Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

Montana's construction sector is making gains, but still isn't back to pre-recession levels.

Montana's construction sector is making gains, but still isn't back to pre-recession levels. Economist Patrick Barkey says Montana's construction wages indicate steady growth in the industry.

Jonathan Motl is rewriting the rules for politics in Montana. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not.  The state's Commissioner of Political Practices has come out with a top-to-bottom rewrite of the rules that candidates, parties, and political committees must follow, partly because of Senate Bill 289, the so-called “dark money” bill passed by the state legislature this year.

Map of Solenex Lease site in the Badger-Two Medicine near Glacier National Park
Courtesy Montana Wilderness Association

Wednesday brings another round in the decades-long fight over whether to allow energy development on U.S. Forest Service land in the Badger-Two Medicine area just south of the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.


In general it’s been another fairly quiet day for wildfires in Montana, with cooler temperatures and higher humidities in the northwest.

But, between Helena and Great Falls, Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reported an active fire day on fires near Holter Lake.

A proposed initiative would allow Montana public school employees to carry concealed weapons in school.
Flickr user Ibro Palic (CC-BY-NC-2)

Signature gathering soon begins for a proposal to allow public school employees with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon in school. Initiative-175 has cleared the necessary legal hurdles to appear on the 2016 ballot if sponsor Chet Billi can get the necessary number of signatures.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 31, 2015

Aug 31, 2015
Burned area in the interior of the West Fork Fish Creek Fire.

In general, wildfires in western Montana calmed over the weekend, thanks to cooler weather and even a little rain, but other fires grew, and some new ones popped up.

Volunteers look after a canine evacuee at the makeshift shelter in Browning.
Courtesy Lewis & Clark Humane Society

When authorities Saturday ordered the residents of Heart Butte to evacuate in the face of an approaching wildfire, Gina Wiest decided to help some of those who were being forced out of their homes. The Red Cross had already set up a shelter for the people, but Wiest, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, knew there was no shelter for the animals.

New Montana Immunization Requirements In Effect This School-Year

Kids going back to school this fall may first need to visit the doctor’s office to comply with new immunization requirements.

Eric Whitney

The U.S. Forest Service team leading the attack on the West Fork Fish Creek Fire southwest of Alberton had a public information meeting in Alberton last night, and more than 200 people came. So many people came, they had to open the big garage doors at the fire station to accommodate the crowd.


The following information is from the federal government's InciWeb wesite, full post is here.

Eric Whitney

The following information was posted to at 8:55 a.m. Sunday, August 30 to the federal government's InciWeb site.

An evacuation notice has been issued for fewer than 20 residents of Lower Granite Lake Road, Granite Creek Road, Willow Road, Prospect Creek Road, Winchester Drive and Granite Lake Road. Officials ask all residents to be out of their homes by 1:00 p.m. today, August 29, 2015.

Air quality is poor across Montana due to wildfires burning in the western U.S.
Montana DEQ

Smoke levels across most of Montana spiked today, with air quality readings reaching "Very Unhealthy" in several locations, including Missoula, Great Falls, and the Flathead Valley; and reaching the highest warning level, "Hazardous" in Hamilton.

Meteorologist Kristen Martin with Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the smoke could get even worse before it starts to get better over the weekend.

flikr user Garry Knight (CC-BY-2)

The entire Northern Rockies will feel both immediate and long-term impacts of a powerful cold front moving into the region this weekend.

Meteorologist Genki Keno with the National Weather Service office in Missoula says the system hits western Montana Saturday afternoon. It packs sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles-per-hour with gusts of up to 40 miles-per-hour.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 28, 2015

Aug 28, 2015
A view of the Little Joe Fire from Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Stage 2 fire restrictions went into effect in the Missoula area today. The restrictions apply to public and private lands in Missoula, Mineral, Sanders, Granite and Ravalli counties, including the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests, BLM and state lands.

Sign greeting visitors to West Glacier Montana
flickr user J. Stephen Conn (CC-BY-NC-2)

When the Sheep Fire’s growth toward the town of Essex required evacuation of the town and surrounding area Thursday, residents were ready to go, and the nearby town of West Glacier was ready to help. An evacuation center was established just hours after Essex residents were evacuated.

Eric Whitney

About a hundred people came to Missoula’s Har Shalom synagogue this morning to be part of a protest against a new shipping terminal on the coast of Washington. Opponents say the terminal will cause environmental problems.

A view of the Sheep Fire on the afternoon of Thursday August, 27.
Courtesy Gregg DeNitto/Inciweb

Fire officials, evacuees and members of the community gathered in the gym of West Glacier Elementary School last night hours after the town of Essex evacuated.

More than 50 people filled the small gym as crew members on the Thompson Divide Complex explained how the Sheep Fire's recent movement made evacuation the right call.

Committee members tour the common room in the high security Assessment and Stabilization Unit, or ASU.   Up to four residents share the building.  The furniture is designed to resist damage.
Steve Jess

Fifteen residents of the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder will be moved to group homes over the next month, in part because of a staff shortage at the Center.

'Clean Coal' Development A Top Priority For China

Aug 27, 2015
The vice administrator for China’s National Energy Administration says development of 'clean coal' is a top priority for China.
Flickr user Erin Kinney(CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

China is not likely to give up using coal anytime in the near future. That was the message from a top energy official during a conference on clean coal technology this week in Billings.

Firefighters mop-up hot-spots on the Clark Fork Complex.
Bill Rosch/Inciweb

In far northwest Montana, the Clark Fork Complex of six fires continues to threaten homes near the town of Noxon. But fire managers now have a better picture of the challenges they face.

Gov. Bullock is hopeful upcoming talks will help clear the way to allowing Montana DNRC helicopters to work fires on federal lands.

It looks like there may be progress in the dispute between Montana and the U.S. Forest Service over firefighting helicopters.

The Billings Chinook Type-1 Helicopter drops fire retardant from the mobile retardant base onto the Sheep Fire, part of the Thompson-Divide Complex, burning near Highway 2 about 2 miles south of Essex, MT, Aug. 20, 2015.
Jonathan Moor/Inciweb

A mandatory evacuation of Essex and the surrounding area was ordered at about 2:45 this afternoon by the Flathead County Sheriff. Fire Information Officer Sonja Hartmann says the Sheep Fire burning just south of Highway 2 near Glacier National Park moved within a half mile of the town.

Structure protecton on the Bear Creek Fire.

Thompson Divide Complex
The Flathead County Sheriff's Department has issued a mandatory evacuation for the town of Essex, MT, threatened by the approaching Sheep Fire. Highway 2 is now closed from mile markers 176.8-185. The BNSF and Amtrack railroads in the area are also closed.

Flickr user David Pacey (CC-BY-2)

A Ravalli County doctor is facing homicide charges for allegedly over prescribing pain medications. Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen was arrested early Thursday morning at his home in Florence.

Ross Creek Cedars
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

On the Kootenai National Forest, one wildfire is burning within 1/2 mile of the Ross Creek Cedars, a popular scenic area home to massive cedars up to 1,000 years old.

Smoky air is Montana is forcing Montana's student atheletes inside or limiting their practices.
Josh Burnham

This year, fire season has collided with the school year all over the west, especially in northwest and north central Montana, where the smoke from blazes as far away as Washington has left the air loaded with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe, forcing teachers and coaches to decide whether to send students out for recess or practice, or keep them indoors.

Griz football game at the University of Montana
flickr user MuddyRavine (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

Plans to visit Missoula this weekend, but don't have a room booked yet? If so, you're either out of luck or you'll be paying a premium.

The Garden City will host not only the first University of Montana home football game of the season, but also the hugely popular River City Roots Festival. That admission-free, two-day music and arts event is produced by the Missoula Downtown Association.

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

A Columbia Falls fiberboard production line will open a bit later than expected after a small explosion and fire shut it down late last week.

New Boy Scout Policy: Too Soon To Feel Montana Impact

Aug 26, 2015

Last month, the Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on gay scout leaders, but Boy Scout officials in Montana say it’s too soon to tell whether the national organization’s policy change will have much of an impact here.