HELENA – Public lands in the backyard are being credited with a strong economy in Montana.
A new report, “West Is Best,” looks at jobs, income and population changes in Montana and other western states - against the backdrop of National Forests, parks and other public spaces.
Ben Alexander, associate director at Headwaters Economics, which issued the report, says Montana’s biggest growth in jobs and income has been in high-wage service industries – such as health care and professional services – with companies relocating here because of the outdoors values.
“The state has grown its employment twice as fast as the rest of the U.S., and has grown personal income twice as fast as the rest of the U.S. over the last decade,” he said. “That’s a tremendous story for a state that is largely rural and micropolitan.”
The report finds that Montana and other western states, home to the largest share of public lands, have seen their economies fare better than the nation over the past 40 years.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 11:34
Montana State University Billings is a place of teaching and learning. But elements of both often happen outside of the classroom.
One recent case in point involves seemingly incongruous elements: A handful of college students in a communications class; a group project assignment; a local plumbing supply company; and a South Billings church where only air was coming from the hot water faucets.
The MSU Billings students learned how to pull together for a cause and the church learned the power of community.
“At first we thought this was an impossible task,” said Amanda Grubbs, a junior communications and theater major from Billings. “But once you get a certain number of people together and focus on reaching a goal, you can get it done in no time.”
It all started a few weeks ago in a 200-level communications class that deals with group dynamics. As part of the class, the groups were told to find a local need that could be addressed with a collaborative, solutions-oriented process. The group of Grubbs and fellow juniors Steve Joiner, Chase Robertson, Leah Jones and Lisa Sobolewski teamed up and were determined to find something that would be different from efforts already under way in various social service sectors.
Last Updated on Saturday, 29 December 2012 11:35
“We have not gotten our fair share of the federal resources,” said Don Youngbauer, head of the Yellowstone River District Council, at a five-hour meeting last week at Montana State University Billings.
Mr. Youngbauer wants at least $1 million in federal money to complete the first Cumulative Effects Study - a study designed to anticipate serious water shortages that was supposed to be completed five years ago.
“There has never been a study of this magnitude that has ever been done on any river in the world,” said Mr. Youngbauer. “We must look at the river, see how much water can be used and not compromise the people and communities downstream. It’s a travesty what we did to Mexico.”
Water in the Rio Grande River between Texas and Mexico has been all used up for agriculture, he said.
“We have not been very good to our neighbors to the south,” he said. “That river is just a dribble by the time it gets to the ocean now.”
Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 18:31
MISSOULA - Work experience is required to get a job, but you can’t get that experience without a job. It’s a tricky situation for Montana’s teens and young adults, with a new KIDS COUNT reportfrom the Annie E. Casey Foundation showing that 22,000 Montanans ages 16 to 24 are not working, and they’re not in school. Thale Dillon, director of Montana KIDS COUNT, says a tight job market is one reason positions are scarce.
“The jobs go to older workers who have experience. Young workers today have many fewer opportunities to gain the experience they need.”
She points to research showing that the brains of young adults need positive work experiences early on in order to develop properly. First jobs are about more than paychecks; they instill work ethic skills and self-management techniques that aren’t usually taught in school, she adds.
The report says there are many ways to help young people, and it’s not all in the hands of the government. Businesses have a role to play, too, Dillon says, and it’s in their best interest to invest in a workforce.
Multiple pathways would help, the report says, including finding ways to engage high school dropouts and exploring options to help Montanans afford higher education – as well as sticking with programs until graduation.
Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 17:59
MISSOULA – Montana farmers and ranchers are watching closely as Congress gets back to work.
While the so-called “fiscal cliff” is garnering the most attention, an expired farm bill is also still sitting on the “to-do” list.
Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, says rumors have been flying about the timing of a final bill, and he’s optimistic.
“There’s still a chance that it will be done before the end of the year. The key issue here is not just when it gets done, but that it gets done well.”
Hassebrook notes key differences in the versions passed by the House and Senate, and calls the Senate version more friendly to Montana and other rural states.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 10:24
With the approach of Thanksgiving, the season for harvesting a Christmas tree is right around the corner. Christmas tree permits went on sale this week November 13 on both the Custer and Gallatin national forests.
Christmas tree permits are available for purchase at all local ranger district offices, including Big Timber, Livingston, Gardiner, Bozeman and West Yellowstone on the Gallatin National Forest and Ashland, Red Lodge, Billings and Camp Crook, S.D., on the Custer National Forest.
“Cutting a Christmas tree around Thanksgiving or leading into December is a popular and longstanding family tradition for many,” said Mariah Leuschen, public affairs specialist for the Custer and Gallatin national forests. “It’s a great way to spend time outdoors with those close to you and possibly start a new tradition.”
Permits are $5 each with a limit of three permits per family. Permits can be purchased at Forest Service offices during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additionally, the Beartooth Ranger District will be open to sell tags on the four Saturdays immediately following Thanksgiving starting Nov. 24 and continuing on Dec. 1, 8 and 15 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Maps, forest road access updates and tree species identification guides are available at all offices.
Those with a permit may cut a Christmas tree anywhere on the Custer or Gallatin National Forest except in campgrounds, trailheads, designated wilderness areas, developed recreation sites, posted timber sale units, recently planted locations and administrative sites. Permits are also valid for any national forest in the Northern Region, which includes all of Montana, northern Idaho and portions of North and South Dakota.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:20
Officials in Montana’s most populous counties were reporting heavy turnout Tuesday night, with long lines of waiting voters and those still hoping to register. In some places, officials predicted people were voting long after the polls closed.
That was the story in Cascade, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Yellowstone and Flathead counties.
Ross Cavosos, a volunteer at the Yellowstone County office, said late Tuesdays afternoon that the turnout in Montana’s largest county was overwhelming.
“Everyone is surprised we have so many people trying to vote,” he said, adding that many of those in line appeared to be young voters. He said some would-be voters waited three and a half hours for late registration and he expected lines to remain long for most of the evening.
Across the state in Missoula, county election official Anne Hughes reported a strong turnout, which meant long lines for some hoping to register and vote.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 16:58
It may not be surprising that in a state that did not cast its electoral votes for President Obama that news of his re-election drew mixed reaction at the party headquarters Tuesday night.
News of networks’ projections of Obama’s win drew cheers from Montanans who had spent most of the night waiting for results in the closely fought statewide races.
“I voted for him and because I feel like it means good things for our country,” said Hannah Berglund, 21, a Helena student at the University of Montana. “He sees things the way I do when it comes to civil rights issues and I think that’s what’s most important overall.”
Others at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena echoed Berglund’s optimism.
“I think it takes us in the right direction. It means that middle class people will have a chance to improve their access to opportunities. Most of the economic programs that he’s been pursuing will come to fruition. Economically, America will be stronger in four years,” said Randy Fuhrmann, 52, a professional mental health counselor.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 16:56
Heath Robinson, 36, a medical marijuana patient with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, is a burly young man, his build belying the physical afflictions he suffers. Dressed in jeans, sneakers and a medical marijuana T-shirt with text barely visible reading “Code of the West,” he holds a container of balm in one hand and a bottle of tincture in the other.
He looked the part of perhaps an off-duty medical corpsman or nurse. In those containers, active cannabis ingredients help him to relieve muscle spasms, pain and the constant neurological damage caused by MS.
“These bottles get me off seven prescription drugs for MS that have terrible side effects,” he said, citing nausea, restless leg syndrome, chronic muscle pain, tremor and severe nightmares.
He said he dissolves a few drops of the tincture into tea or juice. The drink relieves his pain, discomfort from muscle spasms and other neurological pain that the body’s immune system causes while attacking itself.
In MS, the body’s immune system receives erroneous messages from a gene. Those erroneous messages cause the body to attack healthy muscle and nerve tissue. The attacks result in pain, numbness and neurological tissue damage, according to the National Institute of Health website.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 13:08
Montanans can’t escape the television and radio ads attacking the two candidates for U.S. Senate. Paid for by official groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and murkier organizations like Crossroads GPS, the ads generally assault Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Dennis Rehberg as being out of touch with normal Montanans.
The deluge often leaves Montanans wondering who the candidates are and where they stand on major issues.
This has become a battle of who is the most authentic Montanan, with Rehberg’s website stressing he is “a fifth-generation Montana rancher and small businessman” and Tester’s emphasizing he is “a third-generation Montana dirt farmer who brings Montana values with him to the U.S. Senate.”
Despite these differences, the two agree on many contentious issues facing the state.
Both Tester and Rehberg call for creating jobs in Montana by deregulating small business and cutting taxes, though they often spar vehemently over exactly what taxes and regulations need to be targeted. Both voted for the Keystone XL pipeline and seek to develop more coal and oil resources in the state. And both say they have fought for gun rights in Washington.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 13:05