States' rights gone wrong
We hate to pick on the Beehive State, but sometimes Utah picks on itself. Take the $101 million in federal funds earmarked for the state to spend avoiding teacher layoffs -- Utah's share of a $10 billion package covering all 50 states. But was the Republican Legislature grateful for this windfall from Washington? Not on your life, even though classrooms in Utah's public schools remain perennially overcrowded. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, there was a general "gnashing of teeth" as state representatives griped about the federal government's audacity in meddling in state matters. Congress did attach some strings to its aid: States have to sustain some of their current funding levels and also agree to preserve jobs. Moreover, if the Legislature and the governor refused to accept the $101 million, the money skipped elected officials and went right to school districts to disburse. Caught in a bind and fuming at this "intrusion into state autonomy," outgoing House Speaker David Clark spoke for many of his fellow legislators when he allowed that he'd "hold my nose and vote for this."
Mary Jo Reavis of Decker, Mont., is one determined octogenarian: This fall, she finally decided to plug her first bull elk. A lifelong hunter of mule deer, the 86-year-old told the Billings Gazette that she wanted just the right size of elk so she could mount its antlers over the stairs to her basement. Any bigger, she said, and "I'd have to have another room to put the antlers in." After some hiking, Reavis succeeded in getting just what she wanted: an imposing 5x5 bull. Another Montana hunter, Dave Bradt, made bigger news when he inadvertently bagged a creature 70 million years old. "I was washing my face in the creek and I saw the rib bones and I thought they were just petrified trees," recalls Bradt, who runs a guest ranch in Florence. But pulling vegetation aside, he found more fossilized bones from a 12-foot-long marine reptile, a member of a species that long ago ate meat, breathed air and grew to as long as 50 feet. Scientists will get a close look at the creature, presumed to be a plesiosaur, in the spring when the snow melts, reports the Billings Gazette; for now, its location in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is being kept secret to thwart would-be poachers.