The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

Articles written by Amanda Eggert


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  • Growing number of Montanans report their quality of life is declining

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated May 8, 2024

    Montanans are increasingly reporting that their quality of life is declining, according to a recent University of Montana poll. Sixty-two percent of Montanans contacted by pollsters say their quality of life has gotten worse over the past five years. That's a seven-point increase compared to 2022 when the Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative last put that question to likely Montana voters. "It's quite clear that residents all over the state - even out on t...

  • BLM adopts rule described as a 'generation-defining' shift for America's largest land manager

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Apr 23, 2024

    The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday adopted a long-awaited rule that aims to put conservation initiatives "on equal footing" with oil and gas leasing, grazing and other commercial uses of federal land. The rule "combines our ongoing work with a vision for conservation to help us manage lands into the 21st century," BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a video announcing the rule. "It ensures that the BLM can carry out its multiple-use and sustained-yield mission now...

  • Montana proponents for public access, landowners, await implications of Wyoming lawsuit

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Mar 15, 2024

    When four hunters used a specially constructed ladder to step from one corner of public land in southern Wyoming to another, the ripples from that decision were initially small but have since ignited an impassioned debate that could open - or unequivocally restrict - access to more than eight million acres of public land across the West. In a three-part series, Montana Free Press will explore "corner-crossing" and what it might mean for public access in Montana. This is the...

  • Nearly 900,000 acres of Montana in access limbo 

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Mar 15, 2024

    When four hunters used a specially constructed ladder to step from one corner of public land in southern Wyoming to another, the ripples from that decision were initially small but have since ignited an impassioned debate that could open - or unequivocally restrict - access to more than eight million acres of public land across the West. Here, in the second of our three-part series, we explore why Montana lacks a clear "test case" on the legality of corner-crossing. Nearly a...

  • Federal government denies petitions to restore protections for gray wolves

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Feb 12, 2024

    The federal agency that oversees the Endangered Species Act announced late last week that it will not add Northern Rockies wolves back onto the list of threatened and endangered species. In an announcement on Feb. 2, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that its decision was based on its analysis of "the best available data" from federal, state and tribal sources, academic institutions and the public. The agency found that the number and distribution of gray wolves, paired...

  • PSC declines to reverse NorthWestern Energy rate hike

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Feb 5, 2024

    The NorthWestern Energy rate hike that the Montana Public Service Commission adopted in October will stand following a decision from the commission this week. The increase was originally forecast to raise residential customers' electricity bills by 28 percent, but a reduction in NorthWestern's property tax bill and a "true-up" process designed to square NorthWestern's forecasted market power purchases with its actual expenditures have brought that figure down slightly. The...

  • Record-low snowpack widespread throughout Montana, report shows

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jan 9, 2024

    More than half of the snowpack monitoring sites used to measure the water supply for Montana watersheds are posting record-low accumulations, according to a report out this week. Several basins in central Montana have one-third of their normal snow-water equivalent - a measurement of water in the snow. About half of all of the basins in the report, including the Upper Missouri, Flathead, and Upper and Lower Clark Fork basins, are posting record-low totals. Eric Larson, a...

  • Wolverines gain federal protections under Endangered Species Act

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Dec 13, 2023

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it's moving forward with federal protections for wolverines, a reclusive and wide-ranging carnivore. In a press release announcing the decision to add wolverines to the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, USFWS Regional Director Hugh Morrisson said the decision will enhance wolverine viability in the contiguous United States. "Current and increasing impacts of climate change and associated...

  • NorthWestern Energy electric rates higher than regional peers

    Amanda Eggert and Eric Dietrich, Montana Free Press|Updated Nov 15, 2023

    Montana's utility regulation commission has come under criticism recently for an agreement that lets the state's largest power company, NorthWestern Energy, implement a 28 percent residential electric rate increase. With some help from retired MTN News reporter (and occasional MTFP contributor) Mike Dennison, we've compiled a comparison of the residential electricity rates charged by different utilities around the region, estimating the typical monthly electric bills paid by...

  • Legislative audit describes lack of trust, communication between FWP headquarters and game wardens

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Oct 2, 2023

    Wardens working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks described a shift toward enforcement and administrative tasks that has moved the division toward a "cop" culture versus the "cowboy" culture most prefer, according to an audit the Legislative Audit Division released last week. The audit, which was completed at the request of the bipartisan Legislative Audit Committee, also highlighted communication issues, waning morale and concerns about a lack of trust between the...

  • SCOTUS wetlands rollback through a development lens

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jun 20, 2023

    BOZEMAN - On a recent rainy June day, Leanne Roulson pointed out features of a soggy area just inside the Bozeman city limits suggestive of a wetland. Cattails poked out from several inches of standing water. A dense clump of willows sheltered songbirds, which trilled from their dripping perches. If she wanted to, Roulson, a former president of the American Fisheries Society trained in botany, biology and ecology, could consult a three-part test to determine whether the...

  • BLM rule proposes to put conservation on 'equal footing' with other uses

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated May 30, 2023

    Through June 20, the Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on a public land proposal that the agency put conservation priorities - e.g., ecological health and the "resilience of renewable resources" - on equal footing with long-established agency objectives such as livestock grazing and oil, gas and coal leasing. More specifically, the proposed rule would establish conservation as a "use" under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in an effort to "protect...

  • Forever no more? Bill seeks to restrict state's access to perpetual conservation easements

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Feb 23, 2023

    A broad assortment of industry groups, conservation nonprofits, ranching families and hunting and fishing access advocates on Tuesday testified in opposition to a bill that would impose term limits on many conservation easements acquired with state funding. If passed, Senate Bill 357 would put a 40-year term limit on many conservation easements purchased with state funding by agencies such as Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The measure includes exceptions for easements that are smaller than 1,500 acres or purchased with fo...

  • Whitebark pine receives federal protection under Endangered Species Act

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Dec 20, 2022

    Citing threats posed by disease and climate change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the whitebark pine is receiving federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. A 2018 assessment found that more than half of the standing whitebark pine trees in the West had died by 2016. The die-off is largely attributed to blister rust, a non-native fungal disease. Additional threats to the species' long-term survival include mountain pine beetle infestations,...

  • Wildlife Watch: grizzly bear management

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Dec 18, 2022

    This story is excerpted from the Montan Free Press MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday. In anticipation of eventual delisting, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has produced a proposal to guide grizzly bear management in Montana, which is home to more than half of the Lower 48's grizzlies. In an introduction to an Environmental Impact Statement accompanying the plan, FWP Director Henry "Hank" Worsech said the... Full story

  • Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Aug 31, 2022

    Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office announced today that the state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, citing robust population counts and touting the state’s ability to independently manage Montana’s grizzly bears, which have been federally protected since 1975. “We worked on grizzly bear recovery for decades. We were successful and switched to a focus on conflict management years ago,” FWP Director Hank Wors...  Website

  • How does the wildlife cross the road?

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Aug 31, 2022

    Road ecologists say wildlife crossings are one of the best ways to reduce wildlife-vehicles collisions and mitigate one of the most significant human impacts on ecosystems. This three-part series examines Montana's approach to crossing initiatives as the federal government prepares to implement a $350 million pilot project - the largest investment of its kind in U.S. history. During a Nov. 17 hearing, Martha Williams answered dozens of questions you'd expect an incoming...

  • Wildlife crossings, the Wyoming way

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Aug 31, 2022

    Road ecologists say wildlife crossings are one of the best ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and mitigate one of the most significant human impacts on ecosystems. This three-part series examines regional crossing initiatives as the federal government prepares to implement a $350 million pilot project - the largest investment of its kind in U.S. history. This is Part 2 of the series. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department isn't a an organization you'd necessarily expect...

  • Gianforte sets wildfire priorities for 'above-normal' season

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jun 16, 2021

    In a wildfire briefing at the state Capitol attended by more than a dozen land use and wildfire response agency leaders, Gov. Greg Gianforte said he wants to double the number of treated acres on Montana's forests and pressured the National Park Service to extinguish all wildfire starts on park service lands. Gianforte said the state is undergoing a forest health crisis due to insect outbreaks, disease and heavy fuel loading that leads to an elevated wildfire risk. Increasing...

  • Living with Fire

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jul 23, 2019

    In this three-part series, Montana Free Press examines how federal land management agencies have approached wildfire in the past and highlights public sector efforts to make communities more resilient through land-use planning, strategic building processes, and targeted fuel reduction treatments. In Part 3, we explore a private sector development: the growth of private firefighting companies deployed by insurance companies to protect properties from loss by wildfire. BOZEMAN...

  • Living with Fire

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jul 17, 2019

    NOTE: In this three-part series, Montana Free Press examines how federal land management agencies have approached wildfire in the past and highlights key public and private sector developments that could change how we engage with it in the future. Previously: Part 1 – The evolution of wildfire suppression. BOZEMAN - Ray Rasker, who has researched wildfire for more than a decade as the executive director of Bozeman-based nonprofit Headwaters Economics, makes a bold claim a...

  • Living with Fire Part 1: The evolution of Wildfire Suppression

    Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press|Updated Jul 10, 2019

    Note: As the West enters another fire season, where, how and why federal land management agencies decide to suppress wildfires and implement fuel reduction projects will be hotly debated, as residents, environmentalists, agency heads, and politicians tangle with how much, if any, thinning, logging, and prescribed burning is appropriate to mitigate fire risk. Three trends play an important role in the discussion: hotter and drier conditions wrought by climate change, which have...

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