Eric Whitney

News Director

Eric Whitney is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

Ways to Connect

University Hall at The University of Montana
Josh Burnham

A prominent University of Montana professor says that faculty needs to look outside campus for help in the face of a budget crisis that will cut 52 faculty jobs, and 149 University staff positions. UM President Royce Engstrom says the cuts are necessary because several years of declining enrollment mean the school is overstaffed for the approximately 11,000 full time students it now has.

A sign seen at Tuesday's meeting for faculty feedback on UM President Engstrom's plan to cut 201 jobs because of declining enrollment.
Eric Whitney

Today is the deadline University of Montana President Royce Engstrom has set for public comments on his proposal to cut 201 jobs because of declining enrollment. Those comments are due at 5:00 p.m. But last night, the UM Faculty Senate met and voiced some of their concerns.

Patrick Barkey, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research
Courtesy UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research

Last week a study of what could happen to Montana’s economy under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan came out of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Opponents of the carbon dioxide reduction plan say it proves dire consequences. Backers of the plan say the study merely reached the predetermined conclusion of the utility company that sponsored it.

Patrick Barkey, author of the study and director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research joined us for an interview about it.

Colstrip power plant as seen in the early 1980s.
David T. Hanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

A study released Wednesday says that complying with President Obama's Clean Power Plan will cost Montana more than 7,000 jobs and more than $2 billion in wages and sales. Those numbers were quickly trumpeted by Montana elected officials who oppose the nationwide plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including Attorney General Tim Fox, who has joined Montana to a multi-state lawsuit to halt the plan.

Blackfoot Cooperative Landscape Stewardship Project Map
Courtesy Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project

Ten years ago people in the Seeley Lake area who were tired of constant fighting over logging and other uses of public lands in Montana got together to try to come up with a new, better way of resolving conflicts. They came up with something called the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project, designed to improve the health of local forests, and at the same time keep local timber jobs. The agreement also got consensus on protecting additional land as Wilderness. Wednesday evening, members of the Project are getting together in Missoula to celebrate their accomplishments over the decade. We talked about it with Zack Porter, a field director for the Montana Wilderness Association.

Josh Burnham

The University of Montana needs to cut 201 full-time jobs to make its expenses align with revenue.

UM President Royce Engstrom made that announcement this afternoon, saying the University needs to be “right-sized” to meet a declining number of students.

Nationwide, state regulators are starting to take a closer look at whether online fantasy sports leagues like Draft Kings and FanDuel constitute illegal gambling. Montana is one of five states that have already prohibited them. The others are Washington, Arizona, Iowa, and Louisiana.

There’s a lot more awareness of sports-related concussions lately, but still no reliable physical test of when an athlete has recovered enough to return to play. A couple of researchers at the University of Montana are working on a promising blood test for concussion recovery. Their story, and those of the Montana athletes and trainers who help them, airs on MontanaPBS Tuesday in a film called “Concussion: Answers In The Blood?” Eric Whitney spoke with the film's producer, John Twiggs.

Sen. Steve Daines
Courtesy photo

If you’re a U.S. Senator from Montana, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that the White House is calling for is either a misguided war on working Montanans, or a reasonable starting point for a discussion of fighting climate change.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell issued this statement earlier today, we'll have more on what it means for Montana in tonight's Montana News at 5:44 p.m., and throughout All Things Considered tonight.