Montana COVID-19 testing
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Boulder River Bridge view
Boulder River Bridge view
Montana Fress Press explores forgotten communities
Montana Fress Press explores forgotten communities
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Montana Governor Steve Bullock OKs construction of XL Pipeline in Montana
XL OK for Montana
XL OK for Montana
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate



 (Gallatin County, Mont) On Monday, May 7th, at 3pm, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to a report of four individuals stranded at the Mystic Lake Cabin in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Two mountain bikers had planned an overnight mountain bike trip from Hyalite Canyon to Sourdough Canyon. The weather took an abrupt turn, dropping from a high of 87 degrees on September 6th to a high of 58 degrees on September 7th and higher elevations began to see snow in the late afternoon. The mountain bikers came upon a separate party of three hikers near the area of Mystic Lake Cabin. The hikers were also unprepared for such a drastic shift in weather. The group decided to stay put and make a fire, while one of the bicyclists rode to the Sourdough trailhead to call for help.

Search and Rescue volunteers and the Forest Service District Ranger reached the stranded party by vehicle.  SAR members successfully retrieved the party and transported them to the Sourdough trailhead where AMR Paramedics assessed their condition.  All members were medically cleared and allowed to returned home.

Sheriff Gootkin would like to remind everyone of the potential for rapidly changing weather conditions in Gallatin County as fall arrives.  Please be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, pack necessary provisions, and be prepared to stay out longer than expected when venturing out into our beautiful backcountry.


In a campaign featuring two "out-of-staters," will voters care where candidates are from?

It’s campaign season in Montana — and the political mudslinging is already giving our airwaves and social media networks the aura of a cattle feedlot. As candidates and political committees trade salvos, Montana Free Press will dissect the key political attack lines to dig out the facts embedded in the sludge. This is the third installment in our MuckWatch series.


Over the past few months, the U.S. House campaigns of Republican Matt Rosendale and Democrat Kathleen Williams have hit email inboxes hard with cash solicitations. Each message carries a slightly different flavor — a focus on a particular issue, the mention of new polling figures, lauding an inaugural television ad. But the central appeal remains the same. Drop a few bucks in the war chest and watch them make a difference.

These fundraising missives have also served as the first point of attack between two candidates that, as of early August, hadn’t yet exchanged any major salvos. Emails from the Rosendale campaign regularly refer to Williams as “California Kathleen,” a liberal extremist sure to vote in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

One such email sent on July 13 and addressed to “Fellow Patriot,” pronounced: 

“Hailing from the same hometown as Nancy, Extreme Kathleen has given us every indication that she will be true to her San Francisco roots and will rubber-stamp the radical policies of the liberal elite.”

Meanwhile, the Williams campaign has resurrected a familiar moniker leveled by Democrats during Rosendale’s unsuccessful 2018 attempt to unseat Sen. Jon Tester. Even before the 2020 U.S. House candidates emerged from their respective primaries, “Maryland Matt” was a common refrain in Williams’ donation requests, as evidenced by an April 23 email with the subject line “What’s At Stake.” 

“In an era of industrializing public lands and a return to skyrocketing uninsured rates,” the email read, “we can’t risk handing Big Sky Country’s lone voice in the U.S. House to Maryland Matt Rosendale.”

Attacks between Williams and Rosendale are bound to get more pointed and issue-centric in the weeks to come, especially as more campaigns and third-party ads start popping up on televisions, radios and online streaming services. But so far, the candidates have decided to sharpen their swords on the same whetstone: their opponent’s state of origin. 


It’s true that neither Williams nor Rosendale hail from Montana. 

Williams was born and raised in San Francisco. Her mother died when she was a teenager, and her father worked as an engineer with the U.S. Army. Williams has talked about the influence her dad’s conservative leanings had on her; in fact, in the first line of her debut 2020 campaign ad, she confesses that she voted for Republican President Ronald Reagan. 

Williams studied resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley as an undergrad, then went on to Colorado State University, where she earned a graduate degree in recreation resources.

In 1995, Williams moved to Montana, spending her first four years in-state as the lead staffer on the Montana Legislature’s Environmental Quality Council. She moved on to a position with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in 1999, then to a job as executive director for the nonprofit Instream Flow Council in 2004.

First elected in 2010, Williams served three terms in the state House representing House District 65. She announced her first bid for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat in October 2017.

“Kathleen has lived in Montana for 25 years,” a spokesperson for the Williams campaign told Montana Free Press. “She’s a gun owner, she’s a hunter, she’s an angler, and she has a deep connection to Montanans’ way of life.”

Matt Rosendale was born in Baltimore. His parents, Chris and Mary Lou Rosendale, founded the Bay Times newspaper in Kent Island, Maryland, in 1963. According to a hometown article written during his first run for the Montana Legislature, Rosendale snapped photos for the Bay Times as a teen before joining the family’s real estate business, Rosendale Realty. 

Rosendale studied at Chesapeake College but did not earn a degree, and eventually became Rosendale Realty’s broker of record.

Rosendale’s time in Montana began with hunting trips and extended visits in search of property. He bought a ranch near Glendive in 2001 and relocated his family there the following summer. In 2011, he won a seat in the state House, then moved on to two terms in the state Senate, where he served as Senate Majority Leader in 2015. 

Rosendale’s first race for the U.S. House came in 2014, when he lost to former state Sen. Ryan Zinke in a crowded Republican primary. Rosendale was elected to a four-year term as state auditor in 2016, a post he still holds after failing to defeat incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in the 2018 election.

“Matt and his wife Jean have lived in Glendive for nearly 20 years and all three of their sons graduated from Dawson County High School,” Rosendale’s spokeswoman, Shelby DeMars, stated in an email. “Matt understands the importance of protecting our outdoor heritage, supporting our agriculture and natural resource industries, increasing access to public lands, and lowering taxes on Montana families—and he has a proven record to back it up.”


These campaign nicknames aim to paint the opponent as an interloper, a political hopeful whose very roots make him or her out of touch with the lives and values of everyday Montanans. In a state where being on a first-name basis is a form of social currency, and intimate knowledge of backroads, license plate prefixes and fishing holes can open doors, challenging a candidate’s “Montana-ness” seems to be a viable and successful line of attack. 

However, Williams and Rosendale are hardly only transplants to the Treasure State. 

According to a 2019 Montana Free Press analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, 53% of Montanans 25 and older were not born in the state. 


According to The New York Times, those born in California, like Williams, made up 6% of the population as of 2014. Four percent originally hailed, as Rosendale does, from states in the Northeast, according to the Times. 

With nearly half of the state’s population having moved here from somewhere else, the effectiveness of origin-based attacks seems somewhat questionable.

The House race monikers do, however, cast a larger cultural and issue-oriented shadow over the candidates themselves. 

In the case of “California Kathleen,” the insinuation is one of Left Coast liberal extremism. The intended conclusion is that Williams represents a radical socialist agenda and that a vote for her is a vote for Pelosi, for higher taxes, for Obamacare, the Green New Deal and every other policy reviled by the conservative right. Likewise, the “Maryland Matt” attack attempts to paint a picture of a big-city developer, dark money’s envoy from the East destined to bow to wealthy outside interests at the expense of Montanans’ health and public lands. 

In other words, California and Maryland aren’t necessarily the central focus of the attacks but are instead geographically emblematic of sets of ideals that a voter may find distasteful enough to oppose — with a small monetary donation to their favored candidate.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 14, 2020 to include a comment from Matt Rosendale’s campaign spokeswoman.



Alex Sakariassen


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Freelance writer Alex Sakariassen has spent the past decade writing long-form narrative stories that spotlight the people, the politics, and the wilds of Montana. A North Dakota native, Sakariassen splits his free time between Missoula’s ski slopes and the quiet trout water of the Rocky Mountain Front. Contact Alex by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Aug 13, 2020

Commission’s decision cuts base charges for residents by $14.07 each month.

HELENA, Montana — The Montana Public Service Commission has denied a request from the developers of North Star Subdivision near Helena, Mont., to charge residents more than $200 each month for water and sewer service. Instead, the Commission unanimously determined yesterday residents should pay a base rate of $55.93 each month, plus $2 per 1,000 gallons of water used in excess of 10,000 gallons.

The subdivision’s developers established North Star Water & Sewer, LLC, to provide water and sewer services for more than 270 homes in the subdivision. As a regulated utility, the company must apply to the Commission to change its service rates. The developers still own the water and sewer utility, although the subdivision’s homeowners association once had an option to purchase the water and sewer system for $1.2 million.

Since 2014, subdivision residents have paid the utility base rates of $40 per month for water service and $30 per month for sewer service, plus $2 per 1,000 gallons of water used in excess of 10,000 gallons. In January 2019, the utility asked for the Commission’s permission to increase its monthly charges, although the utility’s desired rates became a moving target over the year that followed. In an amended application filed in June 2019, the company sought more than $500 per month from each household in the subdivision. The utility cut its request in half in December 2019, but it still sought more than $200 per household, per month, plus $5.00 per 1,000 gallons of water used in excess of 20,000 gallons.

North Star Water & Sewer claimed the rates were needed to pay for more than $5.4 million in water and sewer infrastructure the developers installed in the subdivision. Rate applications and tax filings from prior years, however, valued the system at $1.2 million. Tax records also showed the developers had already recouped part of the system’s cost through lot sales.

The Commission determined that the HOA’s $1.2 million purchase option was a more accurate estimate of the system costs developers had not recovered through lot sales, consistent with established regulatory ratemaking practices. The Commission refused to let the utility include in its rates the system costs homeowners paid when buying their lots, since including those charges would force homeowners to pay the developers twice for the same system.

The Montana Consumer Counsel intervened early in the Commission’s proceedings and disputed many of the utility’s claims about the system value and rates. The Commission generally found the Consumer Counsel’s arguments more persuasive than the utility’s, but sided with the utility on the question of whether the cost of 30 acres of unused land should factor into rates. According to the utility, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality required the utility to own the land as part of its wastewater service, even though the land is not currently in use.

After considering system costs and a reasonable rate of return for the utility, the Commission approved a combined water and sewer base rate of $55.93—a $14.07 reduction from the $70 monthly combined base rate set in 2014. The Commission will release a written order in the next few weeks, after which the utility can ask the Commission to reconsider its decision.

The Commission regulates private investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and oversees natural gas pipeline safety and intrastate railroad safety. The Commission works to ensure that Montanans receive safe and reliable service from regulated public utilities while paying reasonable rates. For more information, visit psc.mt.gov or contact the Commission at 1-800-646-6150.  Follow the Commission at Twitter.com/@MT_PSC or visit Facebook.com/MontanaPSC.


(Bozeman) As of Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, at 12 p.m. Gallatin County has had 34 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Friday, Aug. 7, for a cumulative total of 962. There were 16 new cases reported on Saturday, nine new cases reported on Sunday, and nine new cases reported on Monday. One case that was previously assigned to Gallatin County was reassigned to another area after further investigation. There are 39 confirmed active cases and no current hospitalizations. There have been a total of 920 people recovered in Gallatin County. Three people have died from COVID-19 complications. More data can be found on Gallatin City-County Health Department’s dashboard on our website here. This dashboard will be updated by 12 p.m. daily. Information on statewide cases continue to be found here. Please note that local data may differ from data about Gallatin County provided by the state as the Gallatin City-County Health Department may be alerted to additional cases before the state. The Gallatin City-County Health Department calculates the recovered case number as the number of total cases minus any active cases, current hospitalizations and deaths. Thank you for your continued efforts to keep each other healthy and safe! Wearing face coverings, keeping your distance, and washing your hands are all small steps that we can take on our own to make a big collective impact. Our actions lead to a healthy, resilient, and connected community. The Gallatin City-County Health Department Call Center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to answer questions about COVID-19. Reach the Call Center by phone at 406-548-0123 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The most accurate local source of information remains the GCCHD website.

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