Great Falls airport drawing more travelers

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

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — An official at Great Falls International Airport says passenger traffic is growing at a "blistering pace."

Airport Director John Faulkner tells the Great Falls Tribune that more than 83,000 passengers passed through the airport during the first three months of 2012.

Faulkner says that's a 14 percent increase from the same period last year.

In 2011 the airport surpassed 340,000 annual passengers for the first time in its history.

Faulkner says the growth is due to a continuing surge of Canadian travelers using the Great Falls airport and lower ticket prices from more Allegiant Air flights and an announcement by Frontier Airlines that it will add service starting May 14.

He says that after Frontier's announcement, ticket prices to Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago dropped more than 50 percent.


Lewis and Clark forest to grow with land purchase

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

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service plans to buy 1,640 acres of pristine private land in the Tenderfoot Creek Drainage in the Little Belt Mountains to add to the Lewis and Clark National Forest southeast of Great Falls.

The purchase is one of 27 across the country intended to protect clean water and fish and wildlife habitat, absorb private inholdings within wilderness areas, and support outdoor recreation spending that contributes $14.5 billion annually to the economy.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an announcement Friday that offshore drilling fees are financing the purchase of $40.6 million worth of new national forest lands in 15 states.

Forest Service spokesman Bob Dennee tells the Great Falls Tribune that $2 million is being used to buy the land in Montana.


Clipboard hitting rotor caused fatal copter crash

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says an August 2010 helicopter crash that killed two Idaho Fish and Game biologists and the pilot was caused when a metal clipboard belonging to one of the biologists hit the tail rotor.

The report released Thursday says it's unclear if the clipboard fell out of an external luggage rack or came from inside the three-seat helicopter. The helicopter had a fully-enclosed cabin, but officials say doors are sometimes opened in flight.

Killed were 47-year-old Larry Barrett and 34-year-old Danielle Schiff, who were to count salmon spawning nests in the Selway River. The pilot was 43-year-old Perry J. Krinitt of Belgrade, Mont.

The debris path included parts from the tail rotor and clipboard leading to the crash site in the town of Kamiah.


USGS to assess oil production in North Dakota

(Information in the following story is from: The Dickinson Press,

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey plans to assess areas within North Dakota's booming oil patch next year to see how much oil and gas is being produced.

The USGS assessment will look at the Bakken and Three Forks formations within the Williston Basin so it can estimate the "undiscovered recoverable resources" in the oil fields.

Stephanie Gaswirth is the USGS task chief of the Williston Basin assessment. She tells The Dickinson Press that the USGS did not study the Three Forks formations in its 2008 assessment.

The 2008 study estimated that North Dakota and Montana had 3 to 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation.

But Vicky Steiner with the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties says officials believe those numbers are too low.


Man sentenced for crash that killed grandson

(Information in the following story is from: Billings Gazette,

RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) — A 49-year-old man whose drunk driving crash killed his 4-year-old grandson has received 45 days in jail along with a 10-year suspended sentence during which he must continue alcohol treatment.

The Billings Gazette reports Vincent Garcia at his sentencing on Thursday told Carbon County District Judge Blair Jones that he would trade place with his grandson if he could.

Garcia pleaded guilty to felony negligent homicide in January for a November 2011 crash that killed Merrick Joseph Negaard of Red Lodge.

Prosecutors say Garcia was driving a pickup while his blood-alcohol level was 0.143 percent when he hit a patch of ice on Highway 212, causing his pickup to collide with an oncoming vehicle.

The boy's mother and 1-year-old brother also were hurt in the crash.


GF man dies in rollover on Interstate 15

(Information in the following story is from: Billings Gazette,

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says a 28-year-old Great Falls man riding in a pickup truck died after being ejected from the vehicle that rolled when the driver hit a patch of ice on a bridge and lost control.

Police say the man wasn't wearing a seatbelt when the Toyota Tacoma rolled almost two times about 11:45 p.m. Friday on Interstate 15 north of Great Falls and came to rest on its passenger side. Police say he died at the scene.

Police tell the Billings Gazette that the driver, who was wearing a seatbelt, refused medical attention. Names have not been released.