Eric Whitney

News Director

Eric is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

Ways To Connect

Bryce Ward, the director of health care research at the University of Montana’s BBER, talks with Eric Whitney about the impact Medicaid & Medicare have on Montana.
Emily Proctor

Today is the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Right now, nearly one in five Montanans gets health care from Medicare, and the state is poised to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands more people next year.

To get a sense of how important the two federal health programs are to Montana, and some idea of where they’re going in the future, I talked to Bryce Ward, the director of health care research at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Kathy Schaefer, regional director of women's health for Providence shows one of the new labor and delivery rooms at St. Patrick hospital in Missoula.
Eric Whitney

Missoula’s St. Patrick hospital invited the media to see its new family maternity center that opens Monday. Women’s Health Director Kathy Schaefer showed off one of the hospital’s seven rooms where moms will deliver babies.

Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-sun Road is set to open from the west entrance to Logan Pass.
Glacier National Park (CC-BY-2)

Glacier National Park officials say they’ll open more of the Going to the Sun Road from the west side Wednesday, over the top of Logan Pass.

Fire officials say the Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park is now 30 percent contained.
Jennifer McKee

Updates on wildfires burning in and around western Montana.

Map of Solenex Lease site in the Badger-Two Medicine near Glacier National Park
Courtesy Montana Wilderness Association

A federal judge has given Interior Secretary Sally Jewell three weeks to take action on a Louisiana company’s natural gas leases near Glacier National Park that have been held up for 29 years.

Corin Cates-Carney

There's a red flag fire weather warning in effect for the third day in a row for the east side of Glacier National Park today where the Reynolds Creek Fire continues to burn out of control.

File photo of fire fighters building fire line.
BLM (CC-BY-2.0)

The Cabin Gulch Fire east of Townsend is still being called 15 percent contained, although Public Information Officer Mariah Leuschen says the percentage will be greater when fire officials update numbers this evening.

Smoke from the Reynolds Creek Fire as seen from St. Mary visitor's center.
Glacier National Park

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag fire weather warning for the east side of Glacier National Park today from noon to 9:00 p.m., meaning high winds and low humidity, with temperatures in the 70s.

A lot of people know about the Berkeley Pit in Butte, but not many know about another significant pollution challenge in the Mining City. It’s called the Parrot Plume, and there’s controversy over whether it needs to be cleaned up, and if so, who would pay for it.

Arial photo of the Salmond Ranch area
Flickr User Sam Bebee (CC-BY-2)

Hunters, a wildlife group and the Bullock administration are hailing the settlement of a decades-old road dispute west of Choteau, MT that restores public access to about 50,000 acres of public land along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Missoula Art Museum
Josh Burnham - MTPR

The longtime curator of the Missoula Art Museum, Stephen Glueckert has retired, and Brandon Reintjes has taken over that role. The Montana native has been at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University for the last six years. I talked to him about his new role as we toured the Montana Triennial exhibit currently up at the Missoula Art Museum.


UM President Royce Engstrom speaks about UM's handling of sexual assaults at a July 10 press conference in Missoula, MT.
Eric Whitney - MTPR

The University of Montana Police Department has met federal requirements to improve its response to reports of sexual assault on campus.

The University agreed to the requirements two years ago, following a 2012 investigation into reports of sexual assaults at the school by the U.S. Departments of Justice, and Education.

Wildfire danger sign.
Josh Burnham

Firefighters made good progress on two fires burning in Montana, and discovered a new fire near Phillipsburg.

U.S. Capitol building.
Flickr user Tim McKee (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The U.S. House has passed legislation designed to improve the health of national forests by scaling back the environmental reviews that go into some timber projects, and making it harder to file lawsuits that delay thinning projects.

Montana Republican Ryan Zinke is co-sponsoring the bill.

As the Senate begins debating federal education policy, Montana Senator Jon Tester is trying to remove annual testing requirements from Washington, and Senator Steve Daines is seeking block grants of federal funding instead of money with specific strings attached.

The Senate is currently working on replacing the unpopular No Child Left Behind law, with one called “Every Child Achieves.”

Health centers like Missoula's Partnership Health Center hope Medicaid expansion will bring more financial certainty.
Josh Burnham

Montana’s legislature said yes to Medicaid expansion this spring, but the state’s expansion plan still needs approval by the federal government.

Today, the state made the details of its expansion plan public, and is giving the public 60 days to comment on the plan before sending it to the White House.

Missoula's North Hills and Mount Jumbo
Josh Burnham (All rights reserved)

The Missoula Rural Fire District has an extra fire engine on duty over the 4th of July weekend, in part because of what happened in 2006. District Chief Bill Colwell remembers sitting on his father’s deck that year, watching some local kids shoot off fireworks near Mount Jumbo.

Public Domain

A panel of prominent scientists are meeting in Bozeman to talk about controlling brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone area, It’s the start of a year-long process to evaluate options for trying to control the disease.

Anthony J. Preite retires as the USDA's state director of rural development.
Courtesy photo

A man who’s had a big role in growing Montana’s economy for nearly 50 years is stepping down. Anthony Preite has been involved in rural economic development here since 1968, and last week he retired as state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

BLM (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana fire officials are urging people to be extra careful with fire this weekend and over Fourth of July.

U.S. Supreme Court
Flickr user: Marty Stone (CC-BY-NC-2)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for people to buy health insurance means nothing really changes in Montana’s health insurance market. And that’s pretty big news.

A powerful Senate committee Thursday increased funding for a public lands access program, but Montana's senators disagreed on the amount.

Greg Gianforte speaking to the Conrad, Montana Chamber of Commerce
Eric Whitney

Not everybody's summer road trip around Montana generates headlines at every stop, but Greg Gianforte's does, and Gianforte is not just anybody. He's been meeting with local chambers of commerce, like a group of about 10 people at the Sport Club restaurant in Shelby recently.

Edward O'Brien

Montana’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has only had one executive director since it was established in 1988, Scott Crichton. And now Scott Crichton is stepping down. He stopped by MTPR’s studios recently to talk about his 27 years as Executive Director of the Montana ACLU.

Photo Courtesy CUNY Law School

The Montana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has hired a new executive director. That position has been held by only one person since Montana’s ACLU hired him in 1988, Scott Crichton. Crichton is now retiring. He says the new director is a Missoula native.

Senator Daines' office

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Montana Senator Steve Daines lambasted President Obama for what he says are huge increases in the price of health insurance in Montana, but he didn't get the facts exactly right.

Montana’s insurance commissioner says she’s not surprised that health insurance companies are asking for rate increases next year of more than 20 to 30 percent. But, she says, those are just requests, and it’ll be at least a couple of months before the actual rates are known.

One of the authors of a new plan to save the threatened bull Trout in Montana says that’s not an easy task, nor is measuring what it will take to get the fish off of the endangered species list.

"Some folks think it’s a simple, you cross the finish line and you’re there. That’s never quite the way it is."

Bull trout in British Columbia’s Wigwam River drainage, the headwaters of the Kootenai River.
Joel Sartore National Geographic & Wade Fredenberg USFWS (CC-BY-2.0)

A Montana environmental group working on recovery of the threatened bull trout is critical of a new federal plan to save the fish.

"I guess I just don’t see this as being a holistic plan," says Arlene Montgomery.

Marianne Wiest - Courtesy photo

Bozeman technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte is asking Montanans who live out of state to come home, and to bring their high paying jobs with them.

He launched what he’s calling his “Bring our Families Back tour,” Monday visiting economic development agencies in northwest Montana to promote telecommuting as a way to drive up Montana’s average income and improve the economy.

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