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News in Brief June 9, 2017

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Missing hiker found deceased


Between June 4 and June 6, Gallatin County Search and Rescue conducted a two-and-a-half day search for an overdue hiker in the Beaver Creek area northwest of West Yellowstone. At 11:30 a.m. on June 6, a search team with K-9 accompaniment discovered the hiker, identified as Mike Petersen of Bismark, North Dakota, deceased a quarter-mile south of the confluence of Beaver and West Fork creeks. A Gallatin County Sheriff’s Coroner will determine cause and manner of death.

The event began near 10 p.m. on June 4 with the report that the 42-year-old Petersen had failed to return to the designated rendezvous pick-up point. Petersen was reported to have been in the Beaver Creek area several times over the past four months and had backcountry experience. He left on his hike with enough survival equipment to stay in the forest and signal for help.

Initial search activity included personnel from the West Yellowstone division of Gallatin County Search & Rescue, Hebgen Basin Rural Fire District, Air Methods helicopter and Two Bear Air Rescue Helicopter from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 40 individuals participated in the ground search effort, including Search & Rescue members from West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Gallatin Valley, Madison County and Ruby Valley; National Forest Service and Department of Livestock employees; Hebgen Basin Rural Fire District personnel; and three K-9 dog search teams.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office would like to offer condolences to the family affected by this tragic accident and thank all the volunteers who came together in this very large scale search and rescue event.

Businesses to receive tax credit for supplying on-the-job training


Montana Governor Steve Bullock held a ceremonial bill signing in Great Falls on June 1 for his apprenticeship tax credit known as HB 308. The bill aims to create good-paying jobs for Montana families, build employee skills and incentivize businesses to grow. Bullock joined Great Falls Representative Casey Schreiner, the bill’s sponsor, and the Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Pam Bucy, at the event.

“Small businesses are the heart of Montana’s economy and the job creators of today and tomorrow,” Bullock said. “This is another opportunity to make sure that employers have access to a trained and talented workforce so that we can continue to grow Main Street Montana businesses, all while boosting earning potential for Montanans across the state.”

HB 308 will provide Montana businesses with a $750 tax credit for every position hired where the worker is offered on-the-job training through the Montana Registered Apprenticeship unit. For every veteran hired and given an apprenticeship opportunity, businesses will be provided a $1,500 tax credit. The apprenticeship tax credit will provide veterans opportunities to apply the skills and leadership they learned while serving in the military to industry sectors across Montana.

Apprenticeships provide earn-while-you-learn training opportunities in almost 1,000 occupations. Apprenticeships have been used for generations in Montana and are a vital tool for creating a pipeline of highly trained workers. These time-honored programs provide apprentices with the chance to earn a paycheck and support a family, while learning the hard and soft skills needed to maintain good-paying jobs in a rapidly changing economy.

Memorial Day kicks off Montana’s strongest season of tourism


Spring in Montana brings many things, but for local businesses and families who rely on tourism, increased visitors to the state are the most important ingredient to success.

The data from the 2016 Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research illustrates how strong the summer season is in relation to the rest of the year. Of the 12.4 million visitors who traveled to Montana last year, more than 7 million arrived between June and September, amounting to 60 percent of the entire year’s visitors. Last year there was a 5 percent increase in visitors from the year before, and looking at the past five years there has been an 18 percent increase in visitation. Non-resident visitors spent $3.5 billion in Montana in 2016.

“With the considerable economic impact that Montana communities enjoy in the summer months, it’s a good time to reflect on the positive attributes visitors bring to main street businesses,” said Dax Schieffer, Voices of Montana Tourism Director. “Tourism is a sustainable business where the experiences are the product, a model where the money is left behind by the visitor to create jobs supporting increased payrolls to circulate into the economy.”

Montana’s success in attracting visitors should not be taken for granted, as many states are competing for the visitor dollar. Thirty years ago Montana policy makers committed to fund tourism promotion by collecting a 4 percent bed tax. As would be expected with increasing visitation, last year saw another record in bed tax collections with a 6 percent increase from the year before.

Bank stabilization project on the West Fork draws to a close


After nearly two years, restorative work on the Upper West Fork of the Gallatin River between Two Moons and Little Coyote roads along the length of the Big Sky Golf Course has nearly reached completion. In May, the nonprofit Gallatin River Task Force finished their on-the-ground work, which is intended to stabilize the stream bank and reduce high levels of nitrogen found in the river. As a final component of the project, GRTF will install interpretive signs along the bank sometime in August.

The high nitrogen concentration in the West Fork was revealed in a five-year study that culminated in 2010 and was conducted by GRTF and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The nitrogen levels are attributed to several sources, including fertilizer applications on the nearby golf course and residential properties, as well as municipal wastewater that undergoes a number of treatments before being used to irrigate the golf course.

The Gallatin River Task Force began planning and grant writing in 2014 and broke ground on the project in October 2016, harvesting willows and coordinating work on the site with the golf course’s schedule.

“Vegetation benefits the river in many ways,” said Kristin Gardner, executive director of GRTF. In addition to stabilizing the bank and taking up nitrogen from the soil and groundwater—which reduces the amount transported to the river—the willows provide shade to keep water cool in the summer, and habitat for aquatic insects and wildlife, Gardner said.

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