Dry February blamed on climate change

By ZACH FENT  and EMILY FOWLER/Montana State News

February; Love was in the air, but the snow wasn’t.

The trend of falling snow levels and rising temperatures in and around Bozeman has many people in the resort community worried.

People from all over the world flock to the Big Sky country to spend time on the snow-glazed slopes of the Gallatin Valley. Blue-bird days with the sun shining, grabbing a beer slope-side in the ski-in-ski-out shacks with friends and enjoying the luxuries that the resort life offers is what winter in Montana is all about. For so many, it’s a way of life.

Some are beginning to wonder, however, just how long the utopia of winter recreation will last.

Courtney Burns, a senior at Montana State University, is one of them. “I worry for the future of the ski industry and the local shops’ business, of course, but mostly, I worry about the future when I have kids and want to bring them skiing here,” said Burns.

“If Big sky doesn’t have reliable weather and a consistent snow, I think the people who reserve hotels and tickets a year in advanced will stop doing it,” said Burns, “and I already know people who have stopped. That’s not good for our economy, and I hope the cost doesn’t get pushed onto us through higher ticket prices.”

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Access to care key to preventing suicide

By MIKAL OVERTURF and NATHANAEL JOHNS/Montana State News

Montana had the highest suicide rate in the nation in 2014, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Montana’s Suicide Review Team revealed that only 40 percent of these suicides had an identified mental health disorder, but it is likely that many of these cases had undiagnosed or untreated mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Some 39,000 adults and 10,000 children in Montana live with a serious mental illness, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. This is out of about 1 million residents, which leads to a prevalence rate of 4.9 percent. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this is slightly higher than the national average of 4.2 percent.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a “serious mental illness” is described as “A mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance abuse disorders) that is diagnosable currently or within the past year, of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the 4th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, resulting in serious functional impairment, and which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” This differs from people who, say, have had periods of brief depression or anxiety, or have mild depression and anxiety.

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Studying abroad yields lasting benefits

By ROSS SELLERS and ALLISON ERWIN/Montana State News

“It was a truly life changing experience,” said Lea Skrædderdal Schou who came to Montana State University in fall 2015 from Copenhagen, Denmark. She has countless positive memories of studying abroad, and her experience marks a common trend in students who study abroad.

Immersing oneself into another culture can have a lasting impact; at MSU students are encouraged to take time studying abroad because of its multiple beneficial effects. Culbertson Hall, bordering College Avenue, is where students can find resources on study abroad.

Four flights of stairs to the top level, a short walk down the hallway to the right and any individual can find themselves taking the first steps to another country. For some on MSU’s campus it’s also the headquarters of their international experience, as MSU was foreign soil to more than 700 (5 percent) students during the Fall 2015 semester, according to the MSU website’s quick facts page.

Yet, only 2-3 percent of MSU students go on a study abroad, according to the study abroad office at MSU, which is quite a bit less than the rest of the U.S. population of undergraduates at 10 percent, according to Open Doors database.

While the benefits of living in another country have been widely recognized, the long-term effects are not discussed to the same degree. Do students that have studied abroad have an upper hand in the job market?

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Local obesity rate lowest in Montana

By SARA SAXTON and LILLY BROGGER/Montana State News

Fifty percent of the American population age 20 to 74 are projected to be obese by the year 3030, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  One-third of United States citizens are currently obese, according to the CDC. Montana has ranked in the bottom 10 of least obese states for the past five years.

Although Montana’s obesity rate suggests a healthy population, the number of people in the state considered to be obese has increased by 2.6 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

To be considered an obese person, the body mass index must be higher than 30. Among adults residents age 18 to 25, 16.5 percent are considered obese. Among people over the age of 25, an average of 27.6 percent are considered obese, according to the State of Obesity report.

In 2011, the state of Montana had an average obesity rate of 21.6 percent. Gallatin County ranked the lowest in numbers of obese people. Rosebud County ranked higher with an average of 36.9 percent.

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Bat disease could impact farming costs

By MEGAN AHERN and ALEXANDRA DUBIN/Montana State News

A deadly fungal disease that is easily communicable has scientists across the country stumped devising methods to prevent or slow its spread. Currently, their best efforts focus on tracking the disease to predict where it will strike next. Once signs of the disease become evident, it doesn’t take long for the victim to suffer an excruciating death by exhaustion or starvation. It may sound like the plot to a bad horror movie, but white-nose syndrome is all too real.

Though this disease isn’t communicable to humans, it remains a cause for concern.

White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects the bat population across North America and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since its arrival in Albany, New York in 2006, the United States Geological Survey, USGS, estimates that it has killed over 6 million bats in seven different hibernating species.

Brandi Skone, a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist who studies northern long-eared bats, has seen first-hand the damage white-nose syndrome can do. Northern long-eared bats, once considered one of the most prevalent bat species in North America, were recently listed as federally threatened due to population declines caused by the fungus.

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Yellowstone visits track with gas prices

By ANNIE WASSAN and JENNY BRYAN/ Montana State News

Yellowstone National Park witnessed record visitation in 2015, and the trend is expected to continue into 2016 and beyond.

In 2015, Yellowstone National Park had just over 4 million visitors, according to its website. That was almost 600,000 more tourists than the year before.

The year 2015 also had the second lowest gas prices in the last 10 years. Only 2009 saw lower prices, a year in which Yellowstone also enjoyed a dramatic increase in visitors.  2009 was among the ten highest visitation years at the Park, while the year before was not.

It appears that gasoline prices are only one contributing factor in these numbers, however.

According to Yellowstone’s website, previous to 2007 the last record-breaking year for attendance was back in 1992.  In fact, the only year since 2007 to not make Yellowstone’s list of the top 10 years of visitation is 2008. Continue reading “Yellowstone visits track with gas prices”

MSU has lackluster graduation rate

By JACK SEEGER and ADAM SCHREUDER/Montana State News

If graduating in a timely manner is high on your list of priorities, Montana State University may not be the ideal choice for higher education. Over the last couple of years, MSU’s reputation has received both acclaim and criticism for graduation rates. Although increasing undergraduate enrollment has continued to set records year after year, it is not the only record being broken.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, MSU’s 2014-2015 four-year graduation rate was 23.9 percent. In 2014, the number of freshmen who graduated in six years was not much better, at just under half (49.6 percent). This is cause for some concern, since that was the second-highest ratio since 2000.

Parents of college-bound freshmen are getting acquainted with the frenzy of helping their children decide on which school to attend, and it is likely that MSU’s abysmal four-year graduation rate will prove to be an intimidating statistic—especially for those facing out-of-state tuition fees. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 59 percent of college students earn their degree within four years in the United States, which is more than double the rate of MSU.

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