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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Flathead Lake. Flathead County Commissioners are considering a proposal to regulate short-term housing rentals outside of incorporated towns.
William Neuheisel (CC-BY-2)

Flathead County Commissioners are considering a proposal to regulate short-term housing rentals outside of incorporated towns. 

Steve Pleasants rents out part of his home near Whitefish for a few weeks each summer. The extra income helps him pay his property taxes and covers small projects to improve his house. He says that shouldn’t be against the law.

Voters cast ballots at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, May 25, 2017.
Josh Burnham

Last night, the Republican candidate to fill Montana’s vacant U.S. House seat reportedly body-slammed a political reporter from international news outlet The Guardian.

Greg Gianforte was later charged with misdemeanor assault. But did the “body slam” affect how people are voting today? We sent reporters out to Bozeman, Missoula and the Flathead Valley to find out.

U.S. House candidate Rob Quist at a campaign rally in Missoula, April 27, 2017.
Josh Burnham

In the final hours leading up to tomorrow’s special election to fill Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, Democratic candidate Rob Quist is squeezing in a few final visits with voters, and making use of social media. 

Quist’s campaign Facebook and Twitter pages are flooded with testimonials from voters:

Voters at the Missoula County ballot drop-off center, May 23, 2017.
Eric Whitney

Montana’s special election to fill its empty U.S. House seat is mere days away, but election officials say many voters still aren’t sure how to vote.

"The biggest hurdle for us has been trying to combat voter confusion," says Rebecca Connors, the election administrator for Missoula County.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana filed a complaint today with the Montana Human Rights Bureau on behalf of four Native Americans, who say say they were barred entrance to a high school basketball game earlier this year because of their race. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.
Nicky Ouellet

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified two compounds in the mysterious oily sheen detected along the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers earlier this month.

Volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds were previously detected in samples taken from water pooled along the shoreline at Somers Bay.

Image from a Glacier Park Inc. proposal for a new RV park near West Glacier, MT.
Flathead County

Flathead County Commissioners Friday approved plans for a 100-spot RV park outside the west entrance to Glacier National Park.

With a unanimous vote by the commissioners, the company Glacier Park, Inc., is now cleared to move forward with its plan to develop 25 cabins and a 102-spot recreational vehicle campground adjacent to the village of West Glacier outside the western entrance to the park.

The Cut Bank voting center.
Corin Cates-Carney

Colleen O’Brien didn’t know her usual polling place wouldn’t be open for Montana's May 25’s special election to fill Montana’s U.S. House seat until last week.

"It's making it incredibly inconvenient at best, and it is disenfranchising an underserved, underrepresented population at worst," O'Brien says.

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range.
Josh Burnham

One month after pulling a proposal to transfer management of the National Bison Range to the tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke yesterday made it official: Management will remain in the federal government’s hands.

Image from a Glacier Park Inc. proposal for a new RV park near West Glacier, MT.
Flathead County

A proposal for a new RV park outside the western entrance of Glacier National Park goes before Flathead County Commissioners Friday.

Commissioners heard the plan from a company called Glacier Park Inc. (GPI) to build a campground with 102 recreational vehicle spaces and 25 rental cabins near the village of West Glacier on Tuesday, May 16, but held off on making a final decision so they could learn more about potential impacts to traffic.

Whitefish residents held a "love not hate" rally January 7, 2017 in response to calls from a neo-Nazi website to target locals with anti-Semitic online harassment.
Nicky Ouellet

A Jewish rabbi in Whitefish is receiving national recognition for her leadership in standing up to anti-Semitism. Rabbi Francine Roston is one of this year’s Rabbinic Human Rights Heroes, awarded by T’ruah, a nonprofit organization of rabbis that advocates for human rights.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.
Nicky Ouellet

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected low levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.

In a statement, the EPA says it still has not determined the cause of the sheen that was first reported early last week and expects final, validated sampling results next week.

Elementary school students in Whitefish may get a new school building if voters in the district approve to fund a bond initiative next October.

The Whitefish School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved the bond initiative of $26.5 million-dollars earlier this week.

These scientists are using GPS units to record precise locations of the edges of Grinnell Glacier.
USGS

Newly released data say glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park have shrunk as much as 85 percent since the 1960s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some are now so small they’ve lost the characteristics that make them glaciers.

Georgia Smies, an aquatic biologist for the Flathead Tribes, plays a game about the impacts of aquatic invasive species with students from Lolo
Nicky Ouellet

This week, the shore of the lower Flathead River west of Ronan is the biggest classroom in Montana. Fourth and fifth graders from across western Montana are here for the River Honoring, an annual event hosted by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, where they learn about the plants and animals native to the reservation.

(PD)

Healthcare has again moved toward the top of the agenda in Montana’s special election race for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Whichever candidate wins the race, there’s no way they’ll be able to represent everyone in Montana on healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award recognizes individual schools and entire districts for reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and offering effective environmental education.
U.S. Department of Education

The Whitefish School District has received national recognition for sustainability and education.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award recognizes individual schools and entire districts for reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and offering effective environmental education.

Whitefish is the first school district in Montana to receive the award.

The sheen on Flathead Lake near Somers was first reported to the EPA earlier this week. Thursday, BNSF took steps to contain it. A BNSF representative told MTPR Thursday that early field indicators suggest the sheen comes from a natural organic source.
Nicky Ouellet

BNSF Railway says that, as a precautionary measure, it has removed material from the shore of Flathead Lake near Somers that has a mysterious, oily sheen. The company thinks the sheen's origin is biological, not man-made.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has detected elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in samples taken from the oily sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake near Somers.
Nicky Ouellet

BNSF railway and the Environmental Protection Agency are both waiting on sampling results to determine the source of the unidentified sheen on Flathead Lake in Somers. They expect those results back by Monday.

Flathead Lake. Flathead County Commissioners are considering a proposal to regulate short-term housing rentals outside of incorporated towns.
William Neuheisel (CC-BY-2)

The Environmental Protection Agency and BNSF Railway are responding to an unidentified sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake. 

Lake County Sheriff Don Bell.
Courtesy Lake County Sheriff's Department

The jail in Lake County is so overcrowded that there are more than 800 people on a waiting list to serve. The Lake County Sheriff’s Department is trying something new to deal with a shortage of cells.

Online voter registration is no longer available for the May 25 special election, but voters can register in person at local county election offices.
Eric Whitney

With less than a month left until Montana’s special election to replace former Representative Ryan Zinke, some voters are casting their ballots early.

Fire experts are predicting a slower than normal start to wildfire season in Montana this year, but by July and August the potential jumps up to normal, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, Idaho.

Fire experts are predicting a slower-than-normal start to wildfire season in Montana this year, according to a Northern Rockies fire season outlook released Monday afternoon.

Night sky over Logan Pass in Glacier National park.
National Park Service/Jacob W. Frank

Most visitors go to Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park for the vistas and wildlife watching they can do during the day, but today, the pair of parks were recognized together for their exceptionally dark night skies.

Lee Rademaker says one of the best parts of his job is hearing people see the Milky Way for the first time.

The Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on August 1, 2016
Inciweb

For Flathead Valley resident Charlotte Chrisman, wildfire on her private land is not a question of if, but when.

"It's like, you know, have you hit a deer? Well not yet," Chrisman says.

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.

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