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Live and beetle killed trees in the Helena National Forest.
Steve Jess

Today the U.S. House passed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill with strong bipartisan support. It funds the federal government through September. The bill now heads to the Senate where NPR says it is also likely to pass with bipartisan support.

Wednesday, Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines said there's good news for the Treasure State in the spending bill.

Helena National Forest.
Forest Service Northern Region (PD)

The big federal funding bill that Congress is expected to vote on Thursday would mean some certainty on three big issues for Montana and other Western states.

The bill locks-in Secure Rural Schools Act money for up to four years, changes how wildland firefighting is funded, and allocates money to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Rice Ridge Fire seen from Seeley Lake on August 1, 2017.
Eric Whitney

There will be no more so-called "fire-borrowing" from the U.S. Forest Service if the big federal spending bill Congress is working on passes. 

Both of Montana's U.S. Senators confirmed today that the spending bill expected to be voted on this week fundamentally changes how America pays to fight wildfires

Tony Harwood lectures on Native American uses and approach to wildland fire at the first Wildland Fire in Western Montana lecture event in Kalispell, MT February 23, 2018.
Nicky Ouellet

Even with two feet of snow on the ground, homeowners and fire managers in the Flathead Valley are thinking about fire season. FireSafe Flathead kicked off a four-part lecture series about wildland fire in western Montana at Flathead Valley Community College Thursday night. MTPR's Nicky Ouellet brings us the highlights.

Turmoil Shakes Up Agency In Charge Of Vast US Lands

Feb 20, 2018
Former Interior secretary and Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.

The evolving status quo at the agency responsible for more than 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the American West, has led to praise from energy and mining companies and Republicans, who welcomed the departure from perceived heavy-handed regulation under President Barack Obama.

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