Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

We recently told you that Sunburst Middle School recently  won a $20-thousand-dollar technology grant. The prize was part of a national project by Samsung to raise student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
       Kim Bloch is a teacher in the school's gifted and talented program. Sunburst is a Class C school situated along north-central Montana's border with Canada; not far from the Port of Sweetgrass.

An undocumented Mexican immigrant who says he was raped while in custody at the Jefferson County Jail is waiting to see if his case will be heard in court before he is deported. Meanwhile, the alleged incident is calling into question how the jail ensures the safety of prisoners.

Montana Legislature

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices this week issued a ruling accusing a sitting Republican state lawmaker of illegally coordinating with a “dark money” group during his 2010 campaign, an accusation the lawmaker denies.

As reported earlier, Montana's senior Senator Max Baucus has been nominated to be the next ambassador to China - pending confirmation by the Senate.

Dan Boyce

(Note: This is the third of a six-part series on "Bakken Spinoffs" airing Thursdays through January 9th on "Montana Evening Edition.")

Sidney, Montana and other towns surrounding the Bakken Oil Boom are seeing rapid growth and businesses of all kinds are benefitting from the influx of new people following the oil.

Reynold’s Market, a Sidney grocery store in operation since 1925, just moved to a new location twice the size of their old place. The number of workers there bumped up from about 60 to 140.

Among the Montanans hoping to make it to the Sochi Olympics this winter is Bozeman native and reigning national freestyle mogul ski champion, Heather McPhie.

It would be McPhie's second Olympics - she placed 18th in Vancouver in 2010. This year's team will be picked in January.

McPhie is back in Bozeman for the holidays after competing in a World Cup event in Finland. The 29-year-old took time out from her training to speak with News Director Sally Mauk about her skiing career. It's a sport that's in her blood - beginning with her great grandfather.

Dan Boyce

A prayer vigil was held Tuesday night at Helena’s First United Church of Christ for a Mexican man who says he was raped while in custody at a Montana jail in October.

A series of such vigils are being held around the state

Undocumented immigrant Audemio Orozco-Ramirez was detained after a routine traffic stop in Sidney, Montana.

The vigils seek justice and solace for Orozco-Ramirez and his family. His lawyer wonders if Orozco-Ramirez will be deported before the case can be heard.

Former governor Brian Schweitzer says he plans to spend a lot of time in Iowa, and in fact, he's giving a speech there today - raising more questions about whether he intends to run for president.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the non-partisan, not-for-profit Trust for America's Health released a report this week showing most of the nation is not adequately prepared to handle outbreaks of infectious disease.
    The Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases report finds the nation's ability to prevent and control outbreaks of infectious disease is hampered by limited resources and outdated infrastructure.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are stepping up to fill a transportation gap between the Flathead, Mission, and Missoula Valleys. Transit Section Superintendent David Jacobs with the Montana Department of Transportation says Rimrock Stages was handling bus service from Missoula to Kalispell.

He said it was shut down by the Federal Motor Carriers Service Administration for non-compliance last March. He said the MDOT was waiting to see if Rimrock Stages would come back into compliance.

Katrin Frye

“My dad started with one cow 35 years ago, they loved the animal, and we grew to 200 head, because of the animal, and so, I like people to understand that we sell the milk to keep the cows- it’s not the other way around,” Mary Tuck is Vice President and owner of Kalispell Kreamery.

It’s the last of the Flathead dairy farms in an area that used to boast more than forty. Kalispell Kreamery evolved from her family dairy farm; Hedstrom Dairy.

Dan Boyce

(Note: This is the second of a six-part series on "Bakken Spinoffs" airing Thursdays through January 9th on "Montana Evening Edition.")

Covering news in the Eastern Montana town of Sidney has been a changing business over the last five years.

Front pages depicting the life and times of a sleepy farm town now include headlines about a booming population, a booming economy, and crime.

This month, we’re bringing you a series of stories on the side effects of the Bakken Oil Boom, positive and negative.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce has the story.

Dan Boyce

Maintenance crews are still cleaning up the state capitol building after a frozen pipe burst and flooded the basement and first floor on December 5th.

Water damaged sheetrock and ceiling tiles and ruined equipment in basement offices. On Monday, the basement hallway was still littered with tables and boxes.

Public Information Officer at the Department of Public Administration Sheryl Olson said the state does not yet have a cost estimate from the flood. Not all the bills have come in yet.

The financial crash of 2008 brought increased scrutiny and louder calls for reform of the financial industry. Some of that has come to pass, but it's also true the financial sector continues to have tremendous influence over government, which is its chief regulator.

As financial policy advocate for the consumer advocacy group "Public Citizen", Bart Naylor tracks that regulation and lobbies for stricter oversight of a financial industry he believes has too much power.

As we told you earlier this week, at least 43 Montana public officials recently signed a letter supporting actions within the President's National Climate Action plan to address climate change.
      Some of those actions include adopting pollution controls, investment in renewable energy research and development and creation of climate adaptation strategies.  
     Democratic  state representative Doug Coffin, of Missoula, is one of those to sign the letter. Coffin is a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Montana.

National Park Service

A panel of wildlife officials says it's time to lift Endangered Species protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Beatrice Moritz

This Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 six and seven-year-olds - and 6 of the school's adult staff.

Last week we aired an interview with UM forestry professor Martin Nie, about the resurgence of a western movement to get federal lands turned over to state and local governments - and why he thinks that's a bad idea. In this feature interview, News Director Sally Mauk talks with one of the leaders of the new Sagebrush Rebellion - Utah state representative, and CEO of the American Lands Council, Ken Ivory - about why he thinks state ownership of federal lands is a good idea.

Sally Mauk

A recent article in the journal "Science" investigates whether decreasing winds in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies are contributing to declining precipitation.

Edward O'Brien

(Update{12/12/13}:  Last week's winter storm in the Northeast kept the Weather Channel busy and this episode of "Freaks of Nature" was preempted for live coverage.  It now airs this Sunday -12/15/13-  at 8:00 p-m, MST.)

While our bitter cold spell is delaying today's scheduled opening of Missoula's Snowbowl ski area, tomorrow's big FCS playoff football game between the University of Montana Grizzlies and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will go on as scheduled.

The temperature at kickoff could be below zero, with an even more frigid wind chill.

Katrin Frye

It’s not quite the ski patroller Olympics I was hoping for; skiing backwards, jumping through hoops, blindfolded…

In fact, when I showed up to the Whitefish Mountain Resort patrollers are inside, practicing specific stretches shown to them by a local physical therapist.

President of the Big Mountain Ski Patrol Incorporated Ryan Friel was, however, wearing ski boots.

One of the leading historians of 19th century America is in Missoula to speak at the University of Montana. James Oakes teaches history at the City University of New York, and has written several award-winning books on the Civil War and slavery.

In this feature interview, Oakes talks with News Director Sally Mauk about the debate over whether the Civil War was fought over preserving the Union - or over slavery. Oakes says it most definitely was fought to end slavery.

Dan Boyce

(Note: This is the first of a six-part series on "Bakken Spinoffs" airing Thursdays through January 9th on "Montana Evening Edition.")

Sidney’s Mayor, Bret Smelser, stood at the corner of his community’s busiest street, Central Avenue. A steady stream of traffic, punctuated with big rigs, leaves thick white exhaust hanging in the frigid air. Smelser nodded to one truck.

“One of our city crew, collecting twice as much garbage as we did two years ago,” he said.

Attorney General Tim Fox’s office said Tuesday a group of candidates have been nominated for the board of a new healthcare foundation created following the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana to an out-of-state company.

SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations, Flickr

A University of Montana professor of forest entomology and pathology says this prolonged and uncomfortable deep freeze probably won't be enough to kill Mountain Pine Beetles.

The rice grain-sized beetles are a native species that mass-attack trees. U-M College of Forestry and Conservation's Dr. Diana Six says hundreds or thousands of the insects can swarm a single tree, leaving it defenseless and essentially doomed.

The movement to get the federal government to turn over its land to state and local governments is resurfacing in the American West. Led by a Utah-based group called the "American Lands Council", supporters argue there is a legal and historical basis for this turnover.
    The movement resembles the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 70s. In this feature interview, News Director Sally Mauk talks with University of Montana forestry professor and natural resource policy expert Martin Nie about both the old and new Sagebrush rebels.


Cultivating organic seeds and genetically modified crops are among the topics farmers are meeting to discuss in the Flathead next week. The annual Montana Organic Association Conference is being held in the Flathead for the first time.

Judy Osowitz of Terrapin Farm in has been farming in rural Whitefish for 36-years.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes, I’ve seen a lot more demand for organic, I’ve seen a lot more supply of organic- which is a good thing, to have both, it’s wonderful,” Osowitz said.

Dan Boyce

Officials with the Montana University System said this week the Affordable Care Act is creating problems for the health insurance plan offered to students at the state’s public universities.

Those students need to have some kind of health insurance. For years, the university plan has offered a reasonably priced alternative for students not on their parents’ plan.

But that may be in jeopardy.

Edward O'Brien

Authors of a new study say it clearly illustrates what so many Montanans already know; that there are precious few well-paying jobs in the state.