Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

The U.S. Senate this week passed an update to the "No Child Left Behind" education law. The "Every Child Achieves Act" is the first education reform measure to clear the Senate in over 13 years.

Senator Jon Tester says a forest management reform bill co-sponsored by Montana Republican Ryan Zinke that recently passed in the U.S House will have a tougher time in the Senate.
PD

Senator Jon Tester says a forest management reform bill co-sponsored by Montana Republican Ryan Zinke that recently passed in the U.S. House will have a tougher time in the Senate. The bill scales back environmental reviews for some timber projects, and makes it harder to file lawsuits that delay thinning projects.

Montana officials are prepared for a worse-than-average fire season, after a light snowpack and an unusually warm June have left much of the state in, or near, a state of drought. The Governor's Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee Wednesday heard reports from about a dozen experts from different agencies around the state.

Montana FWP is seeking public comment on proposed guidelines for reducing elk populations.
PD

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment on proposed guidelines to establish additional elk hunting seasons, called "shoulder seasons". Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Quentin Kujala says they’d be used as a tool to reduce elk populations.

Lake Como on a fall day.
U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2)

The Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor has signed-off on a project to thin over 2,200 acres on the Darby Ranger District between Lake Como and Lost Horse Canyon.

Montana Drought Map
U.S. Drought Monitor

Farmers and ranchers in 24 Montana counties can apply for financial assistance, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wednesday declared them disaster areas. The counties, all in the western half of the state, suffered from"severe" or "extreme" drought during the growing season. Jayson O’Neill with the Montana Department of Agriculture says more counties might be added as the summer wears on.

Smokejumpers before a jump in 1968. Jim Phillips is first from the left.
Courtesy Jim Phillips

Helena's Jim Phillips clearly remembers the hot, dry, stormy summer of 1967. Wildfires were popping up across the west that year. That also happened to be Phillips' first year as a smokejumper.

Now, Phillips is organizing the 75th anniversary reunion for the smokejumper program. He spoke with MTPR's Edward O'Brien about the reunion, and the work smokejumpers do.

Showering after swimming in a lake or reservoir can help remove mites that cause swimmer's itch.
(PD)

Some swimmers got an unpleasant surprise after taking a dip in the Willow Creek reservoir east of Great Falls recently. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports several people developed a case of "swimmer’s itch", which can be anything from a minor annoyance to a major problem if scratching it leads to a bacterial infection.

Emigrant Peak, near the area of the proposed mine exploration
Flickr user Sean Wolf (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Caroline Byrd describes south-central Montana's scenic Emigrant Gulch in the Paradise Valley as Yellowstone National Park's "northern backdoor".

"It's got wildlife. It's got water. It's got scenic beauty and it's got real ecological importance for keeping the whole place knit together," says Byrd.

Byrd, the executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition says that's no place for a mine.

Cooler, wetter weather is forecast for July across the western U.S.
National Weather Service, Missoula

Persistent rain and cooler temperatures brought welcome relief to parts of parched western Montana this past weekend.

Fire managers say the rain has helped, but they’re also warning the public against letting its guard down.

Strong thunderstorms are possible in parts of western Montana today
National Weather Service, Missoula

Today will be an active thunderstorm day for the Northern Rockies, with a few storms capable of producing very heavy downpours, hail, frequent lightning, and gusty winds, according to the National Weather Service in Missoula. The best potential for strong storms will this afternoon/evening and stretch from Central Idaho through Southwest Montana. Those participating in outdoor activities this afternoon and evening should be prepared for quickly changing and inclement conditions.

Kate Davis

Meet Kate Davis, a Bitterroot Valley resident who has devoted her life to promoting wildlife conservation and habitat preservation for raptors.

Evening Newscast 07-10-15

Jul 10, 2015
MTPR Evening Newscast
Josh Burnham

The University of Montana campus police department has met federal requirements to improve its response to reports of sexual assault. U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said today an independent reviewer determined that campus police met the goals of a May 2013 agreement by improving its policies, practices and training. That’s led to more reliable sexual assault investigations. He says they've also improved their communication with university officials and Missoula police.

A man who says he was raped while being held at a Montana jail is suing Jefferson County. Audemio Orozco-Ramirez filed the complaint Thursday in federal court arguing inadequate staffing, failure to respond to allegations of assault and general negligence caused serious harm and violated his due process rights.

Montana wildlife officials have tightened trapping regulations outside Yellowstone and Glacier national parks to reduce the chances that threatened Canada lynx will be accidentally caught. The changes include restrictions on the types of traps, snares and bait that can be used in special protection zones outside the parks.

Environmentalists say a Canadian company's request to explore for gold and other elements south of Livingston puts the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at risk. Lucky Minerals Incorporated wants to explore a 6-square-mile area for copper, molybdenum and gold in Emigrant Gulch in the Custer Gallatin National Forest and on private land nearby. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition says the exploration process itself would have significant environmental impacts.

Montanans now have more than 8,200 acres of new national forest land in the central part of the state. U.S. Forest Service officials and others celebrated the completion of the eight-year acquisition effort today at the state Capitol in Helena.

Missoula Art Museum
Josh Burnham - MTPR

The longtime curator of the Missoula Art Museum, Stephen Glueckert has retired, and Brandon Reintjes has taken over that role. The Montana native has been at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University for the last six years. I talked to him about his new role as we toured the Montana Triennial exhibit currently up at the Missoula Art Museum.


UM President Royce Engstrom speaks about UM's handling of sexual assaults at a July 10 press conference in Missoula, MT.
Eric Whitney - MTPR

The University of Montana Police Department has met federal requirements to improve its response to reports of sexual assault on campus.

The University agreed to the requirements two years ago, following a 2012 investigation into reports of sexual assaults at the school by the U.S. Departments of Justice, and Education.

Emigrant Peak, near a proposed mine exploration site.
Richard Reeve (CC-BY-SA-2)

Environmentalists say a Canadian company's request to explore for gold and other elements south of Livingston puts the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at risk.

Lucky Minerals Incorporated wants to explore a six square-mile area for copper, molybdenum and gold in Emigrant Gulch in the Custer Gallatin National Forest and on private land nearby.

Widespread thunderstorms for western Montana.
National Weather Service

Air quality in much of western Montana improved Friday as winds from the south pushed smoke into northwest Montana and Canada. Storms expected through early next week should mitigate smoke impacts in places where rain falls.

Montana Folk Festival
Courtesy photo

George Everett, executive director of the Montana Folk Festival joins Michael Marsolek to preview the 2015 festival. The festival runs from July 10-12 in Butte, Montana.

The Montana Folk Festival features multiple stages with continuous live performances by some of the best traditional performers in the nation, including Montana's finest, some of the region's best traditional artists, ethnic and festival foods, a lively family area, and folklife demonstrations and workshops that focus on a new theme each year that highlights Montana's heritage.

Stage 2 Fire restrictions go into effect across northwestern Montana Thursday at 1:00 a.m.
Josh Burnham

Firefighters made good progress on two fires burning in Montana, and discovered a new fire near Phillipsburg.

U.S. Capitol building.
Flickr user Tim McKee (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The U.S. House has passed legislation designed to improve the health of national forests by scaling back the environmental reviews that go into some timber projects, and making it harder to file lawsuits that delay thinning projects.

Montana Republican Ryan Zinke is co-sponsoring the bill.

Lower Two Medicine Lake and Sinopah Mountain at sunset.
flickr user Ryan McKee (CC-BY-ND-2.0)

The Blackfeet Tribe has withdrawn from talks with the U.S. Government over natural gas drilling leases on land considered sacred by the Blackfeet people.

Louisiana company Solenex holds drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Billings businessman Steve Zabawa believes marijuana is a scourge that ruins lives.

Zabawa’s drafted a proposed initiative for the 2016 ballot that states all drugs illegal under federal law would also be illegal under Montana law. That would also include the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana, including medical marijuana.

A wildland firefighter with the Montana DNRC monitors flames burning in the interior of the Alex Camp Road Fire July 7, 2015.
BLM/Jonathan Moor

Firefighters are reporting progress on three fires burning in Montana.

As the Senate begins debating federal education policy, Montana Senator Jon Tester is trying to remove annual testing requirements from Washington, and Senator Steve Daines is seeking block grants of federal funding instead of money with specific strings attached.

The Senate is currently working on replacing the unpopular No Child Left Behind law, with one called “Every Child Achieves.”

Visitor center attendant Hugh Austin stands behind the information desk at the old Belton Train Station in West Glacier. The visitor center is staffed 1-5pm, 7 days a week, and will provide Glacier visitors information on activities around the Flathead.
Corin Cates-Carney

A new visitor information center in West Glacier opened Tuesday to show Glacier National Park visitors what else Montana has to offer.

The Whitefish, Bigfork and Columbia Falls Chambers of Commerce will join forces to share expenses and staff the center this summer.

Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Gartland says the Chambers' goal is to turn additional information about the Flathead Valley into a boost in the local economy.

A proposed ballot measure woul legalize recreational marijuana in Montana.
(PD)

A part-time sports reporter and medical marijuana patient from Glendive says legalizing pot for recreational use would be an economic boon for Montana.

Anthony Varriono has submitted a proposed ballot measure with the Secretary of State's office that would allow adults age 21 and older to possess limited amounts of pot.

Health centers like Missoula's Partnership Health Center hope Medicaid expansion will bring more financial certainty.
Josh Burnham

Montana’s legislature said yes to Medicaid expansion this spring, but the state’s expansion plan still needs approval by the federal government.

Today, the state made the details of its expansion plan public, and is giving the public 60 days to comment on the plan before sending it to the White House.

Residents of Bayview, ID are being asked to avoid their cell phones to allow for better firefighter communications.
(PD)

Many have abandoned their landline telephones for the convenience of cell phones. But local emergencies, like the 2,000-acre wildfire burning in Bayview, Idaho can expose the limitations of that technology.

Wetter, Cooler Weather Slows Montana Fires

Jul 7, 2015
Northern Side of The Glacier Rim Fire
Inciweb/MMendoza

Crews on the Glacier Rim Fire continue to maintain fire lines and remove hazardous snags around the fire's perimeter.

Monday, an additional water tender was brought in to help cool the south flank of the fire and re-establish fire lines after a "slop over" on July 4.

Ellen Blickhan, Fire Information Officer, says the weather has helped too.

The 1,500-acre Cape Horn Fire has prompted about 600 evacuations from a popular vacation area near Lake Pend Oreille. Six homes have burned and at least another 280 structures are threatened.

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