MTPR

Edward O'Brien

News

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

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Montana's bitterly cold winter is hitting Northwestern Energy customers in the pocketbook.

Spokesman Butch Larcombe says its entire service territory is much colder than normal. Of course that means customers are using a lot more natural gas or electricity to stay warm:

Last spring, Barnes took home the gold in a national culinary competition.  The 23-year-old is now setting her sights on another big win: This time at the American Culinary Federation’s Student Chef of the Year competition.
Mike Albans

Katie Barnes is a big deal at the Missoula College culinary arts program. Her cooking skills have earned her national recognition.

Those who know her say Barnes is, without doubt, going places in the industry. But just over two years ago her professional future was anything but certain.

Dr. David Shulkin is President Trump's nominee to run the Veterans Affairs Department.
(PD)

President Donald Trump's nominee to run the Veterans Affairs Department says there are no easy fixes for what ails that beleaguered agency.

At his confirmation hearing today, Dr. David Shulkin vowed to, "seek major reform and a transformation of the VA."

Congressman Ryan Zinke testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 17.
CSPAN

It took Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke less  than two minutes to win the backing of the GOP-led Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.

After the 16-6 vote, Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska said, "Congratulations Representative Zinke. We look forward to working with you.” 

The group "Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense" rallies in Missoula, MT for stronger gun laws, Dec. 14, 2015.
Josh Burnham

Montana’s Attorney General today ruled Missoula cannot enforce an ordinance requiring gun sale background checks within the city limits.

The Missoula City Council passed the background check ordinance last September. Soon after, state House Speaker Austin Knudsen of Culbertson asked for Attorney General Tim Fox’s legal opinion on the matter.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath is an immigration attorney with Helena’s Border Crossing law firm.
Courtesy Photo Border Crossing Law Firm

President Donald  Trump’s executive orders on immigration Wednesday came as little surprise to one Montana immigration attorney.

Helena’s Shahid Haque-Hausrath says he saw President Trump’s immigration orders coming from a mile away:

Recently merged three-million-acre national forest requires a new management plan.
Forest Service Northern Region (CC-by-2.0)

The first in a series of nine public meetings on a re-write of the forest plan for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest happens tonight in Lincoln. Forest plans provide land managers with important long-term guidance, goals and standards. Think of them as legally-mandated land and resource mission statements for our national forests.

Epidemiologist Karl Milhon says it's never too late to get a flu shot.
James Gathany (PD)

Montana health officials have their fingers crossed that the worst of flu season is behind us.

University of Montana President Sheila Stearns
Courtesy the University of Montana

University of Montana President Sheila Stearns presented her mid-year update to faculty and staff today. The address to the standing-room-only crowd of about 300 was peppered with optimistic messages that the university’s best days are ahead of it.

But it also contained a sobering reality check.

View of inversion over Missoula from Snowbowl
FLICKR USER, EVAN LOVELY (CC-BY-2.0)

Western Montana’s had some lousy air quality recently, but all that’s about to change. Missoula City/County Air Quality Specialist Ben Schmidt says the Missoula valley’s air quality started to degrade late last week

Missoula high school computer science students have developed an app-concept that’s taken top honors in a statewide competition.
PD

Missoula high school computer science students have developed an app-concept that’s taken top honors in a statewide competition. They now need Montanans to help them advance in a national contest.

U.S. Capitol
flickr user Tim Evanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

The former chairman of the Montana Republican Party says he wants his party’s nomination to replace Congressman Ryan Zinke.

Drug Investigation Nets Meth, Guns, And Grenade Launchers In Missoula
Edward O'Brien

A major drug investigation that started in 2015 netted several pounds of methamphetamine, dozens of firearms and the conviction of eight defendants.

At a press conference today, Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said the drugs were primarily being distributed in and around Missoula:

Yearling bison inside Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek bison trap.
Buffalo Field Campaign

At least 80 Yellowstone National Park bison are now trapped in government corrals. Hundreds more will soon follow suit and be sent to slaughter.

Several lawsuits were filed Friday against the U.S. government's decision to lift protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area.
(PD)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has pushed back its target date for a formal decision on whether to take Yellowstone-area grizzly bears off of the endangered species list. Last year the agency said it hoped to issue that decision by the end of 2016. Now it’s saying July is more likely.

A line of people waiting to testify in support of removing balance billing for air ambulance rides in Montana.
Corin Cates-Carney

Montana lawmakers are trying to find a balance between the lifesaving air ambulance services, and the crippling debt those rides can bury patients in.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was considered a possible contender in the 2018 senate race, after Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke accepted the position of Interior Secretary.
Courtesy Montana DOJ

As awareness of human trafficking increases, so do the number of victims who are being rescued in Montana. Human traffickers use force or fraud to coerce their victims into some type of labor or sex slavery.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says next to the drug trade, it’s the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

Two bills designed to help protect Montanans from unexpected and exorbitant air ambulance bills get their first hearings at the state legislature Tuesday.
(PD)

Two bills designed to help protect Montanans from unexpected and exorbitant air ambulance bills get their first hearings at the state legislature Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood of Montana says it won’t go away even if congressional Republicans follow through on their vow to defund the organization.

And U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan made it clear this week; Planned Parenthood is about to lose its federal funding.

Some of the coldest temperatures of this already bitterly cold week are forecast over the next 12 to 24 hours. Homeless shelters are trying to help Montana’s most vulnerable during this weather emergency.

The University of Montana’s longest serving president, George Dennison, died Tuesday morning.
Courtesy University of Montana

The University of Montana’s longest serving president, George Dennison, died Tuesday morning.

Those who worked alongside Dennison during his record 20-year tenure at the University of Montana say his impact cannot be overstated.

University of Montana President Emeritus George Dennison, in an undated photo from the University of Montana
University of Montana

George Dennison, the University of Montana’s longest serving president, died today at age 81.

University of Montana Interim President Sheila Stearns issued the following statement just after 1:00 p.m. today:

State Representative Kelly McCarthy has expressed interest in running to fill Rep. Ryan Zinke's House seat.
Montana Legislature

A third Montana Democrat has announced interest in the party’s nomination for the state’s lone Congressional seat.

President-elect Donald Trump nominated Republican U.S Congressman Ryan Zinke to be the next Secretary of the Interior Department. If Zinke wins that nomination, Democratic Billings State Representative Kelly McCarthy says he'd like to step in to replace him:

Snowmobile
Maropak (CC-BY-SA-3)

The Bitterroot National Forest’s first, newly updated travel plan in 40 years is facing its first legal challenge.

A coalition of seven multiple-use recreation groups describes their lawsuit as a, "last resort to stop the federal overreach of agencies running roughshod over public lands."

Starting Tuesday, January 3, construction crews will be temporarily squeezing one of Missoula's busiest bridges from four lanes down to two. Construction on the Madison Street Bridge is expected to finish in August 2017.
Edward O'Brien

Starting Tuesday, January 3, construction crews will be temporarily squeezing one of Missoula's busiest bridges from four lanes down to two. Pretty much everybody involved says the Madison Street Bridge project is going to be an enormous pain in the backside.

Courtesy Photo

Great Falls state representative Casey Schreiner Monday announced his intent to seek the Democratic party’s nomination for Montana’s at-large Congressional seat. Schreiner wants to replace Republican U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke, who’s been nominated to become President-elect Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary.

Courtesy Montana FWP

After putting in over 12 years and serving three governors, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department director Jeff Hagener retired this week.

Widespread valley snow is possible late Friday into Saturday (Christmas Eve). Roads will generally be slick across all of western Montana and central Idaho during this timeframe, which could make for difficult holiday travel.
National Weather Service Missoula

An incoming weather system is expected to bring some fresh snow into Montana this long holiday weekend.

Missoula National Weather Service meteorologist Marty Whitmore says it will push through in a couple of different surges:

Montana Standard Editor David McCumber.
Mike Albans

As we recently reported, a big pile of old smelter waste in the middle of Butte is one step closer to being removed.

The state of Montana this month signed an agreement with mining company Montana Resources that could lead to the removal of the Parrot tailings; a 50-foot-deep-pile of tailings behind the Butte Civic Center. The Montana Standard reports the agreement is an important first step, but at least one major obstacle remains. David McCumber, editor of the Montana Standard joins us to explain:

Republican State Senator Ed Buttrey says he is seeking the nomination to replace Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke next year:
Corin Cates-Carney

Republican State Senator Ed Buttrey says he is seeking the nomination to replace Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke next year:

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