Nick Mott

Nick Mott is an reporter who also works on the Threshold podcast.

The roughly 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park will remain federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday. 

Field vaccinations in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana in 1926.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Labs

 

Protests against how the state and federal government is handling coronavirus have surged across the country and in Montana. Most recently, animal rights protestors gathered outside Rocky Mountain Labs in Hamilton where scientists are hard at work on a vaccine. But public opposition to scientific efforts has a long history in Montana. 

A rally in Missoula Sunday drew hundreds to decry the presence of armed vigilantes at racial justice demonstrations. The gathering was spurred after one person was allegedly harassed and attacked by a group of armed individuals during a protest held at the county courthouse over a week ago.

A group of Montanans working to form consensus over the future of grizzly bear management in the state is divided over the role of hunting as grizzly populations expand.

The governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, tasked with guiding the future of the bear's management in Montana, released draft recommendations last weekend.

Over the past week thousands of people across Montana turned out for locally-organized rallies in support of black Americans and against police brutality. The rallies drew disparate crowds, and while talk got heated at times, the events remained non-violent.

Women lie face down in the street. One, with a red handprint painted on her face in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women, looks at the camera.
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

Over the past week thousands of people across Montana turned out for locally-organized rallies in support of black Americans and against police brutality. The rallies drew disparate crowds, and while talk got heated at times, the events remained non-violent.

Protests in Montana over the death of George Floyd have remained peaceful, unlike others seen in large cities across the country. Montana police officers say they want to keep it that way, and denounce the excessive use of force by law enforcement. At the same time, public health officials are trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as groups gather.

As bear activity is picking up across northwest Montana, grizzly bear managers are juggling the uncertain and unexpected impacts of COVID-19 on wild places.

On Friday, state, federal and tribal wildlife officials met remotely over Zoom for their semi-annual meeting. The group discussed how to manage the largest grizzly populations in the lower 48 states – the bears in and around Glacier National Park.

A federal government lab nestled in a town of 5,000 people in the Bitterroot Valley is responsible for finding the first vaccines for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, manufacturing the nation’s supply of yellow fever vaccines during World War II and helping to develop a lifesaving Ebola vaccine as the disease debilitated West Africa.

Now Rocky Mountain Labs is turning its attention to COVID-19.

The state tribal-relations committee recently wrote a letter urging the public to respect the closure orders on reservations across Montana, which have been slower to reopen than elsewhere in the state. But science research continues to flourish on tribal lands, despite COVID-19-slowdowns and uncertainty.

This story is part of our series looking at the impact of the novel coronavirus on science in Montana.

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