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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

There’s Money in the Sagebrush, but MT Needs Cooperation

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Monday, December 15, 2014   

WOLF POINT, Mont. - There's cash in Montana's sagebrush that is quite lucrative for rural communities.

Bureau of Land Management sagebrush landscapes in Montana and other Western states were connected to more than $1 billion in recreation and tourism spending last year, according to an economic report from the Western Values Project.

State Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, said that puts new perspective on sagebrush conservation, and the potential Endangered Species Act listing for the Greater sage-grouse is right in front of our noses, with a solid plan needed to avert a listing.

"We all need to work together," she said, "and that's everybody - oil companies, farmers, ranchers and tourists. We also need industry and we need jobs, so we have to plan ahead."

Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order on sage grouse and proposed $10 million in his budget for voluntary state stewardship projects.

Smith said oil and gas industry representatives also have indicated there's urgency in taking action. She added that there are many ways landowners, farmers and ranchers can be involved, such as enrolling land in the Conservation Stewardship Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Smith said the dream conservation plan would be one that protects existing rights, allows for new development, grows the tourism and recreation industry and commits to habitat conservation.

"The states need to work together also - Montana, Wyoming," she said. "We have to look at that, the whole picture - and I think that's teamwork."

Another player on the team is the BLM, and Smith said there have been promising signs, but thinks the agency needs to be more focused on habitat conservation.

The economic study is online at westernvaluesproject.org and Bullock's executive order is at governor.mt.gov.


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