Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

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.

With more information than ever before at our fingertips, you would think the American consumer's news literacy - or knowledge of current events - had never been higher. The fact is, that literacy is slipping dramatically.
    University of Montana Radio-Television Professor Ray Fanning teaches a class on news literacy.

In this feature interview, he talks with News Director Sally Mauk about how to become a smarter news consumer - and about why our news literacy is declining.

The state’s Chief Public Defender says workloads for public defense attorneys have improved due to financial help from the Montana Legislature. However, Bill Hooks said his office still needs more help.

The 2013 Legislature gave the public defender’s office *$1.2 million in new money for employee raises, which Hooks said has been very helpful.

"We were able to bring our attorney salaries more in line with what our colleagues were getting in other courts throughout the state,” Hooks said. “So I think that was a significant improvement and we're very appreciative of that.”

We're coming to the end of National Adoption Month.
   Recent celebrations have marked the adoption of at least 29 children in Great Falls and Billings.
     Lutheran Social Services of Montana operates a statewide adoption agency.
     In this interview, executive director Kathryn Sabol tells Edward O'Brien hundreds of more Montana children are waiting to be welcomed into new families of their own.
     Sabol tells us more about Lutheran Social Services of Montana:

YMCA Missoula

Some of us will soon be hitting the gym to work off the weight we've gained as a result of all the holiday treats and feasts.
     The YMCA welcomes people to consider its gym and swim services.

But, Jon Lange, the executive director and chief executive officer of the Missoula Family YMCA says the organization offers much more than health and wellness facilities.
    In tonight's feature interview, Lange details some of those programs. He tells Edward O'Brien the YMCA has always been a part of his life.

Cows, Chickens, Veggies, and Therapy

Nov 28, 2013
Katrin Frye

The idea of farm work as therapy takes root in the Flathead with several working farms opening their doors a couple times a week to people with disabilities. The Flathead Valley has seven Care Farms as of last spring. It’s an effort spearheaded by Maarten Fischer of the A-Plus-Home Healthcare of the Flathead, Fischer also teaches a multifunctional agriculture course at Flathead Valley Community College.

Dan Boyce

Parks in Helena are starting to see new additions to playground equipment, as the city tries to make more enjoyable for kids with disabilities.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce looks into this all-inclusive play equipment.

Why early diagnosis helps with Alzheimer's

Nov 27, 2013

Think of your memory as layers upon layers stacked on top of one another. Registered Nurse Jennifer Crowley specializes in working with patients with Alzheimer’s. Crowley said for people with Alzheimer’s new memories are the top-most layers, and they roll right off and get lost. She conducts Memory Screenings which identify risk for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairment disorders. The exam tests short term memory and looks at a person’s understanding of the world around them.

Jacob Cowgill, Prairie Heritage farm

Some of you may have already begun thawing the turkey for tomorrow's big meal. The vast majority of Americans get their turkeys from the supermarket, birds that have been mass produced  to meet the mass demand.

Didn’t you know? It’s Turkey Tuesday!

Nov 26, 2013
Dan Boyce

In a feathery showcase of America’s most-celebrated Thanksgiving dish, A Helena education center brought in some live turkeys today. Dubbed “Turkey Tuesday”, the occasion allowed some local kids to see three of the iconic birds in real life, in all their waddley gobbley glory.

“I think that connections really been lost with a lot of kids,” said Exploration Works Education Director Jamie O’Malley. “It’s nice to know where your food comes from.”

Sally Mauk

If you haven't picked up your turkey yet, and you hit a deer with your car, under a new permit system that went into effect this week, you could keep that deer for your Thanksgiving meal.

Dan Boyce

The already-crowded field of candidates vying for Montana’s U.S. House seat continues to grow.

Current Republican Representative Steve Daines announced earlier this month he will be running for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Senator Max Baucus in 2014.

Helena Real Estate Investor Drew Turiano says he’s running for the House seat as a Republican. It’s his second time running for office in Montana after coming in last in a four-way Republican Primary for Secretary of State in 2012. He hopes that loss has helped with name recognition for this race.

We may all know in a general sense that the security of information we share online cannot be guaranteed - but that doesn't stop us, or private business or government, from putting  sensitive data online. The hope is that security will hold up against hackers, but in fact, cyberattacks are a growing security threat. David Hamon advises the U.S. government about that threat.

The military is calling on National Guard and Reserve members to serve more frequently and for longer periods of time.
       This puts more pressure on both the soldiers who volunteer their service - and the people who employ them.
       In this evening's feature interview with Edward O'Brien, the state chairman of a Department of Defense office called the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve explains how potential conflicts can be smoothed over between these citizen soldiers and their employers.

Growing up gay in Kalispell, Montana, Shane Bitney Crone was bullied incessantly, and couldn't wait to leave his hometown. After school, he moved to California, where he met the love of his life, another young man who had grown up in small-town Indiana.

The Missoula County Sheriff's office has contacted the hunter who accidentally shot a dog in the Lee Creek area near Lolo Pass last Sunday, and have determined there was no crime committed. The hunter has said he thought he was shooting a wolf, but instead killed one of three malamutes owned by Layne Spence, who had taken his dogs along for a cross-country ski outing. Missoula County sheriff's spokeswoman Paige Pavalone says after interviewing the hunter, and the dog's owner, they have determined no violation was committed.

Butte open container ban heads to final vote

Nov 19, 2013
flickr/Tracy Elizabeth

Butte’s Council of Commissioners is preparing to take a final vote on an ordinance to curb the community’s stance on open containers of alcohol in public.

Right now, the city has no open container law.

The ordinance before the council would make it illegal to have an open alcoholic drink in public between the hours of 2 AM and 8 AM.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce tells us commissioners and the community are split on the issue.

In the last two years, four mail processing centers - in Miles City, Butte, Helena and Kalispell - have been closed and consolidated with centers in Billings, Great Falls and Missoula. It's part of a nationwide effort to cut expenses at the postal service, which is bleeding money by the billions.

A Missoula writer and member of the Blackfeet Tribe has announced her run for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat as a Democrat.

Melinda Gopher ran for the seat in 2010, coming in third in the Democratic Primary. She is running a campaign focused on bucking the Democratic establishment.

“We have a power elite that has abused the Indian vote for a long time in the state, and that power elite has been led by Senator Baucus,” Gopher said.

Edward O'Brien

No museum in the country has been more instrumental in introducing modern impressionist art to American audiences than the Art Institute of Chicago. The institute's Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art is in Missoula to lecture about a seminal show in 1913 that introduced the greats like Picasso and Matisse to this country.

Dan Boyce

Montana Insurance companies are looking over their options after President Obama’s Thursday announcement regarding the Affordable Care Act. The President said some insurance plans about to be cancelled for not following the new healthcare law will be allowed to continue for one more year.

Montana’s Insurance commissioner said the announcement throws years of planning for ObamaCare into a tailspin.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

State wildlife commissioners have approved the release of up to 20 black-footed ferrets in central Montana to prevent the loss of a struggling population of the highly-endangered prairie animal.

Philanthropy to the (search and) rescue

Nov 15, 2013
Katrin Frye

It took private investment of more than $10-million to create Two Bear Air, a dedicated search and rescue air support service in the Flathead.

Former Flathead County Undersheriff Jordan White teamed up with Whitefish philanthropist Mike Goguen to create the non-profit. Goguen comes from a business background with a capital investment firm known for its support of entities like Google and YouTube.  Paying for Two Bear Air is one of several philanthropic investments he’s made in the Flathead.

White described the organization as privately funded for a public purpose.

Montana sees increase in median home prices

Nov 14, 2013
Dan Boyce

Data released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Montana’s median home value moved up 5 percent in the two years after the Great Recession.

The statistics were gathered in the states nine most populous counties in the years 2010-2012 and were compared to the same figures from the recession years of 2007-2009. They show the state’s median price for owner-occupied households bumped up to $183,600 from $174,900 during the recession.