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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.

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.
(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.

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.

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.
(PD)

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.
BLM

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.

National Weather Service, Missoula

The National Weather Service warns an intense and prolonged heat wave will bring dangerously hot temperatures to western Montana this weekend.

"I am not hesitant to use the word 'historic' for this event," Weather Service meteorologist Dan Zumpf explained.

Helena school officials are considering their next move in the wake of last week's defeat of a $70-million elementary school bond. Supporters say the measure would have funded badly-needed technology and infrastructure projects.

Opponents said it was too expensive and would have unfairly distributed funds.   

Neptune Aviation air tanker on the Mountain Fire
Steve Whitby/Neptune Aviation

A contract dispute has created uncertainty and potential lost revenue for the companies that supply firefighting air tankers, including Missoula’s Neptune Aviation.

The conflict is over long-term contracts for jet engine, so-called "next generation" planes that bring more to the table than the Korean War-era prop-driven tankers firefighters have been using for decades.

Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

A bill to to expedite forest management activities on federal forests continues to pick up steam in Congress.

The "Resilient Federal Forests Act" passed out of the House Agriculture committee Wednesday.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

Missoula's mayor says he's glad a judge agrees with the city that public ownership of the local water utility is better than private ownership. But John Engen says there’s still a lot of work to be done , not the least of which is determining a fair price for Mountain Water Company.

Neptune Aviation next-generation air tanker.
Jonah Curtin/Neptune Aviation

The U.S. Forest Service could have fewer firefighting air tankers than it originally planned for this fire season. The agency hoped to contract for up to seven more so-called "next generation" jet-powered firefighting air tankers. But two out-of-state air tanker companies filed protests over how the agency solicited aircraft contractors.

Eric Whitney

An attempt to strip a bonding provision from a new forest management bill failed Thursday on Capitol Hill.

The bill, co-authored by Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke, would require people who aren’t part of collaborative timber projects to post a bond before they could sue over over the projects.

Colstrip power plant
Flicker User ambib (CC-BY-NC)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a rule meant to reduce haze from coal burned in Montana.

Environmentalists were critical that rule wasn’t strong enough and hope it will be revised and strengthened. Meanwhile, the coal industry is calling the ruling a victory.

F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

Montana's congressional delegation agrees on at least one issue; too many of our timber stands are sickly, overgrown, and fire-prone. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and Congressman Ryan Zinke say it's time to reform how we manage our National Forests.

Michael Garrity of the Helena-based environmental group, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, doesn't trust any of them to lead that charge.

Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Congressman Ryan Zinke says federal forests don't have a fire problem as much as they have a land management problem.

Zinke, Montana's lone Representative in the U.S. House, introduced a forest management reform bill this week.

Rep. Ryan Zinke. File photo.
Eric Whitney

Congressman Ryan Zinke has introduced a forest management reform bill that he says would prevent unnecessary litigation, improve forest health and help prevent wildfires.

At least one Montana environmental organization says it would instead be a waste of federal tax dollars.

Flickr user nataliej (CC-BY-NC)

The first part of June brought badly-needed rain to Montana, but it's barely making up for a particularly dry month of May.

The Vision Zero Initiative Vision Zero Initiative is aimed at preventing traffic accidents and deaths in dense traffic corridors.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2)

A new strike force will target organized crime that law enforcement  says continues to plague the Bakken oil patch.

According to Montana U.S. Attorney, Mike Cotter, those offenses range from drug and weapon trafficking to environmental and white-collar crimes.

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