Matt Blois

Matt Blois is a reporter and evening news host.

Democratic governor Steve Bullock released a statement today criticizing the tax reform bill moving through Congress for increasing the national debt without reducing taxes on the middle class. Democratic Senator Jon Tester has already criticized the bill because of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Every morning at 6 a.m. a group of men gather at the Frosty Freeze in Big Timber to drink coffee and share gossip. It's a diner, decorated with 1950s Coca Cola posters and old records. A sign hanging near the cash register reads, "Cows may come and cows may go, but the bull in this place goes on forever."

Five men sit at a table near the door, and a waitress provides a continuous stream of hot coffee. She places a plastic pitcher with ice cold tap water in the center of the table. Lately, this coffee group has talked a lot about water.

911 calls in Flathead County went unanswered for about an hour Thursday morning after a construction crew cut a fiber optic line near Kalispell.

Immediately after discovering the outage, the Flathead Emergency Communication Center attempted to reroute the calls through its administrative phone line, and then through a backup system in Whitefish, but both failed because they were also affected by the damaged cable. Anyone calling during that time would have just heard a busy signal.

The Flathead National Forest is proposing an increase in fees for renting 12 cabins and lookouts and one campground. The proposal also includes a new fee for one campground.

Almost all of the money would go towards operating and maintaining local cabins and campgrounds. Public Affairs Officer for the forest Janette Turk said the forest needs to increase fees to pay for improvements like roads and daily patrols in campgrounds and new furniture and appliances in the cabins.

The Bitterroot National Forest wants to raise the price to use 14 campgrounds and three cabins. The proposed fees would affect campgrounds in the Stevensville, West Fork and Darby/Sula ranger districts including the Charles Waters Campground, the Magruder Ranger’s House and the Como Lake Campground.

A hunting and conservation group is criticizing the fast food chain Arby’s for offering a new elk sandwich. The Montana Wildlife Federation sent a letter asking the company not to sell the sandwich, which will be available starting on October 21 at the Arby’s in Billings, as well as two other locations in Wyoming and Colorado.

The Helena-Lewis and Clark Forest lifted all fire related closures today. Several other national forests in Montana reduced fire restrictions or closures over the last several weeks. 

One of the Republicans campaigning for Montana’s Senate seat that’s up in 2018 is facing multiple charges for trying to purchase resident hunting and fishing licenses as a nonresident.

Troy Downing of Big Sky has pleaded not guilty to seven misdemeanor citations.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones confirmed the citations, which were first reported by Bozeman blogger Kathryn QannaYahu.

The National Weather Service says the rain and snow western Montana is getting should continue through next week, and will potentially end this year’s fire season. The agency issued a winter storm warning for most of western Montana from 9 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Saturday, anticipating a dramatic change to very cold, wet weather.

Meteorologist Jenn Kitsmiller expects that will clear out smoke from the region and slow down fire activity.

Jean Butler is a retired college administrator, but on Saturday she looked more like a character from a John Wayne movie. She wore a straw hat, suspenders and a thick leather belt weighed down with two pistols and a row of red shotgun shells. She had abandoned her old identity and adopted the nom de guerre Clara Allen.

She was one of a few dozen shooters at a cowboy action shooting event in Hamilton last weekend. The competitors dressed up like characters from the old west and adopted cowboy aliases. At each stage, they shot at steel targets and acted out scenes based on stories from Montana mining towns.

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