Montana Highlights

  • Montana Highlights July 1 2024 +

    Lake County commissioners sent a letter to President Biden recently to make compensation for “depredations” by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, pertaining to the low water level in Flathead Lake last summer. The letter references the Blackfeet Treaty, signed in 1855 by the leaders of the Flathead and Kootenai, and refers specifically to Article 8, which states in part “that the navigation of all lakes and streams shall be forever free to citizens of the United States.”

    Hot beeswax and watercolor artist Leisa Lewis has moved into a new studio in downtown Hamilton called “Leisa Lewis, connecting with feel good art.” The studio is open by appointment.

    The Northwest Montana Association of Realtors has named Brenda Miller the 2024 Realtor of the Year. Awards also included Realtor Rookie of the Year Sarah Meehan.

    The new Kyiyo Bakery and Mercantile has opened in Kiowa Junction. The business has been opened by owner Will Hammerquist, who has also run the Polebridge Mercantile with his wife Katerina for nearly 10 years. He didn’t have plans to expand the business, but when the opportunity arose to build something at the Kiowa Junction, he decided to go for it. Kiowa Junction is the area where Montana 49 meets U.S. 89 west of Browning. The land was on the market for several years before Hammerquist purchased it. There was a year of demo work, tearing down the dilapidated buildings that used to be a pit stop at the junction. Currently, Hammerquist and his team are building cabin rentals across from the mercantile.

    A major power transmission project linking Montana to energy markets in the Midwest picked up a commitment recently from Colstrip Power Plant shareholder Portland General Electric. The $3.2 billion North Plains Connector would bridge the Eastern and Western energy grids by running 415 miles of high voltage, direct current line between Colstrip substation and Center, North Dakota. North Plains is being developed by Texas-based Grid United.

    U.S. Bank has been at the corner of Main Street and Black Avenue in downtown Bozeman for 27 years. A renovation project uncovered the historic, Fred Willson-designed building underneath the façade. Work is continuing on the fourth and fifth floors of the building, but the U.S. Bank branch is open on the ground floor.

    Glendive Chief of Police Jeremy Swisher has been charged with three felony offenses alleged by the Montana Attorney General’s office. The police chief is on track for a jury trial by December. Assistant Montana AG Michael Gee filed with the 7th Judicial District Court last week. According to court documents, the State of Montana alleges Swisher committed unlawful possession, shipping or transportation of game animal on or between Jan. 30, 2023 and July 20, 2023, a felony.

    At a presentation before the North Dakota Public Service Commission, representatives for a gas conversion plant spoke about the impacts and benefits of the proposed facility to be located southwest of Williston.

    North Dakota Attorney General Drew H. Wrigley and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with 21 other states have filed a petition for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, challenging the Biden EPA’s unconstitutional overreach aimed at killing North Dakota’s coal fired energy production. The recent Federal rule would require certain air toxin emission levels from coal-fired plants to be reduced drastically, with no corresponding health benefits and with great costs to the States and their industries.

    The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes recently received an Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The $7.7 million grant will fund a 3,000-square-foot plant in Ronan designed to process up to 25 animals a week. The three-acre building site, located along Mink Lane, was part of a 31-acre parcel of tribal land annexed by the city of Ronan last summer. CSKT Management predicts the facility will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

    Whitefish-based Averill Hospitality is planning to develop a hotel on property in Sandpoint, Idaho. Once plans are approved work on a new hotel where the Edgewater Resort now sits could begin by this fall. The hotel is on Lake Pend Oreille. The project would be a $70 million, 150-room full-service resort.

    The Scheels Aim High Big Sky Aquatic and Recreation Center is planning to open for business on June 29. It is located at 900 29th Street South in Lions Park just off of 10th Ave South in Great Falls. The rec center features a full-court gymnasium, eight-lane pool, sauna, cardio and weight machines, elevated walking track, a splash pad, group fitness, and a large water slide.

    Residents of the Swan Valley are investigating how to form their own central government in Condon, which would be the first new town in Montana since the 1990’s. Members of the Swan Valley Community Council met last week with a local government expert from MSU and the Missoula County commissioners for more information on making the idea a reality. Condon sits at the edge of Missoula County and is unincorporated. Some residents are interested in incorporating so they can refocus their taxes toward local issues. The process of creating a town has rarely been used since the turn of the last century, with Colstrip as the last town to incorporate in 1994.

    The new Dollar General location in Victor is open. The business is located at 2438 Railroad Ave., just off U.S. Highway 93. The Victor location will be one of around 5,400 to carry fresh produce along with health and beauty products, housewares, stationery and seasonal products. Dollar General operates four other locations in Montana including Columbia Falls, Eureka, Libby and Thompson Falls.

    The Montana Department of Commerce recently announced that 67 film creations will share more than $2.6 million in grant funding to film on-location productions across the state. Film Office promotes Montana as a business destination for film production companies to expand production in our state.

    Missoula is the 15th best-run city in America, according to personal-finance website WalletHub. The rankings compared the operating efficiency of the 148 largest U.S. cities. WalletHub used 36 metrics regarding education, the economy and the environment for the assessment. Nampa, Idaho, secured first place in the study, while San Francisco scored the worst. Billings, Montana, made the list at 16th place. Data from the website showed Missoula ranks 59th in the country for quality of city services, but 15th in its total budget per capita.

    ND Malting and Hops, Inc. began production near Williston on Thursday, May 23, 2024. The new plant is locally owned by two farmers , David Anfinson and Paul Weyrauch. The grains processed in the facility will be used for the 2 row malting process and then shipped to meet the demand for micro brewing facilities.“

    Kiplinger Personal Finance named Great Falls as one of the 25 Cheapest Places to Live: U.S. Cities Edition. Great Falls ranked 16th in the survey.

    A huge controversy is broiling near Gallatin Gateway regarding a proposed gravel mine. On a farm that has been in the Black family for generations, a 130-acre gravel mine is being proposed to build roads and highways for the burgeoning development in the Gallatin Valley. Third generation owner of the farm, Bayard Black says that the multi –million deal with Belgrade-based TMC Inc., is essential for the continued operation of the farm. Neighbors, many of whom are transplants to the valley, who have built “dream” homes with views of Spanish Peaks and the Bridger Mountains, and who are the reason for the need for the roads and highways, are trying to halt permitting for the gravel pit through the courts.

    New water restrictions in Idaho are having  a “profound effect” on local farmers. They are leading to “decreased crop yields, financial strain, and the potential long-term consequences for our farming community and the entire state.”

    Cerilon Gas-to-Liquids facility in Williams County, ND, is being developed to turn natural gas into specialty products. With a cost of $3.2 billion, phase one of the facility will turn 240 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day into products like diesel. Located near Trenton, the project is still undergoing permitting, but construction is expected to start in 2026, with the first phase operational by 2029.

    Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis – Since January 2020, employers across the United States have filled the job hole created by the pandemic, plus another 5 million jobs. That ability to hire suggests there is an expanding labor pool. The growing foreign-born1 population is a contributing factor. In 2010, North Dakota had the smallest foreign-born population in the region. By 2023, this population had grown by 176 percent, helping the state leapfrog Montana and South Dakota. Michigan saw the smallest growth rate among Ninth District states, at 16 percent. 

  • Montanan Highlights May 15 2024 +

    Water’s Edge Winery owner Angela Zuba was elated when she was contacted by producers of “America’s Best Restaurants.” The show highlights eateries and bars all across the country. Zuba and her husband Trevor opened Water’s Edge Winery in 2020, the franchise has 11 locations throughout the United States. The business is known for its large wine menu and made-in-house blends. All their wines are made on location, using grape varieties from all over the world.  

    Enrollment data released recently from the Office of Public Instruction shows an increase in students seeking private or homeschooled instruction. There is also been a decrease in public school enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year. Public K-12 students decreased by 1,988 students, or 1.3%, this year and the nonpublic enrollee population grew by 403 students or 2.4%.

    A German-inspired restaurant called Gute Laune has opened 10 W. Main St. of the Rialto. “Gute Laune” means “good spirits” or good mood in German. All of the meat is sourced from Montana. The baked goods are made in Bozeman.

    Independence Bank recently promoted Lacy Farmer to finance officer/executive assistant at the Havre Branch. Farmer started at the bank as an executive assistant in 2018. In her new role, she is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of all financial matters related to the organization are handled in a responsible and legal manner.

    The Sidney Sugars Incorporated sugar beet plant is closed, but its history isn’t going away any time soon. Thanks to the MonDak Heritage Center and a grant from The Foundation for Montana History the history of plant is being preserved. They’re looking to find at least 10 people to interview, including former employees and beet farmers connected to the plant. The histories will be recorded and transcribed, then housed at the MonDak Heritage Center.

    The Northwest Agricultural Research Center is celebrating its 75th year. A field station for Montana State University’s College of Agriculture, the center conducts crop science research. Originally established as the Northwestern Montana Branch Station, the station is one of seven scattered throughout the state operating under the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station system. It was established to conduct agricultural research for producers in the Flathead Valley.

    Hess Pipelines of Minot ND has requested a subdivision be created to include two lots, one approximately 50 acres and another approximately 178.28 acres. Hess wanted to change the zoning of the 50-acre lot from Agricultural to Heavy Industrial. Hess plans to use the new zone to construct a compressor station facility. The plant would create 51 million standard cubic feet per day of compression capacity.

    Independence Bank, Havre, recently promoted Mason Sheppard to assistant vice president of lending. Sheppard came to the bank in 2015 as a credit analyst and was later promoted to loan officer. In 2021, Mason became manager of credit analyst department and in 2022 took on the supervision of the ag/commercial lending Havre. In 2023 Mason became a senior Loan Officer.

    Representatives from the Big Sky Rail Authority updated the Transportation Interim Committee of the Montana Legislature after Secretary Buttigieg visited the Treasure State.  Big Sky Rail Authority has identified a federal rail study with two long-distance routes through Montana, an east-west line connecting Seattle to Chicago and a north-south line to Billings.

    Atlantic Richfield, under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun yard cleanups in the community of Black Eagle to address lead and arsenic-affected soils resulting from 80 years of smelting activities at the former ACM Smelter and Refinery. The cleanups are anticipated to take two summers to complete. Lead- and arsenic-affected soils will be removed and replaced with clean topsoil and groundcover consistent with landscape material present in the yard pre-cleanup.

    At least 15 staff members of Billings Clinic Bozeman have been laid off from positions that range from advanced practice providers, to leadership and support staff. Some of the cuts included physicians whose contracts will not be renewed when they expire over the next 60 to 180 days. Areas affected at the Bozeman campus include urgent care, behavioral health, ophthalmology, pediatric cardiology, general surgery, neurology and urology.

    The Butte Central Maroons will continue to compete in Class A, at least for the next two years. Despite enrollment lower than most Class B schools, Butte Central petitioned the Montana High School Association Executive Board to remain a Class B school. The board discusses reclassification every other year at its April meeting.

    John Mercer will replace outgoing District Court Judge Kim Christopher in the 20th Judicial District, which covers Lake and Sanders counties. Mercer is a 1979 graduate of the University of Montana and got his law degree at Northwestern University School of Law in 1982.

    The Great Falls Development Alliance and the Economic Development Authority in Lethbridge, Alberta have signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two communities to plan for greater cross-border cooperation that will raise awareness of the region, ease the experience of companies looking to start, expand or relocate on either side of the border, and to attract investment to our region- especially in the world of food, ag and bio processing.

    Cottonwood Environmental Law in Bozeman is threatening to “go after the state” for not protecting the environment. The nonprofit law firm won a lawsuit last fall challenging House Bill 407, which prevented residents from passing local ballot initiatives. Winning that law suit allows them to submit a petition to the elections office for a plastic ordinance that would prevent retailers and food vendors from using polystyrene foam packaging and providing customers with single-use plastic bags. They report they have similar plans for ordinances in Billings and Missoula.

    As teachers in Gardiner are retiring, the community is looking at a need to build more housing to attract new teachers. New condos are being built in a $2 million project.  In addition, Yellowstone National Park was recently awarded $40 million for housing, and HRDC is planning to develop 30 units in Gardiner, on Jardine Road, bringing the promise of more families, including teachers, and the housing to support them.

    Wyoming dropped two spots in this year’s economic outlook ranking in the “Rich States, Poor States” report from American Legislative Exchange Council, but still remains in the top 10. The Cowboy State came in at 8th best for economic outlook in the report, which is in its 17th edition. The state is 44th when it comes to economic performance. Economist Jonathan Williams, one of three co-authors of the report, says it does not hurt being the only state in the region outside of South Dakota that avoids both a personal and a corporate income tax.

    A new flight is taking off from Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell. Avelo Airlines is now offering nonstop flights between Kalispell and the Bay Area’s Sonoma County Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is the second non-stop flight for the airline out of GPIA. Avelo also has direct flights to Burbank on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

    As growth in the Flathead Valley continues to slow following the pandemic-fueled spike in 2021, development and tourism demand is leveling off, city officials in Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls said at the Kalispell Chamber Tof Commerce Growth Summit. the number of building permits issued has dropped off significantly since peaking three years ago even as housing and transportation remain their top priorities. In Kalispell, more than 1,000 new housing units have come online in the last few years and multifamily development interest has started to taper off while single-family permits are seeing a resurgence. Tourism is also slowing in Whitefish compared to the peak in 2021. The decline is reflective in resort tax revenue. “Growth is much slower than we thought. They had anticipated a 2.5% rate of increase, but most recent data was 1.3% .

  • Montana Highlights April 15, 2024 +

    A new rest area off of Interstate 90 opened recently, one year after it was originally suppose to open. The Headwaters Rest Area in Three Forks is near U.S. Highway 287 and the Bridger Brewing Facility. It was built by a local developer, who constructed the new rest stop facility in exchange for acquiring the old rest area property off of North 19th Avenue in Bozeman.

    Recently two sections of road in Yellowstone National Park have opened to non-motorized vehicles. Since last week 49 miles of U.S. Highway 89 have been available for cyclists, providing paved recreational opportunities from the West Entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs with travel thru Madison and Norris Junctions.

    The operators of the Séliš Ksanka QÍispé Dam got the go-ahead in last month to keep more water in Flathead Lake this spring. This is an effort to avoid a repeat of last summer’s low water levels. Energy Keepers, Inc., the company that oversees the dam on the south end of Flathead Lake, had previously petitioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deviate from the lake’s Flood Risk Management Plan. While the lake is usually lowered to make room for spring runoff, the Corps determined that the risk of flooding is minimal, according to Energy Keepers.

    Glacier National Park officials expect construction on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Upper McDonald Creek Bridge to end this year. Other projects, like water infrastructure and road improvements in the Swiftcurrent developed area will be beginning. New construction projects slated for 2024 include the installation of fiber optic lines, the rehabilitation of roads near park headquarters and a dust mitigation treatment in Many Glacier. Park officials One of the largest upcoming projects includes the construction on the Swiftcurrent Water Distribution System and road rehabilitation, which will begin after the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, Many Glacier Hotel and Many Glacier Campground close for the 2024 season.

    Dozens of people showed up to a Bozeman city commission meeting recently to push the city to stop a development proposed for the city’s midtown area. The “Guthrie” building is proposed for the corner of North 5th Avenue and Villard Street. Developers HomeBase Partners are proposing to build a five-story, 111-unit building that will include half of the units as affordable housing. The units will be a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments, and the half affordable units will be restricted to 80% of area median income, which in 2023 numbers is an income of $67,350 for a two-person household.

    The escalation of extreme wildfires has prompted a critical examination of wildfire management strategies. A new study from the University of Montana reveals how fire suppression ensures that wildfires will burn under extreme conditions at high severity, exacerbating the impacts of climate change and fuel accumulation. The study used computer simulations to show that attempting to suppress all wildfires results in fires burning with more severe ecological impacts.

    Starting in November, anglers will be able to fish year-round in stretches of two rivers close to the Yellowstone National Park gates in both West Yellowstone and Gardiner.Fishing access is only currently allowed in all areas of the park from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend – May 25 this year – through Oct. 31 each year. Under the new regulations, anglers will be able to fish the Madison River from the Montana-Wyoming border to the park boundary near Yellowstone’s west entrance in West Yellowstone, as well as on the Gardner River from Osprey Falls downstream to where the river meets the Yellowstone River near Gardiner. Beginning in 2025, an annual fishing permit for the park will be valid Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The rest of the park will still only allow fishing from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend 25 through Oct. 31.

    Last month, the Lake County commissioners petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about “a real and dangerous public safety threat” due to the “dangerously low level of Flathead lake during western Montana’s wildfire season.” The commissioners blamed Energy Keepers Inc., which operates the Seliš Ksanka Qispe (SKQ) Dam at the foot of Flathead Lake. Energy Keepers responded  that “quite simply, the county’s petition is nothing more than an effort to ensure a constant summer lake level to benefit a small group of lakefront dock owners.

    As part of a nationwide program, MAP Brewing of Bozeman has partnered with the Gallatin Watershed Council to create the Earth to Beer Hoppy Blonde Ale. Earth to Beer seeks to inspire breweries to support environmentally conscious producers and suppliers, build relationships between breweries and local environmental nonprofits and financially support the nonprofits.

    Watts and Kennedy Farmers Union Insurance of Miles City has moved its office location to 2610 Main Street. Watts and Kennedy had been in their previous location for nearly 30 years, purchasing the building in 1997.

    Montana State University plans to break ground soon on a new building for its computer science programs. The university will fund the construction of Gianforte Hall using a $50 million donation from the Gianforte Family Foundation. Gov. Greg Gianforte will be at the ceremony from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on April 17. The event will be on the planned site for the new building next to Norm Asbjornson Hall and the campus parking garage.

    Dave Pike purchased the Tupelo Grille in Whitefish last fall from Pat Carloss. The restaurant then closed for renovations. The newly remodeled business opened in mid-February. The kitchen was the focus of the renovation, but the work extended into the restaurant. The menu remains virtually the same.

    Amazon opened is first logistics facility in Montana, at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with Gov. Greg Gianforte and Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. The 71,000-square-foot building is northeast of the Wye, where U.S. Highway 93 splits off of Interstate 90 enroute to Kalispell. Amazon has hired about 100 employees, not counting delivery drivers who work for independent contractors. It will process and between 6,500 and 7,000 packages a day with capacity to expand.

    A new Chipotle restaurant will open on the west side of Bozeman, at the intersection of Cottonwood Road and Oak Street at the Northwest Crossing Development. It will feature a new concept called  “Chipotlane”—which allows people to order their food through the app and pick it up at the restaurant.

  • Montana Highlights January 15, 2024 +

    Nelson’s Ace Hardware of Whitefish is celebrating 75 years in business. The family broke ground for a new location in July 2018 and opened the doors in March 2019 on US Highway 93. Ace Handyman is a new service that began operating in October.

    The Lucia de Brito Franco Art Gallery has opened in Columbia Falls. The Gallery is located at 638 Nucleus Avenue, Suite 103. It contains the works of de Brito Franco but also that of local artists. De Brito Franco has displayed work in Portugal, the Azores and Switzerland.

    Café Zydeco is for sale as its owner looks to move on from his 25-year career at the restaurant. Listed for sale last spring the cafe’s owners hope to sell the property and the business for close to $3 million. Café Zydeco’s menu features a variety of Cajun-style items.

    NorthWestern Energy customers will see rate increases in January. Montana’s Public Service Commission voted unanimously to allow NorthWestern the opportunity to recover $2.9 million under terms approved by commissioners last fall. At issue is the $208 million base cost used to determine whether customers have paid too much, or too little for power over the previous year.

    Restaurateurs Shadd and Amanda Cullinan have finalized the purchase of Sidney’s Rodiron Grill at 520 N. Central Ave., completing the sale on Dec. 14. Soon thereafter the crowds formed a line waiting in anticipation of trying restaurant’s menu. Renamed Saloon 27, owner Shadd Cullinan, expects to supply great service with quality food.

    Williston Basin International Airport has recorded an almost 32% increase in boardings during last month compared to a year ago. According to statistics provided by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, the airport saw 8,461 enplanes in November 2023, up 2,041 passengers from the 6,420 enplanements recorded in November 2022. 8,030 passengers deplaned up from the 6,011 number of passengers who deplaned in November 2022.

    After years of new arrivals swelling Montana’s population and straining its housing supply, new data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the volume of net migration into the state has declined. As of July 1, 2023, the agency estimates Montana had 1,132,800 residents. That’s about 9,900 more than a year prior, or a 0.9% increase. Data published by the Census Bureau estimates that, as of July 2023, Montana had about 527,800 housing units — one potential home for every 2.1 residents. Since the 2020 census, however, the agency’s figures indicate Montana’s housing supply has grown by a comparatively slim 13,000 units, adding only one home for every 3.7 residents of population growth.

    The Teton Airport Commission has signed a five-year lease with Scapegoat Aviation L.L.C. of Choteau to operate a fixed-base operation at the Choteau airport. Scapegoat Aviation’s owners are Ben and Chrissy Hodgskiss and Bill and Heather Hodgskiss. Scapegoat Aviation approached the Airport Commission last fall with a proposal to lease property at the airport for the operation of an aviation-based business that will provide initially jet fuel and aviation fuel sales, hangar and ramp rental.

    A ballot initiative to change how elections are won in Montana to a majority vote system is a step closer to appearing on the ballot. Legislators took a 9-1 vote to support the proposed change in a special State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Interim Committee meeting. Proponents now need to gather enough signatures for the issue to go to the voters this November. Some committee members expressed concern about what they see as lack of clarity in some of the definitions– including to which elections this Constitutional amendment would apply.

    The Heart Butte School Board is set to terminate 31 staff members at an upcoming meeting next week likely in order to cut district costs. The board will also decide whether to accept five resignations. Terminations include 11 teacher’s assistants, two mental health professionals, a substitute art teacher, the sub-administrative secretary, a truancy officer and 15 custodial, maintenance and kitchen staff members. Resignations include two teachers, the athletic director, a truancy officer and Augare.

    Starting Feb. 5, the U.S. Postal Service will be delivering the Great Falls Tribune as part of an effort to improve delivery consistency and optimize resources amid ongoing labor challenges, fluctuating fuel prices, competition for workers from door-to-door delivery services and increasing digital demand. The Great Falls Tribune will continue its coverage of local news, high school sports and other issues of interest to Cascade County readers from our journalists based in Great Falls and state partners.

    According to a press release from the Williston Fire Department, they received an initial report of an explosion at a site with multiple injuries and dispatched at 6:11 p.m. The site was located southeast of 13 Mile Corner at the intersection of 131st Avenue NW and 62nd Street NW. The fire department responded to the scene. There, it was determined there were five workers present, with three sustaining injuries. The three injured parties sustained burns and were transferred by fixed-wing air medical services to Swedish Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.

    Hoping to preserve dwindling native bull trout populations, state wildlife officials are looking to remove lake trout from Swan Lake. Bull trout, which are native to the valley, have struggled since the introduction of invasive species like lake trout, rainbow trout and mysis shrimp in the region. The decision to develop a plan to remove lake trout came after state biologists observed a historically low number of bull trout redds, or spawning nests, in the Swan’s watershed system in 2023. The first step, which residents can comment on until Jan. 23, requires seeking the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s permission to initiate a public MEPA process where the removal of lake trout from Swan Lake will be evaluated.

    According to Coal Zoom, Federal mine regulators have rejected a “citizen’s complaint” concerning state regulation of the Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain Mine near Roundup. The complaint is a request for intervention, filed by Northern Plains Resource Council, Moms Clean Air Force, Montana Environmental Information Center, 350 Montana, Citizens for Clean Energy, Families for a Livable Climate, Montana Health Professionals, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians. The groups asked the OSM to inspect the mine or require DEQ to open the mine to public inspections.

    Talks of consolidating Glendive City Court with the Dawson County Justice of the Peace have entered the sphere of the Dawson County Commission, as Mayor Deb Dion was present at its first meeting of 2024 to provide information regarding the effort. According to Dion, consolidating the courts and authorizing Justice of the Peace Stacey Nerison to preside over all respective hearings is one way the City of Glendive and Dawson County could potentially save money and resources. The idea to consolidate courts was first introduced by Dion during the meeting of the City of Glendive’s Ordinance Committee on Dec. 20, where she explained reasons for considering a consolidation of courts stem from a need to free up funds for better animal control in Glendive, at least within the city’s limits.

    A low snow year is impacting local businesses and tourism to Yellowstone National Park, with the park temporarily barring some roads to snowmobile travel due to the lack of snow. The park’s winter season kicked off on Dec. 15 with a limited coating of snow on the roads but still enough to allow for snowmobile travel. But on Dec. 27, the park closed roads in the west side of the park to snowmobiling, specifically the popular 30-mile route from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful.

    Take 5 Oil Change has opened at 52 N. Main St. in Kalispell. The opening marks the first of eight planned stores within Montana, currently making Last Best Oil Change, LLC the exclusive operator of Take 5 Oil Change garages in the Treasure State. 

    With a new $26.7 million grant from the U.S. Air Force, Montana State University will establish a facility with the mission of moving advanced quantum technology applications in cybersecurity, communications technology and national defense from concept and testing to market. The 20-month grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York, will support MSU’s Applied Quantum CORE facility, to be located within the INDUSTRY Bozeman building, which is currently under construction. The grant funding will purchase equipment to test prototype quantum components in the extremely cold environments in which they operate.

    Construction of the Great Falls Civic Center is nearly finished, following three years of construction. The original infrastructure was built in the 1930s and a recent $5.7 mil investment will help preserve the civic center for decades to come, say officials.

  • Montana Highlights November 15, 2023 +

    Leavitt Great West Insurance, with office locations across Montana and an affiliate of the national brokerage firm, Leavitt Group announced a recent role transition at their Helena office.  Shelby Dangerfield, who has been with Leavitt Great West for over a year recently transitioned into the new role of commercial insurance advisor.

    Doralyn Rossmann, a longtime faculty member in the Montana State University Library who has been serving as the library’s interim dean since August 2022, has been selected as the library’s new dean after a national search.

    Montana has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for funding to build a sixth cottage at the Southwest Montana Veterans Home (SWMVH) in Butte. The SWMVH is a licensed and certified skilled nursing facility with five, 12-bedroom cottages currently home to 44 veterans and their spouses. A sixth cottage will increase the facility’s maximum capacity to 72 veterans. In its application to the VA State Home Construction Grant Program, DPHHS requested the sixth cottage, estimated at $5.7 million, be paid for with 65% federal funds and 35% state dollars. The governor secured $2 million in state dollars for the project.

    The University of Montana Western was recently recognized as the #1 best college in Montana by The rankings take into account affordability, enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.

    Bozeman Health has named Billings physician Dr. Chris Spoja as the health care system’s new chief medical officer. A Helena native Spoja currently serves as the chief medical officer of Inpatient Services at Intermountain Healthcare in Billings. In his new role Spoja will facilitate clinical affairs with physician and lead administrative leadership across the health system. Spoja will begin his new role on Jan. 2, 2024.

     Curt Rasmussen of Conrad was named the Northern Rodeo Association’s Announcer of the Year for 2023 recently. Rasmussen is the third generation of his family to become an award-winning rodeo announcer, following in the footsteps of his father, Will Rasmussen now of Salmon, Idaho, and his grandfather, Stan Rasmussen of Choteau. Curt Rasmussen lives and works in Conrad as a truck driver.

    Teton County’s unemployment rate as of Sept. 30 stood at just 2.6% with 2,677 workers in the county, which lost 32 jobs over the past year, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Teton County ranked 32nd among the state’s 56 counties for its unemployment rate, tying with Flathead, Pondera and Ravalli counties. Gianforte recently announced that Montana reached its 23rd consecutive month of unemployment below 3%.

    Among other things, the EPA is critizing the clean up plan for the Clark Fork River by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the state’s Natural Resource Damage Program. The EPA found fault with plans to leave more wastes in place along the river because of budget constraints.

    The Missoula Valley Winter Market opened in the Southgate Mall on Saturday, Nov. 11. near the indoor entrance to Scheels. The market’s hours are 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. through Dec. 30. There will be over 40 local vendors selling food, beverages, arts and crafts.

     A new Mexican restaurant is in the process of opening at Missoula’s Southgate Mall. The team from the Pangea restaurant in downtown Missoula plans to open the new restaurant, called Elote, in the old Red Robin restaurant space. Opening  is scheduled for March of 2024. They’re hiring both full- and part-time employees.

    A Norwegian battery materials company that secured local tax breaks. The company has announced  that it could be months longer before it chooses Butte, or a city in Washington state or Oregon as the site of its factory. Butte-Silver Bow commissioners approved millions of dollars in tax abatements for Cenate in June. Cenate — pronounced Sin-NAH-Tah — is developing silicon-based materials for higher-density batteries with faster and longer-lasting charges. Cenate says it would employ 100 to 250 people here and county officials estimate annual pay for the first 100 jobs at about $70,000, based on the job mix and average wages for such positions in southwest Montana.

    The median home in Cascade County listed for $404,000 in October, down 10.2% from the previous month’s $450,000. Compared to October 2022, the median home list price decreased 7.2% from $435,500. These statistics pertain to houses listed for sale in Cascade County, not houses that were sold.

    When the pandemic hit, Andrew Fountain began looking for a project he could do from home.  Fountain began counting glaciers. Fountain, a geology professor emeritus at Portland State University, and research assistant Bryce Glenn have released a revised inventory of glaciers in the American West that will soon be added to the U.S. Geological Survey’s national map. The new inventory by Fountain and Glenn shows that 52 of the 612 officially named glaciers are no longer glaciers because they are either too small, no longer moving or have disappeared altogether. In Montana, six named glaciers have been added to the “missing” list.

    Fountain said their effort focused on the named glaciers across the western half of the continental United States because those were the most culturally significant. However, their inventory found that since the mid-20th century — about the time the USGS first started mapping the entire country — about 360 glaciers have either disappeared or become permanent snowfields. Fountain said the disappearance of glaciers shows just how much climate change is impacting the landscape across the American West.

    Bozeman, home of Montana State University, has been named the No. 3 college town in America, according to the website The ranking points to the growth in the city’s population and the campus enrollment in recent years, “which means a bustling downtown and campus.” The ranking also notes the nearby natural amenities as key to making Bozeman a “paradise for outdoorsy students.” MSU’s enrollment set an all-time record this fall at 16,978, making it the largest university in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Its incoming class was the third largest in history at 3,634.

    Montana ranks #7 in the nation for interest in homeschooling (1.58 per 100,000 residents), according to Age of Learning. are

  • Montana Highlights November 1, 2023 +

    Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to approve the acquisition of a new wildlife management area proposed for the Lower Yellowstone River. The Wildcat Bend Wildlife Management Area is located in Rosebud County. The property is about 2.5 miles downstream from the Far West Fishing Access Site east of Forsyth. It is a 328 acre site

    The Missoula Airport has announced that Sun Country Airlines, will make its debut on June 26, 2024. The airline will offer nonstop flights to their Minneapolis/St. Paul hub twice a week, every Wednesday and Saturday, until late August.

    Mazevo Coffee is constructing a 1,614-square-foot building that will be located at 2500 Brooks Street in Missoula. This will be the 6th Mazevo Coffee location in Montana.

    Sun Country Airlines is also coming to the Billings Logan International Airport with new seasonal air service to Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Sun Country is a Minneapolis-based airline known for providing affordable travel options. Beginning in June, passengers can book Sun Country flights between Billings and Minneapolis-Saint Paul on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    The complete renovation and rebuild of the iconic Wagon Wheel Bar in Choteau is nearing completion with the opening coming soon, The new “Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill” will feature a full-service bar and restaurant.

    The Gallatin County Commissioners recently approved a dormitory-style employee housing building in Big Sky. The Powder Light Subdivision will have another residential building for affordable employee housing at Big Sky. The new structure will offer 12 residential units and one commercial space.

    Montana’s Trail to the Stars, a project that guides visitors to sites where they can view the night skies, has received a national award for collaboration. Montana’s Trail to the Stars won the Excellence in Tourism Collaboration Award, presented at the 2023 National Extension Tourism Conference.

    Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus was first detected in wild birds and domestic poultry in Montana in spring 2022. While HPAI cases in wild birds declined over the summer, but it has been detected in some parts of Montana this fall. HPAI viruses are extremely infectious and fatal to poultry and some species of wild birds. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is testing wild birds that display symptoms

    Despite an even broader reservation system in 2023, visitation to Glacier National Park is up over last year. Overall visitation through August was 2.249 million, which is an increase of 1.7% over last year.

    In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that there were 48,165 new residents that moved to Montana from other places, an 8.1% increase from the 44,531 new residents that came in 2021. Washington topped the list of states where new Montana residents came from in 2022. Montana also lost 38,483 people to other states in 2022, for a net population gain of less than 10,000.

    The sting of high natural gas prices to heat your home over the past two winters is expected to ease for the upcoming heating season, which runs November through March. Montana-Dakota Utilities anticipates natural gas prices to be about 30 percent less than last winter. The company projects that the average residential customer will pay about $450 for the five-month winter season, or $90 a month; that is down about $200 from last winter, or a decrease of $40 a month.

    Fire was discovered at the historic Jordan Inn property in downtown Glendive last week with the Dawson County Dispatch Center receiving a call at approximately 10 p.m. The Glendive Fire Department determiend that the entire 3 story building was compromised. The Jordan Inn had been condemned for 10 years, and was shuttered since 2013.

    Jessie and Kyna Williams haved opened Switchback CrossFit gym at 33 Second Avemue East in Kalispell. The building was previously an abandoned truck repair shop.

    Montana has a new draft plan to guide its management of wolves, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has announced. The Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan drafted by FWP would replace the 20-year-old document that’s guided Montana’s approach to managing wolves since 2011. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will be taking comments on the plan through Dec. 19 and is hosting a series of meetings around the state to answer questions related to the plan starting Dec. 7. The plan can be found at

    Missoula City Council  and Missoula County Commissioners have each allocated $1 million toward the acquisition of Marshall Mountain, a former ski area and now popular recreational area in Missoula County. The property is being sold for $3.2 million. The area is expected to serve  backcountry skiing and other year-round recreation.

    Williston, ND has been awarded the 2027 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series to be held at Ardean Aafedt Stadium. This will be the sixth time that Williston has hosted the series.

    Gov. Greg Gianforte presented his annual Forest Products Award to J. Shar Timber Harvesting, a family-owned and operated cut-to-length timber enhancement company in Libby.  J. Shar, Timber Harvesting sustainably harvests timber using tethered logging equipment. The Forest Products Award recognizes an outstanding person or entity for their work to actively manage Montana forests, responsibly develop forested resources.

    A regional seed sales company operating in North Dakota and Montana is taking the first step towards developing a seed-crushing plant in northwest North Dakota. Buckshot Seeds was recently awarded grant funding from local government to do a feasability study. Buckshot Co-Owner Mark Erickson said the plant would mainly crush canola, creating a high-quality feed for cattle. The oil produced from the crushed canola would be sent to overseas fish farms, which are in high demand.

    The Young Automotive Group held a grand opening for Young Mazda Missoula dealership. Young Automotive Group president Spencer Young Jr. said. “Our group is new to Montana and the city of Missoula.” It was previously Flanagan Motors Mazda.

  • Montana Highlights October 15, 2023 +

    Nicholas Lynn is the current owner of Montana Action Paintball in Kalispell. Lynn  built a new facility in 2020. Montana Action Paintball hopes to find an indoor space for foam-based weaponry battles or paintball using rubber paintballsduring bad weather.

    The Fish Consumption Advisory Board has issued a consumption advisory on all fish species in the Yellowstone River from Indian Fort Fishing Access Site near Reed Point to the Highway 212 bridge in Laurel. That stretch of the river is near the site of the June 24 train derailment.

    Stack Financial Management of Whitefish was ranked No. 72 in the 2023 CNBC Financial Advisor 100. In assembling this list, CNBC considers the firm’s number of years in business, compliance record, number of investment advisors registered, and assets under management. Stack Financial Management manages over $1.8 billion in assets for individuals and businesses across the U.S.

    Blackfoot Communications, Missoula, announced the completion of a project to install over 380 miles of fiber optic cable on the Flathead Reservation in the St. Ignatius area. The project, begun in 2018, cost over $11 million. Nearly 1,000 locations throughout the St. Ignatius area are now served by high-speed fiber optic cable. The company is also building out fiber networks in Thompson Falls, Plains, Philipsburg and Georgetown Lake, with other areas in the planning phases.

    The New York Times  published its annual list of its 50 most intriguing restaurants. Campione, located on Main Street in Livingston was on the list. Campione’s was the only eating establishment in Montana to make the list.

    As a part of continued efforts to lower costs to reliable air service for rural communities, the U.S. government has secured $1,000,000 in funding for Billings to attract new air carriers and secure additional routes to the west coast. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Tester secured funds through the 2023 government funding bill. He was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the legislation.

    Montana manufacturing will be in the spotlight until Oct. 24. Manufacturers, economic development organizations and educational partners will showcase industry innovations and inspire the next generation at events coordinated by Montana State University and collaborators. Manufacturing Day, also known this year as MFG Day, is a national event held annually to inspire the next generation of workers and industry leaders, improve people’s perception of manufacturing and build the workforce of the future.

    At the recent annual convention of the North Dakota Dental Association a Williston-based dentist named Dr. Kami Dornfeld was announced as the association’s president for the next year.

    Along with their son and daughter, the Horning family of Whitefish dedicates their craftsmanship to niche profession, custom hat making. Glacier Rim Hats is based out of the family’s home. From crepes to photography, the Horning’s have been in business since 2005.

    Stylist Kae Briggs has opened a new salon in Choteau. “K’s Salon and Boutique” will offer services for hair and nails. The staff includes Briggs and Peggy Archer, who is a long-time stylist and the former owner of Archer’s Country Classics Hair Design.

    Alpha Loading Systems in Stevensville celebrated an expansion of its plant that will triple its work force.. The company, created by Bitterroot Tool & Machine in 1999, is a manufacturer of ammunition loading and priming machinery. The company expanded to accommodate increased demand for their American-made machinery and ammunition.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deleted the Anaconda Co. Smelter site from Superfund’s National Priorities List. NPL site deletion helps communities move forward in reusing and redeveloping properties by making it clear that cleanup is complete.

    The Finally Restaurant Group, announced the opening of its newest Rib & Chop House restaurant in Great Falls, which will hire upward of 100 people in the coming weeks. Burke Moran, is the owner and President of Finally Restaurant Group.

    Chick-fil-A will debut on the campus of Montana State University. Currently, the Union Market in the Strand Union Building is under construction as they prepare to open the new franchise in spring 2024. According to the Culinary Services department, Chick-fil-A is still pursuing a new full location at 19th Avenue and I-90. 

    Florence Crittenton Family Services in Helena has reopened its Youth Maternity Home having had to close during COVID restrictions and employee shortages.

    In Park County a 3,360 square foot building in which to accommodate the Windrider Transit Facility has opened. The building includes two office spaces, an entry area, a driver /training  kitchenette area, janitor rooms and a ADA compliant bathroom. Five years ago, Park County started Windrider to provide fare-free fixed route services for county residents, including the elderly, disabled and youth who had no other means of transportation.

    Gallatin Association of Realtors newly elected Director and Officers are:2024 President-Elect, Hattie Graham, Graham Realty; GAR Vice President, Mark Corner, Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties; 2024-2026 GAR Board of Directors: Tyler Garrison, ERA Landmark Real Estate, Jody Savage, Savage Real Estate Group, Kathleen Vaughn, Bozeman Real Estate Group.

    An analysis found that 14.1% of workers in the Billings metro area are union members, compared to 10.1% of workers nationally. In 2022, the median wage for full-time union workers was $1,216 per week, compared to only $1,029 per week for full-time non-union workers.

    The annual facelift of MSU’s “Rockin’ the M,” on the Bridger Mountain, took place as usual on Sept. 17, but more work is being done to shore up the landmark. Timbers needed to construct a retaining wall at the base of the “M” will be airlifted to the worksite by helicopter.

    The Montana Highway Patrol commissioned nine new troopers at a graduation ceremony held Sept. 29 at the Civic Center in Helena. They came from as far away as California, Texas and Virginia.  Three of them are from Montana..

  • Montana Highlights October 1 2023 +

    Ten years after opening its first North American store, Fjällräven, the Swedish-heritage outdoor gear retailer opened its first store in Montana, in Bozeman. Fjällräven (pronounced Fyall-rev-en) offers hiking and camping gear. Before 2020, Fjällräven was primarily known in North America for its popular Kånken backpacks.  

    The Mexican family restaurant, Rio Sabinas, located at Shiloh Crossing, closed their doors for good September 24.

    Montana State University’s fall student enrollment is the largest in its 130-year history, with 16,978 students pursuing the many benefits of higher education at the state’s largest university. The new enrollment is up 2% over last fall’s headcount, an increase of 290 students. MSU’s previous enrollment record of 16,902 was set in the fall of 2018. MSU’s enrollment solidifies its position as the largest university in the four-state region of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas.

    The Gallatin County residential real estate market saw continued strong demand in August.  According to statistics median sales prices in the single-family market increased 7.6% compared to last August, from $775,000 to $834,000. Closed sales fell slightly by 1.9%, from 107 to 105. The median number of days homes spent on the market decreased 41.7%, from 36 to 21 days. The average percent of list price received ticked up slightly by 0.7%, from 97.4 % to 98.1%. The median price per square foot sold increased 1.9%, from $373 to $380. Pending sales increased 1%, from 103 to 104. The number of new listings increased 11.8%, from 144 to 161. End-of-month inventory decreased 11.9%, from 413 to 364. The month’s supply of inventory fell 10.2%, from 3.86 to 3.47 months.

    The Montana Chamber of Commerce has warned, “If a government shutdown does occur, it is likely to be significant in duration with no clear path for reopening the government.”

    The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that Cape Air will continue to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) from Billings to five communities in eastern Montana, which include Havre, Glasgow, Glendive, Sidney, and Wolf Point. The new four-year contract runs from January 1, 2024-December 31, 2027. Cape Air will continue to use its 9-passenger Cessna 402, Tecnam P2012 Traveller, and Cessna Caravan to serve the region.

    With little private market interest, again tax dollars are subsidizing the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.  Montana State University’s first Level 2 EV charging stations were installed this summer on the west side of American Indian Hall and on the south side of Hyalite residence hall. A third station is slated for installation on the southwest corner of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse parking lot later this year. MSU Parking Services said EV drivers will be able to access the stations on a first-come, first-served basis and will be charged $3 per hour to park, payable at the charging station. University officials will closely monitor station usage and other factors to determine where to best locate additional chargers in the future. They also will assess whether there is a need to provide chargers for electric bikes.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the approval of a Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) project for the Smurfit-Stone Mill site in Frenchtown, Montana. CVAs help EPA project managers design Superfund remedies that are resilient in the face of a changing climate, taking drought, severe weather, temperature, wildfire and other factors into account. The site, a former paper and pulp mill located three miles south of Frenchtown, Montana, covers 3,200 acres and is divided into three operable units spanning agricultural lands, the former mill site and parts of the Clark Fork River floodplain. Efforts are currently underway to characterize and understand risks related to prior site activities and waste disposal practices.

    Two environmental groups are suing the state of Montana over wolf trapping regulations they say violate federal law by failing to protect grizzly bears from unintentional trapping. At issue are Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks regulations that allow trapping of wolves in grizzly habitat. Traps set for wolves and other species like coyote and marten can unintentionally trap grizzlies instead. Grizzlies in the Lower 48 states are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

    Tamus Gannon and Lisa Gannon, owners of Swan River Gardens in Big Fork  are celegrating their 25th year in business. Swan River Gardens has four greenhouses dedicated to custom growing and another dedicated to deer-resistant plants.

    Cynthia Koch, Three Rivers Bank of Montana’s Assistant Controller, has been named the 2023 Montana Independent Bankers Association, Outstanding Young Banker. This award is to recognize young, upcoming leaders in Montana’s banking community.

    The BLM Montana-Dakotas State office will wrap up 2023 with a December lease sale in North Dakota. This was the first full year of federal leases offered under regulatory reforms championed by President Joe Biden. There were concerns in the fossil fuel industry ahead of the new rules that tougher leasing standards would discourage interest in low-production areas, like Montana. In June, Montana parcels nominated for a September sale were withdrawn following  concern by an environmental group that the new lease terms were being ignored. Yet lease sales continued .

  • Montana Highlights August 15, 2023 +

    Whitefish Westside Market, most recently a gas station and market in the west side of Whitefish, has undergone a major renovation of purpose and owner ship. The new owners, Bill and Sharon Kahle along with partner Joe Hess have added hundreds of new items and services.

    Officials at Glacier National Park are proposing fee rate changes to most front country campgrounds in 2024. Front country campgrounds are accessible by car or RV. According to a release from park officials, the proposed rates for campsites would increase between $3 and $10, depending on the type of site. Some group sites could potentially increase up to $30. Public comments on the proposed fee increases will be accepted through Sept. 8.

    The Kalispell City Council has considered a new downtown banner policy. Under the proposed policy, banners flying over the Parkline Trail and downtown streets should advertise events sponsored by the city or the associated business improvement districts and “highlight activities, general messaging or seasonal displays occurring in or around the city of Kalispell.

    Bitterroot National Forest has approved the Gold Butterfly Project. The Gold Butterfly Project is a vegetation management and fuels reduction project in the Sapphire Mountains east of Corvallis. The Gold Butterfly Project is designed to, improve forest resilience to insects, and diseases;  improve water quality and bull trout habitat; manage timber to provide forest products, jobs, and income to local communities. 

    Soma-Dis Deli, in Glascow, celebrates 25 years of business this year. Hope Jones-Farr, who was one of the original owners, alongside her husband Kevin Farr, sold the Deli in 2022 to Kyle Bilger. The deli opened on June 8, 1998.

    The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority has opened its 30 day public hearing for its $231,128 fiscal year 2023-24 preliminary budget. This budget is 48% below last year’s adopted FY23 budget.

    As reported by the Daily Montanan  the residential electricc customers of Montana-Dakota Utilities will be paying nearly $100 a year more in electric rates. The Montana Public Service Commission  voted 3-2 to approve the rate increases. Commissioners Pinocci and O’Donnell in voted opposition.

    The Montana Department of Transportation has closed the Interstate 15 Wolf Creek Interchange (Exit 226) southbound on-ramp from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., weather and other factors permitting. To access I-15 southbound from Wolf Creek, take Recreation Road south to Exit 219. Construction began this spring to refurbish 7 miles of I-15 through Wolf Creek.

     A century ago thousands of Ukranians migrated to North Dakota, as they are doing now. Arriving this month to work in the oilfields were 16 Ukranians who are part of a trade group’s pilot effort through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian program to recruit refugees and migrants during a workforce shortage. Twelve more Ukrainians are scheduled to arrive by Aug. 15 as part of the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Bakken Global Recruitment of Oilfield Workers program. Some workers want to bring their families to North Dakota while others hope to return to Ukraine. Workforce issues in North Dakota have become “very acute” in the last 10 months. There are roughly 2,500 jobs available in an oil field producing about 1.1 million barrels per day.

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Montana announced that Akilah Maya Deernose, J.D. will lead the organization as its next Executive Director. 

    The Rocky Boy Health Center (RBHC) broke  ground on their new Youth Wellness Center on August 3. The project has been named the My Pimtisiwinkamik Youth Center, or My for short. The preliminary program for the My includes a 25,000sf to 30,000sf building with offices, exam rooms, multi-purpose classrooms, commercial kitchen and cafeteria, gymnasium sized for two basketball courts without bleachers, fitness instruction room, open gathering/ flex space, and much more.

    The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Board of Directors announced it has selected Fred Bahnson to lead the organization.  NCAT was created in the 1970s in response to concerns about a possible energy crisis and an effort to build more sustainable energy sources. With staff in 12 states, NCAT is headquartered in Butte. Bahnson is the founding director of two environmental non-profits. In 2005 he co-founded and directed a congregation-supported agriculture project in North Carolina, and in 2012 he founded the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

    DiamondRock Hospitality Company has purchased Chico Hot Springs Resort in the Paradise Valley for $33 million. Chico, a historic landmark and popular get-away for Montanans, is a 117-room resort on a 748 acres ranch at the base of Emigrant Peak, near the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. DiamondRock is a Maryland-based hospitality company that owns 35 hotels and resorts in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Chico Hot Springs Resort was founded in 1900 run by William and Percie Knowles as the Chico Warm Springs Hotel.

    Governor Greg Gianforte appointed Sarah Swanson to head the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). Swanson has served as the Director of Strategic Engagement for DLI. Swanson served as an owner and General Manager for Farm Equipment Sales, Inc., a four-store John Deere dealer organization headquartered in northeast Montana.

    Williston State College in North Dakota has announced plans to build a state-of-the-art healthcare training facility. Health care professionals will be needed with the news that Sanford Health is planning to bring a clinic and hospital to Williston. It was noted that there is a workforce shortage in the healthcare industry throughout northwest North Dakota and northeast Montana.

    The North Dakota Industrial Commission approved $6.3 million in Outdoor Heritage Fund and Renewable Energy Program matching grants. Both programs are funded solely by oil and gas production tax revenue. The Outdoor Heritage Fund was established in 2013 to provide grants for projects that enhance outdoor conservation practices in the state. The Renewable Energy Program was established in 2007 to promote research and utilization of North Dakota’s renewable energy resources, including advanced biofuels.

  • Montana Highlights August 1, 2023 +

    The Milwaukee Bridge west of Terry has been ordered closed immediately by the Montana Department of Transportation as the deteriorating deck conditions have been deemed a significant hazard for public safety. The sudden closure has left a lot of questions both for people who use the bridge to reach the other side of the Yellowstone River. The Prairie County commissioners declared the main concern is finding a way to get the bridge reopened. Several people who operate agriculture land on the other side of the river, reminded the Commissioners that the use of the bridge will increase greatly when harvest and cattle roundup arrive.

    Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is advising anglers that portions of the Beaverhead River, Bitterroot River and the entire Jefferson River are closed to fishing daily from 2 p.m. to midnight. The hoot-owl restrictions are issued for: Jefferson River – from the Missouri River to the confluence of the Big Hole River and Beaverhead River, Beaverhead River –from the confluence of the Big Hole River to Anderson Lane. Bitterroot River – from Veterans Bridge at Hamilton to the confluence of the East and West Forks Bitterroot River

    The Break Room, a beer and wine bar on West College Street near 11th Avenue, in Bozeman, opened recently. The menu features 10 draft beers, four draft wines, an old-school soda fountain, and bar comfort food including pasties, nachos and beer brats. The lounge was opened by Seth Cooper and Cassie Colombo, who owns Colombo’s Pizza.

    The Richland County Sports Complex has a new home in Sidney. It was relocated from the cattle barn at the Richland County Fairgrounds to the Cenex-Western Choice. The official opening date is August 7. The sports complex is used for baseball and softball practices year round.

    A group of business organizations in Kalispell are raising funds to pay for private security guards to patrol the downtown area of the City in an effort to deter vagrancy, plus customer and employee safety. The guards would protect business interests and connect people in the midst of mental health or addiction issues with social service providers. A notice being circulated describes the business groups are exploring ways to redirect funds that might be given to panhandlers to fund the community patrol efforts and additional homeless outreach.

    Paddle Board Outfitters in Somers has grown from a modest start renting out paddle boards to a into a full-service paddle board, kayak, wave runner, and boat rental business. N Owner, Chris Hogan, began the company seven years ago.

    Yellowstone National Park hosted 847,864 recreation visits in June 2023. This is a 61% increase from June 2022, the month of the historic flood (525,363 recreational visits), and an 8% increase from June 2019 (781,853 recreation visits). Thus far in 2023, the park has hosted 1,493,510 recreation visits, up 19% from 2022 (1,258,834 recreation visits), and up 10% from 2019 (1,358,629 recreation visits).

    406 Cakes and Cravings, of Polson, opened recently and is owned by Aurora Doll.

    The Big Hole River is experiencing a large algal bloom. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has taken water quality samples and expects to have results back by the end of August. A visual assessment of algae growth reports moderate to high growth from Melrose to Glen.

    Butte Central Catholic Schools has introduced Denise Chrest as its new high school principal. A Butte native, Chrest has been the superintendent and K-12 principal in Moore for the last 13 years. Chrest replaces J.P. Williams, who was principal of the high school from 2018-2022. 

    New federal oil and gas leasing rules proposed by BLM would have a negative effect on Montana’s marginal oil plays. The long-anticipated rules changes announced recently include a cleanup bond of $150,000 per well, up from $10,000 per well. Conservationists and the petroleum lobby say the higher bonding amount would hamper leasing in low-probability areas, which is make up most of Montana oil opportunities.

    Montana native Jared Swarthout, is the current owner of Ping-A-T Lures, a company originally started in the late 1960s by his late grandfather, Gerry Swarthout, in Pinckney, Michigan, a city west of Detroit. Grandfather Gerry received a patent for the unique, self-righting lures in 1971 after perfecting its design. The lure is designed to flip upside down the faster an angler reels a line in order to better prevent snags under the water. The company is now located in Fallon

    The Gallatin Association of Realtors recently named Cindi Siggs as its new Chief Executive Officer following a nationwide search. Siggs previously worked with the Realtors of South Central Kansas (RSCK) and the Kansas Auctioneers Association.

    The Museums Association of Montana (MAM) announced the retirement of Executive Director Deb Mitchell after 16 years of service. Coinciding with her retirement, Mitchell has accepted a new position as the Executive Director of WorldMontana. Mitchell also retired from the Montana Historical Society eafter 23 years of service.

    Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte wants the federal government to declare natural disaster areas in 11 counties due to drought. With unusually low snowpack and hot, dry conditions in northwest Montana. The 11 counties are Flathead, Lincoln, Glacier, Toole, Sanders, Lake, Pondera, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli and Sheridan counties.

    In North Dakota, Vertipads Inc. is constructing the ground infrastructure needed for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to drop off and deliver packages beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The company is designing two vertiports to service drones used for package deliveries. Vertipads will utilize Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide UAS network, to fly BVLOS. Vantis provides the ground infrastructure for UAS, such as radar, air traffic control, and operations centers.

    The North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) is bringing its annual meeting back to Watford City September 19-21.