public land

Sen. Tester urged the crowd to advocate for LWCF funding at an August 24 rally in Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham

About 60 people rallied in Missoula's McCormick Park Monday afternoon to urge Congressional support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Voices For, Against Coal Royalty Reform Heard In Billings

Aug 12, 2015
Commenters line up to speak during a Billings meeting on coal royalty reforms, Tuesday, August 11.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

An overflow crowd packed the Montana/Dakota’s BLM state office in Billings to speak on the federal coal program Tuesday. The agency is seeking comment on possible changes to make sure it’s obtaining the full economic value for the mining of federal coal. Comments ranged from whether the government is getting enough revenue, to climate change, to the "war on coal."

Coal Royalties Listening Tour Stops In Billings Tuesday

Aug 10, 2015
U.S. Geological Survey

The federal government’s controversial coal program is the subject of a public listening session in Billings Tuesday. It’s the first of four planned throughout the heart of American coal country. The Department of Interior is encouraging the public to enter the fray.

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.

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.

Lower Two Medicine Lake and Sinopah Mountain at sunset.
flickr user Ryan McKee (CC-BY-ND-2.0)

The Blackfeet Tribe has withdrawn from talks with the U.S. Government over natural gas drilling leases on land considered sacred by the Blackfeet people.

Louisiana company Solenex holds drilling leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Flathead National Forest

The latest in our series of interviews on the new draft management plan for the Flathead National Forest is with Keith Hammer, chair of the Swan View Coalition, and Arlene Montgomery, the program director for Friends of the Wild Swan.

The Flathead National Forest’s scoping period for public comments on its draft management plan runs through May 15th.

Cow bison with a newly born calf in Yellowstone National Park
Neal Herbert - Yellowstone National Park (CC-BY-2.0)

Yellowstone National Park might tolerate thousands more bison by 2017, or perhaps hundreds fewer. State and federal wildlife managers are developing a new Yellowstone bison management plan and several options are on the table.

House Approves Bill Requesting Payment From Feds For Public Land Sales

Apr 10, 2015
Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R) SD7
Montana Legislature

Today at the Montana Legislature, state Representatives voted to pass a bill that would request that the federal government pay Montana five percent of all public land sales.

Senate Bill 298’s sponsor, Republican Senator Jennifer Fielder says that because the Forest Service split from the Department of the Interior, Montanans haven’t been getting their cut of the land sales because the federal government only monitors Department of Interior sales.

F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

We’re continuing our series of interviews on the new management plan for the Flathead National Forest. We’ve heard from the Forest Service and the Montana Wilderness Association so far. This time we’re talking to a prominent timber company executive.

Paul McKenzie is the lands and resource manager at F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls. I spoke to him in his office.

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is revising its forest plan for the first time since 1986. The plan lays out what is and isn’t possible on 2.4 million acres of federal land from Seeley Lake to the Canadian border.

These Bills Died In The First Half Of The Montana Legislature's Session

Mar 3, 2015
William Marcus

Nearly 350 bill proposals have died in the Montana Legislature’s first half. Because of that, here’s some of what will stay the same in the state.

The minimum wage won’t increase for a while, speed limits will stay at 75, physicians can still aid terminal patients in dying, and the state's death penalty stands. People can still be thrown out of their house or fired for their gender identity or sexual expression.

The federal government will still be able to sell public lands in Montana. Brewers still have to jump through legal hoops to get a liquor license for a bar.

Legislators: Montana Entitled To Money From Public Land Sales

Feb 26, 2015
Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R) SD7
Montana Legislature

Thursday, the Montana Senate passed a bill to ask the Federal Government to pay up for lands they’ve sold off.

Republican Representative Jennifer Fielder says under the Enabling Act, the Government is supposed to pay the state 5 percent of whatever money it makes selling off public lands. Fielder said they’ve been shirking this duty, costing Montana money intended for schools.

“They’ve really never been asked for this, I think it’s just a small detail that’s been overlooked for a very long time.”

Courtesy photo

Today in Missoula, Senator Steve Daines held the second of three meetings he’s called to talk timber issues. He’ll do the same in Bozeman tomorrow.

The Republican Freshman Senator is calling the meetings “Timber Management Reform Roundtables,” and he’s invited mostly timber industry representatives to give him input on what they need to maintain or grow their operations.

Prohibition On Federal Land Sales Dies In Committee

Feb 19, 2015
Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R) SD7
Montana Legislature

A bill that would ban the federal government from selling public lands died today at the Montana Legislature, mostly because opponents said it is unconstitutional.

courtesy photo

Yesterday, in a story about attempts to boost revenue for Montana counties that are mostly federal land, Montana Senator Jon Tester made the following statement: 

"Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them."

Several listeners questioned that statement, so we asked Senator Tester to respond. 

His communications director Marnee Banks said he is unavailable this week.

Eric Whitney

Montana's U.S. senators are getting behind a new bill they say will help Montana's most rural counties round-out their budgets.

Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons says communities like his are reeling after Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act last fall.

FH Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

Tuesday in Columbia Falls, Senator Steve Daines kicked off a series of three meetings in western Montana that he’s calling “Forest Management Reform Roundtables.”

Around the table were executives from three timber mills, county commissioners from Sanders, Lincoln and Mineral counties, and Montana leaders of The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy,  and the National Parks Conservation Organization.

Montana’s new Senator, Republican Steve Daines, is asking Montanans for their input on how to better manage public lands in the state, but some conservation groups are wondering if he really wants to hear from them.

Rick Potts, who’s on the Montana Wilderness Association’s state council, is troubled by some recent Daines votes.

"I know my colleagues in the Montana Wilderness Association and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as well, feel like they’ve been sucker punched. They didn’t see this coming."

News Roundup, Week 4 At The Montana Legislature

Feb 2, 2015
William Marcus

In the middle of the fourth week of the 64th Montana Legislature, Gov. Steve Bullock took the rostrum in the House of Representatives with a big smile.

“The state of our state is strong,” Bullock said, beginning his State of the State address.

Bullock touted his fiscal discipline and pushed his big legislative priorities, getting multiple standing ovations from Democrats and occasional claps from a few Republicans.

Leaders Call For Bipartisanship On Legislature's Opening Day

Jan 5, 2015
Courtesy Montana Legislature

This was opening day for the 64th session of the Montana Legislature. There was the usual pomp and circumstance, but there was also some real history being made.

Republican Debby Barrett of Dillon became the first woman to take the gavel as Senate president. She was selected by her Republican colleagues during caucuses back in November, but the full Senate made it official Monday on a unanimous voice vote.

Barrett suggested that the legislature has lost some of  its stature, and she aims to rectify that.

Courtesy Photo

People who worked to pass the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act celebrated on a ranch outside of Choteau today.

The Heritage Act was first introduced in Congress in 2011. Speaking to people celebrating on Dusty Crary’s ranch Thursday, Senator Jon Tester praised the hard work over many years before and since then that it took to put it together. It passed as part of a package of bills that were attached to a Defense spending bill.

Edward O'Brien

A group of Montanans who own cabins on Forest Service land thanked Republican Senator-elect Steve Daines today for a measure they say will allow them to keep those cherished cabins in their families.

Some cabin fees spiked from $5,000 to $20,000 within just a few years.

The Cabin Fee Act establishes a predictable fee-setting system for at least 700 Montana cabin owners.

The bill was included in the lands and resources legislation recently approved by Congress as a rider on a Defense spending bill.

Flickr user SBebee

Dupuyer-area rancher, Karl Rappold, is thrilled that the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act has finally passed.

"My grandparents and my mom and dad took care of this place. the bears and wolves and everything else. This is a historic deal for me to see that my grandkids and their grandkids will hopefully have this same view and this same region will be protected so it will never change," says Rappold.  

Last week Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which now awaits President Obama's signature.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

The U.S. Senate has approved an expansive bill that adds new wilderness lands in Montana and blocks mining and drilling near Glacier National Park.

The measures were in a defense bill that passed 89 to 11 today.

The bill adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It also allows for a complex coal swap involving the Northern Cheyenne Indians. The tribe will get back 5,000 acres of coal deposits it was wrongly stripped of more than a century ago.

Senator John Walsh used his last speech on the Senate floor this morning to talk about money in politics, protecting Montana public lands and veteran suicides.

In August, Walsh dropped out of his Senate reelection bid amid a plagiarism scandal.

Walsh said 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

"If this country were losing 22 service members a day on the battlefield, Americans would be in the streets protesting."

On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a bill to reduce vet suicides, it’s now before the Senate.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation

The U.S House has approved a $585 billion defense bill that includes unrelated provisions to expand wilderness areas. The vote was 300 to 119.

The measure allows President Obama to expand America's military mission against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria. It now moves to the Senate where some Republicans object to the unrelated wilderness measures announced yesterday.

Montana's congressional delegation heralded the suite of included land bills as a historic, rare display of collaboration and Congressional bipartisanship. Some Montana environmental groups agree.

Flickr user Bitterroot (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Montana's Senators and Senator-elect today announced what they're calling a “landmark” package of public lands legislation. It's being tacked on to a Defense authorization bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on this week and next.

Flickr user SBebee

BREAKING NEWS: We're following up on this story and will have more on the air starting at 5 p.m. Below is the press release announcing the legislation issued this morning.

In a joint press conference today, Senators Jon Tester, John Walsh and Senator-elect Steve Daines announced a landmark legislative package that includes eight Montana-based lands and resources bills.

USDA

Hundreds of Montana farmers are in Great Falls discussing issues that affect not only their bottom line, but our food supply.

The 99-year-old Montana Farmers Union is holding its annual meeting and convention that lasts through tomorrow. Farmers face challenges that go far beyond crop yields and market prices.

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