Edward O'Brien

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Yellowstone National Park officials hope a smartphone and tablet app sparks curiosity about science and the nation's park system.

The app called "NPS Yellowstone Geyers".

Park spokesman Al Nash says it helps users find out when Old Faithful and five other predictable geysers could erupt.

"We're looking to see how we can harness technology to help us better serve visitors."

Flickr user SBebee

Dupuyer-area rancher, Karl Rappold, is thrilled that the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act has finally passed.

"My grandparents and my mom and dad took care of this place. the bears and wolves and everything else. This is a historic deal for me to see that my grandkids and their grandkids will hopefully have this same view and this same region will be protected so it will never change," says Rappold.  

Last week Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which now awaits President Obama's signature.

Courtesy Partnership Health Center

An important deadline is fast approaching for those who want an Affordable Care Act health plan that takes effect on January first. Applicants must be enrolled by the end of business on Monday, December 15.

Those who've already signed up, but want to make last minute changes, face the same deadline.

Partnership Health Center's Sandra Mytty says she and her staff have helped lots of people in the Missoula area select policies.

"We're actually doing really well. Since we started we've helped over 350 people since November 15 and we're still going."

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

Officials in 33 Montana counties are keenly aware of what's not in the trillion dollar federal spending bill to keep government open: an extension of the Secure Rural Schools, or SRS program, that Montana counties have relied on since 2000.

SRS funding is stripped out of the spending bill the House has been considering this week.

The SRS program was helps pay down school bonds and also funds road maintenance projects.

Mineral County Commissioner Laurie Johnston has a blunt assessment of the situation.

Southeastern Montana's Crow Nation says President Obama’s pending climate plan would wreak economic havoc on the already-impoverished reservation.

Under the administration's proposal, states must reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is going up to bat for the Crow Nation. Fox says he's troubled by how the President is unilaterally guiding this climate proposal.

Justice Policy Institute

A new analysis of youth incarceration says it costs Montana, on average, $175,000 annually to incarcerate a single non-violent youth offender.

The non-profit Justice Policy Institute says some violent young people simply must be incarcerated. However, executive director Marc Schindler says jailing non-violent youth is not only a waste of taxpayer money, it's a largely ineffective response to delinquency.

Courtesy EPA

Libby Mayor Doug Roll hopes the Environmental Protection Agency's new health risk study could lead to an economic shot in the arm for the community.

Hundreds of local residents died and even more were sickened by asbestos contamination from a now-closed vermiculite mine and processing plant.

Courtesy Photo

The Environmental Protection Agency released a long awaited health risk study Monday that will help guide cleanup of more of the asbestos dust found in the Libby area.

Hundreds of Libby residents died, and even more were sickened by asbestos contamination from a now-closed W.R. Grace vermiculite mine and processing plant.

EPA says years of asbestos cleanup efforts are paying off in the northwest Montana town.

Dr. Deborah McKean is EPA toxicologist.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation

The U.S House has approved a $585 billion defense bill that includes unrelated provisions to expand wilderness areas. The vote was 300 to 119.

The measure allows President Obama to expand America's military mission against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria. It now moves to the Senate where some Republicans object to the unrelated wilderness measures announced yesterday.

Montana's congressional delegation heralded the suite of included land bills as a historic, rare display of collaboration and Congressional bipartisanship. Some Montana environmental groups agree.

Courtesy Montana Legislature

A state lawmaker says he wants to introduce legislation to address ongoing hunting violations in Montana. Republican state Representative Kelly Flynn lives near Townsend where a second so-called "crowd-shooting" incident took place last week.

Flickr user Bitterroot (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Montana's Senators and Senator-elect today announced what they're calling a “landmark” package of public lands legislation. It's being tacked on to a Defense authorization bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on this week and next.

There’s been another “crowd shooting” incident involving a herd of elk in Montana.

Broadwater County Undersheriff Wynn Meehan says that on Thanksgiving day hundreds of elk near Townsend were hazed by trucks for at least five miles before getting boxed-in and fired on by dozens of Montanans. 

Some of the elk eventually split-off from the main herd, but were immediately pursued into adjacent private land near Highway 12.

Meehan says the trouble resumed first thing Friday morning:

Courtesy Photo

A Montana state lawmaker says the Markus Kaarma trial is proof that Montana’s expanded Castle Doctrine needs to be repealed.

"It's a terrible idea that has tragic consequences where we see people shooting first and asking questions later with immunity," said Missoula Democrat Ellie Boldman-Hill.

Edward O'Brien

The trial of Missoula's Markus Kaarma will likely renew debate about the "Castle Doctrine".

University of Montana law professor, Andrew King-Ries says the specific term, "Castle Doctrine", isn't mentioned in state statute.

"I think what people refer to when they say 'The Castle Doctrine' is the ability to use force to defend an occupied structure; and by 'occupied structure', most people are thinking about their home," says King-Ries.

Outbuildings are included in that definition.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal wildlife managers expect to have the updated, 5-year wolf management plan finalized by the end of January.

It focuses on wolves found on the Flathead reservation and is separate from the plan the state of Montana uses to manage other wolf populations.   

Summer surveys and observations suggest there are a minimum of 30 wolves on the reservation, but Tribal Wildlife Program Manager, Dale Becker, says it's difficult to pin-down a specific head count.

A Helena immigration attorney estimates there at least 20,000 immigrants in Montana; some are here legally, others not.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath says some are working in eastern Montana's oil patch. Seasonal workers are a staple of the Flathead cherry harvest. Immigrants perform year-round agricultural labor in Dillon. Others work construction jobs in Billings and the Gallatin Valley.

Haque-Hausrath says President Obama's recent executive action on immigration came as a welcome development to his clients.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes are updating their gray wolf management plan. A public comment period ended last Friday.

Tribal Wildlife Program Manager, Dale Becker, estimates there are about 30 wolves on the Flathead reservation.  

Becker says few people commented on the draft management plan this year, but those who did were passionate about it.

Courtesy Photo Border Crossing Law Firm

A Helena immigration attorney says the phones at his Border Crossing law firm were ringing off the hook today. Shahid Haque-Hausrath says his clients are thrilled with President Obama's executive action on immigration.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A Montana man who discovered the underlying cause of Lyme disease died Monday in Hamilton.

Dr. Wilhelm "Willy" Burgdorfer was born in Switzerland where he earned his undergraduate and PhD degrees in Zoology, Parasitology and Bacteriology.

Burgdorfer moved to Montana's Bitterroot Valley in 1951 to work as a research fellow at Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Laboratory. He became a U.S. citizen in 1957 and then joined the staff at R.M.L as a medical entomologist.

Governor Steve Bullock's longtime Chief of Staff is leaving and is being replaced by Tracy Stone-Manning, the current Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Bullock's outgoing chief of staff, Tim Burton, is leaving to lead the Montana League of Cities and Towns; a nonprofit association of 129 Montana municipalities. Burton says Stone-Manning is an excellent choice.

Gov. Proposes $300 Million For Montana's Aging Infrastructure

Nov 18, 2014
n-vision photos-cc-by

Much of Montana's roads, bridges and waterways are reaching the end of their useful life. In a new state-specific report card released today, Montana Civil Engineers give that aging infrastructure a mediocre overall grade of C-minus and say it needs attention.

Courtesy The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Nearly half of all Montana kids are growing up in low income homes.

That’s according to the latest Montana KIDS COUNT policy report, put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report concludes it's going to take a coordinated approach to help lift kids out of those circumstances.

A new report says at least four Montana cities can do more to protect their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens and employees.
 
According to the Municipality Equality Index, produced by the Human Rights Campaign, the average score for cities in Montana is 44 out of 100 points. That's below the national average of 59.

Billings scored 23 points, Bozeman 40 and Helena 53. Great Falls scored 2 points and Missoula 100.  

Edward O'Brien

For Missoulian Bob Ferris, every day is Veterans Day.

Ferris was stationed with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines during the Vietnam war. That particular battalion sustained heavy casualties; 749 men were killed in action and two went missing in action during it's Vietnam service. Ferris attended today's annual Forgotten Warriors Post 101 Veterans Day ceremony.

"You wouldn't let a little snow and ice and anything else keep you from being down here," Ferris said. "It's very important."

A “crowd-shooting” incident on the east side of Canyon Ferry Reservoir last weekend has opened a discussion about hunter ethics; specifically, when is it OK to shoot a game animal?

Justin Feddes says the shooting in the White's Gulch area outside Helena started at first light last Sunday morning.

"If I had to guess, I'd say probably around 30 elk were killed. Probably 18 - 20 bulls, the rest were probably cows. We had two wounded," said Feddes.

Flickr User Ian Sane CC-BY-2.0

Shooting into a large elk herd may not be illegal, but is it ethical?

Experts say, "not really."

But that's just what happened last weekend in the White's Gulch area on the east side of Canyon Ferry Reservoir outside Helena.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Game Warden Justin Feddes says hunters spotted a herd of about 500 elk at first light on Sunday. Feddes reports they started shooting, which scattered the rest of the herd onto a mix of private and public lands.

The Breakthrough Institute

Whether you're raising cattle outside of Bozeman, growing coffee in India, or maintaining your lawn in Hamilton, you're producing and managing wildlife.

Researcher Paul Robbins says that's neither good nor bad - it's just a fact. Robbins is director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconson-Madison.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) Montana. File photo.
Courtesy photo, Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke, Montana's new U.S. Representative spoke with MTPR Assistant News Director Edward O'Brien late Tuesday.

Zinke says he's ready to get to work in Congress representing the people of Montana.

"I understand the responsibility. You not only represent the people who voted for you, but you represent the folks that did not. I think it's time to roll up the sleeves and get things done."

libbymt.com

Voters in Montana’s cities can sometimes face long voting lines. We checked in with election officials in a couple of small towns to see how things are going for them.

"The turnout is brisk," Leigh Riggleman, Lincoln County Assistant Elections Administrator in Libby says. "Our polling stations seem to be very busy. Our front counter for late registration has been steady. (We) always like to see good voter turnout."

Riggleman says Lincoln County has roughly 13,000 registered voters and seven polling stations, but she says voting by mail is getting more popular every year.

Courtesy EPA

It will take more time before we learn about potential cleanup options at a former paper mill in Frenchtown.

Today was the Environmental Protection Agency's original deadline for the site's prior and current owners to present a "good faith" cleanup offer. The plant was in operation since the 1950’s. It was most recently owned by the Smurfit-Stone Container. The plant closed in 2010 and was purchased by M2 Green Redevelopment in 2011.

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