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A proposed initiative would allow Montana public school employees to carry concealed weapons in school.
Flickr user Ibro Palic (CC-BY-NC-2)

Signature gathering soon begins for a proposal to allow public school employees with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon in school. Initiative-175 has cleared the necessary legal hurdles to appear on the 2016 ballot if sponsor Chet Billi can get the necessary number of signatures.

flikr user Garry Knight (CC-BY-2)

The entire Northern Rockies will feel both immediate and long-term impacts of a powerful cold front moving into the region this weekend.

Meteorologist Genki Keno with the National Weather Service office in Missoula says the system hits western Montana Saturday afternoon. It packs sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles-per-hour with gusts of up to 40 miles-per-hour.

Flickr user David Pacey (CC-BY-2)

A Ravalli County doctor is facing homicide charges for allegedly over prescribing pain medications. Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen was arrested early Thursday morning at his home in Florence.

Griz football game at the University of Montana
flickr user MuddyRavine (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

Plans to visit Missoula this weekend, but don't have a room booked yet? If so, you're either out of luck or you'll be paying a premium.

The Garden City will host not only the first University of Montana home football game of the season, but also the hugely popular River City Roots Festival. That admission-free, two-day music and arts event is produced by the Missoula Downtown Association.

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

A Columbia Falls fiberboard production line will open a bit later than expected after a small explosion and fire shut it down late last week.

USDA

Fire danger has prompted Plum Creek Timber Company to restrict some activities on all its western Montana properties until further notice.

Plum Creek Vice President Tom Ray says the company isn't allowing any camping, campfires, firewood cutting, smoking, fireworks or target shooting.

"Any of those types of activities are now precluded because it's just so dry. It's just extremely dry."

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

No lives were lost, no one was injured and no one will be laid off. That from Plum Creek Timber Company officials in response to yesterday's small explosion and fire at its medium-density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls.

3 fires burning near Noxon have prompted evacuations orders along Highway 56, and filled the air with smoke.
Courtesy Geri Lee

Near the Montana - Idaho state line in Sanders County today, an additional 30 to 40 homes north of Noxon have been evacuated, a day after fire officials told residents in about 14 other homes to leave.

Wind and very low humidity have caused several fires burning in the Kootenai National Forest to spread, prompting concerns that they may combine, that’s according to fire information officer John Head.

Missoula City-County Health Department

Wildfire smoke was almost bearable in some western Montana communities yesterday, but that's about to change.

The Missoula City-County Health Department says winds that have kept the smoke at bay for the past 24 hours or so are expected to shift to the west today. That could blow lots more smoke to the east.

In other words, there's a massive amount of smoke just over the mountains in Idaho and it's headed into Montana. That means air quality is going to quickly deteriorate. 

Gov. Steve Bullock speaks about the benefits of the Montana University System Research Initiative, Tuesday, August 18, 2015 on the UM campus.
Edward O'Brien

Two University of Montana programs will share over $3.5 million in state research funds. UM's traumatic brain injury and water quality monitoring programs are among the first to benefit from the "Montana University System Research Initiative". That's a $15 million program that passed out of the last session of the Montana legislature.

Montana air quality map.
Montana DNRC

Generally hazy and smoky conditions with only temporary relief could be with us for quite some time given all the wildfires burning in Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The state of Montana's air quality meteorologist, Kristen Martin explains what those air quality ratings mean, and how air quality is measured.

Two orphaned Yellowstone grizzly cubs will be going to the Toledo Zoo.
Flickr user Carl Berger (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

The two cubs of a Montana grizzly bear that killed a hiker in Yellowstone National Park are going to an Ohio zoo.

Luke Robinson, National Weather Service Meteorologist
Edward O'Brien

The National Weather Service says western Montana may face another widespread and powerful storm system this week. Cleanup continues from Monday's storm that left a path of destruction in its wake and thousands without power for days. Edward O'Brien visited the NWS offices in Missoula to talk with Meteorologist Luke Robinson about Friday's forecast.

Northwestern energy says power for all Missoulians should be back in service tonight.
Sue Ginn

Northwestern Energy says its remaining Missoula customers without power should be back in service by late tonight. That includes residents of the city's South Hills, Linda Vista and Miller Creek neighborhoods. Thousands of residents have been without power since a destructive and powerful thunderstorm toppled trees and powerlines on Monday night.

Northwestern Energy has restored power to thousands  more Missoulians in the past 24 hours, but thousands more are still without electricity after Monday’s powerful storm.

Northwestern Energy says some residents in Missoula's Linda Vista/Miller Creek area will likely be without power for another day.
Courtesy Danny Dauterive

Northwestern Energy says Missoulians in the Linda Vista/Miller Creek areas still without power probably won't have any until late tomorrow night.

Thunderstorms toppled power lines in the Linda Vista area of Missoula, MT.
Courtesy Danny Dauterive

Western Montana may get another dose of nasty weather this evening.

National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Noble says conditions very similar to those that created powerful and destructive storms yesterday could soon start moving into western Montana.

An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of death of a Montana hiker found in the park Friday.
Flickr user lance_mountain (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Identity of Victim in Grizzly Attack Released

A 63-year old man from Billings, Montana, has been identified as the victim of last week’s grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone. Around noon on Friday, August 7, Lance Crosby was found dead approximately .5 miles from the Elephant Back Loop Trail in a popular off-trail area in the Lake Village area of the park. Crosby was a long-term seasonal employee of Medcor, the company that operates three urgent care clinics in the park. He had worked and lived in Yellowstone for five seasons and was an experienced hiker. 

The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park has subsided enough to allow the limited re-opening of the east side of Going-to-the-Sun-Road. The 18-mile stretch of road has been closed for about two and a half weeks.

The Forest Service is now spending over half of its budget on fighting fires.
(PD)

The Forest Service says there has to be a change in how wildfire fighting is paid for. Here's why: The agency's total annual budget amounts to a bit over $5 billion. Now, for the first time in its history, just over half its budget is earmarked exclusively to fight fire.

The Forest Service says it's now spending over half of its total budget suppressing wildfires. That's the first time that's happened in the agency's 110-year history.

A buffalo jump at First Peoples Buffalo Jump, formerly known as Ulm Pishkun
Flickr user Baggis (CC-BY-NC-2)

The National Park Service this week designated four new historic landmarks and First Peoples Buffalo Jump south of Great Falls is one of them.

Montana State Park's Sara Scott says it's one of the oldest and biggest buffalo jumps in North America.

A 2014 decision from the U.S. FWS says the proposed Montanore mine is not likely to harm the threatened bull trout.
Joel Sartore National Geographic & Wade Fredenberg USFWS (CC-BY-2.0)

A copper and silver mine for northwest Montana appears one step closer to approval and this worries Mary Costello.

Neptune aviation will offer charter flights between Missoula and Billings beginning in September 2015.
Courtesy Neptune Aviation

Missoula's Neptune Aviation may be best known for its red and white firefighting airtanker fleet, but it also operates a thriving passenger air charter service.

Starting September 3, the company is adding a new Montana route to its existing lineup; two round-trip flights per week between Missoula and Billings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Fire officials now believe that the Reynolds Creek Fire was human-caused.
Corin Cates-Carney

Authorities now believe that the fire burning in Glacier National Park was human-caused, and the National Park Service is turning to the public for help.

Heavy equipment loading coal at the Decker Coal Company.
Courtesy USDA NRCS

New legislation introduced this week aims to ensure taxpayers get the full value of coal mined from public lands. Critics say coal companies are ripping off American taxpayers by not paying their fair share of royalty payments.

The vice administrator for China’s National Energy Administration says development of 'clean coal' is a top priority for China.
Flickr user Erin Kinney(CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

Critics say that for decades the coal industry has gamed the system to underpay its fair share of federal coal royalties. They say those alleged schemes have padded the bottom lines of coal companies while short-changing state and local governments of tens of millions of dollars.

Smoke over St. Mary Lake, July 26, 2015.
inciweb

Glacier National Park’s St. Mary Visitor Center reopens this morning.

Fire officials say the Reynolds Creek Fire now stands at  over 3,200 acres with 30 percent containment.

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.

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