The Montana Historical Society has named the Luppold/Buckingham Ranch in Meagher County and the Sanders Ranch in Granite County to the Centennial Farm and Ranch register.

The Society honors families who have owned their land for 100 years or more.

The Luppold/Buckingham Ranch is extraordinary as one of two Centennial properties on the MTHS register to be owned by the same family for 150 years. Only one other Centennial ranch on the register is older – the Thexton Ranch near Virginia City, founded in 1872.

William Luppold survived the Civil War despite gunshot wounds through both knees. He arrived in Diamond City, Montana, in 1866, but sold his mining interests there to establish a ranch on the Smith River near White Sulphur Springs in 1873. That same year, he married Swiss-born Kate Kunath.

Starting off with 160 acres of homestead land, William raised hay, oats, and had a large garden. He bought his first herd of cattle in Gallatin County and later sold yearling steers and spade heifers. He also owned 20 percent of the Martinsdale Sheep Company, which was later purchased by Charles M. Bair. He faced innumerable challenges, including the death of his wife in 1875 and the devastating winter of 1886-87. After Kate died, William never remarried, but his sister Seraphina soon moved to the ranch to help and by 1890 he had expanded the ranch to 640 acres. After William died in 1916 and Seraphina in 1918, the ranch, then 2,000 acres, transferred to Seraphina’s daughter (William’s favorite niece), Emilia McStravick.

Emilia and then her daughter, Gertrude McStravick, leased the land to neighboring landowners for several decades. In the mid-1970s, as the family celebrated 100 years of ranch ownership, Gertrude began leasing the land to her nephew Frederick (Rick) Buckingham, William Luppold’s great-great-nephew. Rick raised hay, a production cow herd, and acquired neighboring grazing land. He inherited the ranch from Gertrude in 1985 and like his great-great-Uncle William and Aunt Gertrude, Rick did not have children. Repeating history, Rick bequeathed the ranch to his niece upon his death in 2018. Since then, Megan Shroyer and her husband, Rodger, have continued the family legacy.

Megan said keeping the ranch in the family has not been easy. “There have been challenges, worries, and endless work,” she said in her Centennial Farm application. “The best times were when a family member lived and worked the land; more difficulties came when the family was absent. Succession planning, open conversations, resiliency, continued learning, and hard work make for 150 years of ranching in our family.”

For the Sanders family in Granite County, resourcefulness and a shared vision of success within each generation helped the ranch pass through the generations from father to son. John and Johana Sanders and his son Edward moved from a farm near Anaconda to a homestead along Rock Creek in Granite County near Philipsburg in 1901. Father and son ranched together until John died suddenly in 1912 at age 57. Edward and his wife, Ida, inherited the ranch and during the next 40 years developed and expanded the diversified operation. They raised cattle and sheep, and soon added dairy cows, turkeys, and geese to the operation. They used proceeds from dairy and poultry sales to acquire additional land. Ed and his son Leonard ranched together for years before Leonard and his wife, Florence, took over in 1953. They grew hay and cattle, and raised children June and Tom, while expanding their hay fields.

Tom joined the operation as a boy, eventually taking over in 1979. He and his wife, Barbara, again expanded the cattle and hay operation, adding acreage and 100 cattle. They raised their son Carl on the ranch, passing down accumulated knowledge and tradition. Today, Carl and his wife, Kayla, run the 122-year-old operation with an eye toward passing it to their children. Carl said, “The REAL key to success has been each generation passing down insight from the previous generations as they work side-by-side with the current generation. Without these knowledge-sharing, working relationships, the Sanders’ Ranch would not have survived.”

The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) has submitted its proposal for a southern passenger rail in Montana to the Corridor ID Program of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). 

BSPRA hopes the North Coast Hiawatha (NCH) corridor from Chicago to Seattle/ Portland through southern Montana will be one of routes chosen by the FRA for funding, according to Dave Strohmaier, Chairman, Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. For each corridor selected, the FRA will award an initial grant of $500,000 for preliminary planning.

According to the FRA, “The Corridor ID Program is intended to become the primary means for directing Federal financial support and technical assistance toward the development of proposals for new or improved intercity passenger rail services throughout the United States.”

Its proponents claim that the North Coast Hiawatha will transform the economy of the “Greater Northwest” region, revitalizing rural communities and tribal nations and provide access for underserved citizens to health care, education, other services, and civic resources often unreachable in winter when highways become unreliable or hazardous. BSPRA states that the proposed route will serve as a key catalyst for creating or renewing other passenger rail routes in the American West and Canada and will help awaken a 21st century rail renaissance in western North America.

Strohmaier credited Quandel Consultants and KLJ Engineering with assisting in making application to the federal government.

The North Coast Hiawatha route is already under analysis as part of the FRA’s Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study. The Corridor ID Program will work with that study to complete a service development plan and preliminary engineering—precursors to resuming passenger rail service through southern Montana and beyond.

 Strohmaier said that the project has received letters of support from BNSF Railway, Amtrak, five state DOTs, U.S. senators from North Dakota and Montana, and municipalities.

Some counties in Montana, including Yellowstone County, have not endorsed the proposal due to concerns of costs that might be imposed on the counties and because of concerns about how a passenger line could disrupt rail freight.

The concept of a southern passenger rail line is not a new idea. A similar rail service, Amtrak, already passes through the norther tier of Montana, which is significantly subsidized by the federal government.  Amtrak traverses the entire country and reported $1.6 billion in capital spending in 2017 with operating expenses totaling $4.2 billion. Montana’s Amtrak route, called the Empire Builder, passes through Havre and the Flathead between Seattle and Chicago.

Yellowstone County was first requested to support the concept of a Montana route 13 years ago, according to County Commissioner John Ostlund. At that time, he said the estimated cost was $1 billion, an estimate that is probably double that now.  “Passenger rail service doesn’t make money,” said Ostlund.

 The Montana Department of Transportation website reports that in 2008 Amtrak estimated the capital and up-front costs “…to exceed $1 billion, annual operating cost would exceed $74 million, resulting in a $31 million annual operating loss.”

Big Sky Economic Development has announced the promotion of Patrick Klugman to the position of Senior Director of Economic Development Programs. In this new capacity, Klugman will be responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction for Big Sky Economic Development’s core business advising and outreach programs, including the Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center, Procurement Technical Assistant Center, and Member Investor Program. These programs are essential to executing BSED’s mission to support the growth of start-up companies, existing businesses, and economy of Billings, Yellowstone County, and the region. In collaboration with BSED’s business advising programs: unique responsibilities, contracts, and cooperative agreements will be interfaced by the Senior Director of Economic Development Programs with our federal, state, and local partners to effectively serve BSED’s clients and business community.

Since first joining Big Sky Economic Development in 2015, Klugman has served as the Community Development project Manager, then in 2021 became the Director of Development leading BSED’s Member Investor program.

Executive Director, Steve Arveschoug said, “Patrick’s new role with BSED comes as a result of his hard work and the partnerships he fosters in the community. It is also part of a restructuring effort that will include four new Senior Director roles in the organization. Senior Directors are charged with supporting the success of our individual programs and setting the stage for our growth, continuing the impacts we make on the community we serve.”

Klugman holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Montana State University Billings and Bachelor of Arts Political Science and Government degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Property taxes levied on single-family homes in the United States increased 3.6% to $339.8 billion in 2022, according to a new report from a real estate data firm.

That’s up from $328 billion in 2021. The 2022 increase was more than double the 1.6% growth in 2021, but smaller than the 5.4% increase in 2020, according to the report from ATTOM, a property data provider.

The report also shows that the average tax on single-family homes in the U.S. increased 3% in 2022, to $3,901, after rising 1.8% in 2021. The latest average tax resulted in an effective tax rate nationwide of 0.83%. That was down slightly from 0.86% in 2021 to the lowest point since at least 2016. The “effective rates continued to decline even as total taxes rose because home values went up faster than taxes,” according to the report.

Rimrock Board of Directors has announced that Jeff Keller has been selected as the new CEO. Keller, a long-time Billings resident, will lead the 200-person team starting in mid-April. Keller said of his new role, “Rimrock has been a staple in Billings and the region for over 50 years and is a place of hope and healing. I am honored to have been selected to serve in the role of CEO and I look forward to continuing the good work of Rimrock and engaging the community through Rimrock’s mission.”

Keller has an extensive business background including commercial banking and non-profit executive. He is the past president of the Rimrock Board of Directors and President of the Ramsey Keller Memorial. He is also a community advocate serving on local boards and a volunteer for youth sports. Former CEO, Lenette Kosovich, who announced her retirement earlier this year said of Keller, “I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side with Jeff. His passion, business acumen, and understanding of the critical work that Rimrock provides make him a great choice to lead Rimrock into the future. I am thrilled to have him lead our incredible team.”

Kosovich will continue in an advisory role through the transition of the new CEO.

If you are an income tax payer, or property tax payer, in Montana, chances are you have money coming your way.

The Montana State Legislature has approved, and the Governor has signed, bills that will be delivering the biggest tax reductions and rebates in Montana history – – $500 million worth.

So how much do you get and how do you go about getting it?

The process is being handled by the Montana Department of Revenue.

Income Tax Rebate as provided for by HB- 192.

If you lived and worked and paid income taxes in Montana in 2021 you will get a rebate on your income taxes of up to $1,250. If you didn’t pay that much in income taxes you will get a refund on what you did pay. All you have to do is sit back and wait for your refund – sometime in July, probably. All the rebates are to be disbursed by the end of the year.

Those eligible for up to $1,250 rebate are single taxpayers, heads of household or married taxpayers who filed separately. Married couples who filed jointly are eligible for up to twice that amount or $2,500.

Part time residents or people late in paying their taxes will not be eligible for the refund.

The rebate will be sent either electronically or by mail, depending on how you, most recently, paid your taxes or received your refund. The rebate will be sent to the bank account information listed on your most-recently filed Montana Form 2. . If you elected to receive your refund by a paper check or paid your tax bill by check, the rebate will be mailed to the address on your most-recently filed Montana Form 2.

Property Tax Rebate as provided for by HB-222

Home owners in the state who paid property taxes on their principle residence in 2022, and who will do so again in 2023 will receive a rebate of up to $500 for each year. The 2022 rebate is applicable to November 2022 and May 2023 payments, and the 2023 rebate is applicable to November 2023 and May 2024 payments.

Those who qualify for property tax rebates are those who owned and lived in a Montana property as their principal resident for at least seven months of each year and were assessed and paid property taxes on the residence within that rebate time frame.

It takes a little effort to get your property tax rebate.

Taxpayers may claim the 2022 rebate online through the TransAction Portal or by paper form beginning August 15, 2023. The claim must be filed by October 1, 2023. The portal is on the website (

Taxpayers may claim the 2023 rebate online through the TransAction Portal or by paper form beginning August 15, 2024. The claim must be filed by October 1, 2024.

By Evelyn Pyburn

The concept of non-partisan is nonsense.

It’s to say that a person doesn’t have an opinion. It’s to say they aren’t thinking. An employer I once worked for told me that they wouldn’t want someone working for them who didn’t have opinions because it meant they didn’t think.

While I am certain there are people in this world who don’t think, that’s not what “non-partisan” elections mean – it means the voter is to be denied knowledge about WHAT the candidate thinks.

The only thing a party affiliation might convey to a voter is where the candidates generally stand on issues. It’s a short-hand of sorts – which at its best is limited in the information it conveys to the voter but it could convey some information – certainly more than in not knowing. And, if a candidate doesn’t want to identify with either party they can say so. They can declare themselves an independent – and that also conveys information to the voters. Or better yet, they can be very specific with voters about what they do think.

What a voter wants to know is “How do you stand on issues? What can I expect from you in how you administrate?”

The answer to those questions may or may not reflect a specific political party, but there are lots of issues, some likely to be unanticipated, and knowing if a candidate likes one party or another could indicate a general philosophical position for voters —  that’s why parties have platforms. The issue isn’t about parties, it’s about ideas.

Why would anyone want to deny voters of as much information as possible? What’s the point in voting if you don’t know what you are voting for? There is an answer to this of course. Within the realm of political gamesmanship there are many times that a candidate doesn’t want the voters to know the truth of their positions, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  All the more reason a voter should know the ideas and policies a candidate holds.

Those who insist there are benefits to “non-partisanship” are quite obviously partisans.

What is baffling though is why do candidates go along with the program? I have encountered candidates who when campaigning in a “non-partisan election” say they avoid revealing their ideas in case it reflects a specific party. I found that incomprehensible. Just because someone declares it non-partisan doesn’t mean you have to play the game.

There is a sliver of understanding why people may want to see judges identified as non-partisan from the standpoint that that term for many people is interpreted to mean the candidate will be objective in their decisions. Again, utter nonsense.

They – maybe more than most – have ideas and opinions about issues— guaranteed. Declaring that judges should be non-partisan is to misunderstand the point of it all. The question we as voters should want answered is “Can you set your political views and biases aside and interpret the law even if it is contrary to your personal views?” That is real non-partisanship.

If they can interpret the law as written and not advocate for their political views then they can make a good judge – but as we have come to see over the past few decades, this is an increasingly rare ability. Calling for non-partisanship does nothing to identify judges who are smart enough or honest enough to interpret the law.

There are undoubtedly laws that are not good, but if they need to be changed that is the role of legislature – not the judicial branch. Unfortunately, that seems to be an understanding about our system that most judges have forgotten or failed to ever know.

The fact is if a bad law is accurately interpreted by a judge, such a decision could prompt a legislature to correct it – assuming of course that the legislature also sees it as a bad law – ahh, but there’s the rub – most judges who write law rather than interpret the law, do so in order to circumvent a legislature whose majority may very well not agree. Of course, such a judge has absolutely no business being a judge and is in fact unscrupulous in character.

So when you, as a voter, are asked to participate in a non-partisan election, know that partisan games are being played and that you are not being respected as a voter. Understand that the deck is being stacked against you, and dedicate yourself to not accepting such rules.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, announced a multi-state paid advertising campaign including radio and digital ads. The ads urge members of Congress to reject the White House FY 2024 budget proposal that includes new tax increases on small businesses.

The White House is wrongly characterizing the proposed tax hikes as the closing of “loopholes” but they would make it tougher for small businesses to operate, invest in their businesses, and create jobs.

“Main Street cannot afford these new tax increases,” said Brad Close, NFIB President. “As expectations for better business conditions remain low, while high inflation and worker shortages continue to plague Main Street, these proposals would hurt small businesses’ ability to recover, grow, and create jobs. The White House should instead focus on promoting economic growth by providing certainty, such as permanently extending the Small Business Deduction. NFIB encourages these members of Congress to stand up for Main Street and reject any new tax increases on small businesses.”

NFIB radio and digital ads start this week in Montana, Nevada, and West Virginia, urging Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen (NV), Sen. Jon Tester (MT), and Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) to reject the proposed tax increases. NFIB is also running digital ads in Wisconsin urging Sen. Tammy Baldwin to reject the proposed tax increases.

In addition, NFIB will also run digital ads thanking members of Congress for their continued opposition to the proposed tax increases: Rep. Jason Smith (MO), Rep. Kevin Hern (OK), Rep. Jodey Arrington (TX), Rep. Roger Williams (TX), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA), Rep. Steve Scalise (LA), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Sen. Mike Crapo (ID), Sen. John Thune (SD), Sen. Ron Johnson (WI), Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY), Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), Sen. Steve Daines (MT), and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (WV).

Mullinax Irrigation & Construction Supply, which provides irrigation solutions and construction products from their headquarters in Sheridan, WY, recently announced the sale of their business to a new generation of ownership.

Kevin Beagle and Dustin Frost, an Army and a National Guard Veteran, both with connections to the Billings business community, have purchased the company from Mullinax, Inc.

“For decades, the Mullinax name has been the trusted source helping ranchers, landowners and contractors throughout Northeast Wyoming and Southern Montana with unparalleled service, industry leading expertise and quality products,” said Kevin Beagle, President of Legacy Irrigation & Supply, dba Mullinax Irrigation & Construction Supply.

Retired, Lt. Colonel Kevin Beagle, USA, has over 20+ years as an active duty Enlisted Soldier and Commissioned Officer and most recently the CEO of InnerCore Optics / Ironsides. Upon retirement, Beagle founded and served as the CEO of The Ironsides Group, a national telecommunications and utility infrastructure provider with offices in Billings, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, and Phoenix. After 4 years, Kevin guided the sale of Ironsides to D4 Infrastructure of Houston, TX. Beagle is a graduate of MSU-Bozeman, holds an M.S. in Business and Administration from Central Michigan University and is a Graduate from the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College.

Frost is an innovative, vision focused business advisor with nearly two decades experience in start-ups, business acquisition, consulting, communications, and economic development. Before purchasing AlphaGraphics of Billings, a nationally recognized print and marketing firm with over 30 employees, he co-founded a successful political consulting and government affairs company. Prior to that, he spent nearly a decade in Montana politics serving as Campaign Manager on two successful statewide campaigns Congress. Most recently, Frost was Director of the Big Sky Veterans Business Outreach Center, where he helped connect veterans, service members and their spouses to small business success in Montana, Wyoming and Utah.

Mullinax Irrigation is a one stop irrigation supply center. The company can consult, design, engineer, supply, build and service complete irrigation system. In addition it provides Pure Ag soil enhancement to increase crop yield and decrease water usage.

 “As the new owners of this company we look forward to the opportunity to continue building on the legacy created by the Mullinax family and team.” Mullinax Irrigation and Construction Supply has been providing irrigation consultation, design, installation and supply to Sheridan area customers since 1971.

To help facilitate a seamless transition for customers, Beagle and Frost’s company, Legacy Irrigation & Supply, will continue doing business as Mullinax Irrigation and Construction Supply. “We couldn’t be happier with this next generation of leadership at Mullinax Irrigation and Supply,” said Nathan Mullinax, President of Mullinax, Inc. “Kevin’s experience as a military leader and CEO, combined with Dustin’s capabilities as a business advisor and successful marketing company owner, will ensure the company’s continued success.”

Mullinax Irrigation & Construction Supply can be found at 615 Fort Road in Sheridan, Wyoming.

The new executive director of Explore Whitefish is Julie Mullins. Explore Whitefish is also known as the Whitefish Convetion and visistors Bureau.  Julie Mullins arrived in Whitefish ten years ago. She and her husband were attracted by the allure of skiing and business opportunities for her husband. Mullins has 20 years experience working in the convention and tourism industry.

Foothills flooding is possible due to rapid snowmelt, according to a statement from the National Weather Service for the Livingston area. Flooding is not imminent, but people should move equipment and livestock out of low lying areas and away from waterways, the NWS advised. Between 5,000 feet and 7,000 feet, snowpack is currently 150 to 200 percent above normal, with 8 to 15 inches of water contained within this snow.

Aurore Bakery will open at its new Bozeman location, 141 West Baxter Lane, by the middle of this month. Aurore Adam is excited to expand her business, which has been doing individual orders, events and catering, out of her house, since last March 2022. The eatery will offer an array of French sandwiches, breads, cakes, pastries, and coffee. The bakery equipment is imported from France, along with the flour, butter and coffee she uses.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to replace the aging boat ramp at The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84. The Warm Springs fishing access on U.S. Highway 84 east of Norris will close on April 12 as work begins on the boat ramp, BLM said in a press release. The existing ramp will be replaced with a single-slab, multi-lane boat ramp, according to the current plan. Crews will make asphalt and chip repairs on the parking lot during the closure. The site is expected to reopen the first week of June.

The Grand Williston Hotel and Conference Center has reopened after a more than $ million renovation funded by the ownership group Real Capital Solutions. The remodled hotel has 149 guest rooms and a 7,000 square foot ballroom. The hotel offers 11,197 total square feet of meeting space. In addition to the ballroom, the Grand Williston has break-out meeting rooms that can be combined into one large space or separated into various configurations.

Samantha Jones and Tabatha Venezio have opeded their new business Simply Organized Montana serving the Flathead Valley. For Simply Organized Montana having an organized space is more than just about the aesthetic. It’s about maintaining sanity and finding peace. From pantries and closets to playrooms and garages, Jones and Venezio will organize any space.

The Montana Distillers Guild is holding its fourth annual Distiller’s Festival on April 22 in Whitefish at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. Attendees will  be provided the opportunity to  taste and learn about Montana-made spirits.The festival is Saturday, April 22 from 2:30-6 p.m. at Grouse Mountain Lodge. Providing the opportunity to taste and learn more about Montana-made spirits, The festival will showcase 12 distilleries from around Montana. Tickets are available online via the Montana Distiller’s Guild website at

Streamflow forecasts range from about 120% of normal to 180% of normal due to the exceptional snowpack in southern Beaverhead, Madison and Gallatin counties, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also to the West of the Continental Divide, streamflow forecasts are highest in the southern Mission Mountain region and the Upper Clark Fork River basin, at about 110% of normal to 130% of normal. Snowpack in the Bears Paw Mountains is about 250% of normal.

The MT Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the St. Mary Diversion Dam Replacement Project’s Draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The St. Mary Diversion Dam is part of Reclamation’s Milk River Project near Babb, Montana. The public comment period will run from March 29 to May 5, 2023.  There will be a public meeting on the Draft EA to be held on April 19, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at the Glacier Peaks Hotel Conference Room in Browning, Montana.

In an effort to help manufacturers meet their workforce needs the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University has launched a new apprenticeship program. The Certified Manufacturing Associate Apprenticeship is a one-year program that combines on-the-job training with online technical classes on topics like safety, math and measurements, manufacturing processes, and quality control. Participating employees earn $15 per hour during their first three months on the job, then $20 per hour for the rest of the year while they complete the 25 online class sessions.

The Big Sky Country Multiple Listing Service (BSCMLS) board of directors recently appointed Mike Lake as the Chief Executive Officer. Lake previously served as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Director for the BSCMLS. 

The USDA Forest Service announced two Montana businesses and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will receive funding to put toward building up the wood products economy and have sustainable forest management. The Whitefish business Wooden Haus Supply/Stolze Timber Systems and Marks-Miller Post and Pole, Inc. in Clancy will get $1 million and nearly $510,000 in wood products assistance funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.