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News In Brief: Oct. 26, 2018

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Bozeman Health Foundation launches Charity Care appeal for Big Sky Medical Center


Throughout the next year, Bozeman Health Foundation is committed to raising $120,000 in funds to be made available for patients at Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center needing financial assistance with their medical bills.

Bozeman Health Patient Financial Services acts as a patient advocate and works with patients who express concern over their ability to pay for their healthcare needs to provide them with resources and help determine if a patient is eligible for financial assistance. While each patient and their need is carefully attended to in a personalized manner, patients who are eligible for financial assistance have their medical bills greatly reduced, and in some instances, patients will not owe anything.

“We want to ensure that everyone has access to care regardless of their ability to pay, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This is about making a difference—a real difference in people’s lives. But in order to make this happen, we need the community’s support,” said Chris Darnell, Big Sky Medical Center administrator.

Big Sky community members Manny and Sue DiMiceli, Mary Grace Wilkus and Thomas Johnston, and Mike and Sue Arneson will match the first $60,000 in gifts toward the $120,000 goal.

Charitable donations received by Bozeman Health Foundation will also help advance its Caring Forward Campaign, with Big Sky Medical Center being one of the campaign’s four fundraising priorities. That campaign has now raised $13.5 million dollars in community support toward its ambitious $15 million goal.

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Montana Land Reliance receives national award


Montana Land Reliance was one of four organizations and individuals recognized by Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization, during its annual conference, Rally 2018, in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12.

Headquartered in Helena, Montana Land Reliance received a President’s Award. “Through its work and dedication, Montana Land Reliance has had an incredible impact on conservation in Montana, across the West and the entire nation,” read a Land Trust Alliance press release about the recipients. “It has conserved more than 1 million acres and serves as a prominent advocate for federal conservation-friendly policy.”

Other honorees include the Newtown Forest Association in Newtown, Connecticut; Shirley Heinze Land Trust of Valparaiso, Indiana; and Andy Bicking, director of public policy at Scenic Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York.

“For 40 years, The Montana Land Reliance has worked with Montana’s landowners to protect over $1 million acres of agricultural lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and open space,” wrote MLR Managing Director Rock Ringling in an email to EBS. “For about that same amount of time, MLR has worked with the Land Trust Alliance to make conservation more accessible for not only Montanans, but also for landowners across the country.

“This years-long partnership has been one graced with success—over 56 million acres of successful land protection by over 1,300 organizations—thanks to the wonderful leadership that LTA has provided land trusts across the nation, and the leadership Andrew Bowman and Wendy Jackson now bring to the organization. We at MLR so look forward to working with the dedicated staff at LTA to see what the next 40 years of successful partnership brings to the landscape.”

Tobacco company spends $5M more to fight Montana initiative


A tobacco company has dumped nearly $5 million more into the campaign to defeat a Montana ballot initiative in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

The cash loans and in-kind donations by Altria Client Services reported Monday puts the Marlboro cigarette maker’s total contributions at more than $17 million to defeat the proposed tobacco tax increase.

Campaign finance reports show the ballot committee organized against the tax measure used Altria’s money to buy $3.4 million worth of broadcast, digital and newspaper ads between Oct. 3 and Oct. 13.

The fight over whether to raise the tobacco tax and extend the state’s Medicaid expansion program is one of the most expensive in the state’s history of ballot initiatives.

Montana governor sues attorney general over land authority

By Matt Volz Associated Press

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is suing the state’s attorney general over whether the Democratic governor has the authority to unilaterally approve conservation easements.

Bullock’s petition to the Montana Supreme Court challenges Republican Attorney General Tim Fox’s legal opinion that says the state Land Board must approve conservation easements larger than 100 acres (40 hectares) or worth more than $100,000.

Bullock argues in the petition filed Monday that a conservation easement is not a land acquisition, so the board’s approval is not required.

An attorney general’s opinion is binding unless it’s overruled by a judge.

The dispute arose earlier this year after Bullock allowed Fish, Wildlife and Parks to purchase a $6.1 million conservation easement despite the Land Board previously voting to indefinitely delay any action on the land in eastern Montana.

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