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New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 6, 2016

Today in New West news: coding in Montana, the new normal for the Yellowstone River, and CO energy co. emerges from bankruptcy.

Over the past few years, the state of Montana has worked hard to sell itself as a tech hub. Indeed, with many prominent businesses choosing to set up shop and/or establish satellites in cities like Missoula, Bozeman, and Kalispell, and with glowing assessments from tech veterans like Hagadone Digital’s Doug Schust, the Treasure State may well be on its way to becoming tech nirvana.

One important question remains however—how to get more Montanans on board?

According to the Missoula Current, the state’s current student population appears to be lagging when it comes to computer science; in the past two years, no Montana student has taken the Advanced Placement computer science exam, and a mere 105 students at a Montana college/university graduated with a computer science degree. For Devin Holmes, founder of Big Sky Code Academy, the lack of Montana involvement in tech education is worrying, but not dire:

“The writing is pretty obvious,” said Devin Holmes, founder of Big Sky Code Academy. “We need to do a better job developing our K-12 and higher-education workforce to create a talent pipeline that’s big enough for people to build large, economic anchors in the state’s tech sector.”

Since its launch in April, the Missoula-based academy has held several coding boot camps for adults, and it recently launched Montana Code Girls – an after-school programming course designed to encourage young women to pursue a technology career.

The academy’s growth took another step forward this week when it was selected as a Professional Learning Partner. In layman’s terms, the partnership enables the academy to serve as a regional hub in the global computer science education movement, and to offer professional development to educators.

“This partnership adds a critical element to our initiatives to bring computer science education to all Montanans,” Holmes said. “By bringing the curriculum to teachers and schools statewide, we’ll help prepare Montana’s K-12 students for jobs of the future.”

Holmes said tracks the accounts of registered teachers working to bring computer science to the classroom. He said a check of the state’s registry showed that 500 Montana educators are trying to implement the curriculum on their own.

But that hasn’t yet translated to the number of students taking the AP computer science exam. Nor has it boosted the number of college students looking to pursue a degree in the subject. Both factors have placed the state at an economic disadvantage when competing for jobs and growth in emerging technologies, Holmes said.

“We have a gubernatorial race where candidates are talking and running on the platform of a new tech economy, and that being part of the future of Montana’s economy,” said Holmes. “If no high school students are taking the AP exam, and only 100 graduate with a computer science degree from college, how are we going to grow the tech economy and fill the jobs?”

Keeping with Montana, after thousands of whitefish were felled by a kidney parasite, prompting an unprecedented closure of nearly 200 miles of the Yellowstone River, many area outfitters and anglers are worried about the river’s future. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the circumstances that created the fish kill (record low flows, warm water, parasite spread) will become the new normal going ahead:

Unfortunately it looks like that is going to become more and more the norm here on the Yellowstone and rivers throughout Montana,” said Dave Ditloff, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation.

Fly shop owners, state officials and environmentalists met at Sweetwater Fly Shop here Wednesday to beat a drum they’ve been beating especially hard since thousands of whitefish turned up dead in the Yellowstone River — that anybody floating, fishing or doing anything in a river or lake needs to clean and dry anything they bring into the water to prevent spreading invasive species to other waterbodies.

“It’s really important to us as anglers, as recreationists, that we figure out a way to mitigate our impact,” said Dan Vermillion, the owner of a guiding business here and the chair of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.


The environmental conditions are something they can’t do much about. Climate change has affected ecosystems all over the world, and the Paradise Valley is no different.

Scott Opitz, the FWP fisheries biologist on the Yellowstone River, said there have been significant changes to the way snowpack feeds the Yellowstone. Runoff is starting earlier and ending sooner, reducing available habitat for fish in the hot months of July and August.

“Now we see below average flows more often than we used to in that mid-summer, early fall time frame,” Opitz said.

He said that’s a time when fish are looking for deeper holes or cooler spots in the river, a place of refuge from high temperatures. Portions of the Yellowstone saw temperatures above 70 degrees this summer, well above the ideal temperature for trout.

Tributary streams can offer that refuge to fish. The Yellowstone River is fed by hundreds of small streams, but some are almost completely diverted for irrigation, often reduced to a trickle or partially dried up each summer. FWP holds some water rights and has negotiated leases of others to keep more water in a stream, but they can’t legally tell someone not to use their water right.

Finally, over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, Denver-based Warren Resources has reemerged from bankruptcy protection and is moving to Dallas, Texas:

The company says it now has “an improved balance sheet and a viable capital structure.”

“With our new capital structure, we are positioned to further develop and potentially expand our asset base in order to enhance value for our new stockholders,” said James Watt, president, chairman and CEO, in a statement.

Warren said it “plans to relocate its headquarters to Dallas by January 1, 2017, and close its current offices in Houston and Plano, Texas. Warren also plans to reduce leased office space in other locations, but anticipates maintaining a small team in Denver.”

It was only a year ago that Warren moved its headquarters to Denver from New York City.

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