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Montana bankruptcy judge announces retirement

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's longtime U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ralph Kirscher is retiring.

It was announced this weekend that Kirscher will retire effective Jan. 31, 2017.

The 64-year-old Kirscher has been Montana's only full-time bankruptcy judge for the last 16 years. He was first appointed to the bankruptcy bench in 1999 and reappointed to a second term in 2014.

He maintains court chambers in Butte, but travels much of the state in conducting court business.

In addition to his Montana court duties, Kirscher also has serves on the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, which hears appeals of decisions by bankruptcy courts in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions.

Kirscher most recently has overseen the bankruptcy proceedings of the Yellowstone Club and resulting litigation against its co-founder Tim Blixseth.


Vet's three-year battle with Montana VA ends in victory

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune,

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula veteran has won a victory in his three-year battle with the Veterans Administration over his traumatic brain injury.

Charles Gatlin says the VA's Appeals Management Center has overturned the VA's initial rating decision in his case.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that Gatlin suffered head injuries when a car bomb exploded near him in Iraq in 2006.

The Army concluded that his injuries were permanent and discharged him with a 70 percent disability rating.

But the VA dropped Gatlin's brain injury rating from 70 percent to 10 percent.


Malmstrom Air Base wins top ICBM award

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune,

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base has been recognized as the best missile wing within U.S. Strategic Command.

Malmstrom was among the winners of the 2015 Omaha Trophies, representing the intercontinental ballistic missiles leg of the nuclear triad.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the Omaha Trophy dates back to the Air Force's Strategic Air Command. It was originally created by the Strategic Command Consultation Committee in 1971.

It recognizes the top units in the ICBM wing, ballistic missile submarine, strategic bomber wing and global operations.


Glacier Park maintenance backlog still growing

(Information in the following story is from: Daily Inter Lake,

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The National Park Service estimates the cost of necessary improvements in Glacier National Park has grown to $179.8 million.

Glacier's so-called deferred maintenance costs grew by about $1.3 million over the last year. Nationwide, the park system added $440 million in unfunded maintenance obligations since last year, bringing the U.S. total to $11.9 billion.

The Daily Inter Lake reports that paved roads in Glacier account for the lion's share of the park's backlog at $123.5 million. That obligation has grown by about $8 million since last year.

Another $27.6 million is needed for building maintenance, nearly identical to the figure reported last year.

Other ongoing work around Glacier includes replacing decades-old, inefficient windows and doors on buildings that house park employees, working on interpretive exhibits and upgrading electrical systems.


Where Tetons grow, continents once collided

(Information in the following story is from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide,

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Geophysicists are still trying to determine how the continents have drifted around over the Earth's history.

However, recent research finds that about 2.68 billion years ago there were two continents that collided on the tectonic plates that now underlie the Teton Range in northwest Wyoming.

University of Wyoming geophysicist Carol Frost tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the research has found the oldest continental collision on Earth.

A National Science Foundation grant acquired about a decade ago enabled Frost and her students to pour their energy into studying the Teton Range formation.

The culmination of their work was an academic paper that published in January.

Frost calls Wyoming a geologic treasure-house on studying the origins of the Earth because of accessible rock formations.


Groups file suit to keep goats out of La Sal Mountains

(Information in the following story is from: Deseret News,

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Plant protection groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service, saying mountain goats released in the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah are damaging rare species of plants.

KSL-TV reports that the Denver-based Grand Canyon Trust and the Utah Native Plant Society this week filed a claim in the U.S. District Court of Utah, asking that the nonnative mountain goats be removed from the Mount Peale Research Area and that no more goats be released.

Utah sought to release mountain goats in the La Sal mountains in the 1980s, but the Forest Service concluded that they would damage the sensitive vegetation. According to the lawsuit, the Utah Wildlife Board introduced the goats to the region in 2013 without federal approval.

A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources official said he could not comment on the litigation.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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