Tribal teacher, ‘army of one’ hailed on eve of retirement

POPLAR — Starting next week, after she retires on May 1, Vina Smith intends to slow down. Those who know her well will believe it when they see it.

For 18 years, as the environmental educator for the Fort Peck Tribes, she has been a tireless teacher, role model and activist. She has helped plant thousands of trees, organized annual cleanup days, started recycling programs and made presentations at conferences across the country.

Miles City has high hopes for Ag Advancement Center


MILES CITY—Wally Badgett is one of many people looking forward to construction of a $3.2 million Agricultural Advancement Center on the west end of Miles City.

He coaches the rodeo team at Miles Community College, the only team in the region without an indoor arena. But the rodeo season is in the fall and spring, so most of the time the team does just fine outdoors, and in a pinch it can rent a private indoor arena outside of town. Continue Reading →


A stab from the past at St. Patrick


Chapter 1: St. Patrick Co-Cathedral, 215 N. 31st St.
Service, 10:30 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013
Length of service: 60 minutes. Length of sermon: 5½ minutes

This service was a mixture of the familiar and the strange. Familiar because I was raised a Catholic and was quite comfortable in the surroundings—the stained-glass windows, the Stations of the Cross, the many suggestions of Gothic architecture, the strict reliance on an organ and piano as the only accompaniment to the hymns. Continue Reading →

Tax cheats flock to Montana to buy tax-free vehicles, RVs

Car lots

There are many good reasons to live in Montana—and one of them is so good that increasing numbers of people are only pretending to live here.

That reason? Montana has no sales tax. That means out-of-state residents who set up a limited liability company in Montana could buy an expensive vehicle, or, better yet, a very expensive RV, in the company’s name and avoid tens of thousands of dollars in sales taxes in the state where they actually live. Continue Reading →

PPL Montana puts coal plant property up for sale


A huge parcel of prime riverfront in Billings is being offered for sale, but there’s a hitch: the 74-acre property is currently occupied by PPL Montana’s coal-fired power plant.

At least one party, the city of Billings, is already interested in the land, which sits between the Public Utilities Division’s water production plant, just upstream, and city-owned Coulson Park, just downstream of the power plant on the Yellowstone River. Continue Reading →

A skeptical pilgrim visits local churches


Starting a week from today and continuing every Monday for about six months, Last Best News will be running a new feature, At Your Service.

It will consist of a series of reviews, for lack of a better word, of church services—or mostly of services: one review will be of a musical presentation and another of a meeting of humanists—in the Billings area. To avoid blowing my cover, I have already made all my visits and written all my reviews. Continue Reading →

Dazzling variety of films celebrate Montana


If you’re reading this and it’s warm and sunny outside, you might want to stop right here and continue later.

That’s because I want to tell you about a collection of one-minute films that attempt to capture various aspects of Montana, and you’re liable to think, as I did, “What’s the harm in watching a few one-minute films?” Continue Reading →