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Briefs: $40 million tech hub grant, River rec advisory council, Land preservation

John Hooks | Montana Public Radio

Montana tech hub awarded $40 million in federal funding

Montana’s tech industry this week got an injection of more than $40 million of federal grant funding.

The Headwaters Tech Hub is a partnership of universities, private companies, and government agencies across Western Montana. It’s one of 31 federally designated tech hubs nationwide.

The federal Economic Development Administration designated and funded the hubs to build domestic production of electronics research and manufacturing.

Montana’s tech hub focuses on “photonic sensors”-- advanced computer chips that help operate drones and other unmanned vehicles. One project to come from the new funding will test those technologies at Montana Tech in Butte.

Ellis Juhlin | Montana Public Radio

Montana FWP forms river recreation advisory council 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is forming an advisory council to review how the state manages river recreation. Recreation includes fishing, hunting, swimming and boating from motorized and non-motorized vehicles.

The agency says increases in waterway use has led to issues like crowding or user conflicts. FWP is seeking up to 12 members of the public to join the group which will suggest ways to balance water recreation and natural resources.

The advisory council will meet for three days in October, but the group may host more meetings as needed. There will be virtual public workshops where people can offer feedback on the proposed council at the end of August.

Austin Amestoy | Montana Public Radio

Conservation nonprofit purchases 1,400 acres of land for preservation

A conservation nonprofit announced it bought more than 1,400 acres of land near Fort Harrison in Helena. The purchase prevents housing from getting too close to the military facility.

Prickly Pear Land Trust executive director Mary Hollow says the organization’s purchase of the Birdseye Ranch just north of Fort Harrison will allow it to preserve the land for grazing, wildlife habitat and seasonal recreation access.

“What an amazing gift to the community that will just keep on giving,” Hollow said.

Most of Prickly Pear Land Trust’s conservation work is done through easements. But, Hollow says funding from the Montana National Guard opened the door to acquiring the land.

“It’s not the kind of decision we would have made probably anywhere else, but this is a unique area, and because of its importance to the military, it made sense,” Hollow said.

Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense has offered grants to organizations to help purchase land adjacent to military facilities. The so-called “buffer areas” reduce impacts to residents from military activity like overhead planes and live-fire training exercises.

In turn, the grants help conservationists to treat the land for noxious weeds and wildfire preparedness.

Hollow says the federal award, as well as money from Lewis and Clark County and the state helped cover the ranch’s nearly $3 million price tag.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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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