by Jocelyn Harris

Editor’s Note: In an effort to celebrate and highlight some of the best journalism happening in Montana, in environmental and science journalism as well as the good work being produced by our UM J-School alumni, each week, the School of Journalism is compiling these stories in this new feature: Good Work Wednesday. Look for it every week and if you have suggestions of journalism works we should highlight, email Good Work Wednesday curator and grad student Jocelyn Harris at

Top Montana News Stories:

1. Visits to the Big Sky Food Bank more than tripled over the summer season (by Jack Reaney / Explore Big Sky)

Reaney’s story looks at the increased need for food bank resources this year in Big Sky. The spike in food bank visitation could be the result of inflation and tourism growth bringing more seasonal workers to the Big Sky area. Reaney quotes Sarah Gaither Bivins, operations manager and services navigator of the food bank, as saying, “Before COVID, we used to allow people to shop once a month—not that we ever turned anyone away. Now, you can shop up to once a week if you need to.” With Fall in full swing and winter around the corner, Reaney notes the food bank’s need for canned food during its annual Great Pumpkin Giveaway and winter clothing for adults, according to Bivins.

2. Tranel stakes election pitch on a return to the ‘middle’ (by Holly Michels, ’06 / Helena Independent Record)

UM alumna Holly Michels covers Monica Tranel’s campaign as she seeks to become the first Democrat Montanans send to the U.S. House of Representatives in almost 30 years. Republican opponent Ryan Zinke paints Tranel as an extremist liberal, but Michels’ reporting shows that Tranel is first and foremost a Montanan. “In the Montana I grew up in, nobody talked about (political) parties. We didn’t mention it. We talked about each other, we talked about the basketball game,” Tranel said.

3. ‘A little chaotic’: Fromberg family still rebuilding months after flood (by Paul Hamby, ’20 / Billings Gazette)

J-School alum Hamby describes one Fromberg family’s struggles after the June 13 flood forced them out of their home. In the face of climate change, this tale could become an all-too-familiar one. He writes, “A cold May packed the Beartooth Mountains with fresh snow. Warmer temperatures through June turned snow melt into a water cannon that shot down into waterways spreading through Park, Stillwater and Carbon counties.” Rebecca and James Shaw and their two sons have been dealing with chaos ever since, sometimes helped by relatives and volunteers. Hamby quotes Rebecca as saying, “Everyone wants to help that first week, first month, but some of it’s long-haul stuff.” She urged anyone still interested in volunteering to check in with

4. Plein air painters from across the US gather in Hamilton for workshop (by Jessica Abell / Ravalli Republic)

In between environmental disaster headlines, it’s nice to see Abell’s story about plein air painters dedicating their time to admiring and capturing the natural beauty of Hamilton’s Bitterroot River. Attracted by YouTuber Turner Vinson’s third Hamilton workshop, about 20 artists from cities like Atlanta, Boston and Chicago came to Montana to balance the hubbub of their daily city lives. Abell quotes one participant, Matthew Johnson, a Chicago-based Kung Fu teacher, as saying, “So this is definitely more yin to all of the yang in my daily life.”

5. Migration accumulation: Report highlights importance of wildlife corridors (by Brett French, ’85 / Missoulian)

For his story about wildlife migration corridors, UM alumnus Brett French spoke with Matt Skroch, project director for U.S. Public Lands and Rivers Conservation at the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts, who said Montana’s population growth is imposing bigger strains on wildlife populations. French examines a recent report by Skroch and Leslie Duncan, which considered several migration studies and their implications for conservation efforts. He quotes Skroch as saying, “The report is a call to action, really,” Skroch said in a phone interview. “It’s a call for using the latest and greatest in scientific insights to preserve these populations of incredibly important wildlife into the future.”

Science and Environmental Stories:

1. Truck makers tout an electric future. Privately, they’re stalling it. (by Anna Phillips / The Washington Post)

Phillips holds truck manufacturers to account in this story about the disconnect between public and private actions. On the surface, the truck industry is amenable to mounting pressures to electrify large trucks, but behind closed doors, their lobbyists are fighting to delay this goal. Hammering home the significance of this issue, Phillips writes, “Policymakers are targeting the sector because it accounts for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the United States and generates harmful pollutants that cost thousands of lives each year. A recent American Lung Association report estimates switching to zero-emission trucks would prevent 66,800 premature deaths over the next 30 years.”

2. Indigenous Leaders in Texas Target Global Banks to Keep LNG Export Off of Sacred Land at the Port of Brownsville (by Dylan Baddour / Inside Climate News)

Baddour tells the story of Indigenous leaders fighting environmental injustices and staving off the development of liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities in Texas. Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo tribe, is working to protect the Rio Grande Valley from such developments, which are re-energized by the war in Ukraine. Baddour quotes Mancias, 68, as saying, “When you steal the land, you’re stealing us. And you’re taking away our identity, because you fence it off and you don’t allow us into the land where our ancestors are buried, where we remember our ceremonies and rituals.”

Student/Alumni Story of the Week:

Land Board approves purchase of Big Snowy Mountains Wildlife Management Area (by Tom Kuglin, ’06 and ’14 / Montana Standard)

Tom Kuglin earned a BA in english and Master’s in environmental science and natural resource journalism from UM. In this story, he covers the Montana Land Board’s approval of an $8.22 million purchase of 5,700 acres in the Big Snowy Mountains to be managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The sale of this property, previously owned by Shodair Children’s Hospital, will provide funds for hospital construction, and open new land to the public. However, the decision was not without some controversy. Kuglin quotes Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who casted the only dissenting vote, as saying, “I do think Fish, Wildlife & Parks has an empire-building problem. I do think they have a problem with maintenance and management of a lot of land that they already own.”

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