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The Big Why
Montana Public Radio
Answers to your questions — big or small — about anything under the Big Sky. Let's see what we can discover together!
2 days ago
How does a small town rebuild after a devastating wildfire?
A wildfire burned through the small town of Denton, MT in December of 2021. It burned more than 10,000 acres and destroyed 25 homes. So how is the town of Denton rebuilding, and what does wildfire resilient construction look like?
Nov 23, 2023
How much land have reservations in Montana lost to white settlement?
One listener wants to know why non-Natives make up a majority of the population on the Flathead Reservation. Another listener asks how much land Montana’s reservations lost to White settlement. The answer goes back to an 1887 law that ramped-up the federal government's efforts to assimilate Native people and erase their cultures.
Nov 8, 2023
What is Montana doing to address climate change: Part 1
Following a lot of news about climate change, protests, presidential directives and court cases, a listener wants to know what Montana is doing to address climate change. It's a big question, so the answer will come in three parts. Here's part 1.
Oct 25, 2023
What's happening with the glaciers in the Mission Mountains?
A listener is curious about how glaciers are faring in the south end of the Mission Mountains, those big peaks you can see from Highway 93 on the Flathead Reservation. Learn more about them now, on The Big Why.
Oct 11, 2023
Why is there no sales tax in Montana?
Montanans hate it. Politicians fear it. Supporters discuss it in hushed tones after the blinds are closed and the kids are tucked safely into bed. Yet, It doesn't exist in Montana. What is it? Today we’re talking about the sales tax. Wait, don't go! The tax debate is actually pretty hot right now, and a listener wants to know why Montana remains one of the few states without a sales tax.
Sep 27, 2023
What's the story behind Montana's old state orphanage?
A Helena listener had a long-simmering curiosity about a relic of Montana history that still sits just across the Beaverhead River from Twin Bridges: The old Montana State Orphanage built in 1894. We took a look around with one of the previous residents. Join us for the tour, on this episode of The Big Why.
Sep 14, 2023
Did you know Montana has a state lullaby?
You may know Montana has an official state animal, a state bird, a state gemstone and a state fruit. But did you know we have a state lullaby? Neither did we. Here's what we learned.
Aug 17, 2023
What makes Montana's Ringing Rocks ring?
The Ringing Rocks is a roadside attraction people have been visiting for a long time. It's a big heap of boulders that give off a resonant bell-like ringing sound when struck with metal; at least theoretically. A listener wants to know what makes these rocks ring.
Aug 2, 2023
Last winter was rough in Montana. How did wildlife fare?
The Yellowstone area got more snowfall this winter than any time in the past 23 years. Listeners want to know, how did the extreme winter affect animals like deer, elk and bison?
Jul 19, 2023
Why does Montana have such strong stream access laws?
In Montana, we're used to hitting the water in our tubes, rafts or waders and going wherever the river takes us. Anyone can recreate on streams in the state below the high-water mark — no matter who owns the land beneath them. This isn't possible in most of the country. How did we end up with such strong stream access protections, and what does the law's future look like?
Jul 6, 2023
'I can't drive 55.' Why Montana's speed limits keep increasing
Montana's speed limit has bounced between nonexistent (twice), 55 mph, 75 mph and now 80 mph. Why? Meanwhile, Montana has some of the highest traffic fatality rates in the country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Jun 21, 2023
How were Montana's borders drawn?
Montana’s frontier days were stuffed with gold, greed and political corruption — and all three played a part in drawing the state’s western boundary with Idaho. A listener wants to know how that squiggly line came to be. How did Montana get its shape? Learn more in this episode of the Big Why.
Jun 8, 2023
Is passenger rail on track to return to Montana?
One of Montana's passenger rail systems has been out of commission for decades, but some residents want to restore it across the southern part of the state. A listener wants to know what's been happening with those efforts. Is more train travel in Montana's future? Learn more in this episode of the Big Why.
May 11, 2023
What a century old restaurant can tell us about the Chinese-American experience in the West
The Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte is the oldest, continually operating family owned Chinese restaurant in the country. But the story behind the Pekin is not just the story of one restaurant. It's a story about the Chinese-American experience of a distinct, authentic culture and cuisine that was created in this chaotic mixing bowl of the American West.
Apr 26, 2023
What does it mean to have the right to a 'clean and healthful environment'?
The Montana Constitution says "The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." How did that get included, and what does it mean for Montana? Learn more now on The Big Why
Apr 20, 2023
A message from our friends at Threshold Podcast
A message from our friends at Threshold Podcast.
Apr 12, 2023
How are conflicts of interest handled in a citizen legislature? It's complicated
How do Montana lawmakers govern themselves when governing the state is a part time job? What kinds of ethics rules do lawmakers have to follow? Find out now on The Big Why.
Mar 30, 2023
What's the story with recycling in Montana?
This week, we’re tackling more of a “big where” than a why. A listener wants to know, where does our recycling go in Montana?
Mar 15, 2023
Montana's flag breaks all the 'rules.' Is it time for a redesign?
A flag's primary purpose is to be recognized from a distance. That means few colors, no lettering and a clear distinction from other flags. Ideally, it should be simple enough for a child to draw it from memory. So, how did Montana end up with such a complicated flag? Learn more in this episode of The Big Why.
Mar 1, 2023
How close are you to a 'Bald' mountain? In Montana, very close
Why so many "Bald" mountains? Why Native place-names matter. Chouteau or Choteau? Gardiner or Gardner? We sort it out on The Big Why.