Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights 09-01-21 +

    The Idaho Conservation League and the Endangered Species Coalition have asked federal officials to do a status review that could lead to relisting wolves under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho. Both states’ management of wolves has been under federal oversight for five years after wolves were delisted a decade ago. The groups claim that oversight needs to be reinstated because the previous five-year monitoring period has been demonstrated to be inadequate. The groups said the changes in wolf hunting laws pose such a serious threat to wolf populations that they trigger a status review requirement as outlined in a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Dorio’s, an Italian restaurant, has opened on California Avenue in Libby. They are currently serving lunch with plans to begin dinner service soon. Phone is 406-200-3193

    Montana’s state parks have recorded more than 1.57 million visitors thru June 2021. This is an  11% increase over the same period last year and a 44% increase over the same period in 2019, according to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Twenty-seven of the 45 state parks that were open from the start of January through the end of June reported increases in visitation over the same period in 2020. More than half of all visitations occurred in Region 1, headquartered in Kalispell, and Region 4, headquartered in Great Falls.

    U.S. Minerals, Inc., admitted recently to violating the Clean Air Act, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. Minerals has agreed to settle a related civil case regarding violations brought by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). U.S. Minerals pleaded guilty to one count of negligent endangerment, a misdemeanor, under the Clean Air Act. Under the terms of a plea agreement in the criminal case, the government and U.S. Minerals will recommend to the Court that the company be placed on probation for five years and pay a $393,200 fine.

     According to data from the 2020 Census, Montana is changing demographically. Overall the state’s population grew about 10% with 38 counties showing some growth over the past decade. Gallatin County added the most new residents with 29,447 or 33%. Rosebud County lost the most residents with 904 fewer residents than in the 2010 Census. Percentage wise, Liberty County showed the steepest drop in population with a loss of 16% over 10 years. The percentage of white people dropped one percent to 91% of the state’s population. American Indian/Alaskan Native is the largest minority at 9%. The number of Hispanic residents grew by one percent moving up from 3% to 4%.

    Sweet Retreat Creamery has opened in Columbia Falls at 734 Ninth St. W. Sweet Retreat is open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

    Starbucks coffee shop has opened at the Glacier Basecamp Lodge in Columbia Falls. The new Starbucks will be in the front of the lodge close to the intersection of U.S. 2 and Montana 206. The lodge is a 7-acre property with lodging options there include kitchenettes, family suites and recreational vehicle sites.

    At the end of 2020, the average home sale was $352,234 in the Helena market. There were 1,050 homes sold in 2020 with the average days on market being 10. In July of 2019, there were 204 homes for sale in the Helena market – in July of 2021, there were 67 homes for sale.

    Aug. 16, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced new fishing closures along the Big Hole River in the areas between Dickie Bridge and North Fork. These closures, related to the low volume of waterflow, will remain in effect until Oct. 31, or until FWP says otherwise

    The Montana Community Foundation (MCF) announced the addition of two key staff members located in Billings and Havre. Heather Ohs and Jim Bennett join MCF as Philanthropy Officers. They will work with donors and professional advisors to achieve their charitable goals through estate giving and planned giving. Ohs lives in Billings and has more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Bennett lives in Havre and has extensive knowledge of relationship management, fund development, and donor stewardship. Jim was most recently the Relationship Manager at Northwest Farm Credit Services.

    Volunteers of America Northern Rockies (VOA) and Peak Wellness Center (PWC) have officially joined forces through a merger. The combined organization served more than 15,000 individuals across Wyoming, Montana and Western South Dakota last year.  On September 8, from 12- 1:30 pm Volunteers of America will host a luncheon to celebrate the merger. The Honorable Mark Gordon, Governor of Wyoming, will deliver the keynote address and other speakers will include Jeff Holsinger, CEO of Volunteers of America Northern Rockies and Mike King, National CEO of Volunteers of America Inc.  

    On average, single family homes in Gallatin County sold in less than a month during July. Last month also marked the fifth consecutive month in which sellers received more than 100% of their list price in both the single family and condo/townhome markets. The number of new listings decreased 6.4% in July compared to last year, from 219 to 205. Pending sales decreased 27.2%, from 243 to 177. The number of closed sales decreased 37.7%, from 231 to 144. The average days on market decreased 46.8%, from 47 to 25. The median sales price increased 42.1%, from $489,000 to $695,000. Sellers received 100.9% of their list price, up from 99.2% last July. The inventory of available homes decreased 28.6%, from 318 to 227, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 30.4%, from 2.3 to 1.6.  

    Montana Public Radio has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust to expand news coverage across western and central Montana over the next two years. MTPR will soon add news reporters in Butte and Great Falls.

    The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced the appointment of Ryan Lankford to serve on the FSA state committee in Montana which oversees the delivery of FSA federal farm programs to the state’s agricultural producers. Members of the FSA state committee are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and are responsible for the oversight of farm programs and county committee operations. Lankford, of Chinook, produces conventional and certified organic small grain, pulse and seed crops. 

    Northern Ag Network reports: The Rosebud County Cattlewomen have established an account for cash donations to be given to ranchers affected by the Richard Spring, Rough Draw and Slough Grass fires. In one of the worst fire years on record for Montana, over 2,000 fires have burned more than half a million acres and continue to burn. The Richard Spring fire in Rosebud County has burned 170,000 acres as of this writing).

    American Prairie, an organization that is acquiring and collaboratively-managing prairie lands in Montana to establish an ecosystem for wildlife, has increased its enrollment of thousands of acres in the in the Block Management hunter access program managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The organization claims that the move boosts property open to hunters.20 people have drawn a bison permits for a bison hunt and 18 drew permits or elk on the Blue Ridge property. Landowners enrolling in the Block Management program receive limited liability protection, livestock loss reimbursement, and compensation (up to $25,000) to offset potential public hunting impacts.

     Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC), a health information exchange (HIE), is partnering with Health Catalyst Inc. (HCAT), a provider of data and analytics technology and services to healthcare organizations, to provide clinicians throughout Montana access to Health Catalyst’s technology and services to advance data-informed healthcare improvement throughout the state. Before the go-live launch of BSCC in 2020, Montana was just one of two states in the U.S. without a state-designated HIE, a system for improving patient health through sophisticated information technology. BSCC feeds data from healthcare providers across the state into a centralized digital network which serves as a real-time information portal for participating providers, patients and payors in Montana. Healthcare organizations of all types throughout Montana can participate in the network.

  • Montana Highlights August 15, 2021 +

    The Department of Transportation wants to move the rest area near Bozeman to Three Forks to a site near Wheat Montana. Residents of the area, however, are objecting to the plan based upon fears that rest areas become magnets for crime, which will impact the residential community. MDT said the purpose of the rest area, which will be double the size of the current rest area, is to offer a safe place for travelers to stop during harsh weather and road closures. Construction would start at the end of this summer.

    Officials at the Sidney-Richland Airport are in the beginning stages of expanding their terminal, including giving more space for TSA agents during screening and baggage claim. The airport is considered a primary airport with over 10,000 enplanements a year, which qualifies it for $1 million in federal funding.  Since the pandemic the airport has been at about 78 percent of capacity.

    Montana State University is suggesting vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students wear a mask indoors on campus due to the rise in the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. The university emailed all students about a new vaccine incentive program during the fall which would give prizes each week to fully vaccinated students.

    Sun Country Airlines, based in Minnesota, will begin flights between Williston and Las Vegas beginning Sept. 2.

    The Montana Scene is a lifestyle clothing and apparel company in Bigfork, owned by Melissa Bonnet and her husband, Sean. It opened in 2010 known as Bear Food Inc., a giftshop and deli, but was rebranded in 2014 to The Montana Scene a clothing company that shares their love for the great state of Montana. Thanks in-part to the popularity of their designs and a strong web-presence, the Montana Scene has since grown to multiple storefront retail locations in Missoula, Whitefish, Bozeman, Kalispell, including children’s boutique, and a new micro-retail concept store.

    The XWA AIR SHOW is coming Saturday, September 11 from 7 a.m-12 p.m. at the Overland Aviation tarmac in Williston, ND. It is being sponsored by the city. (barbp@ci.williston.nd.us)

    Billings Clinic’s 140,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in Bozeman in the late spring of 2022. The plan for the center includes a multispecialty physician group practice, urgent care and an outpatient surgical center. The facility will employ more than 250 people in Bozeman, including more than 50 providers. Three of those new physicians have already arrived and are seeing patients. By Sept. 1, 10 more physicians will arrive and begin practicing in Bozeman in the specialties of OBGYN, family medicine, internal medicine, urology, radiology and ophthalmology. Because these physicians are ready to start practicing right away and due to the growing need for more health care services, temporary onsite clinic space will be available for patient care beginning on Sept. 1 and continuing in construction of the full facility is complete.

    Many people in Bozeman are being forced to live in RV’s due to the high demand for housing in Bozeman. Others have been forced to turn their homes into rentals. Many Bozeman homeowners are selling their houses and moving to lower priced markets in the state. The Human Resource Development Council in Bozeman said they are currently working with over 35 different campers to help those people in need. The agency said that the number of people without stable housing in Bozeman has doubled over the past year.

    The U.S. trade deficit increased to a record $75.7 billion in June. The Commerce Department reported that the deficit rose 6.7% from a revised May deficit of $71 billion. The June deficit set a record, topping the old mark of $75 billion set in March. The trade deficit represents the gap between what the country exports to the rest of the world and what it purchases from other countries.

    Plastic Design and Manufacturing, or PDM, a plastic manufacturing company Manhattan, is nearly doubling the size of its factory. A custom injection molding company, PDM plans a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its building and expects the addition to be completed by October. The company makes custom injection-molded plastics, ranging from the plastic tops on Werner ladders to dog food bowls and other pet products. The company also has a factory in Juarez, Mexico.

    The Huckleberry Children’s Boutique held a ribbon cutting and grand opening on July 31 in Sidney. Huckleberry will fill the need for clothing and accessories for babies and new mothers in the Sidney area. Huckleberry Children’s Boutique is located at The Shoppes at Pifers General Store building, 141 7th St. SW. 

    Zach and Kate Whipple-Kilmer have opened Limberlost Brewing Co. is open in Thompson Falls. The brewery is full of local historical items and material. The brewery is located at 1017 Main St, Thompson Falls.

    The city of Missoula has agreed to buy a 21-unit apartment building that provides affordable housing for people living with mental illness or disabilities. The apartment building was built in 1998 with public funds. It was put on the market for over $2 million. The City of Missoula will be purchasing the building through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

    The City of Kalispell is breaking records for water usage as the heat and drought continue. Kalispell’s water demand has reached up to 12.4 million gallons in a single 24-hour period; last year’s daily record was 11.51 million gallons.

    Visitation to Montana parks has increased 11.1% over 2020 and 44.1% over 2019, according to data provided by the University of Montana’s Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research. In 2019, out-of-state guests brought in $3.76 billion in revenue, and even with the travel challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw $3.15 billion of revenue. The Helena City Commissioners voted to amend the conditional use permit (CUP) for Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC, better known as Helena Chemical. The amendment will allow the company to periodically store anhydrous

  • Montana Highlights August 1, 2021 +

    Yellowstone Park hosted 938,845 recreation visits in June 2021, making it the park’s most-visited June on record. This is a 64% increase from June 2020 (573,205 recreational visits) and a 20% increase from June 2019 (781,853 recreation visits). So far in 2021, Yellowstone Park has hosted 1,587,998 recreation visits, up 17% from 2019. This year is compared to 2019 instead of 2020 because of COVID-19.  This list shows the year-to-date recreation visits thru June over the last few years: 2021 – 1,587,998; 2020 – 719,054; 2019 – 1,358,629; 2018 – 1,381,708; 2017 – 1,354,137; 2016 – 1,432,071

    Kalispell City Council is considering a proposal to develop a city parking lot into a five-story hotel. The lot is located at Third St W and Main St. In addition to this proposal the developer could build a three story parking garage at First Avenue and First St W.

    Demand for jet fuel by commercial airlines and firefighting aircraft in Montana and the Pacific Northwest led to departure problems and daylong flight delays recently at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. In recent days flights in and out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport were disrupted by jet fuel shortages blamed on the lack of tanker truck drivers.

    Jewel Basin Center in Bigfork welcomed hundreds of pickleball players for the 2021 Crown of the Continent Tournament. The USA Pickleball sanctioned event was exclusively for the 50-plus age players. The event drew 243 players from two countries and more than a dozen states.

    Justin and Debbie Blagg are the new owners of the Townsend/Canyon Ferry Lake KOA Journey to the KOA Family of Campgrounds. The campground is located at 81 Silos Road in Townsend. It has pull-through sites for recreational vehicles, seven cabins and four tent sites.

    Two fly-fishing businesses in Craig have said the hoot-owl restrictions placed on 35 miles of the Missouri River between Holter Dam and Cascade will not impact their business too severely. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has implemented the restrictions in which fishing is not allowed from 2 p.m. to midnight. These restrictions will remain in place until streamflow and water temperature conditions improve.

    Whitefish Outfitters has opened a new store on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. The store offers equipment rentals, equipment sales and tours of the greater Whitefish area. Guides at Whitefish Outfitters give tours inside Glacier National Park or to lesser-known destinations outside the park.

    Stephen M. Keim, Lt. Col. (Ret.) has been sworn in , as the Montana Selective Service State Director by the Agency’s Region III Director, Steven Kett, Col. (Ret). He was nominated by Governor Greg Gianforte and appointed by Acting Selective Service Director Craig Brown. Currently, Keim is a member of the Montana State University Police Department where he is the Safety and Security Manager for the Museum of the Rockies. Keim is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel from the MTARNG, having 36 years of service.

    Rebecca and Kirk Treece are the new owners of Minuteman Press franchise at 2100 South Avenue West in Missoula. They bought the independent printing business Advertiser Montana Printing and are now operating as a Minuteman Press franchise. Minuteman Press in Missoula is located at 2100 South Avenue West.

    The Gallatin County Real Estate Market report from the Gallatin Realtors: The number of new listings increased 2.6% in June compared to last year, from 235 to 241. Pending sales were down 27.8%, from 227 to 164. The number of closed sales decreased 3.5% from 170 to 164. The average days on market decreased 57.1%, from 56 to 24. The median sales price increased 53.8%, from $456,325 to $702,000. Sellers received 102.4% of their list price, up from 98.4% last June. The inventory of available homes decreased 42.1%, from 373 to 216, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 48.3%, from 2.9 to 1.5.  

    Dümmen Orange presented a check in the amount of $80,000 to Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year, Dümmen Orange teamed up with Yellowstone Forever to sell Yellowstone Petunias at Lowe’s and independent garden centers throughout North America. The special variety of petunias were created by Dümmen Orange to commemorate the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, which was established in 1872. Royalties from the sales of Yellowstone Petunias will support a variety of projects inside Yellowstone’s nearly 3,472 square miles of land.  

    Billings Clinic is operating a new helicopter air ambulance service in Bozeman. This is an expansion of the Billings-based fixed wing MedFlight Air Ambulance service and provides an extension of critical lifesaving transportation throughout the region. “Having this service in Bozeman saves critical time for patients who need emergency medical transport to a higher level of care,” said Scott Ellner, DO, Billings Clinic CEO. The helicopter and flight team includes nurses, paramedics and pilots.

    The Bureau of Reclamation is conducting an inspection of a fixed wheel gate at Hungry Horse Dam Aug. 2–13. The public may experience potential traffic delays during that time. Hungry Horse Dam is located off Highway 2 in Hungry Horse. “August is typically a busy month for the visitor center and surrounding area,” said Hungry Horse Field Manager Bill Dykes.

    In Bozeman, Audrey’s Pizza Oven and Freefall Brewery reopened last week. After three years of renovations, Audrey’s Pizza’s new location is on North Seventh Avenue and West Aspen Street.  Audrey’s Pizza has been a staple in Bozeman since 1960 and Owner Steve Schlegel is thrilled to reopen and with the new Freefall Brewery inside too.  Audrey’s Pizza and Freefall Brewery also have a location in Billings at Rimrock Mall.

    According to the National Association of Realtors, foreign buyers purchased $54.4 billion worth of U.S. existing homes from April 2020 through March 2021, a 27% decrease from the previous 12-month period and the fourth consecutive annual decline in foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®. Foreign buyers purchased 107,000 properties, down 31% from the prior year, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a strong global economic contraction and a decline in international tourist and business arrivals. The dollar and sales volumes are the lowest since 2011, when those figures were $66.4 billion and 210,800 properties, respectively. China, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom were the top five countries of origin by U.S. residential sales dollar volume. The annual dollar volume for foreign buyers from China, Canada and Mexico all dropped by at least 50%. The top U.S. destinations for foreign buyers were Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and New York.

    Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport announced that Alaska Airlines will introduce non-stop seasonal service to San Diego and San Francisco, California this winter.. The service will operate daily from December 16, 2021, to April 18, 2022. The new winter service is an expansion of the current existing summer routes at  alaskaair. com with fares starting as low as $89 from Bozeman. 

  • Montana Highlights July 15, 2021 +

    President Biden’s Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year, according to an analysis of government data. That includes more than 2,100 drilling approvals since Biden took office January 20. Approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president. Biden campaigned on a pledge to end new drilling on federal lands.

    Flathead County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in the past several weeks, with 117 active cases as of last week, according to the Flathead City-County Health Department. Investigations of the new cases show that many of the infections are occurring in clusters.
    Wild fires across the west have air quality in the Flathead Valley and other parts of Montana rising to unhealthy levels. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality reports that prevailing winds are ushering in smoke from large fires in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. High pressure remaining in place through the rest of the week will cause hot, dry and smoky conditions to continue.

    Up to 85 bison may be released within a year in the Chief Mountain area of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The bison will be free to wander into Glacier National Park. Bison used to live on the land that’s now Glacier National Park.

    The 1908 Speakeasy bar has opened in Bigfork. It’s an bar that celebrates good gin and local history with a menu of handcrafted cocktails in a Prohibition-style setting. The rock walls and concrete floors help set the tone. The bar is located downstairs at Showthyme Act II at 548 Electric Ave. in Bigfork.

    Federal wildlife workers shot a bear which pulled a California woman from her tent and killed her last week. The bear was shot near the site of the fatal attack in Ovando.

    The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission has decided on criteria it will use to draw the congressional map and will reconvene on July 20 to study the impact of statistical deviations, The commission is tasked with drawing the congressional and legislative maps with the 2020 Census data. The commission was scheduled to determine the legislative criteria in this meeting but to wait until the July 20 meeting.
     
    The Lone Mountain Land Company has announced the purchase of the Crazy Mountain Ranch east of Clyde Park. A subsidiary of the company that owns the Yellowstone Club bought the 18,000-acre ranch at the foot of the Crazy Mountains. The company said that it has no plans to develop residential subdivisions or a commercial heliskiing operation on the property.

    House Bill 314 is a straightforward bill sponsored by Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls. If passed, it would add language to existing law stating that the utility-regulating PSC “shall consider all economic impacts at the state and local level when evaluating the acquisition, sale, expansion or closure of a coal-fired generation plant.”

    American GulfCoast Select (AGS) is the name of the new American shale oil benchmark. The new benchmark was designed to rival the landlocked U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures contract, which is based on delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma, and which has typically been used to reflect the value of a barrel of Bakken crude oil. American GulfCoast Select is based on Gulf Coast delivery instead of a land-locked location. This will better reflect shale oil’s value in the world market, and should prevent market distortions due to lack of storage infrastructure.

    Continental Resources’ Harold Hamm was heard on a news report recently talking about the possibility for $100 oil. The price might go that high given the restrictive policies the Biden administration has implemented such as banning oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Executives from Exxon, Shell and TotalEnergies have all recently voiced the possibility of $100 per barrel oil.

    Montana State University is the recipient of a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Energy. The project that looks at micro-organisms that can extract useful metals from pyrite is the recipient grant. The MSU project was begun after researchers realized that microbial cells can extract iron and sulfur from pyrite, and convert the metals to enzymes key to bio-technology.

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate market saw higher prices and lower inventory in May compared to last year. Additionally, sellers received more than 100% of their list price in both the single family and condo/townhome markets. The number of new listings decreased 16% in May compared to last year, from 206 to 173. Pending sales were down 24.7%, from 190 to 143. The number of closed sales increased 9.4% from 117 to 128. The average days on market decreased 46.2%, from 52 to 28. The median sales price increased 39.2%, from $475,000 to $661,000. Sellers received 101.6% of their list price, up from 98.5% last May. The inventory of available homes decreased 60.9%, from 402 to 157, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 68.8%, from 3.2 to 1.0.  

  • Montana Highlights 06-15-21 +

    Moving 50 times over 46 plus years of marriage! Roll Up the Bedtarp, Ma is the story of a cowboys wife. Stories about a way of life that is disappearing across this country. The book includes stories of how this way of life handles daily work, weather, livestock and the serious ups and downs of life. For more information or to buy a book go to www.CowboyWideDesigns.com or email Dianne.smith62 @aol.com

    Many co-working spaces provide an office that functions much like a gym. Memberships provide monthly access the facility and its features such as desks, conference rooms, kitchens and other office essentials. Co-working offers remote workers a professional setting where they can connect to businesses and customers while avoiding the costs of a traditional office. The Flathead Valley has several co-working businesses open.

    Walmart and Target have both announced plans to close all their US stores for Thanksgiving 2021. Walmart, like other stores, successfully pushed more sales online to reduce crowds in its stores. Given the clout of Walmart and Target, other major retailers wll likely follow their lead  this year.

    Montana’s Public Service Commission is planning to hire an executive director after an audit found commissioners were overspending on travel and the commission needed to improve its financial reporting and its work culture. The executive director position will oversee all internal administrative matters, including financial reporting and compliance with laws and policies. A posting for the job indicates it will pay between $85,000 and $105,000, plus benefits. The Public Service Commission regulates monopoly utilities, such as electricity and natural gas.

    The Montana Wilderness Association has changed its name to Wild Montana. Founded in 1958  in Bozeman the organization now has a staff of 22 who are spread across Montana.

    The Floral Cottage is now open at their new location in Helena at 2620 N. Sanders. The owner is Pam Lee and the business is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

    Roby Burch, a Big Timber native, 26, couldn’t find a grill he wanted. He was looking for portable and versatile. So he decides to put one together himself. In 2016, while at college he made a suspended grill with some chains, pipes and a 55-gallon barrel. He moved it around to parties and cookouts. Burch developed his in Four Corners outside of bozeman. The Burch Barrel is a suspended grill that can double as a firepit. The grill hangs off a tripod-like mount and the height is adjustable.

    The new owners of the Helena Cycle Center are Justin and Janessa Barrell who took over the business in early January. The phone is 443-4631 or you can visit them online at www.helenacycle.com.

    Cookies and Cream! will open in mid-June at 1 W. 15th St. in Helena. Get more information @cookiesandcreammt on Facebook.

    Gov. Greg Gianforte is objecting to a U.S. government proposal to alter water releases from a reservoir in northeastern Montana to help an ancient and endangered fish species the dinosaur-like pallid sturgeon.

    Petals Floral Design is now open at 1900 N. Last Chance Gulch in Helena. The owner is Kathy Synness and she can be reached at 439-1771.

    Senor Egg has opened in Williston ND at the former Quinn’s Bar and Grill. Senor Egg will offer a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner specials with a Mexican American flavor. Senor Egg promises to deliver a menu that Williston hasn’t seen before, from traditional Mexican dishes to the American classics. Follow them at www.facebook.com/senior.egg.77

    Williston is allowing residents to pay their bills online with a variety of methods, including cryptocurrency

    A civil lawsuit between Montana residents and an oil company has been dismissed as a result of a settlement agreement. The District Court Judge announced a settlement between state residents and the Atlantic Richfield Co. but provided no details of the agreement. The lawsuit was initially filed against ARCO in April 2008 by 98 people living in the cities of Opportunity and Crackerville. The lawsuit It alleged that smelter waste was contaminating the rural communities’ soils and threatening residents’ wells. Anaconda Copper Mining Co. began smelting copper ore from Butte in the 1880. In 1977, ARCO purchased the Anaconda Co. and under the federal Superfund law, ARCO became retroactively liable for the contamination.

    Driverless, electric, low-speed shuttle vehicles are coming to Yellowstone National Park — and soon. A contractor will start running the automated vehicles in late May in the Canyon Village area, shuttling visitors to yet-to-be-determined stops near the campground, commercial buildings and lodging areas. The vendor, Beep Inc. Shuttles, was selected for the pilot program, which will run through next August. Beep Inc. Shuttles is based in Orlando, Florida, and bills itself as the “next generation of passenger mobility.” The fledgling business, which is less than 2 years old, has landed major federal BUILD transportation grants to develop and deploy its technology.

    A coalition of wildlife advocates and hunters, represented by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice, asked the U.S. Forest Service to issue new protections for wolves in designated wilderness areas following Idaho and Montana’s enactment of a rash of aggressive anti-wolf laws. The petition asks the Service for protection of wolves in national forest wilderness areas from new Idaho and Montana laws allowing professional contractors and private reimbursement programs—resembling 19th-century wolf bounties—to dramatically reduce wolf populations in the two states.  The coalition said that the  Montana and Idaho legislatures enacted harsh anti-wolf laws that target up to 1,800 wolves. One goal of the laws is to artificially inflate elk populations – which are currently at or above population objectives in most management units – to levels last seen in the mid-1990s, before wolves were reintroduced to their historical range in the Northern Rockies.

    Bozeman Health has partnered with Seattle Children’s Hospital to expand pediatric specialty medical services in Southwest Montana. There will be a total of six services offered at the new Sheehy Center of Pediatric Excellence at Deaconess Hospital. The services include pediatric cardiology, surgery, oncology, orthopedics, integrated pediatric behavioral health, and wellness services. 

    A seasonal restaurant, Piccola Cucina at Ox Pasture in Red Lodge has opened for its fourth season. Chef Philip Guardione cooks authentic Sicilian food which is an amalgam of Italian cuisine influenced by all the cultures that found Sicily as their crossroads. 

    After sitting mostly vacant since the early 1990s, the historic Crowley Block building in the heart of downtown Lewistown will see new life and contribute to the health of the community after an $8.6 million rehabilitation and redevelopment of the basement, first floor and mezzanine. The building at 311 W. Main St. will become the new clinical site for the One Health community health center. The project will add and expand services increasing efficiency and improving the patient experience.

    In Bozeman, ACRES Capital Corp. (together with its subsidiaries, “ACRES”), a commercial real estate has originated a $29.2 million loan to fund the construction of Babcock Apartments , a nearly 80,000-square-foot multifamily building located at 1612 and 1624 West Babcock Street.  The loan is provided to sponsor Roundhouse Development (“Roundhouse”), the largest multifamily developer in Idaho and Montana. Babcock Apartments will contain 95 rental units, 105 parking spaces and 2,300 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

    McDonald’s announced that they will be looking to hire 830 employees in Montana this summer as they welcome customers back into dining rooms.

    Missoula-based 350 Montana has filed two complaints against the Montana Public Service Commission regarding a process that gives NorthWestern Energy the leeway to invest in resources that they say may disadvantage its customers. They ask a Missoula County District Court judge to find Montana’s “pre-approval” statute unconstitutional and to stop all pre-approval applications while the case is going through the legal process. The action could delay NorthWestern Energy’s proposed power plant in Laurel. Montana’s pre-approval statute says the Public Service Commission may sidestep the public process and give public utilities approval for energy sources prior to the utility acquiring the resources or starting construction of generating plants or other infrastructure.

  • Montana Highlights June 1 2021 +

    Watercraft inspectors in Montana have found aquatic mussels on 21 boats so far this year. All watercraft including non-motorized boats must be inspected when coming into Montana. Inspectors found 35 boats with aquatic mussels in 2020. Adult mussels can attach themselves to the bottom of boats and survive out of water for up to 30 days.

    Glacier Rail Park in Kalispell, which  opened in 2018, is full ahead of schedule with the decision by Northern Plastics decision to expand from its current Montana Highway 35 location into the last rail park lots. Northern Plastics manufactures polymer molds in its 10,000-square-foot facility. At the new rail park location Northern Plastics will more than double its size.

    Yellowstone National Park has reported that visitation at last month increased by 40% compared to 2019. This was an increase of approximately 19,000 people and a record for the month. The previous high visitation for the month of April was in 2016 when more than 59,000 people visited the park.

    Grand Teton National Park experienced record numbers of visitors in April with more than a 48% increase compared to the same month in 2019. The 2021 numbers set a record for April in the park of 87,700. The previous high in April was 60,500 set in 2018.

    According to the Montana News Bureau the state is advertising for a business attractions manager. The position will pay $125,000 a year. The job entails traveling the United States promoting Montana as good place to start or expand a business. New tax laws and a $500,000 budget for the position are hoped to help foster interest by businesses in the State.

    Glacier National Park recorded more than 53,000 visitors in April 2021, about 50% more than in 2019, but it did not set a new record.

    Madison River Equity LLC will seek a special use permit from the Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board to install a 1,600-acre solar array on June 17. The project known as the Basin Creek Solar Project is on private ranchland in south Butte. Project will include 700,000 solar panels which will produce nearly 300 megawatts annually.

    Montana Zipline Adventures opened on May 21, 2021. The business located in Anaconda near North Cable Road has passed the required inspection by the Association for Challenge Course Technology. The owners of the business are Andre and Mianne Graa. The cost is $89 a person.  There will be a $10 discount for people who live in surrounding counties and for veterans. The course has age and weight restrictions that are described on its website: montanazip.com.

    Montana’s statewide elected officials will be able receive a pay raise on July 1. The raise is due to a state law that requires pay raises every other year. governor Gianforte will receive a raise of  3.6% but the lieutenant governor and Supreme Court clerk will not get a raise at all. The state auditor will receive a 9% raise. Supreme Court justices and district court judges will get 4.2% raise

    The median price for single-family homes in Gallatin County was $660,000 in April. This price is down from $704,750 in March, according to data from the Gallatin Association of Realtors. It was a similar story for the condo and townhouse median prices. The number of new listings for  single-family homes and condo and townhouses increased from April 2020. There were 160 new listings of single-family homes listed in April 2021, compared to 132 last April, and 102 new listings for condos and townhomes this year compared to 94 last April.

    The Scoop bar in Bozeman closed its door for good last week. The Scoop, legally named the Scoop Beer Parlor, has been owned by the Davis family of Bozeman since 1977.

    Oasis Petroleum is selling its Permian position for less than half the price it paid in 2017. Oasis acquired 20,300 net acres in the Delaware Basin for $946 million, an average $46,000 per acre. The company has now announced it will sell the assets for a little more than half that price. The Permian divestment is the second major transaction announced by Oasis in recently. The company has also announced a $745 million acquisition of Diamondback’s QEP assets in the Bakken. This play added 95,000 acres to the company’s existing Bakken Portfolio.

    The Dakota Access pipeline has avoided a shut-down order. A federal judge has denied a request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to shut down North Dakota’s largest pipeline because it now lacks the proper federal authorization to cross under Lake Oahe. The judge also denied a motion from the State of North Dakota that sought to intervene in the case.

    A new study of living and dead Engelmann spruce trees collected at high elevations in and around Yellowstone National Park have shown that the last 20 years have been the hottest summers in the Yellowstone region for over 1,250 years. The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters. The warm periods of the past were characterized by substantial multidecadal temperature variability, markedly different from the prolonged, intense warming trends seen over the past 20 years. 

    The federal government has provided funding for a wellness center in Poplar. A new Fort Peck Wellness Center has received $23 million from the New Markets Tax Credits. The purpose of the center is to extend the  life expectancy among members of the Fort Peck Tribes. Additional funding is being made by the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. The 50,000-square-foot health clinic and recreation center will provide services for health care, physical fitness, childcare, and cultural arts and education. The building will be constructed at the old airport site off U.S. Highway 2.

    Stone Glacier announced they are going to open a new business headquarters in Bozeman. Stone Glacier is a manufacturer of premium outdoor equipment. The new 16,000 square feet facility building will be located at the intersection of Huffine and Love Lane and it will also serve as a retail space – to be completed by April 2022. Inc. Magazine has ranked the company as one of the fastest growing companies in America and ranked it #3 in 2020. The company plans to add brands and double its number of employees.

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate saw increases in sales, prices and new listings in April, with many homes selling above asking price, while inventory and days on the market decreased compared to last year. The number of new listings increased 21.2% in April compared to last year, from 132 to 160. Pending sales were up 28.8%, going from 118 to 152. The number of closed sales increased 36.4%, from 99 to 135. The average days on market decreased 47.6%, from 63 to 33. The median sales price increased 50% from $440,000 to $660,000. Sellers received 100.7% of their list price, up from 98.8% last April. The inventory of available homes fell 68.1%, from 404 to 129, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 75.8%, from 3.3 to 0.8.  

    The City of Williston is accepting digital cryptocurrency payments for utility bills. It is the first municipal utility in North Dakota to accept bitcoin and the third in the nation. While only utility bills can initially be paid with cryptocurrency they may eventually allow other bills such as landfill, permits, and licenses.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recently issued new load postings for the Cove Ditch Bridge in Park City in Stillwater County. The postings are part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the?Federal Highway Administration

  • Montana Highlights May 1 2021 +

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to operate six ports of entry in Montana and one in Idaho at reduced hours in order to limit the further spread of coronavirus. On April 22, 2021, these measures were extended for an additional 30 days.

    Early Stage Montana, a nonprofit working to accelerate the growth of Montana technology start-up companies has hired Jenni Graff as its first executive director. Adam Gilbertson of Laurel and Dan Rausch of Sioux Falls, SD have joined the Board of Directors.

    The Montana Science Center of Bozeman is celebrating 20 years. The center was founded in 2001 by city residents, who wanted to experiment with STEM learning opportunities for all ages. The center offers interactive exhibits, educational programs, weekly programs as well as summer camps.  

    The Gallatin Association of Realtors will use a $4,500 Placemaking Grant from the National Association of Realtors to help with the development of a new half-mile trail within the Highland Glen Nature Preserve, which is a Bozeman Health property. GAR will provide a $450 grant match, and Realtor members will participate in the construction of a bridge on the trail. The new half-mile trail will provide a connection to the existing 4.5 miles of trails within the Highland Glen Nature Preserve. A number of organizations are providing funding for the $47,000 project, including the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, Bozeman Health, the City of Bozeman, the Gianforte Family Foundation, Sanderson Stewart, AMB West Philanthropies, Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply and the One Valley Community Foundation. 

    Gallatin County’s residential real estate saw strong sales, increased prices and high demand for homes in March. The average number of days homes spent on the market was half of what it was in March 2020. Median sale prices jumped 45.3%, and on average sellers received more than their asking price for single family homes. The number of new listings decreased 10.5% in March compared to last year, from 172 to 154. Pending sales were up 41.1%, going from 107 to 151. The number of closed sales decreased 14.3%, from 119 to 102. The average days on market decreased 52.9%, from 85 to 40. The median sales price increased 45.3% from $485,000 to $704,750. Sellers received 100.4% of their list price, up from 99.1% last March. The inventory of available homes dropped 69.8%, from 414 to 125, while the months’ supply of inventory fell 75%, from 3.2 to 0.8.  

    After 38-years in business, the Women’s Club of Missoula has decided to shut their doors. The Women’s Club isn’t the only business shutting its doors in Missoula. At Southgate Mall two corner stores have closed, JC Penney and Lucky’s Market and The Green Light.

    Also in Missoula, construction continues on an old department store as crews work to transform the space into a Scheel’s in time for its October grand opening. And in other positive news the Pink Elephant is now open.

    The Bozeman Health Cottonwood Clinic and Surgery Center has opened. The new space has family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. CEO John Hill said they hand-picked the team to be a part of this clinic. Over the next six to nine months radiology surgery, ambulatory surgery, and a gastrointestinal clinic will open at this location too. 

    Samar International Food Market has opened in Missoula. The business offers a wide variety of spices and specialty foods. It is located in Paxson Plaza.

    Medellee Antonioli is the new owner of Books & Books at 206 W Park St, Butte. Current plans call for a move and expansion at 43 E. Broadway St by the end of summer.

    Mountain Berry Bowls has opened at 2200 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena. The food truck is open  Wednesdays – Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They feature combinations of fruit, toppings, and more. All bowls are gluten and dairy free.

    Casey and Ann Brooks  are the new owners of RB Drive-In at 932 Helena Ave. in Helena. 1948. The menus has been updated but the original favorites have been retained. You can check them out on Facebook.

    HomeBase Partners, has begun the planning stages for a development on four blocks between Villard and Lamme streets  Tracy and Grand Street. new buildings will hold a combination of residential and business spaces. The area is now home to a building with medical offices, houses, other office buildings and parking lots.

  • Montana Highlights April 15, 2021 +

    Former Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order during the midst of the pandemic last year to allow restaurants to deliver beer and wine with meals. Sen. Ellie Boldman, D-Missoula, and Rep. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, have co-sponsored Senate Bill 320, which will approve the measure permanently. The Montana Tavern Association are in support of the bill, pointing out that people can already have drinks delivered on resort property

    Owners Mike Davis and LaDelle Reynolds are closing  the North Valley Ag Center in Columbia Falls on April 30. The facility has been sold to an event business.

    Carolina Cotman. a yoga instructor, has opened the Samaa Retreat Center. formerly a bed and breakfast known as the Candlewycke Inn will still be open for traditional lodging this summer but going forward the Retreat Center will focus on wellness retreat experiences.

    The  proposal to build an outdoor recreation park near  Flathead Lake has drawn opposition from neighbors. The proposed amendment to the county’s regulations would allow for commercial outdoor recreation activities, which  would specifically prohibit swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys, RV parks and commercial resorts.

    Glacier National Park plow crews are working about a mile beyond the Loop on the road’s west side. In 2020 the plows didn’t make it to the Loop until April 14. Outdoor enthusiasts should expect ice on some portions of the roadway. There is also the threat of avalanches at and beyond Avalanche Creek.

    Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell, the Montana judge who approved a search warrant for the Unabomber’s cabin has retired. The Judge also  presided over the Unabomber’s first few court appearances,

    The Newberry, a new event center located at 420 Central Avenue in downtown Great Falls will open this fall. The center plans on hosting 90 plus events each year and bring large numbers of people to downtown Great Falls. More information can be found on the centers website, thenewberrymt.com.

    Avelo Airlines has announced flights between Bozeman and Burbank beginning April 30. Avelo is a new commercial airline, which previously operated as a charter airline under a different name. Avelo will be the 10th airline that flies out of the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

    Work is set to begin soon on the cleanup of  the Harlowton railyard that’s contaminated with asbestos and petroleum. The cleanup of the Harlowton railyard is part of the attempt to revitalize a 180-acre site. About 3,000 cubic yards of asbestos-tainted soil will be dug up site by the end of this month, wrapped in plastic and hauled to a Great Falls landfill. Work will resume this fall by  removing contaminated soil from another area that once had a 500,000 gallon fuel tank.

    ROAM Beyond has opened its third location in Northwest Montana. ROAM Beyond’s Cabins sleep three to four people with features such as heated bedding, full bathrooms and induction stoves. Sites include fire pits, heated outdoor gathering spaces and the main attraction: tiny mobile camper units.

    St. Peter’s Health officials, of Helena, have announced that the hospital will affiliate with Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. The agreement will give patients undergoing cancer and hematology care access to more options for treatment and provide top cancer experts. Huntsman now has six affiliate cancer centers across the Mountain West region. All affiliates are independent, not-for-profit health systems. 

    Yellowstone Park officials have announced that they expect to open roads leading to Old Faithful and Canyon Village this week. The first road sections planned to open are from the west entrance to Old Faithful, from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and from Norris to Canyon Village. Masks will be required in buildings and at any time when social distancing isn’t possible. Park-run visitor centers will stay closed. Yellowstone National Park Lodges is scheduled to open some of its accommodations later this month. Dining options will be limited to takeout only.

    Certain USDA Service Centers in Montana are beginning to reopen to limited visitors by appointment only. Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff also continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email, and other digital tools.

    Montana producers intend to plant 2.90 million acres (1.17 million hectares) of HRS in 2021, down 12% from last year, but in line with the 5-year average. Montana spring and winter wheat acres typically share an inverse relationship and this year is no different. Montana winter wheat acres are up 13% on the year at 1.75 million acres (708,000 hectares). Dryness has producers on edge, but favorable spring wheat prices will encourage them to plant into dry soil, despite the drought risk. (From Northern Ag Network)

    U.S. Secretary of Commerce announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.7 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to Bear Paw Development Corporation of Northern Montana, Havre, to capitalize and administer a Revolving Loan Fund that will provide critical gap financing to coronavirus-impacted small businesses in Blaine, Chouteau, Hill, Liberty, and Phillips counties. This EDA grant is expected to create 50 jobs, retain 70 jobs, and generate $3 million in private investment.

    A unique ice cream shop has opened in Fairview. DJ’s Ice Cream Parlor & YakAttak Coffee, 308 S. Interstate Ave., sells all sorts of specialty coffees, ice cream, snow cones, cotton candy, according to Jessica Shaffer, who owns the business with her family, Michael, Bethany, Whitney, Dakota, and Tyrell.

    The Gallatin County Health Board voted to extend the county’s face mask mandate into May. The mask mandate expires on May 27, and the reopening guidelines expire on May 10. A meeting in early May will be held to determine whether to continue with the government mandate.

    Enplanements at the Bozeman Yellowstone International in March were about 80-85 percent of March in 2019. Airport Director Brian Sprenger said they are expecting a continual increase through summer. The airport’s summer flight schedule includes non-stop service to 29 summer markets, a record for the airport by nine airline brands. Delta Airlines is going to resume selling middle seats beginning in May after changing up COVID-19 safety precautions.

    The Montana VA Health Care System opened a $12 million state-of-the-art primary care clinic at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center, where veterans will remain in a single appointment room and each provider will come to them in a one -stop shop approach.

    AC Hotels, the modern, design-driven brand from Marriott, opened its first property to Montana, the AC Hotel Missoula Downtown. The newly-constructed property is managed by Aimbridge Hospitality. 

    The Daily Post Building in Uptown Butte has new ownership, after suffering damage from a fire a year ago. A renowned Butte family known as the Markovich’s closed the sale on St. Patrick’s Day. Corey and his wife, Kristi Markovich are ready to take on the historic building and its current problems. They plan about $1 million in renovations to the building that used to be home to the Irish Times Bar, the Post bar, and Muddy Creek Brewery.

  • Montana Highlights April 1, 2021 +

    Watercraft inspection stations are opening up across Montana for the 2021 season. Just which inspection stations are open can be seen on a FWP website map. FWP officials claim inspection stations are the state’s first step in preventing the movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways. A report on activities from the 2019 season show the agency performed over 113,000 watercraft inspections and intercepted 16 mussel-fouled vessels.

    Senate Bill 379 has raised some eyebrows of the Montana PSC and environmental groups as it would allow owners of coal-fired power assets to recover costs for any underappreciated value and expenses from energy consumers. The bill would allow the utility to recover market value for new ownership of a coal power asset.

    Watercraft inspection stations are opening up across Montana for the 2021 season. Just which inspection stations are open can be seen on a FWP website map. FWP officials claim inspection stations are the state’s first step in preventing the movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which can have devastating impacts on Montana waterways. A report on activities from the 2019 season show the agency performed over 113,000 watercraft inspections and intercepted 16 mussel-fouled vessels.

    Canadian coal company Teck Resources has paid a $60 million fine after pleading guilty to pollution discharges that have killed nearly all the fish in nearby waters. Canadian investigators found the mining company discharged hazardous amounts of selenium and calcite into the Fording River from two coal mines in the Elk Valley, just north of Eureka, Montana. Some of that selenium has been connected to fish damage in Montana Koocanusa Reservoir and the Kootenai River. The decision came in a Canadian federal court in Fernie, British Columbia. The fine is 10 times as large as any previous punishment imposed under Canada’s Fisheries Act.

     The city of Williston, North Dakota has negotiated a contract with Delta Airline to bring flights back to Williston. The one-year agreement promises to subsidize SkyWest Airlines which has partnered with Delta for flights to Minneapolis. If passenger numbers fail to make it profitable the city will reimburse losses to the airlines on a quarterly basis.

    Revolving Loan Fund.  In February, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $1.2 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District, Bozeman, to capitalize and administer a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).  Businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Gallatin and Park counties will be eligible for these funds. Special recognition goes to the City of Belgrade, which provided $250,000 for the local match requirement. The Department of Commerce estimates that the total investment will create 40 jobs, retain 125 jobs, and generate $10 million in private investment.

    Governor Greg Gianforte and Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles have announced the appointment of Kevin Gilbertson to serve as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of Montana.

    The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) announced  a proposal to widen shoulders and add rumble strips to about 7.6 miles of Highway S 421, north of Lodge Grass. The project begins approximately seven miles south of Garryowen 7.6 miles ending approximately one mile northwest of Lodge Grass.  Construction is tentatively planned for 2024 depending on completion of design and availability of funds.

    NorthWestern Energy will begin upgrading the Montana Street substation in Butte to enhance reliability for 6,000 electric customers in the area.

    North Dakota’s daily crude output for January was 1.147 million barrels, a 4% drop from December. The decline was attributed to high winds in January that caused power outages that interrupted oil production. The outages knocked about 50,000 barrels per day offline.

    The U.S. oil pricing benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, has risen above $60 per barrel, where it sat at the start of 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic hit and sent prices crashing. Experts view the current price as a blip. Wells idled during the pandemic are expected to be brought back online. Uncertainty about the Bakken reins as ND producers worry about the potential shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a prospect that could come out of a court hearing slated for April 9. Producers are considering having to move more oil by rail or potentially trucking it from the Bakken across Interstate 94 past Bismarck and then south to Linton.

  • Montana Highlights 03-01-21 +

    B&F Excavating, of Columbia Falls has sold to Integrated Securities Solutions of Kalispell.

    The Northern Rockies Coordination Center, which is part of the National Interagency Fire Center, put the estimated cost of fighting the 75 large wildfires Montana in 2020 at $55 million. Those fires burned a combined 335,242 acres of land.

    The expansion of Headframe Spirits whisky making capacity will require a $1.8 million capital investment to expand distilling and whiskey-storage capacity. The company will become by far the largest producer of American single malt whiskey. Over the next six years, they expect to make 20,000 barrels, using Montana barley. The whiskey will be made and aged at the company’s Kelley site for a large distilling company that will anonymous, To live up to the terms of the contract Headframe will produce 24 to 30 barrels a day.

    The state health department will be forced by the legislative budget subcommittee to leave the former Montana Development Center campus in Boulder. The Legislature passed a bill in 2015 to close the center within two years. The state-run institution housed people with developmental disabilities. 

    Governor Gianforte recently got a firsthand look at the material that will go unused to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The Governor also talked with construction heads, energy managers and local officials who voiced their concerns about the president’s decision.

    Acela Truck Company, the Belgrade company which makes mobile morgue trailers has begun  making mobile vaccine trailers.

    The state of North Dakota’s eight commercial airports posted a total of 42,238 airline boarding’s for January 2021, a 57 percent decline in passengers from the same month last year.

    George Willett has sold Showdown Montana ski area to his daughter, Katie Boedecker, Willett has owned the ski area for 47 years.

    In Bozeman, the number of new real estate listings decreased 4.8% in January compared to last year, from 105 to 100. Pending sales were down 10%, going from 120 to 108. The number of closed sales decreased 23.8%, from 101 to 77. The average days on market decreased 62.7%, from 75 to 28. Median sales price increased 24.4% from $450,000 to $560,000. Sellers received 99.7% of their list price, up from 97.5% last January. The inventory of available homes dropped 66.8%, from 364 to 121, while, the months’ supply of inventory fell 70.4%, from 2.7 to 0.8.  

    In a study of 24 institutions of higher learning in Montana, Montana State University I Bozeman was ranked as the top college in Montana by intelligent.com for 2021.

    Longtime Great Falls business JJ’s Bakery has announced that it will close in April. Owners John and Erin Williams thanked their customers and staff saying. They plan to focus on their other business, The Burger Bunker, at 24 5th St. S.

    Bob Rowe, president and chief executive officer of NorthWestern Corporation announced changes. Brian Bird is to become president and chief operating officer; Crystal Lail is to become chief financial officer; Jeanne Vold, vice president – technology; Stephen Adik and Julia Johnson are retiring from Board; and Dana Dykhouse is to become chair.

    Following the Governor’s lifting of the face mask mandate, the city of Whitefish, enacted an emergency measure to re-impose, for 90 days, the mandate locally. Emergency Ordinance 21-01 requires that “all businesses, government offices, or other persons responsible for indoor spaces open to the public shall require and take reasonable measures to ensure people wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while entering or remaining in any indoor spaces open to the public.” 

    Montana’s pulse producers received some good news last month when it was announced that a major processing plant has reopened in Glacier County. A newly formed joint venture called AgroLink, LLC announced in early January that it is resuming operations at the Pardue Grain processing facility 12 miles west of Cut Bank. Pardue Grain elevators had been in operation on the 35-acre site since 1959.In 2018, the company completed an $8.25 million expansion project adding a food grade pulse processing plant and warehouse; however, Pardue Grain was forced into bankruptcy just a year later after U.S. exports of pulses — field peas, lentils and chickpeas — plunged due to excess global supply and the imposition of new import tariffs by China and India.AgriLink purchased the Pardue Grain plant last September at a lender ordered auction for an undisclosed price. AgriLink is a joint venture between Singapore based Agrocorp International and LinkOne Ingredient Solutions, a major producer of high quality pet foods based in Missouri.

    Great Falls, too, is hoping to land a medical school. The private, nonprofit Touro College hopes to partner with Benefis Health System for a medical school. Montana University System has approved New York-based Touro’s plan to offer post-secondary degree programs in Montana, and is working to attain accreditation for the new location through the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.

    WinCo Foods has opened two employee-owned 24 hour locations in Missoula and Bozeman. Last year, the Bozeman location started construction in June and, it took four weeks for employees to stock the new shelves. 

    Last week, Governor Gianforte signed into law SB 61, which makes fishing free on Mother’s Day weekend. Senator Pat Flowers (D-Bozeman) introduced the bill which got approval of the State Legislature.