On the death of Ben Steele, sadness, awe and gratitude

Should we be mourning the death of Ben Steele or celebrating the miracle that he lived for 98 years and 269 days?

I can’t say I knew Steele well, but I’m reasonably certain he would have favored a celebration. And I’m absolutely sure that he would rather we were happy than not.

Opinion: Economics, not politics, changing coal industry


A recent spate of political ads on TV show the Montana Republican party blaming potential job losses at Colstrip and a downturn in coal production in Montana on Gov. Steve Bullock and the Democratic Party in general.

Since we have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at coal issues over the past decade and more, we feel some responsibility to try to respond to this issue so that others will not be misled by blatant coal industry propaganda. Continue Reading →


Prairie Lights: Author sifts gems from Montana history


robison-bookIn 1881, Martha Edgerton Rolfe Plassmann, the daughter of Montana’s first territorial governor, made her way down the Missouri River from Fort Benton aboard the steamboat Far West.

In a detailed account of the journey, she wrote of the alarm she and other passengers felt when they learned that the Far West was to stop at Fort Buford, near present-day Williston, to pick up Sitting Bull and his band of Sioux Indians and transport them to Standing Rock Agency, south of Bismarck. Continue Reading →

Opinion: Law prof’s moonlighting a disqualifier for high court


Professors are not just employees of the institutions they serve, they are ambassadors. Rightly or wrongly, their conduct reflects on our Montana universities as a whole.

According to the American Association of College Professors’ Statement of Professional Ethics, “Professors must give due regard to their paramount responsibilities within their institution in determining the amount and character of work done outside it. Professors need to stay away from employment outside the university that creates the appearance of a conflict of interest or otherwise negatively affects the university.” Continue Reading →

Lichen researchers descend on Roundup ranch for study


The Milton Ranch north of Roundup was crawling with botanists on the cool, wet, third week in September, and Roger Rosentreter, retired state botanist for the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, was probably the most ebullient member of the team.

When he arrived back at the ranch headquarters two hours past the usual afternoon gathering time, he said, “We’ve been out searching for manna lichens! Do you know what they are? They’re the kind that blow on the wind, and came in time to save the Israelites from starving in the desert during their exodus from Egypt!” Continue Reading →

Montana Viewpoint: Lesson learned, ‘ya gotta be tough’


When I moved to Trout Creek in 1975 to set up in ranching, I shipped my farm equipment by rail: swather, baler, combine, three tractors—including the 1941 model H Farmall I had learned to drive on—plows, disks, the whole works.

It had taken 20 days to load it all so it would get the car inspection’s OK, which meant that nothing should fall off on the way. Continue Reading →