Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

William Marcus

It was a rare event Thursday at the Montana capitol: A public hearing brought together a panel of state lawmakers and an audience packed with coal and electric industry representatives, yet very few people had anything to say. Even the group’s chairman, Butte Democratic Senator Jim Keane, found it odd:

Enjoy the beautiful weekend, colder weather is on the way.
National Weather Service Missoula

By all accounts it should be gorgeous late-summer weather this weekend, but a major change is just around the corner.

The death of an inmate at Flathead County jail has prompted a state investigation.

Iberica Paulino was found dead in her cell Thursday morning during a security round in Kalispell.

NASA Taps Montana High Schoolers For Space Station Solutions

Sep 11, 2015
Florence Gold NASA HUNCH Implementation Project Manager shows Laurel High School students a Russian- made box that flew to the International Space Station (ISS) on Space X-6. Gold told says students in the HUNCH program have fabricated soft-sided boxes.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

Astronauts are looking for help in solving some of the challenges of living and working on the International Space Station, and they're turning to Montana high school students to help find solutions.

Alexander Blewett III speaks at the UM Law school, now named for him following his $10 million gift to the school.
Todd Goodrich, University of Montana

The man whose name now adorns the University of Montana law school said today that it was actually his clients who made the $10 million gift that resulted in the law school being named for him.

The federal government will decide whether or not to list the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species List later this month. Another sage grouse species, the Gunnison sage grouse, has been on that list since last November. The government followed a distinct and separate process for the Gunnison grouse, classifying it as “threatened”.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Flickr user terkel110 (CC-BY-2.0)

Yellowstone National Park marked a record 3 million visits in the first eight months of 2015. With four months left in the calendar year, the park is on track to have one of its highest visitation years on record.

Apprentice Program Aims To Get Kids Interested In Hunting
Flickr User Jeff Noble (CC-BY-2)

Kids in Montana can now hunt without taking hunter education classes. State lawmakers passed a new law allowing that this year.

The Apprentice Hunter Program allows kids age 10 to 17 to get some Montana hunting licenses without the education previously required.

The UM BBER survey found Montanans seek out local news from all sources.
Courtesy UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research

A new survey of Montanans' news media preferences is out.

"If you compare local to national, local dominates," says John Baldridge, with the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. He did the survey for the Greater Montana Foundation.

State Forester Bob Harrington says Montana has had 347 wildfires on state land so far this year.  That’s about 30 percent more fires than a typical year, but the total area burned is less than half of the five-year average. 

About 170 greater sage grouse gather on Wes McStay’s ranch in northwestern Colorado.  They're here to mate in an open field of recently-planted rye.

Biologists call such a gathering a lek, where male grouse perform an elaborate mating dance that involves inflating two yellow air sacs in their chests and then releasing the air with a bubbling pop. 

In May, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stepped up to the podium at a press conference in Boise. The smell of damp sagebrush was in the air, and the foothills in the background were green – a rare sight in the high desert. Jewell then cut to the chase:

“Fire is the number one threat to this ecosystem in the Great Basin states,” said the Obama administration cabinet member.

It doesn't get more local than this. A least some of the local food at UM comes from a garden behind the dining hall.
Josh Burnham

The University of Montana Wednesday said that it’s now buying more than $1 million worth of local food a year.

Director of UM Dining Mark LoParco said the numbers for last fiscal year have just been tallied, and they show that the school spent $1.2 million for Montana-grown food.

Corey Stapleton has entered the Montana Secretary of State race.
Courtesy Corey Stapleton

A former state Senator from Billings has announced he’s running for statewide office.

Republican Corey Stapleton served eight years in the Montana Senate, and since leaving office he’s run unsuccessfully for Governor, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate. Now he wants to be Secretary of State.

Bison at Fort Belknap
Mark Azure

Tribal and state officials Wednesday said no contagious disease killed 19 bison on the Fort Belknap Reservation in July. The animals were part of a herd of 56 "genetically pure" bison transferred to the reservation from Yellowstone National Park earlier this year.

Montana Schools are getting half a million dollars in federal grant money to improve math and science instruction.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau says a chunk of those funds will go to math programs on the Flathead Reservation. Juneau’s office says over the past five years American Indians’ rate of proficiency in math and science is 30 percent lower than white Montanans.

The actress Loretta Swit — best known for her role as Major “Hotlips” Houlihan in the popular TV show M.A.S.H. — is in Missoula. She’s here for a screening of “Never The Same” — a film about American prisoners of Imperial Japan during World War II. The screening coincides with an exhibit at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture that features pieces by Montana artist Ben Steele.

Brian Maxfield is a wildlife conservation biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. And he's a bit of a voyeur.

Back in the spring, Maxfield strapped transmitters to about a dozen greater sage grouse in northeastern Utah. His goal? To spy on them.

Each bird’s every move is now a mosaic of color-coded dots on a clipboard he keeps in his pickup. Today, he’s honing in on the blue dot. And he’s worried.

Missoula County Sheriff
Sean Robb

Until this week the Missoula County Sheriff's office hadn't had an increase in sworn officers in 30 years.
That changed today with the swearing-in of four new deputies, raising the department's total number of deputies to 51.

Blood sugar test

A study of government health surveys finds half of all U.S. adults now have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Kevin and Marti Murphy and their children at their home in Colstrip.
Amy Martin

Kevin Murphy has worked at the Rosebud coal mine for 15 years, running a bulldozer which works in tandem with a dragline – a machine as big as a ship with a giant boom that extends 300 feet up into the air. The dragline perches on the lip of an open pit, scraping away hundreds of feet of rocky soil to reveal the black seam of compressed prehistoric peat that humans have been burning for fuel for millennia.

State of Montana

The outcomes of dozens of infant death court cases are now in question, as investigations continue into the work of a former Montana medical examiner.

At least eleven people in eight Montana counties have tested positive for salmonella poisoning believed to be linked to cucumbers.

Update: since this story was first published, the CDC has confirmed that contaminated cucumbers have been found in 27 states, including Montana.  

A grizzly bear visiting a wire hair snag station near Glacier National Park.
Flickr user GlacierNPS (PD)

The Alberta government designated The Castle Special Place as a Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park after more than 40 years of pressure from local advocates and community members. Michael Jamison of the National Park Conservation Association says this land protection has impacts for the entire Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For September 4, 2015

Sep 4, 2015
A helicopter drops water on a fire in the Holter Complex.

Montana firefighters are using this cool, wet weather to continue making gains on area wildfires. Northern Rockies Coordinating Group spokeswoman Paula Short says the cold front's a big help, but there's still so much fire out there that the season won't come to an end overnight.

William Marcus

Montana’s proposed rules for political campaigns need rewriting. That was the opinion of several public interest groups that testified during two days of public hearings Wednesday and Thursday at the state capitol. The rules proposed by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, define when a public interest group qualifies as a "political committee".

Members of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation hear comments on proposed drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine area in Choteau, MT Sept. 2, 2015
Corin Cates-Carney

The federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation held a meeting in Choteau Wednesday evening on proposed drilling on U.S. Forest Service land in the Badger-Two Medicine area. The council is trying to understand how and if the exploration for natural gas can comply with the National Historic Preservation Act.

Wildland Firefighters working on fire line on the West Fork Fish Creek Fire.

Montana wildfire roundup for September 3, 2015.

STEM Education And More

Sep 2, 2015
Jackie Yamanaka

As the Baby Boom generation starts to retire in big numbers, Montana is facing a potential shortage of skilled workers.

Efforts to fill jobs being vacated by retirees start in elementary school.

At first glance, Mr. Marquis’ classroom may seem chaotic. Take a closer look and you’ll find students standing at tables with plastic tubs filled with wires, wheels, joy sticks, and various small parts, and they’re consulting their tablets.

Several groups voiced concerns today about proposed new rules that govern Montana political campaigns.