Helena Montana

Smoky air is Montana is forcing Montana's student atheletes inside or limiting their practices.
Josh Burnham

This year, fire season has collided with the school year all over the west, especially in northwest and north central Montana, where the smoke from blazes as far away as Washington has left the air loaded with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe, forcing teachers and coaches to decide whether to send students out for recess or practice, or keep them indoors.

Fifteen miles outside the town of Lincoln, members of several "constitutionalist" groups including the "Oath Keepers" say they’ve helped prevent a confrontation between several miners and the U.S. Forest Service. The Lincoln County Sheriff contends there was no risk of a confrontation to start with.

Jim Schulz, Helena, MT
Clay Scott

This week on Mountain West Voices, we visit the class of award-winning biology teacher Jim Schulz, of Helena, Montana, on his last day of teaching before he retires.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices,"  8/3/15, Monday afternoons, 4:53 p.m., or via podcast.)

Large ponderosa pine tree.
(PD)

Historian Ellen Baumler recalls a stark piece of Montana’s haunted history, Helena’s Hangman’s Tree.

John Keene was the first recorded victim who breathed his last on Helena’s infamous Hangman’s Tree. The Murderer’s Tree, as it was first known, stood at the head of Dry Gulch. Those who knew it well recalled that the ancient ponderosa pine had massive lower branches that tangled in weird contortions. The branches, bleak and devoid of foliage, protruded some twenty feet from its gnarled, moss-covered trunk. Miners, needing to cut smaller logs for cabins, let it stand.

Sen. Daines at Chessman Reservoir with federal, state and local forest officials.
Steve Jess

Steve Jess is on the road, a few miles south of Helena, trailing a convoy carrying Senator Steve Daines and an assortment of local officials. They travel down about 20 miles of dirt road and the occasional cattle guard to a site just yards from the Chessman reservoir, where many of the surrounding hills bear the corpses of lodgepole pines killed by the mountain pine beetle.

Sen. Daines and other officials on a tour of the Tenmile watershed.
Steve Jess

Montana Senator Steve Daines toured a beetle-infested area of the Helena National Forest Tuesday, and praised a joint federal-state effort to reduce fire danger. 

Helena school officials are considering their next move in the wake of last week's defeat of a $70-million elementary school bond. Supporters say the measure would have funded badly-needed technology and infrastructure projects.

Opponents said it was too expensive and would have unfairly distributed funds.   

The remains of six veterans whose unclaimed remains were found at a Great Falls funeral home will be interred later this week.

They'll be laid to rest Friday at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison in Helena.

Fewer state and federal dollars are filling Montana school district coffers, so school officials are turning to local voters for help.

Bob Vogel of the Montana School Boards Association says bonding requests are becoming more common.

Bill Gallagher, former Montana Public Service Commission Chairman
Montana Public Service Commission

The chairman of the Montana Public Service Commission remembers his predecessor, Bill Gallagher, as a man of courage and grace.

Gallagher died of pancreatic cancer late last week.

Helena Teens Found Safe In Missoula

May 20, 2015

Police issued an alert this morning for two teens from Helena they believed were in danger after they left the city this morning. They were later found safe in Missoula, and the alert was canceled at 2:40 pm. 

The Governor’s Conference on Aging wraps up Thursday, with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease, and the effect it’s having on society. Steve Jess reports.

Montana ranks 46th for bicycle friendliness, that’s according to a recent study from The League of American Bicyclists.

The League looked at categories including dedicated state funding, an active state advocacy group and a "share the road" campaign.

The remains of six Montana veterans will go to their final resting place next month, in the state veterans cemetery at Fort Harrison. Steve Jess reports that it’s part of a nationwide effort to find the unclaimed ashes of service members, and give them the burial they deserve.

A Boeing worker operates a machine at the company's Helena, MT plant
Courtesy Photo

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is expanding its operations in Helena, as it prepares to supply parts for a new version of the 787.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald are on a two-day tour of the state, visiting VA facilities in Helena, Missoula, and Billings.

Tuesday morning they were at Fort Harrison in Helena. McDonald says it’s the 120th VA facility he’s toured since taking over the troubled agency last July. 

McDonald and Tester sat down with about one hundred veterans and active service members, along with representatives of a range of interest groups, for a round-table discussion.

Eric Whitney

A couple of programs for senior citizens and children in Montana are facing a volunteer shortage. That could mean reduced federal funding if target numbers aren’t met.

"As of a couple of days ago we were about a dozen short," said Megan Grotzke with Rocky Mountain Development Council in Helena. "There’s a greater need for at this point for foster grandparent volunteers."

Google Maps

A small airplane crashed into a Helena residential neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, but nobody was killed.

Helena Assistant Fire Chief, Ken Wood, says the single engine plane clipped a tree and crashed into a house and shed on Walnut Street, west of the Helena Regional Airport.

Wood says there was no explosion or fireball when the plane went down.

"No, we were very fortunate. There was limited fuel that leaked, very limited, no fire, no smoke. For whatever reason, the plane crashed and they were fortunate to get out."

The Helena Business Improvement District and Downtown Helena Inc

In small or medium-sized towns, "anchor" stores benefit many nearby businesses. Billie Shepard, owner for the last seventeen years of The Pan Handler Store on Last Chance Gulch in Helena, MT, thrives on supplying cooks with their tools and demonstrating how to use them. She also provides health insurance, sick leave and vacation pay to her employees and frequently helps pay for their training and education.

Eliza Wiley/Independent Record

Steve Browning went from self-absorbed teen to a lawyer working in high-level politics, law, and philanthropy. What caused the shift from self-focus to citizenship, and what was learned along the way?

Brian Kahn talks with Browning about all that and more during this episode of Home Ground Radio.

(Broadcast: Home Ground Radio, 8/12/14)

USDA

Federal agencies will be spending $865,000 dollars to help restore Helena’s primary watershed. 

The Ten-Mile watershed lies just southwest of the Capitol city and provides 80 percent of the community’s drinking water. 

The restoration is one of 13 projects across the country announced this week by the US Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.

USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie unveiled the $30 million dollar partnership in Helena.

Dan Boyce

Helena’s C.R. Anderson Middle School was abruptly closed Tuesday after test results brought up elevated lead levels in areas of the building.

The lead found in Montana's largest middle school likely comes from the school's old basement firing range, which administrators say has been closed for about 20 years.

Dan Boyce

A smooth frozen pond sits in the middle of Helena--a skating rink for citizens’ use at Memorial Park.

The Helena Parks Department is starting a new program there to teach kids how to make their way around the ice.

The Helena Parks Department is holding these 30 minute ice skating classes at Memorial Park for the next five Tuesdays, starting at 6 PM.

flickr/jseattle

The City of Helena is asking for permission to trap and kill 70 deer next year that live in the city limits.

The state wildlife commission approves such requests.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce tells us Helena has been working for years to lower the population of these so-called urban deer.

Dan Boyce

The partial shutdown of the federal government is now stretching into its third day.

President Obama is now saying House Speaker John Boehner is the only thing standing in the way of reopening the government. Congressional leaders made no progress on ending the shutdown after a Wednesday night meeting at the White House. 

The Wall Street Journal reports about 800,000 federal employees remain on furlough. 

Dan Boyce

The CEO of Boeing said Tuesday the company is expanding its Helena manufacturing plant by almost 50-percent.

Jim McNerney said the $35 million dollar expansion will add between 20 and 25 jobs to the facility’s workforce, allowing for the building of parts for the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

McNerney announced the expansion at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte alongside Senator Max Baucus and Governor Steve Bullock.