Edward O'Brien


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

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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 drops retardant on a 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.

A Neptune Aviation next-generation air tanker drops retardant on a fire
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.

The remains of six veterans whose unclaimed remains were found at a Great Falls funeral home will be interred later this week.

They'll be laid to rest Friday at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison in Helena.

Rainbow Dam
Dan Boyce

Northwestern Energy predicts electricity bills for its residential customers will decrease by $3.10 per month starting in July.

Northwestern spokesman Butch Larcombe says a couple of different factors are at play.

William Neuheisel

Flathead Lake is a good two feet below full pool following this particularly dry spring in northwest Montana. Northwestern Energy, which manages Kerr Dam, has notified tribal and federal agencies that water levels are low which could affect outflows this summer. Kerr produces power, regulates the lake's water levels and several reservoirs.

Snowmobiles ride past bison in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park (CC-BY-2.0)

A national conservation group and a motorized access group describe a proposed winter use management tool for Yellowstone National Park as a step in the right direction.

Monica Lindeen
Courtesy Monica Lindeen

State auditor Monica Lindeen hit the campaign trail this week, announcing her bid to become Montana's next secretary of state. Fellow Democrat Linda McCulloch currently holds that position and was re-elected back in 2012.

A revised federal water pollution rule issued today is earning praise from Montana conservationists and condemnation from the agriculture and building sectors.

Fewer state and federal dollars are filling Montana school district coffers, so school officials are turning to local voters for help.

Bob Vogel of the Montana School Boards Association says bonding requests are becoming more common.

Bill Gallagher, former Montana Public Service Commission Chairman
Montana Public Service Commission

The chairman of the Montana Public Service Commission remembers his predecessor, Bill Gallagher, as a man of courage and grace.

Gallagher died of pancreatic cancer late last week.

Forest Service helicopter crews practicing medical evacuation west of Missoula, MT.
Lane Lamoreaux (PD)

Two Forest Service helicopter crews are practicing medical evacuation maneuvers this week west of Missoula.

The teams are training for "Emergency Medical Short-Haul" missions.

Paxon Elementary School in Missoula
Missoula County Public Schools

Missoula voters are being asked to approve two major school bond issues. They haven’t said yes to school debt of this magnitude since 1952.

Supporters of the bond questions that will appear on November's ballot say it’s time to update badly deteriorating local public schools.

The World Trade Organization has again ruled against United States labeling on packaged steak and other cuts of meat that detail where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

A restoration plan for the Upper Clark Fork Basin's largest wetland is now up for public review.

The Atlantic Richfield Company's draft wetland restoration plan is designed to address wetland loss related to mining and smelting contamination in the Clark Fork River Basin.

Greater Sage Grouse
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (CC-BY-2)

Montana will spend about half-a-million dollars annually to assemble a team to oversee management of sage grouse. The bird is a candidate for listing as a threatened or endangered species.

Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division speaks at a press conference in Missoula on May 11, 2015, as Missoula Mayor John Engen and Missoula Police Chief Mike Brady look on.
Edward O'Brien

The federal government says the Missoula police department has made tremendous progress in how it handles reports of sexual assault.

"In short, this community has come together to institute long-term, systemic change to protect and ensure the safety of generations to come," said Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Medical marijuana advocates accuse state Attorney General Tim Fox of  defying the will of voters.

Montanans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2004. In 2011 state lawmakers passed a bill to tighten rules governing the sale of the drug.

Fox's office this week filed a brief with the state Supreme Court to reverse District Judge James Reynolds' ruling that blocks parts of that more-strict medical marijuana law.

Josh Burnham

Montana water users are being told to brace for early and below-average snow-melt runoff this spring. The Natural Resources Conservation Service reports snowpack in all of Montana's basins are well below normal for May first.

Missoula Police Department

The male believed to have murdered two Missoulians on Wednesday evening died early this morning.

The Missoula County Coroner says 36-year-old Nicholas Scolatti was pronounced dead at 4:11 am. He died of injuries sustained from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Scolatti's  suspected of shooting and killing 34-year-old KTMF-TV News Director Kalee Scolatti and 46-year-old family friend Anthony Dupras.