Edward O'Brien


Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 proposed ballot measure woul legalize recreational marijuana in Montana.

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.

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

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.

The storm destroyed some outbuildings on 66 Ranch outside of Havre
Courtesy Rylee Strauser

Thousands of Montanans had a 4th of July they won’t soon forget. A storm packing powerful winds, intense rain and large hail disrupted life  across the state’s northern tier last weekend. Some think tornadoes touched down, but meteorologists aren’t yet willing to go that far.

A roughly 300-mile stretch of northern Montana is still cleaning up after a powerful storm swept across the region this weekend.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund helps pay for road construction and repairs.

Highway funding will likely be near the top of the Congressional agenda when business resumes after the holiday break. That's because the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money late this month or early next.

Rep. Ryan Zinke. File photo.
Eric Whitney

Montana's Representative in the U.S. House says a wildfire burning near Glacier National Park shows why comprehensive forest management reform is needed. Republican Ryan Zinke yesterday visited with crews fighting the 85-acre Glacier Rim Fire.

Bonnie Clincher Red Elk.
Courtesy Fort Peck Journal

One of Montana’s most prominent Native American reporters has passed away.

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

At least seven new lighting-caused fires on the Bitterroot National Forest are small and manageable thanks to quick initial attack by fire crews.

Forest spokesman Tod McKay says thunderstorms produced 175 confirmed lighting strikes in the Bitterroot and Missoula areas Monday night.

Critics of the Clean Power Plan worry about its impacts on coal development and jobs.

Montana coal advocates are hailing the Supreme Court's ruling against the Obama administration's attempt to limit toxic emissions from power plants.

The justices ruled the Environmental Protection Agency failed to adequately consider costs when regulating emissions from coal and oil-fired plants.

Josh Burnham

Bozeman's Stacey Haugland never thought she'd live to see the day when gay marriage would be legalized nationwide. The Supreme Court today guaranteed that right.

Elsie Arntzen, a Republican from Billings and former teacher, is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Montana Legislature

Two Montana teachers want to be the state’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Term limiting prevents current Superintendent, Democrat Denise Juneau, from running again. Republican state lawmaker Elsie Arntzen recently filed paperwork to replace her.