Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier Park has burned 4,000 acres since Tuesday July 21.

The Reynolds Creek Fire, burning on the northeast side of Glacier National Park is still not contained but  has not grown significantly today.

The sky over St. Mary Lake is gray with smoke and the air hums with helicopters. At last estimate the Reynolds Creek fire six miles east of Logan Pass is burning 4,000 acres.

States Could Lose Federal Highway Funds Without Congressional Fix

Jul 23, 2015
If Congress fails to act by July 31, the federal government won’t have the ability to process transportation funding payments that were promised to states.

The clock is ticking again toward the expiration of the current federal transportation funding bill. This week, the Senate agreed to debate a long-term funding bill. If Congress fails to act by July 31, the federal government won’t have the ability to process transportation funding payments that were promised to states.

File photo of fire fighters building fire line.
BLM (CC-BY-2.0)

The Cabin Gulch Fire east of Townsend is still being called 15 percent contained, although Public Information Officer Mariah Leuschen says the percentage will be greater when fire officials update numbers this evening.

Smoke from the Reynolds Creek Fire as seen from St. Mary visitor's center.
Glacier National Park

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag fire weather warning for the east side of Glacier National Park today from noon to 9:00 p.m., meaning high winds and low humidity, with temperatures in the 70s.

Cabin Gulch Fire 07-22-15
Courtesy Inciweb

From Front Street in Townsend, it’s hard to tell there’s a fire, except for the occasional fire engine and the unusual traffic around the Forest Service Office. But drive a few miles out of town on highway 12, and you soon find a landscape dominated by blackened and smoldering trees. No flames are visible from the highway, but Forest Service public information officer Marvin Carpenter says only a fraction of the fire has been put out.

Evening Newscast 07-22-15

Jul 22, 2015
MTPR Evening Newscast
Josh Burnham

It’s been a busy day for firefighters in central and western Montana today. The fire burning on the east side of Glacier National Park is now estimated at 2,000 acres, and a mandatory evacuation order has been issued the west shore of lower St. Mary Lake, according to the Glacier County Sheriff's department. People on the lake's east side are being told to prepare for possible evacuation. Going-to-the-Sun road remains closed from St. Mary to the Big Bend on the west side. Most of Glacier National Park is open however.

East of Townsend, the Cabin Gulch Fire has burned an estimated at 2,500 acres and is threatening structures. Evacuation warnings are in-place between Cabin Gulch Road and Skidway campground.

In the Bitterroot mountains, The lightning-caused Rock Point Fire, has burned 120 acres on the Idaho side of the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. It’s burning in steep, that makes it challenging for firefighters to access. A helicopter has been dropping water on the fire and will fly equipment in for fire crews. The fire hasn't prompted any closures, and no structures are currently threatened. Smoke from the fire may impact the Lake Como and Lost Horse areas.

The Cabin Gulch Fire continues to burn outside of Helena, growing to 2,500 acres today. Dozens of residents were evacuated Tuesday night.

A lot of people know about the Berkeley Pit in Butte, but not many know about another significant pollution challenge in the Mining City. It’s called the Parrot Plume, and there’s controversy over whether it needs to be cleaned up, and if so, who would pay for it.

The Reynolds Creek Fire seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park
Courtesy Jan von Lehe

Updated 5:20 p.m. In addition to the 2,000 acre Reynolds Creek fire in Glacier National Park, at least two other wildfires are burning in western Montana, including the 2,500 acre Cabin Gulch fire on the Helena National Forest, and the 163 acre Rock Point fire on the Bitterroot National Forest.

The fire has forced the closure of Going-to-the-Sun Road from St. Mary to Big Bend.
Corin Cates-Carney

Updated 07/22/15, 5:25 p.m. Glacier National Park officials are reporting strong winds and extreme fire behavior on the east side of the park at this hour. Outside the park, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the west shore of lower St. Mary Lake, according to the Glacier County Sheriff's department. People on the lake's east side are being told to prepare for possible evacuation.

Breweries Help Montana Manufacturing Growth Surpass National Rate

Jul 22, 2015
Big Sky Brewery, Missoula Montana.
Kelli Whithorn (CC-BY-2)

Employment in Montana’s manufacturing sector is outpacing those same jobs nationally. That’s according to the latest annual report from the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center based at Montana State University.

The center’s director, Paddy Fleming, says there are many reasons behind that employment growth.

Glacier National Park
Flickr user photommo (CC-BY-ND)

Update 9:50 p.m.: The Flathead Beacon is reporting that the fire has grown to 1,000 acres in five hours, forcing the evacuation of Rising Sun Campground and Rising Sun Motor Inn.

A type 2 incident team has been ordered, and a fire information phone line has been established at (406) 732-7791.

Montana’s Public Service Commission this morning voted to sue Century Link after rural customers complained of spotty telephone service.
Eric Whitney

Tuesday some rural Montana residents convinced the state’s Public Service Commission to do something about what one of them calls their "crappy phone service."

"Sometimes it doesn’t work. For instance, I run a small business out of my home, and I can run it with an answering machine….," says Ellis Misner, who lives near Craig between Helena and Great Falls.

Life on a reservation can tend toward a pattern of wounds difficult to mend by young natives.

15-year-olds Kianna Finley and Gabby Houle live on the Flathead reservation. They say at times they are surrounded by a discouraging way of living - one of substance abuse and loss.

Sunburst Sensors, LLC - 2014

A Missoula company has won $1.5 million in X-Prize money for developing a pair of sensors to measure ocean acidification.

Sunburst Sensors was awarded the prize Monday for developing sensors won competitions for accuracy and affordability.

Sage Grouse
USFWS Mountain Prairie (CC-BY-2)

Governor Steve Bullock Monday signed on to a joint state and federal plan to provide incentives for farmers and ranchers to preserve sage grouse habitat on their land. The chicken-sized wild bird is in decline and could be listed as an endangered species this fall.

Arial photo of the Salmond Ranch area
Flickr User Sam Bebee (CC-BY-2)

Hunters, a wildlife group and the Bullock administration are hailing the settlement of a decades-old road dispute west of Choteau, MT that restores public access to about 50,000 acres of public land along the Rocky Mountain Front.

When you hear the word “baseball,” Montana is not the first place that comes to mind. But there are stories here. And now, thanks to Skylar Browning and Jeremy Watterson, those stories have been exhumed from historical archives and published in a book titled Montana Baseball History.

The deadline passed this week for Flathead Valley residents who want to earn a Bachelors of Arts degree in elementary education without leaving the area. The partnership between FVCC and the University of Montana means students can study at FVCC but their coursework and degree will come from the University 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.

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.

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.

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.