Dan Boyce moved to the Inside Energy team at Rocky Mountain PBS in 2014, after five years of television and radio reporting in his home state of Montana. In his most recent role as Montana Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief, Dan produced daily stories on state politics and government.
The economy of eastern Montana is surging and oil and gas development is the driver. Last year alone, the oil industry brought in $200 million in tax revenue to state and local governments. Unemployment in counties near the oil fields is well below the state average. This week, we're reporting on effects of the fracking boom in the region known as the Bakken. And today, Montana Public Radio's Dan Boyce tells us that that activity comes with a cost.
A red pickup rolls into a 1,000-acre pasture of dry grassland on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in northern Montana. Mark Azure, director of the reservation's fish and wildlife department, is out looking for buffalo when he spots about two dozen of the furry beasts gathering around a watering hole.
The animals are "grazing, wallowing, drinking, checking us out," Azure explains. He says the tribes have been working to see these bison here for years.
"This is their home, this is where they came from," he says.
A year ago, Montana opened the nation's first clinic for free primary healthcare services to its state government employees. The Helena, Mont., clinic was pitched as a way to improve overall employee health, but the idea has faced its fair share of political opposition.
A year later, the state says the clinic is already saving money.
Pamela Weitz, a 61-year-old state library technician, was skeptical about the place at first.