Montana Public Radio

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

PD

Federal agencies are figuring out how to treat masks on public land in the wake of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s repeal of Montana’s statewide mask mandate.

President Biden issued a national mandate for masks on federal lands and in federal buildings on January 20. Just over three weeks later, Gov. Gianforte lifted Montana’s mask mandate — although masks are still required in some counties and cities, and in state-owned buildings. 

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range near Moiese, MT.
Josh Burnham

The U.S. Interior Department Friday signed an order that will start the transfer of the National Bison Range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

A woman stands in a stream fly fishing
PD

Critics say a U.S. Department of Interior order issued earlier this week guts a federal program that uses money from oil and gas drilling to buy land for recreation and conservation.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) received full funding of $900 million per year for the first time in its half-century history when the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law in early August.

A federal judge in Montana has ousted President Trump's top public lands official.

The ruling blocks William Perry Pendley from continuing to serve as the temporary head of the Bureau of Land Management, a post he has held for more than a year.

The judge ruled in response to a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock who argued it's illegal for Pendley to lead the agency because he had never been confirmed by the Senate.

Firefighters in southeast Montana are dealing with another large wildfire started by a coal seam.

Environmental groups on Aug. 27 sued the Trump Administration for allegedly breaking federal law when it finalized management plans for coal rich land in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.

The environmental groups in their lawsuit say the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to explore alternatives to strip mining or the impacts of fossil fuel combustion when it approved management plans covering the Powder River Basin.

BLM Deputy Director William Perry Pendley.
Bureau of Land Management

News broke over the weekend that the Trump administration is reportedly pulling its contentious nomination for U.S. Bureau of Land Management director. That nominee, William Perry Pendley will continue to lead the BLM as its temporary director.

The U.S. Forest Service will be able to continue with its tree-thinning project in the Elkhorn Mountains.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0) / MTPR

A federal judge has blocked a western Montana logging project pending the resolution of a lawsuit over its potential environmental harm.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters halted the Bureau of Land Management project in the Elkhorn Mountains near Townsend in a ruling last week. The agency wants to cut conifer trees on 7 square miles and burn another 2 square miles.

An air tanker drops retardant on the Buffalo Fire, buring in Powder River County, MT, July 23, 2020.
BLM Montana/Dakotas

A large wildfire burning southwest of Broadus in Powder River County in southeast Montana tripled in size overnight. The Buffalo Fire is now 15,000 acres and is threatening 12 structures.

The Clear Creek Fire near Perma, MT, July 21, 2020.
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Division of Fire

A 20-man crew along with air-support is attacking the 345 acre Clear Creek Fire on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Perma, MT. The fire is 60 percent contained. The incident is still under investigation, but is believed to have been started by rock quarry equipment. No structures are threatened. Weather in the area is expected to be hot and windy with gusts up to 20 miles per hour in the afternoon.

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