East gate open. Yellowstone National Park opened its east entrance at 8 a.m. Friday – the date originally scheduled before the federal budget sequester prompted the National Park Service to reduce its snowplowing budget. Plowing was completed on schedule thanks to Cody, Wyo., businesses who funded snowplowing in the park by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. As of Friday, the north and west entrances also were open and most interior roads were open.
Park priority. Montana’s 54 state parks soon will be getting more attention. Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill last week at Pictograph Cave State Park, creating the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Duane Ankney of Colstrip and Sen. Jim Keane of Butte, creates a separate policymaking board for the parks, which tended to be ignored while the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission addressed fish and wildlife issues.
Permitting rumors. Bad news spreads fast, even if it’s not true. Such was the case with a rumor that processing of building permits was backlogged in Billings. City-County Planning Director Candi Beaudry and City Administrator Tina Volek gave assurances that permits are being issued fairly quickly, on average in four days for residential plans and 11 days for commercial plans. The good news: 452 permits with a valuation of nearly $88 million were issued in the first three months of this year.
Oil reserves. A new assessment of the Bakken and Three Forks shale formations shows that 1.6 billion barrels of oil could be recovered in Montana and 5.8 billion barrels could be recovered in North Dakota. This estimate doubles the amount of oil projected previously.