Good Work Wednesday: February 1, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Montana resolution calls for day of remembrance for Indian boarding school victims (Blair Miller / Daily Montanan)

Miller brings attention to Senate Joint Resolution 6, a measure prompting Montana and Congress to recognize the Indigenous survivors and descendants of those who were forced to attend one of Montana’s 18 boarding schools.

After hearing testimonies from Indigenous supporters of the resolution, Miller reports, “They said recognizing the 150-year effort to assimilate Indigenous youth and continue territorial grabs from Native tribes would be a step toward healing the trauma now passed down through generations.”

2. Bill revises Montana Indian Language Preservation program, elevating tribes (Nora Mabie / Missoulian)

Indigenous communities reporter Nora Mabie reports on changes to Montana’s Indian Language Preservation program through House Bill 287 in the Montana Legislature. Sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, the bill “revises MILP guidelines and requirements and elevates the role of tribal governments in preserving their own Native languages,” Mabie writes.

3. As calls for aid increase, volunteer fire departments struggle to respond (Justin Franz / Montana Free Press)

“As Montana’s population continues to grow, fire departments in communities large and small are being asked to do more every year. But the increase in calls is especially hard on smaller, volunteer departments,” writes UM alumnus Justin Franz.

4. How toxic are the grounds of a former pulp mill along the Clark Fork River? (Austin Amestoy / Montana Public Radio)

UM alumnus Austin Amestoy (’22) reports on the former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill, which is now a Superfund site near Frenchtown. Contamination still lingers, threatening nearby Montanans and wildlife. But as the title hints: it is unclear “how toxic” the site is today. Amestoy also covers locals’ conflict with the EPA in recent years over the site’s toxin level testing and eventual cleanup.

5. Missoula County opposes bill banning government-created solar-ready zones (Laura Lundquist / Missoula Current)

Several proponents of clean energy speak out against House Bill 241 in Lundquist’s piece. The bill would restrict governments from requiring certain types of zoning that would make installing solar or electric vehicle charging stations easier for future homeowners, if they choose to do so.

“Solar readiness is not a huge ask. It is simply making sure there is enough space on the roof for solar panels should the new tenants of this building decide to go solar,” said Ian Lund with the Montana Environmental Information Center, who opposes HB 241.

Top Environment and Science Stories

1. Tired of being told to ‘adapt,’ an Indigenous community wrote its own climate action plan (Carly Graf / Grist)

Grist’s Cities + Solutions series features six stories that highlight sustainable action taken at a local level. This one, written by Carly Graf, focuses on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in the Flathead Reservation.

The Tribes have created a “living document,” a plan for climate mitigation that will adapt to the constant change around them. The plan, and the action they have already taken to protect native species of flora and fauna, is a testament to the Tribes’ dedication to living sustainably.

Graf quotes Shelly Fyant, former chair of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council: “We have a proven track record of sustainability. We can trace it back 14,000 years.”

2. Foods harvested throughout the seasons make up a wintertime meal (Laureli Ivanoff / High Country News)

In this piece, Inupiaq writer Laureli Ivanhoff details an evening of preparing, sharing and enjoying nikipiaq, a Native food with her family. The food is all collected by family members or traded with friends during earlier seasons and saved for the wintertime.

At the end of their meal, Ivanhoff writes, “All throughout my childhood, I heard my mom or my grandma chop frozen berries after a nourishing meal of nikipiaq. It felt good to do this simple, loving act, just like them.”

Top Alumni/Student Story

1. Mental health bills abound at Wyoming Legislature (Madelyn Beck / WyoFile)

UM alumna Madelyn Beck (’15) is hard at work covering the Wyoming Legislature. Her latest news roundup brings attention to the 20 mental health-related measures on the docket this session. Beck carefully summarizes the assumed need for more mental health care legislation in the state, then narrows in on five bills that are of being followed closely by proponents of mental health measures.

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 Sage Sutcliffe at

Good Work Wednesday: January 25, 2023

By Sage Sutcliffe

Top Montana News Stories

1. Why are people hanging out in Montana’s radon-filled mines? (Austin Amestoy and Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio)

Why do some people seek “radon therapy” in Montana mines, even if it’s dangerous?

“The people using these mines say the radon they’re exposed to in the mines causes a little stress on the body, spurring the body’s immune system to respond, reducing things like inflammation, chronic pain and other ailments,” said Bolton.

Amestoy (’22) and Bolton with Montana Public Radio’s The Big Why explore the present reason and the history behind the phenomena. Guest and UM alumna Katheryn Houghton also shares her research on radon-filled mines from her ’21 Washington Post story.

2. Montana beef processing ramps up with help from feds, but more butchers are needed (Tom Lutey / Missoulian)

If you have ever wanted to try your hand at butchering, now is the time.

“The number of cattle slaughtered in Montana has increased 75% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled by rancher frustration with monopoly meatpackers and emptying refrigerated meat cases in grocery stores,” Lutey said. With more Montana ranchers feeding into a local “meat to market” chains, butchers are in high demand but short supply.

3. Flathead officials get pushback after calling on community to stop helping homeless people (Justin Franz / Montana Free Press)

Franz brings attention to a letter, signed by three Flathead County Board of Commissioners, that has sparked controversy from advocates for people experiencing homelessness.

“It is our hope that our community will be unified in rejecting all things that empower the homeless lifestyle,” the letter read.

In response, donations to a low-barrier shelter in Kalispell have “dramatically increased.”

4. Public, legislators debate obscenity law revisions (Alex Sakariassen / Montana Free Press)

UM alumni Sakariassen (’08) covers a movement to “toughen state obscenity laws” that restrict certain reading materials for children. The Montana Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee sat for a public testimony recently, with those for and against the proposal.

“Supporters characterized the measure as a necessary safeguard to protect children from exposure to inappropriate or pornographic material in public schools and libraries,” Sakariassen said. “Opponents cast it as a significant step in the direction of government censorship, one that threatens to criminalize teachers and librarians and erode the First Amendment rights of Montana citizens.”

Top Environment and Science Stories

1. Here’s what it takes to build Alaska’s highways of ice (Victoria Petersen / High Country News)

Petersen reports from the Kuskowim River in the Alaskan north, which in the coldest winter months, becomes the Kuskokwim ice road. If maintained, ice roads like this one allow for easier and cheaper transport of deliveries and access to healthcare services and neighboring villages.

“Frozen rivers provide a relatively smooth and solid corridor for traveling in the North. They have been used for thousands of years and still connect rural communities across the state,” reports Petersen. “There is no other road connecting the communities; without it, people would have to rely on air travel, which isn’t always an option because of bad weather or exorbitant costs.”

2. Twinkle, twinkle fading stars: Hiding in our brighter skies (Christina Larson / AP News)

Larson reports on a study that found “artificial lighting is making the night sky about 10% brighter each year.” Meaning, our visibility of the stars is decreasing 10% each year.

Brighter night skies disrupt wildlife patterns and human circadian rhythms, according to Emily Williams, a Georgetown biologist. “Art, science, [and] literature” are also at a loss; stars have served as inspiration for humankind for generations, said Fabio Falchi, a physicist at the University of Santiago de Compostela.

Top Alumni/Student Story

1. License to heal (Keely Larson / Kaiser Health News)

Keely Larson is an environmental and natural resources journalism student at UM who is currently covering the Montana legislature as the Kaiser Health News fellow.

In her story, Larson reports on the difficulty some healthcare professionals have in obtaining Montana practitioner licenses when moving to Montana after beginning their careers in another state. At a time when staffing shortages are burdening Montana healthcare systems, two house bills are on the docket this session that may alter requirements and make the transition easier.

Larson quotes Mary Windecker, the executive director of the Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana: “We’ve got to get people in here to work.”

Good Work Wednesday: Nov. 15, 2022

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. Homelessness among older people is on the rise, driven by inflation and the housing crunch (by Aaron Bolton / Kaiser Health News in Montana Free Press)

Bolton tells the story of increasing homelessness among people over 60 through an intimate look at the trouble facing one pair of seniors in Columbia Falls. When their rent was nearly doubled, the couple lost their home and their relationship.

2. Native turnout low, Republicans see gains in majority-Native counties (by Nora Mabie / Missoulian)

“Red Medicine get-out-the-vote organizers Joyce Tatsey Spoonhunter, left, and Joleen DeRoche, right, register Heart Butte resident Carl Cree Medicine sitting in his white pickup parked on the driveway outside his home on the Blackfeet Nation on Sept. 20. Red Medicine is a group that focuses on empowering Native communities in local, state and federal politics.” Photo by Antonio Ibarra, ’22, and used with permission. 

Mabie, an indigenous communities reporter, dives into the reasons behind low Native turnout in Montana’s midterm elections. She spoke with Ta’jin Perez, Western Native Voice Deputy Director, who said, “People didn’t know there was an election happening. It’s an indictment of how poorly counties are getting the word out.”

Continue reading “Good Work Wednesday: Nov. 15, 2022”