Edward O'Brien

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Montana public school students have a short week so their teachers can attend a two-day conference in Missoula this Thursday and Friday. Up to 3,000 teachers will participate in the annual Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers conference. The MEA-MFT teachers' union vice president Melanie Charlson says this conference is anything but some sort of a vacation for teachers.

"You want to make certain that all of your professionals are honing their skills," says Charlson.

Thomas Helbig (CC-BY-2.0)

Chess Masters from across Western Montana convene in Kalispell tomorrow for the 15th annual Flathead Chess Championship.

The Blackfeet Community College chess team will be among the competitors looking to take home the grand prize and bragging rights.

The team was formed last year and won an overall national tournament. It also won 1st and 3rd in individual rounds at the same event. 

Chess team coach Dr. Mark Anderson says the club is attracting students despite stiff competition for their attention by gadgets and videogames.

The U.S. Army War College has revoked Senator Walsh's graduate status.

The New York Times reported in July that Walsh had plagiarized over 25 percent of his final paper needed to earn a master’s degree from the United States Army War College in 2007.

Courtesy Photo

Montana’s commissioner of political practices says Missoula County Sheriff candidate T.J. McDermott violated campaign finance laws.

McDermott has a very different interpretation of what that means than does his political opponent, Josh Clark.

Clark filed complaints about McDermott’s campaign practices in August.

Josh Burnham-cc-by-2.0

Bison management always spurs passionate debate in Montana and a meeting tomorrow in Great Falls will consider whether wild herds should be established outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is considering that possibility.

Conservationist Keith Aune says he thinks Montana can develop a good plan. Aune's director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's bison programs.

MT OPI

Public school students and faculty are dealing with more than just academics today; they're also struggling with bullying and various mental and emotional health issues.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction announced today it's been awarded three grants worth over $12 million to address those needs.

School Superintendent Denise Juneau says a 5-year "School Climate Transformation" grant worth over $3 million will help reduce bullying in schools. It will also provide adults with clear guidelines on what to do when they see students being intimidated.

Folf Course Fire

Oct 5, 2014
Crystal Beckman

A fire was reported today just after 1:00 up Roman Ceek Road, north of Frenchtown and Interstate 90. The fire is named the Folf Course Fire, approximately 7 acres and cause of the fire is unknown. The fire is being fought by land and air support has been ordered. The fire is burning in grass and moving towards timber, the terrain is steep and potential high winds are a concern.

Montana's U.S. House candidates squared-off this weekend for their third - and arguably liveliest - debate.

Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke repeatedly drew sharp contrasts throughout Saturday evening's debate in Bozeman, starting with the question of how to best respond to the rise of Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.

Zinke repeated his long-held stance that he'd prefer to fight the militants in the deserts of Iraq than here in America. Lewis called that a "simplistic" viewpoint:

www.CGPGrey.com by/2.0

It was yet another expensive wildfire-fighting season, but early estimates indicate it won't be as spendy as some others in recent memory. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers says preliminary estimates show the Forest Service went $200 million over budget this season. Congress authorized the agency to spend $995 million on fire suppression this fiscal year.  That's compared to about $3 billion in recent years. Forest Service Region One spokeswoman Heather Noel says we were lucky this year.

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

Billings residents and Missoulians are next in line to weigh in on Montana's climate plan. Governor Steve Bullock asked the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to analyze potential ways the state can comply with E.P.A's proposed Clean Power Plan.

State regulators were in Colstrip yesterday, the heart of Montana coal country, for a public meeting on a draft rule limiting carbon pollution in Montana.

Montana Associated Press reporter Matthew Brown attended yesterday's meeting at Colstrip High School.

Meg O'Leary

Governor Steve Bullock’s eight day trade mission to China has concluded and participants say Montana still has a lot to learn about conducting business there.

Montana exported over $100 million worth of goods to China last year, but state officials say we can do more.

What a difference a weekend can make in Montana's U.S House debate schedule.

Republican U.S House candidate Ryan Zinke will debate Democrat John Lewis tonight in Billings. Zinke originally declined to participate in the Billings debate citing scheduling conflicts. His campaign issued a press release late Friday afternoon saying he'd changed his mind.

Montana Public Radio is broadcasting the debate starting this evening at 7:00. That debate will be aired on this radio station and streamed on our website.

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The sordid saga of an abandoned trailer containing 37,000 lbs of rotten chicken ended today when the stinky freight was buried in a freshly dug pit.

The semi-trailer had been sitting at a Missoula-area truck stop for possibly a month or longer.

Authorities say the truck driver abandoned the trailer after his employer, Dixie River Freight Inc., refused his demands for more money to deliver its then-frozen cargo.

U.S. Forest Service issued a press release late Thursday to clarify the intent behind the proposed directive for commercial photography and filmmaking in Congressionally designated wilderness areas.

The Forest Service describes it as a good faith effort to ensure wilderness areas are protected.

Critics say it essentially gives the agency story-approval power.

Montana’s entire congressional delegation today called for the rule to be clarified and re-drafted.

Danny Dauterive

Montana Public Radio’s Edward O’Brien sat down with Algonquin Power and Utilities CEO Ian Robertson. Robertson says "we would like to be part of the Montana utility landscape forever."

Kurt Wilson- Missoulian

The Missoulian newspaper is welcoming a new publisher.

Mark Heintzelman says newspaper reporters face new challenges in gathering news and their readers want to access those stories in brand new ways. Heintzelman says it's his job to help both accomplish their goals.

He succeeds Jim McGowan who's now working as the Missoulian's Sales and Marketing director.

Heintzleman comes to the Garden City from Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he most recently worked as the publisher of The Sentinel newspaper.

Josh Burnham

Another enrollment drop at the University of Montana.

A total of 13,952 students enrolled at UM this fall semester. That's 573 fewer than a year ago.

This time last year, UM recorded over 400 fewer students than the prior year.

UM spokeswoman, Peggy Kuhr, says this semester's enrollment drop was not a surprise:

Danny Dauterive

A large fire that ignited yesterday in Missoula's Miller Creek drainage no longer presents a threat to Northwestern Energy high voltage power lines, communication towers on Dean Stone Mountain or local homes.

An overheated chainsaw muffler sparked the Lost Mine Loop fire. Miller Creek Road remains closed to all but fire crews and local traffic.The fire is now estimated to encompass 153 acres and is 75 percent contained.

Montana DNRC

Investigators say an overheated chainsaw side muffler ignited a wildfire that started yesterday afternoon in Missoula's Miller Creek drainage.

That fire now has a name - The Lost Mine Loop fire. It started Sunday afternoon around 2:00.  A flight survey will arrive today to determine the size of the fire, which is estimated to be greater than 60 acres.

Edward O'Brien

It looks like Missoula's city water system could be sold to a Canadian company.

Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities, has reached an agreement with The Carlyle Group, which currently owns Missoula's water system.

Algonquin is expected to pay an estimated $327 million for Missoula's system and three other utilities. That price includes assumption of about $77 million of existing long-term debt.

A Canadian utility has reached an agreement with global equity firm, The Carlyle Group, to acquire the parent company of Missoula's Mountain Water  Company.

Park Water owns and operates three water utilities that serve approximately 74-thousand customers in Southern California and Western Montana.

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

Montana's coal-fired power plants emit as much carbon dioxide as Mongolia, a country of almost 3 million people. That’s according to a new study from Environment Montana’s Research and Policy Center.

It says PPL's Colstrip power plant emits the majority of CO2 in Montana, about 13 million of the state's more than 15 million metric tons.

Dirk-Jan Kraan (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

It was a record summer for passenger traffic at Missoula International Airport.

Deputy Director Brian Ellestad says 240,830 passengers flew in and out of Missoula this summer.

That's almost 33,000 more than last summer.

According to Ellestad, people are responding to recently added airline service. 

The US House has unanimously passed a bill ensuring that certain tribal government programs and services won't be taxed by the I.R.S.

The “Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act” was drawn up in response to an I.R.S request to perform an audit on a tribal program providing school supplies to children. In another incident, the agency wanted to deem a wheelchair ramp for a disabled tribal member a taxable benefit.

Henry Cage is a council member of the Oregon's Lummi Nation and Taxation Committee Chair of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

In this evening's feature interview with Edward O'Brien, Michael Downey with Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation explains why it's taken over 20 years to update Montana's water plan:

The existing Montana State Water Plan is long overdue for an update.

The existing plan guides the conservation and management of Montana's water resources.

It is currently over 20 years old and fails to address contemporary issues and challenges faced by water users today.

Highway deaths in Montana have dropped by almost 18 percent from this time last year.

The director of the Montana Department of Transportation says that's impressive, but adds that more needs to be done.

Mike Tooley says 132 people have died so far on Montana's highways. Last year, there were a total of 159 fatalities.

Gordon McLean (CC-NC-BY-2.0)

Missoula’s water company has secured enough water for a new development in Missoula.

Ross Miller, Missoula Mountain Water's chief legal officer says getting a new water rights permit is not easy. There aren’t any more permits to draw water from the Clark Fork or Bitterroot rivers.

"You can get a new groundwater permit," Miller says, "however, you have to mitigate the effects of that new permit on the river flows. What that essentially means is all the water you consumptively use with a new groundwater permit, you have to put back into the river."

Montana's candidates for federal office are weighing in on President Obama's intent to unleash military strikes on the so-called "Islamic State" extremist organizations.

Obama last week announced his counter-terrorism campaign to use intel, training and airstrikes to weaken and destroy Islamic radical groups know by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

Cherie Newman

Before becoming  senior news analyst, Sally Mauk spent three decades as Montana Public Radio's news director.

Sally retired in late May, opening the door - and a lengthy search process - for a new leader who will guide the MTPR newsroom into the future.

And that person is Eric Whitney. Whitney comes to Montana from Colorado where he spent over 20 years working in various Public Radio positions. One of them was news director at the NPR affiliate in Colorado Springs.
Whitney's also an experienced and well-versed freelance journalist.

Mother Nature gave Montana a real one-two punch of cold weather yesterday, and forecasters say it's going to get even colder tonight. 

First, a blustery low-pressure system moved into the state yesterday afternoon. The winds died down and the skies cleared early this morning. That allowed those temperatures to plummet.

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