MTPR

drought

Resource conservation student Jared Smith (left) builds a beaver dam analog on Fish Creek in western Montana, along with another undergraduate and Ph.D. ecology student Andrew Lahr (right), Oct. 19, 2019.
Kevin Trevellyan / Montana Public Radio

University of Montana ecologists are researching human-made beaver dams as a potential habitat restoration tool. Early case studies show the dams could dull the impacts of climate change seen in rivers and streams. The U.S. Forest Service is looking to use the simple structures on new sites in the state, but first, officials want to better understand the science behind simulated rodent engineering.

Montana Drought Status by County, April 2019
Montana Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee

Most of Montana is not showing signs of drought, but there are a few noteworthy exceptions.

Experts aren’t worried about widespread drought conditions this spring in Montana. But the governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee was told in Helena Wednesday that there are a handful of parched areas.

Missoula County fire officials announced Monday they will move fire danger signs to "High" effective immediately.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

National Weather Service projections show a hot, dry summer for Montana this year.

Megan Syner, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service says through this spring Montana will continue to see below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. But that could change mid-summer.

Flooding along Rock Creek, a tributary of the Clark Fork River, near Clinton, MT, June 4, 2017.
Josh Burnham

An advisory council to the governor is considering a change to Montana's law on predicting drought conditions, following the historic 2017 fire season that caught state officials by surprise.

This time last year, Governor Steve Bullock’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee did not expect drought to be an issue for Montana in the warmer months of 2017. The committee sent their annual report to the governor last April when streamflows were high and spring rain was falling.

Panelists at the Montana Water Summit in Helena, MT, March 7, 2018. From the left: Leon Szeptycki, Marco Maneta, Patty Gude, John Tubbs.
Nicky Ouellet

More than 300 people from across Montana met in Helena this week to talk about big changes the state is seeing in water —  from when it falls, to how and where it’s used, to the way Montanans value it.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hosted Montana’s first Water Summit, which Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Tribe kicked off with a blessing.

The National Weather Service in Billings has selected drought and the resulting wildfire activity as the top weather event for 2017. It probably comes as no surprise to residents east of the Continental Divide.

NWS Meteorologist Tom Frieders said parts of Montana are still experiencing drought. He said at this time last year most of the state was in pretty good shape.

Today the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the eastern and north-central part of the state.
Josh Burnham

When you think of winter in Montana, you think lots of snow, not wildfires. But today the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the eastern part of the state. 

Smoke from the Highway 200 Complex, September 4, 2017.
Inciweb

Governor Steve Bullock issued a statement on the fires to the media Monday.

"We are facing a very challenging and unprecedented fire season in Montana and throughout the West."

Yellowstone bison.
Yellowstone National Park - Flickr (PD)

More than half of Montana is currently in the grips of a severe drought, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday. And, as pastures shrivel up in the heat, ranchers are trucking in bales of hay and selling their cattle early.

But there’s another big, horned animal out there on the range. Bison.

This is the worst fire season Montana has seen in years. The state is spending about $1.5 million dollars a day battling the blazes and meteorologists say they’re being fueled by something called a flash drought. 

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