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State news in brief

UM Freshman drowns MISSOULA (AP) - A freshman at the University of Montana drowned while kayaking in Mill Creek near Frenchtown, local authorities said.

Ryan Michael Palmer, 19, or Portland, Ore., was kayaking with a friend at about 6:30 p.m. Monday when he was pinned against a rock, said Chief Scott Waldron of the Frenchtown Fire Department.

The water in Mill Creek is running very strong and has become a popular destination for kayakers.

A fellow kayaker freed Palmer and got him to shore where he started CPR, Waldron said. When they was no response, he climbed up a rocky cliff and drove his pickup to summon help.

Palmer died at St. Patrick Hospital about an hour later.Whitefish artist's work to be on stamp HELENA - The 2002-2003 federal junior duck stamp will boast a painting of a mallard duck by Nathan Closson of Whitefish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.

Closson, 18, will receive a $2,500 scholarship and a trip to Washington, D.C., in October to honored at the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. With him will go one parent, his art teacher, Lonnie Collingsworth of Whitefish High School, and the Montana coordinator of the contest.

The junior duck stamp sells for $5. The proceeds support the scholarship program.

The winning paintings from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa advance to the national contest, which chooses three top paintings.MSU president reports on finances BOZEMAN - Montana State University is thin financially, but not emaciated, President Geoff Gamble told some 300 professors, administrators and employees Monday.

"Let's be careful and not fall into a victim mentality," he said of the possibility of state-imposed budget cuts next year. A 3 percent reduction would cost MSU $1.25 million from its $88 million budget and would be "doable," Gamble said. If the cut went as deep as 10 percent, he said, that would be "interesting."

Nationwide, most state universities are facing far worse budget cuts, including $30 million at the University of Idaho and $15 million at Washington State, Gamble said.

Gamble acknowledged problems, such as a $1 million shortfall in athletics and $2.3 million in uncollected student tuition over several years, but said steps were being taken to avoid such surprises in the future.

"This university has the right stuff," Gamble said.

The audience applauded warmly, and even an outspoken critic of Gamble's, Professor Ed Mooney, said he liked Gamble's "tone and direction." Regent Richard Roehm of Bozeman called the speech "outstanding.Groups to meet on weed plan MISSOULA - Bitterroot National Forest officials have agreed to meet with nine environmental groups from Missoula and consider their comments on the agency's proposal to treat noxious weeds in the forest.

They refused the groups' request to hold a public hearing in Missoula, said Dixie Dies, public affairs officer for the Bitterroot forest.

The Forest Service held public meetings in Darby and Hamilton in March and in Stevensville on April 2 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement on the weed treatment proposal and to accept public comments on it. The open-house meetings were announced in the Missoulian and other media.

Forest officials also denied a request by the nine environmental groups to extend the comment period, which ends Tuesday.McDonald chides Taylor HELENA - Republican Mike Taylor is guilty of trying to buy the election, the same offense he accused Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of committing, Republican Jack McDonald said Tuesday.

Taylor seems to have a lot of money in his campaign war chest, most of it his own, said McDonald, a former legislator now living in Helena.

McDonald said he personally sent out a fund-raising letter to several dozen people, but he found there was not a lot of money available in the Republican primary.

"Taylor has done a pretty good job of locking up the money in the primary," McDonald said. But McDonald added that he knows from experience that not a lot of people get involved in primary races.

McDonald, who hasn't raised the $5,000 that would require him to file campaign finance reports, said he remains "really comfortable" about the outcome of the June 4 primary.

He intends to rely on radio interviews rather than advertising, he said.

"My campaign is against the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. "I feel strongly about that. We've got to change that before we change America."

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