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Montana Dems — Stuck In The Middle With Who?

The MT Lowdown is a weekly digest that showcases a more personal side of Montana Free Press’ high-quality reporting while keeping you up to speed on the biggest news impacting Montanans. Want to see the MT Lowdown in your inbox every Friday? Sign up here. Last weekend, I watched...
MONTANA STATE

Hidden in plain sight

“Without restraint, with all his natural tendencies unleashed, he knows no respect for society. … He is a negative creature … propagating his kind with alarming freedom.”. When Montana U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin penned those words in March 1917 for the Chicago Sunday Herald, she was referring to...
MONTANA STATE

Montana seeks more religious exemptions to vaccination requirements

State health officials want to create a religious exemption from routine vaccinations for kids and staff members in child care facilities and children in certain foster homes. Under the two proposed administrative rule changes, parents, guardians, and child care staff could submit a notarized affidavit that says being vaccinated against diseases such as polio, measles, and whooping cough goes against their religious beliefs or practices. The child care measure also would delete an existing requirement that unvaccinated kids stay away from a facility if someone there has contracted a disease against which they are not completely immunized.
MONTANA STATE

Montana coronavirus report

The trend: Montana’s weekly average of reported COVID-19 cases appears to be leveling out. The state, which is now posting weekly case data on Fridays, said on August 12 that Montana tallied 1,824 reported cases in the preceding week. The New York Times, which compiles daily averages of reported cases, said that Montana’s average reported cases had increased by 1% over the last two weeks.
MONTANA STATE

Roads vs. greenspace in Bozeman

BOZEMAN — A project that’s been on the drawing board of city planners for more than three decades is yet again mustering west side neighbors for a fight against city hall. The debate encompasses many of the familiar battle cries heard in Bozeman about concerns for protecting the environment and a peaceful way of life versus the need to improve transportation to accommodate the ever-growing influx of residents into neighborhoods that were once farmland.
BOZEMAN, MT

The story of fire retardant

A thick stream of red mist falling from an airplane is one of the most common and dramatic images of Montana’s wildfire season. But while the photos may seem self-explanatory, that red mist — also called long-term fire retardant — has its own complicated story and history.
MONTANA STATE

Montana Supreme Court says abortion laws will remain blocked while case proceeds

In a five-justice panel’s unanimous decision, the Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a district court decision to block three abortion restriction laws from taking effect while the case proceeds. The high court said the case between Planned Parenthood of Montana and the state of Montana, defended by Attorney General Austin Knudsen, can continue in the Yellowstone County district court where it began.
MONTANA STATE

Montana SOS joins pushback against presidential voter access order

Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen and 14 other secretaries of state banded together last week to demand that President Joe Biden immediately rescind a March 2021 executive order aimed at expanding voting access in America. In their letter, the secretaries argued that Biden’s order was issued “without Constitutional authority” and “ignores codified procedures and programs in our state constitutions and laws.”
MONTANA STATE

After a slow start, fire season in Montana is underway

After a slow start, fire season in Montana is underway, kind of. Compared to last summer, when extensive drought conditions fueled an early start and late end to a season in which about 940,000 acres burned, 55,616 acres have burned this season as of Aug. 9, according to Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
MONTANA STATE

Tranel, Zinke, and Lamb spar over abortion, climate and energy

The three candidates for Montana’s newly created western congressional district squared off in person for the first time at a candidate forum in Missoula Monday, landing glancing blows and setting the stage for a race that will elevate Montana issues to the national stage and localize national political dynamics as the major parties vie for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
MONTANA STATE

From Higgins to Bear Tracks

Reconstruction of the historic Higgins Avenue Bridge that spans the Clark Fork river in downtown Missoula is nearing completion. The new bridge will have more spacious pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, and it will come with a new name to reflect Missoula’s history as the aboriginal territory of the Salish and Kalispel people.
MISSOULA, MT

When mental illness leads to dropped charges, patients often go without stabilizing care

For seven years, Timothy Jay Fowler rotated between jail, forced psychiatric hospitalization, and freedom. In 2014, the Great Falls man was charged with assaulting two detention officers while he was in jail, accused of theft. A mental health evaluation concluded that Fowler, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was unfit to stand trial, according to court documents. After Fowler received psychiatric treatment for several months, a judge ruled that he was unlikely to become competent anytime soon. His case was dismissed, and after a stay in the state-run psychiatric hospital, he was released.
GREAT FALLS, MT

Tracking eastern Montana’s silent firestarters

ROSEBUD COUNTY — Last summer, wildfires burned half of John Bailey’s 25,000-acre ranch. With much of his pasture up in smoke, Bailey had to purchase hay to help feed his cattle. He says he spent about $90,000 on hay this past winter as a result of drought and fires in 2021. He also had to replace fencing and change his herds’ grazing patterns to accommodate the burns, an expense of time and money.
MONTANA STATE

Where wildfire meets population growth

DAYTON — For nearly a week, a thick wall of smoke to the south of the Flathead Valley has provided an ominous backdrop to an otherwise beautiful stretch of weather in one of the most beautiful parts of the state. The Elmo Fire, which started not far from Flathead Lake on July 29, has burned more than 20,000 acres, but thus far hasn’t choked the nearby valleys with smoke as in past summers.
MONTANA STATE