January 10, 2017

BILLINGS, MT – Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society (YVAS) is inviting science classes, Scout troops, and other student and youth groups to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 17-20, 2017.  Participants simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds seen for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count.  They can count from any location, anywhere in the world, for as long as they wish.

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.  The Great Backyard Bird Count is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a snapshot of bird populations by reporting sightings online at birdcount.org. 

Participants new to the count are directed at birdcount.org to create a free online account to enter their checklists.  During the count, they can explore what others are seeing in this area or around the world.  They can share their bird photos by entering the photo contest, or enjoy images pouring from across the globe. 

YVAS is encouraging students and youths to hop on board birdcount.org for complete information about this event to join in the fun.

For further information about YVAS and this event, visit its website at yvaudubon.org or contact Steve Regele at (406)962-3115 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

January 9, 2017
Butte - "Thanks to the generous support of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the challenge is on again for Montana businesses to help us reach our fundraising goals for the 2017 festival in Butte this July 7, 8 and 9," said George Everett of the Montana Folk Festival Executive Committee.
            The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation has renewed their commitment to donate up to $100,000 in 2017 to support the Montana Folk Festival.  In this third year of a three year commitment, the Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Resources, has donated $50,000 to the 2017 Montana Folk Festival.  There is a slight catch, however, that calls upon other Montana businesses to rise to a challenge and match through donations and sponsorships of an equal amount -- $50,000. 
            When the match amount has been received, an additional $50,000 will be contributed to support the Festival by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.
            “This grant recognizes the importance of the Festival as an economic driver and  is offered as a challenge to Montana businesses to join in helping to make the festival a self-sustaining one-of-a-kind event that will continue to bring thousands of tourists to Butte and throughout Montana," said Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.
 “Corporate contributions will be encouraged and used to match this generous grant,” said George Everett of the Montana Folk Festival Executive Committee. "Contributions made now will have twice the impact thanks to this generous challenge.  This major sponsorship has become the catalyst to entice sponsorships for us in the months leading up to the festival," added Everett.
            “The skill and hard work of our 348 employees helps make it possible for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to be a major contributor to this Montana Folk Festival. The Folk Festival has evolved into a signature economic development event for the greater Butte-Silver Bow region and we encourage other businesses to support this important event as well,” said Rolin Erickson, Montana Resources President.        
            "As a member of the Grants Committee for the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Family Foundation, I can say that the Festival has become an important event for us to support for its cultural dividends as well as for the economic benefits it brings to our area," said Mike McGivern, Vice President of HR for Montana Resources.
            For businesses considering a sponsorship to match this challenge, there are several other benefits as well.  These include print ads, dedicated booths on the festival site, stage announcements and more and are described in more detail on the festival website at www.montanafolkfestival.com, or call 406-565-2249.
            For more details about how the Montana Folk Festival returning to Butte this July 7-9 is shaping up, visit www.montanafolkfestival.com.
            For more details about the many charitable works of The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation in Butte and beyond, visit www.dpwfoundation.org.
            And, to learn more about the work of Montana Resources in Butte, visit www.montanaresources.com..

Big Sky Connection


Eric Tegethoff

January 6, 2017

WHITEFISH, Mont. - The community of Whitefish and Montana leaders are sounding alarms about a possible armed march by white supremacists in the coming weeks, and two local groups are responding with an event of their own.

Love Lives Here and the Montana Human Rights Network are co-sponsoring the "Love Not Hate" party on Saturday in Whitefish to help fight weeks of harassment of the town's Jewish residents by users of a neo-Nazi website. Rachel Carroll-Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said these issues are nothing new to members of Montana's Jewish community.

"It just feels different because we all kind of, really, have a heightened awareness about the microphone some of these bigot ideas have been given by the candidacy of Donald Trump," she said, "and that concerns folks."

The Love Not Hate party will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Depot Park and include speakers and musicians such as Blackfoot Nation singer and storyteller Jack Gladstone.

The harassment has been denounced by state leaders, including the governor, Montana's entire congressional delegation and the mayor of Whitefish. More than 50 religious leaders have spoken out against the online attacks as well. Many Whitefish businesses and community members are displaying paper menorahs in their windows to show support for the city's Jewish residents.

Carroll-Rivas said opponents of the harassment greatly outnumber its supporters.

"It is important to talk about the danger of hateful ideas," she said. "They are powerful, even if they're coming from a very few, extremist, loud voices. But it isn't balanced, in the sense that the large amount of unified support for human rights, for the Jewish community and against hate has been huge and astronomical, and really heartening."

The Montana Human Rights Network also has received threats. For the day of the white supremacist march, tentatively scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the group is planning "Project Lemonade," to raise money for things such as increased security for Jewish families and institutions in Montana. In essence, the white supremacists will be raising the money - since donors will pledge an amount for every minute the hate group marches.



NILE Foundation
January 4, 2017
Billings, Mont. - The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) Scholarship Program funded by the NILE Foundation, is now accepting applications for scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year. 
Since 1990, the NILE has awarded scholarships to deserving FFA and 4-H students that have been actively involved in their respective programs and communities, excelled in the classroom, and participated in NILE events. "Promoting the future of agriculture through the support of youth via scholarships is a long standing tradition of NILE." says Jennifer Boka, General Manager of the NILE. "Educating today's youth to be tomorrows ag proponents is crucial to the entire world and we are NILE are proud to support and embrace the future of agriculture."
Similar to previous years, the NILE Scholarship Committee will be awarding three levels of scholarships.  The first level will be the one-time scholarship awarded to high school seniors, similar to what the NILE has always done. The second level of scholarships offered will also be a one-time grant, for students already enrolled in College or a Vo-Tech school. Finally, the third level, which will offer the greatest scholarship amount, will be a rolling scholarship. The rolling scholarships will be offered to a select group of High School Seniors who will have the opportunity to renew the scholarship yearly, up to four years of their secondary education. Recipients of rolling scholarships will be chosen from the pool of applicants that are current seniors in High School.
Each year the NILE touches the lives of nearly 10,000 youth through its many programs, events, "live" animal scholarships, and college scholarships. Every year the NILE provides over $55,000 in cash and live animal scholarships.
The NILE Foundation was established in 2009 as a supporting arm of the NILE organization, which is dedicated to the promotion of livestock, agriculture education, and respect for the western culture.
Scholarship applications and guidelines can be found on the NILE's website, or by contacting the NILE Office at 406-256-2495. Applications must be submitted to the NILE Office by March 1, 2017 at 5 p.m.. Applications incomplete or late will not be considered. Scholarships will be awarded and announced in early April 2017.

When did the American people decide as a culture to stop toasting things? Watching any old-timey movie, or reading any classic book, I get the impression that our forefathers knew how to mark an occasion. Kid got accepted into college? “I’ll get the champagne!” Promotion at work? “Break out the bubbly!” Find a sweet, unmetered parking spot? “Drinks all around!”

I can’t help but wonder if we have less opportunities to celebrate, or if we moved the bar for what was worthy of celebration. Asking around, I find that people seem to be a little intimidated by champagne. Even for people who know their way around a wine rack, champagne seems a little more exotic and unapproachable than the normal varieties of grown-up grape juice. However, approached with a little know-how and open mindedness, sparkling wines can be  a welcome guest to any celebration.

Champagne, in true French tradition, follows a lot of rules. True champagne can only be produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and following rules that require, among other things, secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation, specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes exclusively from specific parcels in the Champagne appellation (read: region) and specific pressing regimes unique to the region. While many use the term Champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, in many countries it is illegal to officially label any product Champagne unless it both comes from the Champagne region and is produced under the rules of the appellation.

That being said, there are a litany of high quality sparkling wines that should never be scoffed at. The viticultural and winemaking practices of making sparkling wines have many similarities to the production of traditional wines with some distinct differences. At the vineyard, grapes are harvested early when there is still high acid levels. Unlike still wine production, high sugar levels are not ideal and grapes destined for sparkling wine production may be harvested at higher yields. Care is taken to avoid tannins and other phenolic compounds with many premium producers still choosing to harvest by hand rather than risk mechanical harvesting which may split the berries and encourage maceration between the skins and juice. This process encourages, primarily, subtle flavors and aromas that make sparkling wines so darn good and pairing with other flavors. High acid content and softer perfume qualities make sparklers an easy going friend, and one who tends to get along with everyone.

Now that we know a little about what makes sparkling wine so special, what is the best way to go about indulging ourselves?

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to enjoy champagne is in a white wine glass. A white wine glass's larger bowl enables the wine to open up in the glass, allowing you to better enjoy all the aromas and to savor the complexity of the champagne. Traditional champagne flutes are perfect for showcasing champagne's stream of bubbles, but their narrow shape limits the drinker's experience of aromas and flavors.

Another common misconception about champagne is to leave it in the fridge. If you're planning to enjoy your bottle of champagne immediately (within 3 or 4 days after buying it) storing it in the refrigerator is fine. But if it sits there for weeks the cork can dry out as refrigerators are also de-humidifiers. As corks dry out, the seal between the bottle and the cork loosen up and the champagne will oxidize faster, changing its aromas. Instead, keep it in a cool place in your home, away from any light, and where the temperature is consistent.

Once you're ready to enjoy your champagne, the best way to chill your bottle is to fill an ice bucket with ice and one-third water and allow your bottle to cool for 15-20 minutes. Bonus points for awesome presentation. Also, remember to hold your glass by the stem and not by the bowl because your hands will warm the champagne up too quickly. (Also, holding the glass by the stem will make you look like you’re an old hand at bubbly.)

Don't be afraid to experiment with food pairings! Oysters and caviar are fantastic with champagne, and more casual foods like french fries, fried chicken and cheese are equally delicious with Champagne! Champagne loves oily, salty and fatty foods as they bring out the wine's fruitiness and freshness, so foods like burgers, tacos, BBQ sauce, and lobster are exciting new pairings to try that champagne connoisseurs have been enjoying for years!

If you have a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, don't wait for a special occasion to enjoy it. You will see that by opening that bottle, the special occasion will come to you.