The genetic mutations behind breast cancer


    The actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy as a way to prevent getting breast cancer, and her choice to make that decision public, have shed light on the rare genetic mutation she has that can cause breast and ovarian cancer. It has also prompted a flood of inquiries from women about the mutation – who’s at risk, and what their choices are if they have it. To learn more, News Director Sally Mauk recently spoke with breast cancer surgeon Dr. Melissa Hulvat, who is Director of the Bass Breast Center at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.  Dr. Hulvat says there are two genes we know cause breast cancer:

The Great Produce Rescue of 2012

I’m Robin Taylor, and I’m the garden manager at Wholesome Foods in Bridger. We’re in the middle of planting, but with every seed I put into the ground I’m reminded of my visits to this vegetable garden last summer – during a time that eventually became known as the Great Produce Rescue of 2012.

Wholesome Foods is owned by Dick and Patricia Espenschied. They’ve been farming in Carbon County –in the Clark’s Fork River Valley – for more than 15 years. They are committed to sustainable agriculture, and in addition to the vegetable gardens, they raise certified organic, free-range beef and hogs as well as heritage turkeys.

This is my first year “officially” working for the Espenschieds. The vegetable gardens here are substantial, and for many years, Wholesome Foods has supplied restaurants with produce and sold vegetables and meat at the Billings and Red Lodge farmers’ markets. But last spring, it looked like that tradition would be coming to an end.

No one knows for sure why, but last year in early June, the garden manager abruptly left. With so many other responsibilities and weeds rapidly taking over, the Espenschieds had decided – reluctantly – to till the garden under and give up on the vegetables for the season.

In Carbon County where I live, organic, locally-grown food isn’t always easy to find, but it’s a priority in the communities around here. Wholesome Foods was a key provider of healthy, affordable food – a critical farm-to-table link. When I heard about the dilemma the Espenschieds were in, I remember thinking, this just can’t happen!

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who was concerned. The abandoned gardens also caught the attention of the Red Lodge Area Food Partnership Council, a citizen-led group that supports sustainable agriculture and promotes the benefits of local foods. Food Corps Service Member Alyssa Charney was also concerned when she heard of the situation at Wholesome Foods.

Together, we decided to talk to Dick and Patricia and volunteer to provide the labor needed to save the garden.  So we loaded up some beer and baked goods – figuring we might need some extra leverage – and drove down to Wholesome Foods.

We were speechless when we saw the garden. It was seven whole, wide acres of weeds that were waist-high in some places. It had been planted, but the young seedlings were struggling to come up without water and tending. As a lifelong gardener, I can tell you, it was hard to see, but we were all focused on saving this important, local food source.

Although the Espenschieds were concerned that we might not be up to the task, they allowed us to take over the garden. With some experience in commercial gardening, I took the lead. My comrades that day from the Red Lodge Area Food Partnership Council all stood by my side and played an important role getting the word out and rallying volunteers.

It was like triage those first couple of weeks. We hardly knew where to begin. We started irrigation and then harvested a mountain of lettuces. After that, we started the overwhelming task of weeding. Day after day, volunteers came to help. In time, our numbers grew, and by the end of the season more than 80 people came to help and contributed more than 600 hours of their time.  What a great new definition of Community Supported Agriculture!

It was hard work, but it was an adventure too. There were no records of what was planted so we would come across all these surprises – unusual eggplants, carrots popping up out of nowhere. Thankfully, there were a few volunteers who were willing to sacrifice their taste buds to help identify the various peppers.

When I look back on the Great Produce Rescue of 2012, I will never forget those sunny mornings, with all of us in our wide-brimmed hats, bent over the rows, making conversation and working together. So many friendships were deepened and so many connections were made to the land, to good health, and to the Espenschieds. Wholesome Foods became the community’s garden and did so much to raise awareness in the area about the importance of local food and sustainable agriculture.

I didn’t set out last summer to land the job as garden manager at Wholesome Foods, but I had always wanted to farm in the Clark’s Fork Valley. The ground here is just so healthy and productive and the surroundings are beautiful.

I couldn’t ask to be in a better place in my life than where I am right now. I’m doing all I ever want to do.

In Bridger I’m Robin Taylor for the Alternative Energy Resources Organization. AERO has been linking people with sustainable agriculture and energy solutions since 1974. Visit us online at

Bon Voyage, Bear

The carcass of an adult male grizzly bear hit and killed by a car last spring near St. Ignatius is now being used to help teach the public about bears. Dale Manning is the professional taxidermist who transformed the animal’s remains into a tool that will now be used to teach the public about bear avoidance techniques and the characteristics that differentiate grizzlies from black bears.

(Left to Right) Jamie Jonkel, big Griz, Dale Manning

(Left to Right) Jamie Jonkel, big Griz, Dale Manning

The bear will be part of a bear avoidance educational trailer that will be used around Northern Idaho, Central Washington and Western Montana. That trailer and accompanying educational material were created by the “Be Bear Aware Campaign”, a national program designed to educate the public about being safe in bear country.
In tonight’s feature story, Chuck Bartlebaugh of the “Be Bear Aware Campaign.” and Fish Wildlife and Parks bear manager, Jamie Jonkel share their thoughts about bear safety.
First, Edward O’Brien speaks with the artistic force behind the grizzly mount – taxidermist Dale Manning.

Chronic Wasting Disease Part II

Photo Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Photo Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

As we reported yesterday, Chronic Wasting Disease continues its push towards western Wyoming’s winter elk feedgrounds and Yellowstone National Park.
In part one of Edward O’Brien’s feature interview, Dr. Bruce  Smith explained the science behind CWD.
In short, it’s a terrible, infectious disease that slowly saps the life from Whitetail and Mule deer, Elk and even Moose. There is no known vaccine or treatment, animals do not develop immunities to it and it’s 100-percent fatal.
Montana had a close call with C-W-D when it was discovered in a Granite County game farm in the late 90’s, but no cases have been discovered in wild herds.
Smith, a retired U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist says C-W-D is something the public and policy-makers simply must pay close attention to.
Tonight, Smith continues his discussion with O’Brien with an explanation of why C-W-D is so prevalent in states like Wyoming, while Montana – at least so far – remains unscathed.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Wyoming continues its march north and west


photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Chronic Wasting Disease is on the move towards western Wyoming’s winter elk feedgrounds and Yellowstone National Park.
A retired U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist says this is something the public and policy-makers need to pay close attention to.
Dr. Bruce Smith is a former senior biologist at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming and author of “Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd.”
In the first of our two-part interview, Smith, a resident of Sheridan, Montana,  explains to Edward O’Brien the basic science behind C-W-D.
In short, it’s an insidious, highly transmissible disease that sticks around in its environment:

Missoula team reaching out to mentally ill

Giffin    The need for more mental health outreach is getting lots of publicity these days. Representatives of a Missoula collaborative say it making strides to that end.
Captain Brad Giffin of the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department is a law enforcement delegate to the Missoula Crisis Intervention Team.
In tonight’s feature interview with Edward O’Brien, Giffin says there a growing number of resources available for people who need mental health services.
He says crisis intervention teams like the one he’s a member of, want to put those resources to good use:

Department of Justice wraps up UM Sexual assault investigation

fedengstrom A yearlong federal investigation into whether or not the University of Montana mishandled reports of sexual assault on campus is over. Both sides say the resulting agreement to protect students will prove to be the gold standard among American universities.
The joint Department of Justice and Department of Education’s investigation started just over a year ago after 11 assaults involving university students were reported over an 18-month period. Investigators wanted to know if gender discrimination affected the response of local law enforcement and university officials.
During today’s press conference, Montana U-S Attorney Michael Cotter was flanked by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Roy Austin and U-M President Royce Engstrom. Cotter says Engstrom has made several “bold and difficult” decisions over the past year-and-a-half. He says the investigation did not focus on any one specific campus department, that investigators took a campus-wide approach and found several areas of concern; namely a number of women victims saying they were belittled and feared retaliation if they pursed their complaints.
U-M and the Department of Justice reached two agreements. The first requires the university to take several steps; those include, but are not limited to:
* providing prompt resolutions of complaints of sex-based harassment
* training all members of the campus community.
* implementing of a system to thoroughly track  complaints of sex-based harassment
* and instituting a system to evaluate U-M’s progress.
The second agreement addresses the role of U-M’s campus police force and how it responds to sexual assault reports. That agreement requires several steps including one to work with an independent monitor, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to develop and implement the reforms. Those entities will also evaluate the campus police department’s progress.
While the D-o-J’s investigation into U-M is now complete, a separate investigation continues into local law enforcement’s response to sexual assault cases. Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg last year vigorously disputed the D-o-J’s authority to investigate his office. Austin says Van Valkenberg has not budged from that position.
Austin says the D-o-J has the authority to try to take legal action against non-cooperating agencies, but adds both sides are -quote – “continuing to talk”.
U-M President Engstrom says there’s little doubt the federal investigation into U-M’s handling of sexual assault allegations has hurt enrollment. Engstrom says the closure of the investigation will “put people’s minds at ease knowing the university is working diligently on creating one of the safest campus environments anywhere.”
While the federal investigation into U-M is now closed, the N-C-A-A’s investigation into the school’s football program is ongoing.

Motorcycle safety: “Keep your head in the game”

MotorcycleMotorcycle season is here and bikers are out in droves taking advantage of this great weather to get in a little “helmet time”.
Perhaps it’s an appropriate time to offer this sobering fact; in 2011, motorcycle wrecks represented over 10-percent of Montana’s fatal crashes. In tonight’s feature interview with Edward O’Brien, the director of the Montana Motorcycle Rider Safety Program, Jim Morrow, offers a few safety reminders for bikers and car drivers alike.
Morrow knows what he’s talking about as he’s been riding for over 30 years:

State Senator Dave Lewis looks back

Dave-Lewis-1024x734Republican State Senator Dave Lewis – a 40-year veteran of state government – recently wrapped up his final legislative session.
Lewis worked in the mining and smelting industries as a young man in North Idaho. He then found work on Forest Service fire crews for a few years. Lewis says he had a young family at that time and needed a little stability.
That’s why he responded to an ad in the paper in 1973 and became a budget analyst for the state of Montana. That move started a long career that sometimes placed him squarely in the center of contentious debates and difficult problems.
In this evening’s feature interview with Edward O’Brien, Lewis looks back at his past 40 years in state government:

S-T-D rates growing among Baby Boomers

Sexually transmitted diseases are terrible to contract, and frankly – not all that fun to talk about.
They are, however a growing problem among not only young people, but Boomers as well. Experts say the more we openly discuss S.T.D’s and educate ourselves about their risks – and prevention – the better.
April is National S.T.D Awareness Month.
In tonight’s feature interview, Planned Parenthood outreach educator, Angel Nordquist, sits down with Edward O’Brien to cover some of the fundamentals.
Nordquist points out that Herpes, Hepatitis B, H.I.V and  H.P.V – the diseases that begin with the letter “H” – are viruses.
The most common S.T.D’s seen in Montana; Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia are bacterial infections: