News Briefs

FVCC names new honor society inductees

Thirty-one Flathead Valley Community College students were recently inducted into the Alpha Iota Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society. Phi Theta Kappa applicants must have earned at least 12 college credits last semester with a minimum grade point average of 3.4 in order to be considered for membership.

The following FVCC Lincoln County students are new inductees to the chapter:

From Eureka: Jaron Reynolds

From Libby: Amanda Martinez

The purpose of the Alpha Iota Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at FVCC is the promotion of scholarship, the development of leadership and service and the cultivation of fellowship among qualified students of the college.

Phi Theta Kappa is the world’s largest and most prestigious honor society for two-year college students.


Governor Bullock’s take on 2017

2017 was not without its challenges including the most expensive fire season on record and a special session to balance the state’s budget.  The Governor believes Montanans will be pleased with new opportunities to grow our economy, increase access to public lands, ensure quality education and improve healthcare.

In a press release last Thursday, his office reported that Montana ranked first in the nation for the fastest growing manufacturing sector with the fourth highest wage growth rate in the nation.


2018 New Year’s

resolution fun facts

According to the website WalletHub, each year 67 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, while under ten percent are actually successful.

Why do we continue to make resolutions year after year? The tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces, one looking backward and one looking forward.  This allowed him to look back on the past and also forward to the future.  On December 31, the Romans began to see this day as a symbolic time to make resolutions for the new year and forgive their enemies of the past.


Montana NRCS Announces funding available through EQIP

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering funding through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target specific resource concerns in Montana in 2018:  on-farm energy, honey bee pollinators, organic, high tunnel systems, Sage Grouse Initiative invasive conifer removal, Sage Grouse Initiative cropland seeding, and wildfire recovery.

NRCS has set a deadline of Jan. 19, 2018, to apply for 2018 initiatives funding.

For more information about EQIP, or other programs offered by NRCS, please contact your local USDA Service Center or visit


2017 Fire season cost Montana $240M in visitor spending

According to a report produced by the Institute for  Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, “the reduction in visitation resulted in a loss of $240.5M in visitor spending.”   Tourists who visited Montana in July, August and September indicated that the smoke did impact their travel.  While nearly one third of those who visited said the smoke did not make them change their plans, ten percent couldn’t do the activities they had planned, and seven percent changed where they visited.

The fires and smoke also impacted residents of Montana, affecting their livelihoods and quality of life. Sixty-nine percent of adults said the smoke affected their outdoor activities. Thirty nine percent indicated the fires and smoke impacted their mode of travel.  Missoula and Bozeman were affected strongly according to the study.


Tester introduces bill to help fight CWD

Chronic wasting disease has been prevalent in 21 states across the west, infecting white-tail and mule deer, elk, and moose.

Senator Tester’s bill will immediately provide  resources to Fish, Wildlife and Parks to help tackle the deadly disease.

President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, Collin O’Mara said, “Of the challenges our wildlife populations face today, chronic wasting disease is one of the most urgent. The contagious, always fatal, neurological disease has now been found in herds from the northern Rockies to the Midwest to the Northeast.”

Tester’s bill would authorize $60M to help state and tribal wildlife management agencies stop the spread of CWD.



U.S. Senators Tester, Daines and Congressman Gianforte agree on conservation easement

The senators and congressman are urging the Forest Service to prioritize a conservation easement in northwest Montana.

They threw their support behind an agreement between Stimson Lumber and the state of Montana to preserve more than 22,000 acres of private land for timber harvest, wildlife habitat and recreational access and use.

At the request of local businesses, the delegation is asking the Forest Service to approve funding for the easement under the Forest Legacy Program.

They wrote, “Obtaining a conservation easement for this site would protect these lands from development and allow  a sustainable timber harvest to keep producing four million board feet of timber and over five million in economic activity each year, along

The Forest Legacy Program is a federal program that supports state efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands.  It encourages and supports acquisition of conservation easements that are legally binding agreements transferring a negotiated set of property rights from one owner to another, without removing the property from private ownership. Most conservation easements restrict development, require sustainable forestry practices and protect other values.

For more information contact your FWP.


Utilities to account for tax reform, set aside money for

customer benefit

Last Wednesday, the Montana Public Service Commission took the first step to ensure that utility customers realize benefits from sweeping tax reform signed into law last week.

The Commission directed regulated utilities in the state to calculate the change in tax liability that each company expects to receive under the new tax bill and to come forward with a proposal for how to apply those benefits by the end of March.

Critics of the broader tax bill argue that these savings are likely to be pocketed by corporate shareholders, but Chairman Brad Johnson, R-East Helena, said that’s not the case for regulated companies in Montana.

“Consumers are currently paying more in taxes through utility rates than the actual tax expense that utilities will incur next year,” he said. “The Commission wants to ensure that this money is not simply captured by shareholders, but instead is directed in a way that provides a long-term benefit to the consumer.”

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act represents the most comprehensive federal tax reform in over 30 years. The legislation, which will become effective for tax year 2018, creates a significant change in tax liability for regulated utilities through the reduction of the corporate income tax rate.   The change creates a gap between the tax rate of 35 percent that customers currently pay through rates and the 21 percent rate at which utilities will be taxed next year.

Additionally, because consumers have paid tax expense on future tax liabilities due to other federal policies, such as bonus depreciation, the lower rate that will be applied to those liabilities in future tax years creates another benefit for customers.   The Commission’s staff released a memo last week suggesting the total tax benefit to Montana’s utility customers will amount to tens of millions of dollars annually.

NorthWestern’s electric and gas utilities are subject to the Commission’s requirement, as is the electric service of Montana-Dakota Utilities. Two other utilities, Great Falls’ Energy West gas utility and MDU’s gas utility, will stand to have their rates adjusted for the effects of tax reform during pending rate cases which those utilities filed in September 2017.

“Utilities basically have four options, said Commissioner Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman. “They can issue customer refunds, use the money as a source of zero cost financing for capital projects, direct the funds to offset large, unusual expenses, or propose some combination of these three applications.”

“I suspect the commission will be strongly inclined toward ratepayer refunds,” Koopman added.