Campaign launched against mussel invasion

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By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs are being infested by mussels, and the state is doing everything it can to prevent them from spreading to other bodies of water.

Aquatic invasive mussels first arrived in Montana in 2016. Other states that have been infested by these pests have incurred millions of dollars in damage to facilities, as well as issues with water and other species health, according to the Montana Mussel Response Website.

“They can change the ecosystem in ways you don’t want the ecosystem to change,” according to Dan Malloy, a research scientist who studies the invasive species. These mussels feed on plankton, a major food source for sportfish, which may be problematic in Montana as the economy largely relies on fishermen.

Boaters and other recreational water users inadvertently transport Zebra and Quagga Mussel larva nearly every time that they don’t properly clean their equipment. Therefore, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is doing everything it can to prevent the dangers that tag along with these tag-alongs. More

Senate panel nixes bill on brucellosis status

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By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

A state Senate committee tabled a measure that would remove brucellosis from the federal disease list.

Although this disease, which is carried by many wild elk and bison, can be transmitted from animals to humans, it is uncommon and can be cured easily. Some believe this disease still poses a lingering threat with over $3 billion already used trying to vaccinate cattle. SJ 19, introduced by Sen. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, was tabled by an 8-1 vote by the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

According to testimony on the measure, many believe that once the disease is taken off the federal disease list, research will restart as scientists try to develop an effective vaccine. More

Dry February blamed on climate change

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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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Bullock’s bison plan draws foes and fans

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By LILLY BROGGER/Montana State News

Ranchers and environmentalists have long been at odds over bison management and a recent ruling has revitalized concern. Bison will now be allowed to roam in the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park in Montana year-round.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued the statement in November, which has created strong reactions. While many environmental groups are excited about the decision, ranchers in the area and across the state, strongly oppose the decision due to concerns over brucellosis.

Prior to the decision, bison in Montana were tolerated in specified areas surrounding the park. Bullock’s ruling expands this area. According to Bullock’s decision notice, bison will be allowed year-round access to Horse Butte.

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Warm weather has skiers worried

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By ALLISON ERWIN/Montana State News

Unusually high temperatures this week have skiers worried about backcountry conditions.

Although last Wednesday was an especially good day to ski with large amounts of powder, this week’s temperatures have been unseasonably high.

According to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, northwest temperatures will be reaching 40 degrees F with 15-25 mph winds. The dangerous combination has skiers worried about wind slaps, possible avalanche triggers and fire danger during the summer.

Bridger bowl patrons are preparing for an abnormally warm week. Local skier Henry Emack says he plans on going out on the slopes because of the warm weather, “Bridger’s going to be beautiful, even though it’s early (for the weather), it’ll be nice.”

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Locals dubious about El Nino effects on farming

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By TYLER WORTHEN/Montana State News

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the impact of El Niño is supposed to bring a 2-degree Celsius temperature increase to Montana.

But temperatures aside, snowfall has been plentiful

Local farmer, Cliff Schutter, said the snowpack this year as looking very hopeful for crop growth. With the snowpack at 96 percent of the entire winter average already this year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Schutter is right.

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Half of U.S. solar physics grads come from MSU

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By ARINA BILLIS/Montana State News

Montana State University’s solar physics program started out in 1993. As of 2015, the department has gained international fame and produces half of all graduates in the country with a specialty in solar physics. In addition, the MSU solar physics group is continually leading discoveries that bring scientists all over the world closer to the prediction of the space weather.

“I think we successfully attract high-quality graduated students in solar physics. And it is very beneficial for us, as it lets us do more research. MSU doesn’t have an observatory; instead we have partners and team members in observatories around the world. This provides our students an opportunity to get involved in those observatories. And when they graduate, their names are known all over the world,” says David McKenzie, associate research professor at MSU.

For the last 20 years, interest in solar physics has increased, according to McKenzie. The Internet is overflowing with images of the sun from various different angles, as scientists across the world are producing detailed studies of the sun’s activities. More

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