to collection locations throughout Bozeman to support those in need in Gallatin County.

Bobcat supporters can designate their contribution to MSU by telling the Gallatin Valley Food Bank or collection location host that their donation is for the Can the Griz food drive.
 
Those wishing to donate are also invited to bring cans to the MSU football game versus University of California at Davis on Saturday, Nov. 12. Collection bins will be located at the stadium entrances and the Ressler Motors and Interwest Moving and Storage tailgates. Cans will also be collected at the men’s basketball games on Nov. 14, 16 and 18.
 
Monetary donations may be made directly to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank by visiting canthegriz.com. Participants can text “CAN” to 50555 to donate $10. Each dollar donated counts as 1 pound of food.
 
For more information or to host a collection box, please contact the MSU Office of Student Engagement at (406) 994-2933 or email canthegriz@montana.edu. A full list of participating locations can be found at canthegriz.com.

David Diamond selected as new Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee Executive Coordinator

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

David Diamond was selected to coordinate the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee executive managers and the ten GYCC subcommittees. Diamond brings a wealth of skills gained through more than 15 years of federal service with the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As a presidential management fellow, Diamond served in the Secretary of the Interior’s office in Washington D.C. and the Idaho State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. In the Yreka office of FWS, he brought together diverse partners, including federal and state agencies, tribes, farmers, ranchers, and NGOs to solve complex natural resource issues in the Klamath River basin in Oregon and California. In the Office of the Deputy under Secretary for Operations at NOAA he provided senior leaders with alternatives and evidence to support sound decision-making.

“We are fortunate to have David facilitate the GYCC because of his deep experience in federal land management,” said YNP Superintendent Dan Wenk.

“He will bring a renewed emphasis on creative problem solving and community involvement in the Greater Yellowstone region,” added Richard Hotaling, BLM western Montana district manager and GYCC Chair.

The public is invited to attend a meeting of federal land managers within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), facilitated by Diamond, to help assess ecosystem issues and to build stronger relationships in the future. The meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Cody Public Library in Cody, Wyoming.

Additional information about the meeting can be found at fedgycc.org/meetings-and-events/ or by contacting David Diamond at david_diamond@nps.gov.

David Diamond named executive coordinator of Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

David Diamond was selected to coordinate the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee executive managers and the ten GYCC subcommittees. Diamond brings a host of skills learned in more than 15 years of federal service with the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As a presidential management fellow, Diamond served in the Secretary of the Interior’s office in Washington D.C. and the Idaho State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. In the Yreka office of FWS, he brought together diverse partners, including federal and state agencies, tribes, farmers, ranchers, and NGOs to solve complex natural resource issues in the Klamath River basin in Oregon and California.

“We are fortunate to have David facilitate the GYCC because of his deep experience in federal land management,” said YNP Superintendent Dan Wenk.

“He will bring a renewed emphasis on creative problem solving and community involvement in the Greater Yellowstone region,” said Richard Hotaling, BLM western Montana district manager and GYCC Chair.

The public is invited to attend a meeting of federal land managers within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), facilitated by Diamond, to help assess ecosystem issues and to build stronger relationships in the future. The meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Cody Public Library in Cody, Wyoming.

Additional information about the meeting can be found at fedgycc.org/meetings-and-events/ or by contacting David Diamond at david_diamond@nps.gov.

2 defendants from the High on Life group plead guilty

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Five defendants from the Canadian group High On Life appeared on Nov. 1, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming. Hamish Cross and Parker Heuser pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park.

The remaining three defendants—Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price Brown—pleaded not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys.

The group was the subject of multiple investigations by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that included disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area. He agreed to pay over $8,000 in fines, restitution and community service payments to Yellowstone Forever.

Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley National Park that included riding a bike in wilderness and taking commercial photographs without a permit. He will also pay collateral fines that stemmed from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He agreed to pay more than $1,000 in fines and fees.

Both individuals will be on probation for five years, which includes being banned from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers. We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants.”