Eric Whitney

Eric Whitney is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

406-243-4075

A legal settlement announced late Friday afternoon could send $10 million to the town of Colstrip to mitigate impacts from the partial shut down of the huge coal-fired power plant there.

"I think it’s a win for the town of Colstrip and a win for the state of Montana," says Eric Sell, a spokesman for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.

MTPR News Director Eric Whitney: By my count there are at least five formally declared candidates, and then there's Billings Judge Russel Fagg, who hasn't officially declared, but he certainly looks like a candidate. Is Fagg really just exploring a Senate run, or is he just saying that?

MSU Political Science Professor David Parker joins us with a look at the 2018 Senate race.

Congressman Greg Gianforte is kicking off what he’s calling a “Forest Jobs Tour” tomorrow in Helena. A press release says, “Gianforte will hold a roundtable briefing on the status of the Stonewall Project with key stakeholders.”

The Stonewall project is a U.S. Forest Service vegetation management proposal that called for logging, thinning and controlled-burning about 5,000 acres north of Lincoln. Shortly after it was approved in 2016 a federal judge temporarily halted it in response to a lawsuit from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

Last night Senator Steve Daines held what he calls a “tele-townhall,” one of the periodic conference calls he invites Montanans to join, in which he takes a few questions from callers. This one was also live streamed on his Facebook page. The topic was forest management and wildfires.

Updated 6:15 p.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster assistance for two more wildfires in northwestern Montana.

FEMA funding is now available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs for the Moose Peak and Highway 200 Complex fires in Lincoln and Sanders Counties. Those fires are threatening 925 homes and businesses in and around Plains, and 45 homes and businesses southeast of Libby. The state's applications, filed yesterday, said the fires are also threatening power and telephone transmission lines, cellphone towers, a gas pipeline, highway bridges and watersheds.

Updated 7:00 p.m.

Officials on the Alice Creek fire announced at about 5pm that they are evacuating homes along highway 200, from mile post 92 east to Highway 435-434. The evacuations are mandatory and there is a temporary shelter being opened up at the Wolf Creek School.

A popular high school cross country meet in the Flathead has been canceled due to wildfire smoke, and it’s not the only high school sport facing adverse impacts from poor air quality.

The Flathead Invitational is a big event. More than 700 students from 29 high schools and 20 middle schools were registered to race the grassy course at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell.

But Bryce Wilson, Flathead High School’s activities director, says there will be no race this Friday.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, both of Montana's senators gave 10-minute speeches about wildfires in Montana.

"Climate change is real, and we can't continue to sit on the sidelines," Democratic Senator Jon Tester said.

Republican Senator Steve Daines focused on, "The mis-management of our federal forests, and these radical environmentalists."

Both Daines and Tester talked about Montana's fires in the context of the nation's attention being primarily on hurricanes at the moment.

Updated 11 p.m.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office has ordered new evacuations due to the West Fork Fire, including:

  • Kootenai River Road from Quartz Creek to end of Bighorn Terrace
  • North side of Kootenai River Road from North Central to Quartz Creek
  • Lower Bobtail, including Burrell and Indian Pipe

Governor Steve Bullock issued a statement on the fires to the media Monday.

"We are facing a very challenging and unprecedented fire season in Montana and throughout the West."

Pages