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News briefs: superfund cleanup plan; habitat repairs; WY trespassing ruling

Officials release their proposed plan to cleanup
Aaron Bolton | Montana Public Radio

Federal environmental officials Thursday released their proposed plan to clean up a defunct aluminum smelter in Columbia Falls. The plan mostly entails containing toxic waste on the site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company plant along the Flathead River a superfund site in 2016. Waste left over from the smelting process includes cyanide and other harsh chemicals that could contaminate groundwater or harm the health of those who use the site in the future.

Now, the EPA is proposing a plan that would consolidate contaminated soil into a single landfill. The agency also wants to contain contaminated ground water with an underground concrete structure known as a slurry wall. Officials say they would monitor the site for 30 years to make sure contaminated groundwater is contained or resort to pumping out water for treatment.

The plan is estimated to cost $57.5 million and would take up to a year to complete.

The public comment period on the proposed plan runs through July 31. Officials plan to hold a public meeting on June 28.

Officials to spend $27 million on 3 habitat restoration projects in MT
John Hooks | Montana Public Radio

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday they’re going to spend close to $27 million on three habitat restoration projects across Montana.

The funds will aid restoration efforts in areas around the Blackfoot-Clark Fork River confluence near Missoula, the Upper Missouri Headwaters in southwest Montana, and the Hi-Line Sagebrush Anchor in north central Montana.

The bureau said the goal is to improve the health of public lands in the face of climate change, unprecedented wildfire events and invasive species.

The three projects in Montana are part of a broader effort by the bureau to spend more than $160 million from the Inflation Reduction Act on restoration projects across 11 Western states.

Wyoming court rules in favor of hunters who crossed corners on public land
Victoria Traxler | Montana Public Radio

A Wyoming district court has ruled in favor of hunters who crossed corners between public and private lands. As the implications of that precedent play out, Montana officials say nothing has changed on this side of state lines.

On May 26, a Wyoming judge found that a group of hunters did not trespass while crossing from one corner of public land to the other, while moving through private airspace.

The implications of this change are still being analyzed. But, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) reaffirmed Wednesday that nothing has changed for hunting in checkerboarded sections of land in Montana.

“Corner crossing remains unlawful in Montana, and Montanans should continue to obtain permission from the adjoining landowners before crossing corners from one piece of public land to another," FWP Deputy Director Dustin Temple said in a news release

Temple also said that FWP wardens will continue to report corner crossing cases to local attorneys to be prosecuted.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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