Montana News

Montana news focused on the western side of the state. Montana politics, healthcare, wildlands, wildlife and wildfire.

Montana News podcast

Bitterroot Residents Applaud Response To Roaring Lion Fire

Aug 5, 2016
Nora Saks

Hundreds of people filled the Assembly of God Church in Hamilton last night to get the latest news on the Roaring Lion fire burning southwest of town.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 4, 2016

Aug 4, 2016
A wall of smoke from the Roaring Lion Fire on July 31, 2016

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Shortly after the Roaring Lion Fire broke out July 31st, charges and  counter-charges flew that a lawsuit or lawsuits had or had not stopped US Forest Service attempts to log or thin the affected area to reduce fire danger. 

I interviewed the Bitterroot National Forest's District Ranger about that on August 1st, you can read that interview, edited only for clarity, in its entirety below. 

On August 5th Bitterroot National Forest Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay sent me the following email: 

"I just want to clarify something that may have been a little confusing.  It was in response to your question on timing when you asked, 'so you guys were literally within weeks of getting out there and doing some treatment to reduce fire dangers?”' Eric (Winteher)’s response, 'Yes, the Forest Supervisor had signed the decision, and we were proceeding ahead, getting ready to get that going.'

Just a couple of clarifications on this.

  1.  We were a couple of weeks away from working on the contract to implement this project—i.e., not a couple of weeks away from on-the-ground thinning or logging. We expected to award a contract in September (before the end of the FY) and that work would begin in the winter.
  1. The lawsuit was filed July 26, 2016. Plaintiffs requested an injunction but none has been issued to date. In other words, we had no reason to, nor any plan to alter the Westside Project timeline at the point in time when the Roaring Lion Fire started.

We hope this helps clear-up confusion regarding the actual ‘start time’ of the project and are sorry that we weren’t more clear in the interview. "

We have also reached out to the attorney's for the litigants in the lawsuit, asking for comment, and have not heard back at this time. 

We regret any confusion caused by publishing incorrect information given to us by the Bitterroot National Forest, and plan to follow up with additional reporting on this story. 

-Eric Whitney, News Director, Montana Public Radio. 

Part of the Bitterroot National Forest that’s burning in the Roaring Lion fire southwest of Hamilton was just a couple of weeks away from being logged and thinned – both to sell timber and to reduce fire danger. But a lawsuit filed three weeks after the project was approved put a halt to it.

Timber sales and thinning projects can have an impact on whether wildfires start and their ability to spread, but don't necessarily guarantee improved fire safety.

Bond supporters say the existing 42-year-old library is now too small, technologically outdated and energy inefficient. Critics say Missoulians are now constantly barraged with bond issues and it’s starting to add up.
Josh Burnham

Missoula voters will be asked to approve a $30 million public library bond this November. County commissioners today unanimously approved the ballot language.

The first TV advertisement of Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s reelection campaign airs Friday. 

The 30 second spot shows Bullock’s family living and growing up in Montana.

Firefighters call the Roaring Lion Fire one of the worst they've ever seen. A common refrain among evacuees: The Forest Service should more aggressively thin forests to prevent fires and create jobs.


Assistant Director Tom Bansak leads a tour through research laboratories at the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station on Wednesday.
Nicky Ouellet

The new director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station says the station is poised to become the leading freshwater research station in the country.

Jim Elser can’t physically contain his excitement at being put in charge of the station, which he showed off at its annual open house Wednesday.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 3, 2016

Aug 3, 2016
The Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on August 1, 2016

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Bullock, Gianforte Agree on Billings Debate

Aug 3, 2016

 Montana’s gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to debate in Billings in September. The campaigns are working to confirm other debate offers.

Eric Hyers, campaign manager for incumbent Steve Bullock, says the Democrat looks forward to showing Montanans the contrasting visions each candidate has for Montana.

“Mr. Gianforte fundamentally wants to change all that makes Montana great,” Hyers says. “We think that’s a contrast that’s very apparent to anyone who watches these debates.”

Photos: Roaring Lion Fire

Aug 3, 2016
A firefighter works to control a blaze at the edge of back-burn on a private ranch near the Roaring Lion Fire, August 3, 1016.
Mike Albans

Photos of the Roaring Lion Fire burning outside Hamilton, MT.

Find the most current Montana wildfire news here. The wildfire roundups are updated throughout the day.