Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

October 12, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - Anyone who lives in the Western United States is familiar with the massive fires that rage every summer, and a new report says climate change has doubled the amount of acreage burned since 1984.

Researchers from the University of Idaho and Columbia University found that further warming will accelerate the trend in the future. Study co-author John Abatzoglou, a professor of geography at the University of Idaho, said the changing climate has increased what scientists call "fuel aridity."

"Since climate change has basically shifted our fuels to being drier than they would have been in the absence of climate change," he said, "we use that relationship to get an estimate of the additional area that has burned due to man-made climate change."

The study found that natural variability in weather patterns has combined with climate change to compound the problem. Last year, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spent nearly $11 million fighting fires.

Abatzoglou said people in the West are going to have to live with the new reality of more forest fires.

 "The takeaway is that large fire seasons are inevitable; climate change will make them even more inevitable," he said. "So, for people who live in the western United States that have to live in areas that burn or in airsheds that are filled with smoke, we need to find a way to cope with it - and one way to cope with it is by coping with climate change."

 The authors also supported efforts to clear out dead wood to reduce the fuel load, but acknowledged that the matter is complex, because fallen trees provide important habitat for wildlife. In addition, successful firefighting techniques have "saved" some forests and allowed dead wood to pile up, thus making them more vulnerable to a mega-fire.

 The access site for the report is at

Big Sky Connection

Eric Tegethoff

October 12, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - Kelly Elder, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at C.R. Anderson Middle School in Helena, has been selected as the 2017 Montana Teacher of the Year, the highest honor for teachers in the Treasure State.

Elder, who has been teaching in Montana for two decades, said he gets to use current events to connect with kids and uses hands-on research projects to teach his students about the world. He said he works hard to connect with every student in the classroom and that teachers can rely on each other to make all the students at school feel welcome.

"I would say your most successful schools in Montana or anywhere in the world are going to be those where every student that comes in the doors connects with someone, some adult within that building and feels a desire to belong, to learn, to grow and to be a better person," he said.

Elder, along with two other finalists, will be honored at the annual MEA-MFT Educators' Conference on Oct. 20 in Helena. The state's Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation.

Elder said he owes a lot to his colleagues because teaching is a collaborative effort. He said the profession is extremely demanding, leading to burnout for some new teachers, but added that those who have been in the profession for a long time can lend support to their new colleagues.

"We as a profession need to do more to make sure we're sharing what we know," he said, "and helping them to connect with students, helping them get on their feet, helping shoulder some of the burden of coaching and lesson-planning and all the extracurricular things that can really bog you down when you're learning to teach."

Elder also leads rides for the Dynamos Mountain Biking Club, a youth mountain biking program for students from around Helena, and is a student council adviser.

Photo's are of Sam DeBree.
One with scary make-up and one without.
By Diane Larson

From the time he was very young, Sam DeBree, special effects expert and haunted house aficionado, loved all things associated with monsters and haunted houses.

He was about 4 or 5 when his parents took him to see his first haunted house. “Of course I screamed and cried all the way through, yet I was fascinated.” Sam said, “I became hooked on horror movies and scary things.”

As he grew up Sam’s love of all things scary never wavered. He kept his interest in special effects, make-up. He continued to learn what he could, “I wanted to make monsters,” said Sam.

In college Sam specialized in film and video production with an emphasis on make-up. He continued his education by being an apprentice and with internships. He moved to California and worked with a special effects company for 3 years. But he missed Montana so he moved to Butte.

After his move to Butte, Sam did some seasonal work for an amusement park in Colorado in their haunted house. He would spend 2, to possibly 6 weeks or even more at the amusement park doing special effects and haunted house work. The park closed several years ago.

Sam still does some special effects work for theater and film occasionally as he receives requests for his expertise.

When Sam moved to Butte he decided to create a haunted house for Halloween out of his home. He ran that for about 5 or 6 years, but it got to big and needed to be moved. Five years ago, Sam approached Jim Jarvis who was the historic preservation officer at the time and asked, “Would the city be interested in letting me do a haunted house on some of their property.” Jarvis was enthusiastic and said that he felt it would be a great idea.

They looked at several properties around town and none of them were quite suited for what they had in mind as a proper venue; at least not until they looked at The Original Mineyard. The Original had everything they needed to create something big for this community.

Sam went to work with Mike Kujawa the Head of the Art Department at Butte High school on creating The Original Nightmare.

2016 marks the fifth year for this particular haunted experience. Sam promises that it will not disappoint. Each year, since the first Original Nightmare it has grown in every way; in participants, effects, and events. “We’ve gone from simple Halloween masks to high end silicone masks, the illusions change, develop and evolve,” says Sam.

The Original Nightmare is completely done with volunteers. The art club and other students from Butte High, as well as several adults from around Butte, come together to create a wonderful Halloween memory for everyone to experience.

It takes over 100 people to make it all happen from the time they begin to build everything to the three nights that it is open. Each night of the Nightmare there are anywhere from 60 to 70 actors who have to be put into costume and make-up applied. Besides the actors, on site there are also the make-up artists, chaperones, security, technicians and a light and sound company.

Sam said that the team, the kids, the teachers and other volunteers that come together are very creative. It is a labor of love for all involved. He said that a project such as The Original Nightmare could only happen here. “I could not do this in any other community, I’ve lived in Helena, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in Bozeman, Colorado Springs. What we do here could not be done in any of those places,” said Sam. When asked why Sam said, “Butte really embraces its community, and for these local events they really try to foster the growth of them.”

Montana Pro Audio provides light and sound. Lions Club will provide a food truck for refreshments.

Sam explained what last year’s event was like. The show begins while you are standing in line to buy your ticket with a beheading by guillotine on the Original stage. Kujawa has created a guillotine illusion that is the header (pun intended) of the show. One participant from last year exclaimed, “It was freaky.”

Once you acquired your ticket you entered a maze and were chased or followed by aliens to the first building that has various chills, thrills and scary things all in that first building. Next, you entered a second maze, this one bigger and a bit confusing with false exits and what not. In the second maze you ran into several creatures such as monsters, zombies and ghouls until you reached the second house. The second and bigger house was separated into several rooms, each room containing a new and unique chilling tale that is different from the last.

In 2015 3,000 people went through the haunted houses and expecting more this year. There is no singular theme determined as they like having a variety of themes. Sam did say they were bringing back the clowns.

The Original Nightmare is for all ages, however, Sam does warn that it is a haunted house and there will be blood and other scary images. It is a PG house.

It is a lengthy experie
nce and all for only $5.00. The price is kept intentionally low so that everyone can participate regardless of income.

To make The Original Nightmare happen, each year letters are sent out to local businesses asking for donations. Those donations are used to buy the equipment that in turn is used to create everything for the haunted houses. The money from ticket sales each year goes directly to a charity. Because of their huge commitment to the event and all their hard work and creativity the money will go to Butte High Art Club.  

This year’s event will be October 28, 29, and 31. (The 30th is a Sunday and will not be open) Each night the gates open at 7:00 pm and close at 11:00 pm.

Sam said that the community of Butte is amazing to work with, so generous with time, materials and money to make this happen. “I want to include that I’m very grateful to everybody that participates at every level whether its expertise, materials, and donations for the haunted house and to all the people that come.” 



Date: Friday, October 21

Location: Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch Chapel, 1732 South 72nd Street W.

Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, doors will open at 6:30 pm

Admission is free: Donations appreciated and will be taken at the door. All proceeds will benefit The Boys and Girls Ranch

Sponsored by: Yellowstone Bluegrass Association and Hansen Music

Featured bands:

Work "N" Progress

Song Dog Serenade

Almeda Bradshaw

Canyon Creek

Highway 302

Gwen's Boys


Few factors are as defining for our identities as language. 

Take part in a fascinating opportunity to examine in depth the experience of one group of Native American teens as they work to learn their ancestral language.  The Yellowstone Art Museum will screen The Young Ancestors, a prize-winning documentary selected for many film festivals.  Viewers have stated that this film is “beautiful and powerful; it made me cry” and that it is a “beautiful work and concept.” Documentarian Aimée Barry Broustra traces a group of Southwestern Native teens who, under the guidance of a mentor, undertook the difficult journey to revitalize their language and culture through language.  A film about courage and hope, and the triumph of honor and respect, The Young Ancestors promises a future rich in the kind of diversity that only language can provide.  More information about the film is available  “I Speak,” the YAM’s program combining the film screening and discussion, will take place on Thursday, October 20, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the YAM’s Murdock Gallery. 

The screening of this hour-long documentary will be followed by a discussion between the filmmaker Aimée Barry Broustra and Dr. Richard Littlebear, president of Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.  Dr. Littlebear is also a member of the board of the Indigenous Language Institute.  Ms. Broustra, a Temple University graduate, is a producer, director, and writer with other documentary credits that include a film about horsemanship.

Other programming about Native American culture and issues will take place in October and November at MSU-Billings, including the opening of an exhibition of the work of Wendy Red Star.  At the YAM, art by regional Native American artists, including Kevin Red Star and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, will be on exhibit in the Boundless Visions exhibition.  The galleries will be open the evening of the “I Speak” program.  The program is a must-see for those passionate about language, cultural diversity, and Native American issues.  Thursday, October 20, 2016, is Educators Free Day.  Admission to the museum is free in honor of all educators, and this includes the “I Speak” evening program.  For more information, visit the museum’s website