MTPR

Nicky Ouellet

Flathead Valley Reporter

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter. Nicky returns to the Flathead Valley after wrapping up her graduate studies at the University of Montana's environmental science journalism program.

603-568-6155 or 406-730-2264

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Outside of th CFAC Superfund Site in Columbia Falls.
Nicky Ouellet

Shannon Stringer has an opinion that’s not entirely popular in Columbia Falls.

“I do. I've gotten into heated discussions with other people in the community, including fellow co-workers, that are totally opposite,” he said.

Stringer thinks it’s a good thing that the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company was listed as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency last September.

Glacier National Park entrance sign.
Flickr user photommo (CC-BY-ND)

A company proposing to develop a new campground just outside Glacier National Park’s western entrance is facing opposition from the park, some local residents and agencies.

The company Glacier Park, Inc, plans to build a campground with 25 rental cabins and 102 recreational vehicle spaces near the village of West Glacier. GPI says it will also build a new water and sewer system for the development.

An undated image from Flathead Lake Cherry Growers Co-op page
Flathead Lake Cherry Growers

With the Trump administration working toward tougher enforcement of America’s immigration laws, some cherry farmers in Montana wondering what that may mean for this year’s harvest.

There are some 6oo to 800 acres of cherry orchards on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake. Marilyn Bowman owns one of the biggest and oldest. Each year is different, she says. 

Bringing bison back to the Blackfeet Reservation and their historic range on land that now belongs to the U.S. Forest Service, like the Badger-Two Medicine and Chief Mountain, is a vision eight years in the making.
(PD)

Last fall, the Blackfeet Tribe announced plans to reintroduce free-roaming bison to federal land outside its reservation. On Wednesday, the tribe met with state and federal agencies for the third time this year to hash out what that would look like.

A firefighter on the Bierny Creek Fire near Lakeside, MT.
Patrick Record/Inciweb

Larry Anderson arrived early for a meeting last Friday morning at the Flathead National Forest supervisor’s office in Kalispell. It was unseasonably sunny and warm outside, but he’d spend the next three hours listening to presentations in a conference room because of something that happened last summer.

The interior of the Copper King Fire outside of Thompson Falls on August 9, 2016
Inciweb

Fire season is, for many people, a single season. But a team of resource managers and homeowners in the Flathead Valley is trying to change that.

FireSafe Flathead is a group of firefighters, emergency planners, state and federal resource managers, and homeowner association members who meet monthly to plan a more proactive, community-based response to the threat of wildfire.

Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Biological Research Station, answers questions at a public meeting on aquatic invasive mussels.
Nicky Ouellet

Zebra and quagga mussels are aquatic invasive species, quick to colonize and very difficult to get rid of. They’ve caused millions of dollars of damage since they started popping up in Great Lake states in the 1980s, and they have a lot of people in the Flathead Valley concerned right now.

More than a dozen Fort Peck tribal members and veterans plan to traverse nearly 100 miles across the reservation to raise awareness about the potential dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Courtesy Marina Starr

Hours before the Trump administration issued permits to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline Friday morning a group on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana set out on a prayer walk to protest the pipeline.

The Environmental Protection Agency designated the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company as an official Superfund site in September 2016.
Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

The company responsible for cleanup at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company Superfund site released results of their site evaluation on Thursday. 

The evaluation confirms that groundwater beneath the former aluminum smelter facility has elevated levels of cyanide, fluoride and other contaminants, leached from legacy landfills used from 1955 until 1980. The studies also indicate that the contamination is not moving toward wells used for drinking water in nearby neighborhoods.

Belinda Bullshoe says her Blackfeet tradition and culture guide her designs.
Nicky Ouellet

On a normal weekend, the inside of the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls is a cacophony of referees whistles, sneaker squeaks and raving basketball fans. But this past weekend it transformed to house the annual Great Western Living and Design Show. Instead of high school pep bands, old-timey western music plays over loudspeakers. The room smells like leather softener and wood. At the far end of the arena — past booths of silver and turquoise jewelry, paintings of horses and aspens, and vests made of the softest furs — a woman with a long, black ponytail sells blankets and bed sheets in iconic, geometric Pendleton designs. Then she pulls dresses out of a garment sheet. One after another, her colorful designs draw stares from ambling shoppers.

This is Belinda Bullshoe. She recently showed her dresses at New York Fashion Week, and may be the first Native American designer to do so. I pull up a chair, and she tells me her story:

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