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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Montana plans smoke preparedness program, awaits federal grant funds


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year said the Montana health department would receive a little more than $600,000 to educate and prepare communities at high risk of wildfire smoke exposure.

Health department asthma program manager BJ Biskupiak said the state is in the “initial stages” of implementing that grant, despite waiting for the EPA to distribute the money.

Biskupiak said the state intends to use the grant to develop statewide educational materials for wildfire smoke preparedness. It will also create a checklist for communities to follow when preparing a building as a clean air shelter. But, Biskupiak said it’s unlikely the funding will help communities cover the materials or labor to do that work.

“Well, that’s a little trickier. It is only about a $600,000 grant. It only extends so far when we’re talking about HVAC system repairs,” Biskupiak said in an interview.

Biskupiak said the health department will work initially with Missoula and Ravalli counties. Then, the department plans to roll out materials in Flathead, Lake, Glacier and Lincoln counties. The pilot program will also include the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation.

EPA Region 8 administrator KC Becker said the state will receive the funds once the agency approves a work plan and budget.

Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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