Corin Cates-Carney

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.

Corin has worked for NPR, and is a UM Journalism School Graduate.

The Montana Governor’s Office released its annual labor report today, touting economic growth and strength along with a low state unemployment rate.

Montana Department of Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy joined Governor Steve Bullock in the Capitol Tuesday to release the report.

Environmental conservation groups are suing to block a plan to log, thin, and prescription-burn about 2,900 acres in the Flathead National Forest. The groups say it violates federal laws.

The Beaver Creek Project borders Lindbergh Lake and the Mission Mountain Wilderness. Rich Kehr, the Flathead Forest’s Swan Lake District Ranger, says the biggest driver in the project is wildfire concerns.

Early yesterday afternoon John Thompson, the incident commander on the Rice Ridge Fire outside Seeley Lake was getting ready for some big challenges.

“There is thunderstorm activity to the north of us, and thunder activity to the west of us," he said. "And one of the challenges of thunderstorms over a fire is the unpredictability of the winds that occur. It’s really hard to set up an operation when the wind is spinning 360 degrees over the span of ten to fifteen minutes.”

The lightning-caused Conrow Fire burning seven miles northeast of Whitehall started last Thursday and as of Monday afternoon was about 25 percent contained. Bulldozers crews have pushed a containment line along the southwest and southeast flanks, adding to burnout efforts to prevent the fire from spreading toward nearby homes, cattle ranches, and mining sites. 

Fire information officer Ted Pettis says most of the 25 threatened buildings are behind containment lines.

More than $97 million in state budget reductions are scheduled to kick in August 15, and, across the state,, school districts are preparing to adapt to their share of the cut.

Funding for public education in Montana will decrease by about $19 million over the next two years as declines in state revenues mean across-the-board budget reductions to state agencies.

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Trout Creek Road from Magone Ranch (near Pellet Mill) southwest through the fire area is in Stage 3 evacuation, meaning residents need to leave their homes, as of 7 a.m. Saturday. Quartz Creek, Cougar Gulch, and Verde Creek are also in Stage 3 evacuation. 

County election officials criticized Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton Thursday morning for his repeated allegations of voter fraud, and for poor communication with them since taking office. County officials aired their grievances during a speech by Stapleton at a training session at the Montana Clerk and Recorder Convention in Fairmont.

The Secretary of State and county election officials have butted heads ever since Stapleton took office.

Montana’s budget to entice tourists to the state is about to take a multimillion dollar hit. Next week, budget reductions triggered by lower than expected state revenue will make Montana less competitive, officials say.

Last year, tourists spent about $3.5 billion in Montana, according to the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation.

The money set aside to fight wildfires in Montana is rapidly dwindling as portions of the state are in extreme drought conditions. But John Tubbs, Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, says there’s more money available to keep up the firefighting efforts, in other pockets of state government.

“We don’t run out,” Tubbs says.

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