Edward O'Brien

News

Ways To Connect

Truckloads of drinking water are on their way to Glendive where a weekend oil spill along the Yellowstone River may have contaminated the community's water supply.

About 6,000 residents are advised to not drink or cook with city water. Up to 50,000 gallons of crude may have spilled when a Bridger Pipeline Company component failed Saturday morning. Officials say preliminary tests show at least some of the oil got into the city water treatment plant.

Loren Kearns (CC-BY-2.0)

Four more Montanans have been killed by the flu in the past week.

The state health department says a total of 6 people have now died from the virus this season. 270 people have been hospitalized and the flu has sickened over 2,100 Montanans so far this season.

Another 11 Montanans have been hospitalized due to Norovirus. The state health department says there have been 11 outbreaks of that virus that have sickened nearly 300 Montanans since October.

Jim Peaco (CC-BY-2.0)

Yellowstone National Park has started capturing bison near the park's north entrance and bison advocates have sued to stop it.

Disease management and carrying capacity are at the center of the operation.

Park spokesman Al Nash says a total of 800 to 900 bison that migrate out of the park could be removed.

"We're doing so to be able to approach the target bison population and to see if we can reduce the potential for a mass-migration of bison into Montana where there is still some limited tolerance."

A workshop Thursday at Salish Kootenai College in the Mission Valley features two advocates who work with both the victims of human trafficking, and those who perpetrate the crime.

MTPR's Edward O'Brien talks with Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker, a member of the FBI's Montana Regional Violent Crime Task Force, and Kat Werner, who manages YWCA Missoula's domestic and sexual violence program.

Baker says trafficking is so pervasive because "there's a lot of money to be made."

Wolverines are solitary animals. There are only an estimated 200 to 250 wolverines left in the lower 48 and they slowly reproduce.

The notoriously fierce carnivore favors rugged and remote places.

Consider yourself lucky if you see signs of one in the backcountry.

A group of amateur trackers led by professional scientists didn't see just one this weekend during a forest carnivore study held about an hour north of Helena.

James Gathany (Public Domain)

Influenza infections continue to pick up steam across Montana.
We reported earlier this week there's been a significant jump in Influenza activity in Montana.

Montana Health Department influenza surveillance coordinator, Elton Mosher, says the past couple of flu seasons were dominated by a more mild flu-strain known as "H1N1":

The chairman of a Montana Indian tribe says he thinks the federal government may formally recognize his tribe by the end of this year.

Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Gerald Gray made that prediction one day after Montana's U.S senators introduced a bill to federally recognize the Great Falls-area tribe. The senators say Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke intends to introduce similar legislation in the U.S House.

Gray says federal recognition would be critically important to the Little Shell people who number about 6,500 members.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

Sometimes the best things in life come from unexpected places. This was the case for Missoulian Dick Rothermel and his wife about 13 years ago when they stumbled across a modest cabin for sale on Seeley Lake-area Forest Service land.

Edward O'Brien

A group of Montanans who own cabins on Forest Service land thanked Republican Senator-elect Steve Daines today for a measure they say will allow them to keep those cherished cabins in their families.

Some cabin fees spiked from $5,000 to $20,000 within just a few years.

The Cabin Fee Act establishes a predictable fee-setting system for at least 700 Montana cabin owners.

The bill was included in the lands and resources legislation recently approved by Congress as a rider on a Defense spending bill.

Jim Peaco (CC-BY-2.0)

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.

Pages