The Billings Outpost

Climate change affects animal camouflage

University of Montana

MISSOULA – The predicted decrease of winter snowpack due to climate change might inconvenience winter recreationists, but for mammals that change coat color during the cold months to blend in and survive, the consequences could be much graver.

L. Scott Mills, a professor in The University of Montana College of Forestry and Conservation, will publish an article titled “Camouflage Mismatch in Seasonal Coat Color Due to Decreased Snow Duration,” in the April issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article will detail research on the snowshoe hare, one of 10 animal species worldwide that changes color from brown to white to match seasonal snow cover.

Mills and his colleagues studied wild hares for three years in western Montana. The study examined 148 hares weekly in the field to quantify their coat color, the extent of snow around them and the percent of mismatch between the hare and their background. The three years during the study included some of the most extreme differences in snowpack duration that have occurred in the past 40 years, including the incredibly long 2010-11 snow season and the much shorter season the year before.

The results of the study link the seasonal coat-color change across different years to the prospect of less snow in the future.

Though the timing of the molt did not change in either the fall or spring for the hares in the study, the rate at which they changed did vary, but only in the spring molt.

Hares in the fall changed purely based on the length of the day, but the hares changing in the spring were able to slow the rate of their molt in the heavy snow year of 2010-2011.

“On average, it takes about 40 days for a hare to completely change from brown to white,” Mills said. “The white-to-brown change takes a few days longer and shows some ability to speed up or slow down according to temperature or snow.”

Animals that change color seasonally may adapt in two ways to environmental stressors such as reduced snow. If mismatched coat color leads to increased predation, evolution by natural selection will favor hares that can adjust the timing or speed of the change according to snow conditions.

The second adaptation involves the ability of individuals to adjust behaviorally to conditions. The article cites the male rock ptarmigan, a bird that soils its feathers after mating in an apparent attempt to camouflage, as one example of behavioral adaptation.

The next step for Mills’ research group is to document whether mismatch in the hares’ coat color does in fact increase predation and whether adaptation is occurring.

“Hares that are mismatched may minimize mortality by seeking out snow or remaining in dense cover, and the potential for rapid evolutionary change in timing of coat color cannot be discounted,” Mills said.

The researchers also developed rigorous snow models for the future, accounting for uncertainty by averaging scenarios across 38 different climate models. When they applied the snow models to their snowshoe hare study area, they predicted the average duration of snowpack will decrease by 29 to 35 days by mid-century and 40 to 69 days by the end of the century.

They found that this decrease in snow would lead to a four- to eight-fold increase in the number of days that white hares will be mismatched on a brown, snowless background, making them vulnerable to predators.

Whether hares can adapt, either by natural selection, behavioral adaptation or both, has major implications for the species. As the climate models show, the change will need to come quickly.

For the snowshoe hare, an essential prey for the threatened Canada lynx, and an animal experiencing 85 to 100 percent mortality due to predation, the ability to be camouflaged is a critical defense. Because seasonal coat color change occurs for species throughout the world, the prospect of white animals on brown backgrounds serves as a widespread stark image for the impact of climate change.

The article co-authors are UM graduate students Marketa Zimova and Jared Oyler, Regents Professor of Ecology Steve Running and Assistant Professor Paul Lukacs, all of the College of Forestry and Conservation.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:29

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Recycle those beer bottles

Good Earth Market

The folks at Bayern Brewery in Missoula act on their responsibility to practice eco-friendly and sustainable business practices wherever possible. Since 2010, they have been attempting to reuse as many packaging and bottling materials as possible. Now you can participate!

At Good Earth Market, a $3 deposit gets you the Bayern Ecopack, a sturdy, waxed cardboard box. Fill the Ecopack with 24 qualifying bottles in four carriers and return to the Good Earth Market.

Pick up another Ecopack and fill it up again.

Bottle qualifications:

Must be standard brown 12-ounce bottles.

Must be in good condition.

Must be pry-off – no twists or threads.

Must not have any embossing on the bottle (brand names, etc.).

Your participation means less packaging ends up in the landfill, and you are helping to sustain our environment and help make Bayern Brewing one of the most sustainable breweries in our region.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:28

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Joys of solar cooking


Nature has provided no better way to cook our food than with sunlight. That may sound like a pretty sweeping statement but for almost everyone I know who has done a bit of solar cooking over time, the agreement would be nearly unanimous. Generally the food just tastes better! A simple pot of brown rice or a chicken, for example, receive a unique transformation with a dash of sunlight added. You have to taste it to believe it.

I have solar cooked for 23 years and taught and demonstrated it nearly as long. I enjoyed it from the first time I did it. I believe it is a gift literally “from on high” waiting to come into our experience to transform life. It already is doing just that in many parts of the world where countless daily lives are so much better for the entry of solar cooking.

There’s a touch of fun in taking a pot of food and putting it in a homemade or manufactured solar cooker and knowing that the only “fuel” involved for cooking is sunlight. Plus there’s no heat added to the kitchen, nothing added to the utility bill, no toxins for the environment, and delicious food added to the table!

There are very simple homemade cookers that can be constructed in 30 minutes with a dollar’s worth of materials and a Reynolds oven bag to insulate your pot while it’s in the cooker. You can see the easiest-to-make, the Box-Corner Cooker, at my website

While this particular homemade cooker works well In mild to warm weather, there are more sophisticated designs which can provide for cooking even in freezing weather. I have done a lot of cooking in Minnesota and Montana in temperatures hovering around zero. Generally speaking, if I have bright sunshine, I can solar cook.

A number of manufactured units are on the market, at least three from the U.S. The “Sun Oven” ( is the most widely known followed by the Solar Oven Society “Sport” (

A vast resource to help you find your way into the world of solar cooking is

Almost every facet of solar cooking is covered in detail: endless ideas for constructing your own unit; learning many of the finer points of cooking by sunlight; seeing how this cooking method is transforming lives in many developing nations; how you can help make the solar revolution real in the lives of others you may never see.

To give you To give you another huge resource, provides hundreds of videos related to solar cooking. Many other online information resources are just a few clicks away when you plug “solar cooking” into a search engine.

Solar cooking is, I believe, a step into the future of food preparation that is available today. Make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to taste the future of food right now. Happy cooking!

Greg Lynch lives in Emigrant.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:26

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Quack, Pack comes to city

Did you know that there approximately 450 miles of storm drain pipe located underneath the City of Billings? Or that the Yellowstone River is the longest free flowing river in the lower 48 States? These are just a couple of the fun facts you will find on Quack and the Pack’s Water World (

In March 2013, the City of Billings welcomed a little hard-hatted duck named Quack and his superhero pack to help kids and adults alike, learn about our most valuable resource: water. Enter Quack’s water world at and play fun games, learn about the water cycle, and take a trip down the storm drain with H2O Joe! There is something for all ages on the website and even a special section especially for teachers where they can print off packets and word games to teach kids about watersheds and storm water pollution.

Quack’s Pack is a group of six ducks that possess superhero powers to help clean up the enemy: water pollution. Kids can journey with Magnetic Quack to help clean the stream, as he uses his powers of attraction to get people involved in keeping water clean or join Water Woman as she uses her “lasso of compliance” to bring wayward construction sites back into the fold. Each duck has a favorite game to help people learn about the importance of protecting our watershed.

In the Wonderful World of Water, kids learn the basics of the water cycle and that it is possible that the same water we are drinking today could have once been the same as a dinosaur drank … ewww! Kids don’t need to worry though, as the water from our faucet is very clean due to treatment at the Billings Water Treatment Plant. They can also take a virtual tour of a water plant to see how water gets clean.

Kids can follow H2O Joe on a ride through an actual storm drain in the Secret World of Storm Drains. They learn that the storm drain system carries rainwater straight to creeks, lakes and rivers. Because the water that enters storm drains doesn’t get cleaned, all that trash you can see and the pollutants you can’t see – like poisonous chemicals, pesticides, soap and germs – end up in your neighborhood creeks, rivers and lakes. This means that the water is unsafe.

The website, along with our public education program, will hopefully help kids gain a real world approach to water and water protection. The website is a collaboration between the City of Billings, the Montana Department of Transportation, and Yellowstone County to help educate the community about the importance of keeping the Yellowstone River clean, as it is our source of drinking water.

Zee Creative, a local internet company, brought the site to life and made Quack and his pack the newest superheroes in town!

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:26

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Ways to reduce runoff

Direct downspouts away from paved areas and onto areas such as relatively flat or slightly sunken lawn areas, grassy areas, landscape beds, or rain gardens.

Collect rain water in barrels, cisterns, stormwater planters, or other rain harvesting methods for watering landscaping.

Plant and maintain dense, healthy plant cover, especially on slopes.

Plant practical grass areas. Avoid planting high-maintenance turfgrass on steep slopes, in deep shade, or in areas where maintenance is not reasonable. Instead, select adapted or native turfgrasses or other ground covers.

Increase the use of properly sited landscape beds to reduce large expanses of grass.

* Keep impervious non-plant (driveways, roofs, decks, etc.) surfaces to a minimum. Where feasible, use permeable surfaces such as bricks, cobblestones, gravel, turf pavers, porous pavement, mulch, or others.

Manage soils to increase water saturation into the ground and promote healthy root growth. Add organic matter to soil prior to planting or by topdressing and using organic mulches after planting.

Use water conservation practices. Water early in the morning to retain moisture and avoid overwatering.

Keep fertilizers, pesticides, and yard waste (grass clippings, tree leaves, soil, etc.) off paved and other impermeable surfaces. Sweep them into a dustpan or use a leaf blower to redistribute them out of the path of runoff water. Do not dispose of them on the street.

Apply fertilizers and pesticides based on the directions to ensure application of the correct amount. Avoid over applying products and consider using low/no phosphorous fertilizer and select the least toxic pesticide that will effectively control identified pests.

Store and dispose of household hazardous waste.

(pesticides, paint thinners, cleaning products, oil, anti-freeze, etc.) according to label directions.  Do not dump old or excess products into the sink or toilet, street gutter or ditch, storm drain, or onto the ground.

* Recycle, reuse, or reduce plant waste. Leave grass clippings on lawns or compost them. Chip woody waste for compost or to use as mulch.

* Remove leaves, litter, and other debris from roof gutters and street curbs.

* Pick up litter and clean oil drips and fluid spills from pavement.

* Scoop pet feces, secure in bag and place in the trash for disposal.

* Wash cars at a commercial carwash, not in the driveway.  Cleaning soaps and chemicals can end up in the street and run down the city stormdrain system to the river.

* Do not stockpile soil, mulch, or other bulk materials on impervious surfaces during landscape projects.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 14:25

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The last 13 steps for Frank Robideau

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second and final part of a story about a double murder that occurred in 1937. Billings resident James Southworth researched the story from the archives of the Tri County News and The Billings Gazette.


Frank Robideau, a Wheat Basin farmer, confessed in 1937 to murdering Wheat Basin elevator manager Mike Kuntz and his wife on the Columbus-to-Molt Road.

Robideau told his story of the dual slaying in interviews and at the State Industrial Accident Board hearing on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving of that year. The following is in his own words:

“I needed money badly because my wife was expecting another baby the middle of December.

“After I argued with Kuntz at the elevator, I went home and got my gun and went back to the railroad track near the elevator. I hollered, ‘Mike, we’ll have it out right here.’ But Kuntz didn’t come out.

“I went back home and cooked my dinner, washed the dishes, and just as I was throwing out the dishwater, I saw Mike leaving his place in his automobile. They came over my place; Kuntz, his wife and their boy were in the front seat. I asked him, ‘Do you feel better now?’ He didn’t answer me.

“Mrs. Kuntz begged with her husband to give the money for the wheat because she knew how hard up I was. But Kuntz said, ‘I’ll be goddamned if I’ll give you any money.’ But then he told me to ‘get in here and I’ll go write you out some checks.’ We then went to the elevator and Kuntz wrote checks to other farmers in the area and was going to give them to me to cash. I suggested names of some farmers and he suggested others. But he put the checks in his jacket pocket.

“We got back in to the car and Kuntz stopped at my house. I reached for the door to open it and Kuntz said, ‘Oh no, you stay in here. I’m headed for Columbus.’ And there wasn’t a word spoken between none of us till we got to that place (about halfway between Columbus and Wheat Basin). The last mile before he stopped, he was driving all over the road.

“He stopped and thrust his gun at me. I took hold of his arm. That’s when the first shot was fired out of his gun. That’s the bullet in the roof of the car. I brought his arm in back of his head and he hollered at his wife for help. The gun exploded again and the bullet went through the from the windshield. His wife grabbed me and had me about done. Then I shot him in the back of the head. She had an awful hold on me. She also bit my finger. I took my gun and she realized that I couldn’t be released unless I shot her.

“My eyes were sticked out from the pain, then I shot her and killed her. I wasn’t sure if he was dead, so I shot him again through his body.

“The boy was standing there on the running board, hollering. I thought that I might just as well kill him, but just then, I looked into his eyes and I saw the picture of my boy. I’m glad I didn’t kill him. I hit him on the head with the butt of my gun. I then drove them back to the elevator and put the car inside. I shut the elevator door and went home.”

Frank Robideau entered a plea of guilty to the charge of murder in the first degree in connection with the death of Mike Kuntz when he was arraigned before Judge Ben Harwood on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 11. When arraigned, Robideau stated to the court that his true name was Joseph H. Liberty.

Judge Ben Harwood, of Billings, imposed the maximum penalty and sentenced Frank Robideau to be hanged on Saturday, Jan. 15, 1938. “I have nuthin’ to feel sorry about them people, Mr. and Mrs. Kuntz; they put me in this mess I’m in now,” Robideau said.

On the other hand, Robideau is regretful about one matter. “I’d have been better off if I had a rope around my neck years ago,” He told Undersheriff Benjamin. “I know the judge did the right thing. I have nothing against the judge, no more than I have anything against you.”

The following dates were noted as the story unfolded.

Dec. 30: Sheriff to Secure Forsyth Scaffold. The scaffold on which Henry Zorn and George Criner were executed at Miles City will be borrowed by Sheriff Murphy for the execution of Frank Robideau. It is thought that four others in addition to Zorn and Criner have been executed on the scaffold.

Jan. 13: Frank Robideau wants fried chicken, watermelon and cold mince pie for his last supper Friday evening, a few hours before he will be taken to Columbus and become the first man to be hanged in Stillwater County. (The county was created in 1913.)

Robideau held the first reunion with his wife and two of his four children in the lower murder cell of Yellowstone County Jail on Thursday.

“If you’re born to be hung, you’ll never die in a feather bed, and in you’re born to die in a feather bed, you’ll never be hung,” Robideau told Sheriff Dan Stephenson and Undersheriff Ed O’Donnell here Thursday.

Officers said that Mrs. Robideau and her two young daughters (the youngest was 18 days old), left the jail at 4 o’clock Thursday afternoon, “without a tear in their eye.”

“Robideau is holding up well,” Sheriff Murphy said. He said Robideau stated to him, “I deserve what’s coming to me.”

Sheriff Murphy presented Robideau with a green polka-dot shirt which he will wear to the gallows on which he will pay with his life for the slaying of Mr. and Mrs. Kuntz.

Four carloads of peace officers and civilians made up the escort as it left Billings at 11:30 p.m. Friday, a few hours after Robideau had partaken of his last meal in the Yellowstone County Jail.

”Leaving jail! Have you got a drink of whisky? I need one,” he said. Shortly after he was handcuffed to Undersheriff Ed O’Donnell, Robideau was given a bracer. O’Donnell, Robideau and Sheriff Dan Stephenson sat in the back seat, and a reporter and Deputy Sheriff Albert Jansen, who drove, sat in the front seat.

“There’s quite a mob around here, isn’t there?” Robideau said as the death car cruised away, sandwiched between three guard automobiles.

As the car sped from the city limits, Robideau said, “I suppose there will be a mob at Columbus, too. They’re all coyote hunters. When they get me in the trap, they’ll all go him.”

Robideau joked quite a bit on the long trip up Old Highway 10 to Columbus. Occasionally, for a few minutes, he would become serious. “My worst day was Thursday when my wife and babies visited me. This is the easiest part of the whole thing,” he said. Finishing another story, he said, ”If I’m going to croak, I might as well die happy.”

“If taking my neck pleases them and eases the feelings against me, my conscience is clean,” Robideau said. “I’m going to walk right up to the scaffold and take it like a man. I’m going to do my part, you do yours. I’m not the first man to be hung and I’m not the last one.”

At 12:45 a.m., the caravan started up the Columbus hill. Soon the lights of Columbus were visible. Scores of automobiles were parked at the side of the drive area, the main entrance of the Columbus us machinery shed, which was turned into a death house.

“Surely a lot of people around here,” Robideau said, as the automobile came to a halt between a line held back by officers from several different counties and state patrolmen.

It was 1:08 a.m. Benjamin and the others in the car stepped quickly from the machine. A minute later Robideau was standing a foot from the first of the 13 steps leading to the scaffold. Benjamin handcuffed the doomed man in back.

Benjamin then tied two straps around Robideau’s waist, over his green polka-dot shirt and blue coat. Robideau’s face became slightly pale, but he asked Undersheriff O’Donnell if “he wanted to flip that coin.”

He laughed weakly, “Well, good-bye, boys.”

Benjamin and Paul Rosean, Stillwater sheriff’s deputy, led Robideau up the 13 steps. Seconds later, Robideau made his last remarks. “ All I wish to say,” Robideau said, ”is if you have any sympathy to show, don’t show it to me, show it to my wife and family, as they need it. I don’t. That’s all I have to say.”

The black hood was placed over his head, and the rope was jerked tightly around his neck.

Undersheriff Benjamin snapped his finger. It was 1:11 a.m. A trap door swished, and Robideau disappeared from the platform. The rope remained still; his neck had been broken. Then 16½ minutes later, the man was pronounced dead.

Stillwater County had witnessed its first hanging. In the crowd of some 375 men in the machinery shed was one Florence Bowie, of Columbus, who was dressed like a man. At 3 a.m., a Columbus bartender said, “This is the biggest night we’ve ever had in Columbus.”

Mrs. Robideau had made the arrangements for the funeral and the coroner, O.R. McColley, claimed the body immediately after the execution. The funeral was held at the McColley Funeral Home, with burial in the Columbus Cemetery.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:20

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Business groups target workforce development

Big Sky Economic Development

Big Sky Economic Development, City College, Billings Chamber of Commerce and the Billings Job Service partnered to address the development of our future workforce through the Workforce Development 2023 Forum held this week at City College.

The Forum featured keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Zeiss, known as a national leader in workforce development, a target industry analysis presentation and two panel discussions focused on developing Montana’s workforce. Dr. Zeiss is the president of Central Piedmont Community College, the largest community college in North Carolina, serving approximately 70,000 students per year.

The forum covered topics from increasing opportunities for our underemployed to safety training and workforce education. The two panel discussions focused on workforce resources available from the local and state government as well as challenges private sector businesses are currently facing.

Workforce Development 2023 was successful in engaging a broad variety of community members and attendees left with a sense of direction from an engaging dialogue on workforce goals and next steps. As Steve Arveschoug, Executive Director of Big Sky Economic Development stated, “Today’s event was a great first step in starting our work on some very important topics in our community. Now we must be focused on finding ways to fulfill the current and future workforce needs of local and prospective businesses.”

Dr. Zeiss applauded the Billings community for pro-actively coming together: “Most communities just have an economic development strategy, without a focus on workforce development.

Billings will soon have a very contemporary strategic plan to address both the issues employers are seeing in the market today and those that they will face over the next ten years.”

Through the interactive presentation, people in attendance were polled electronically in real-time to provide feedback regarding elements of workforce development covered by both Dr. Zeiss and the panels. With the help of Dr. Zeiss, a draft vision statement was developed and those in attendance helped identify issues and strategies to achieve the vision.

The group together created a draft vision statement for their efforts moving forward: By 2023, the Billings region will be the premier business-driven workforce development hub in the Rocky Mountain West.

Additionally, the group created some potential strategies to accomplish the vision statement.

Some of those strategies include:

Convene education and business leaders to implement the strategies.

City College high school career academies via dual credit programs.

Teach job readiness certification to high school seniors, teach work ethics.

Actively identify and recruit under skilled, under employed, dislocated workers and veterans.

Businesses need to provide curricula advice and internships to educational organizations that produce their employees. Technical training should include industry-recognized certifications.

Market technical careers better.

Big Sky Economic Development is Yellowstone County’s economic development arm. The organization is a public-private partnership of two agencies. Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA), the public agency, evolved from the Montana TradePort Authority in 1989. Created by the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners, the EDA is tasked with facilitating the development of business that supports our community and quality of life. Big Sky Economic Development Corp., the private business side, was started in 2002. The EDC’s mission is to recruit primary sector businesses and retain and expand existing Yellowstone County businesses that support our community and quality of life. Over 120 of the county’s top businesses are member-investor partners in the EDC.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:15

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Bill would change leases for renewable energy

By Deborah Courson Smith - Big Sky Connection

HELENA – A bill being considered by a pair of congressional committees would require wind and solar developers to compete for public land leases, and once those projects were up and running, they’d have to pay royalties. 

It’s modeled after oil and gas development, with the money to be split among states, counties and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, (BLM). Just over one-third of it would go into a wildlife and land conservation fund. 

Nic Callero, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation, says it should boost this type of development.

“It’s a relatively new idea for renewable energy projects,” he explains. “It’s a system that we’ve already used on public lands for conventional energy projects, and what this does is, basically evens the playing field for renewable projects, versus conventional oil and gas projects.”

Callero’s group contends that a competitive leasing process also means developers will avoid controversial areas with critical habitat concerns, to save time and money. 

The bill has co-sponsors from both parties in eight western states, including Rep. Steve Daines of Montana.

Bob Rees, president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, says hunters and fishermen have two big fears about energy development of any kind on public land - that it will damage fish and wildlife habitat and restrict access. But he says this bill addresses both concerns.

“It just makes a lot of sense,” Rees says. “It develops energy that this country is going to desperately need in the future, and more importantly – most importantly, in some people’s minds – it’s green energy, you know. And that has a much smaller overall footprint on the environment.”

The National Wildlife Federation says since 2007, just over 40 renewable energy projects have been approved on public land in the U.S. – along with more than 7,000 oil and gas projects.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:14

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Unemployment rises

HELENA – Montana’s unemployment rate increased slightly by 0.1 percentage points to 5.7 percent in January, hitting the same level as November 2012 after a slightly lower rate of 5.6 percent in December.

Montana’s unemployment rate has been on a downward trend since the end of 2010. The national rate also increased in January by 0.1 percentage points to 7.9 percent.

“Montana’s economy has made strong job gains over the last two years, gaining back most of the jobs lost during the recession and adding wages for Montana’s workers,” said Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy. “The pull-back in federal funding and the expiration of the payroll tax break are expected to slow growth in the next few months, but I am confident that our economy will continue to move forward and add jobs throughout the next year.”

Both the payroll employment estimates and the total employment estimates (which includes payroll workers, the self-employed, and agricultural workers) posted small employment decreases from December to January of 500 jobs and 800 jobs respectively. Continued job losses in the public sector

offset gains in the health services industry. However, over the year job gains in both data series show strong employment growth of about 1.6 percent, or about 8,000 jobs.

Every February, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recalculate the employment estimates for past years in a process called benchmarking.

The benchmarking process makes employment estimates more accurate, in addition to smoothing the data series and calibrating the data to new population estimates.

Benchmarked data indicates that Montana’s economy lost more jobs during the recession than first estimated, but the recovery since 2010 has been stronger than first thought. Revisions also reduced Montana’s unemployment rates during the recession. Montana’s unemployment rate hit a recession high of 6.8 percent in the last half of 2010 (compared to the initial estimates of 7 percent), and has since decreased to 5.7 percent. The highest historic unemployment rate for Montana was 8.8 percent in 1983.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged for January, with prices falling over the last three months. Core inflation, measured by the all items less food and energy index, rose by 0.3 percentage points over the month, but was offset by declining gasoline prices.

Unemployment figures are seasonally-adjusted. The margin of error for the unemployment rate is plus or minus 0.8 percentage points at the 90 percent confidence level. All questions relating to the calculation of unemployment rates should be directed to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Research and Analysis Bureau at 1-800-541-3904.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:12

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Business Briefs

Gieseke joins Rocky Bank

STEVENSVILLE – Bob Gieseke has joined Rocky Mountain bank as the new manager of the Stevensville branch.

Gieseke, originally from Litchfield, Minn., is a graduate of Montana State University with a degree in business marketing and management. As a resident of Corvallis the past five years, he has been involved in the community as past-president of Bitterroot Valley Kiwanis, a board member of United Way of Ravalli County and a Relay for Life team leader.

He has a background in commercial real estate sales and development and has been a commercial banker in Hamilton since 2008.

In addition, Rocky Mountain Bank promoted Jeff Fuller to vice president, retail sales manager.

Mr. Fuller joined Rocky Mountain Bank as vice president and business development officer in 2007 in the Stevensville office. His new responsibilities include leadership, sales management and business development for all 10 offices and communities that the bank serves.

Rocky Mountain Bank is a state-chartered banking group with more than $466 million in assets. Headquarters are at 2615 King Ave. W. in Billings. Visit for information.

EBMS names CEO

EBMS has named Thomas Partlow as the company’s new CEO, effective immediately.

For the past 25 years, Partlow has worked in the self-insurance/group health marketplace. He previously served as president of Delta Health Systems, a California-based service provider for self-funded health plan management, where he was instrumental in the development of a suite of wellness and disease management programs.

He also was instrumental in the development of an Accountable Care Organization-based network in the Southern California region, comprising more than 4,000 physicians and 20 hospitals. During Partlow’s presidency, Delta’s revenue grew to greater than $30 million.

Partlow said he is excited to bring his broad scope of experience to EBMS. “Throughout my long tenure in this industry, I have watched and admired the Larson family as they built EBMS into a national industry powerhouse that is widely respected throughout the country and beyond,” said Partlow.

“To be able to join a company of this stature truly is the pinnacle of my career, and I am honored to be a part of such a talented and innovative team of professionals. I look forward to building on an established foundation of success as we work together to grow and expand EBMS to be of ever-increasing value in the healthcare marketplace.”

Y names finance director

The Billings Family YMCA has welcomed Jennifer Schroeder as the new finance director.

Schroeder graduated from Billings Senior High School in 2002 and graduated from Seattle University in 2007 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. She worked at Ernst & Young in Seattle as an auditor and upon returning to Billings in October 2011, worked at Underriner Motors.

A longtime, active Y member, she said, “there are not many organizations in Billings where I’d rather be working; the Y is a fun, exciting and healthy place to be.”

Scam targets employers

HELENA – The Montana Department of Labor and Industry is warning employers of a second scam targeting Montana employers. The Department has taken calls from employers who have received a letter allegedly from the Department of Labor requesting banking information noting that automatic withdrawals begin March 1, 2013. Neither the U.S. Department of Labor, or the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Unemployment Insurance Division have sent letters asking for banking information.

“This is the third time in less than six months that a scam asking for information has targeted Montana businesses. What makes this even more frustrating is the scammers are posing as the Department of Labor, and employers naturally want to comply with the information request”, said Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy. Bucy recommends that any Montana employer receiving this fraudulent request not reply with any information and call the Montana UID fraud investigator at (406) 444-1709.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:10

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