Portal:Montana

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Montana

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Montana /mɒnˈtænə/ is a state in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains regions of the United States of America. The central and western thirds of the state have numerous mountain ranges (approximately 77 named) of the northern Rocky Mountains; thus the state's name, derived from the Spanish word montaña ("mountain"). The state nickname is the "Treasure State." Other nicknames include "Land of Shining Mountains," "Big Sky Country," and the slogan "the last best place." However nearly 60% of Montana is mostly flat and rolling prairies, part of the North American Great Plains. The state ranks fourth in area, but only 44th in population, and therefore has the third lowest population density in the United States. The economy is primarily based on agriculture and significant lumber and mineral extraction. Tourism is also important to the economy, with millions of visitors a year to Glacier National Park, the Battle of Little Bighorn site, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

With a land area of 145,552 mi² (376,978 km²) the state of Montana is the fourth largest in the United States (after Alaska, Texas, and California). To the north, Montana and Canada share a 545-mile (877 km) border. The state borders the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, more provinces than any other state. To the east, the state borders North Dakota and part of South Dakota. To the south is Wyoming and to the west and southwest is Idaho.

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Fires approach the Old Faithful Complex on September 7, 1988.

The Yellowstone fires of 1988 together formed the largest wildfire in the recorded history of Yellowstone National Park. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames spread quickly out of control with increasing winds and drought and combined into one large conflagration, which burned for several months. It was finally extinguished by moist weather in the late fall. A total of 793,880 acres (3,213 km2), or roughly 36 percent of the park was affected by the wildfires.

Before the late 1960s, fires were generally believed to be detrimental for parks and forests, and management policies were aimed at suppressing fires as quickly as possible. The beneficial ecological role of fire became better understood in the decades before 1988, and a policy of allowing natural fires to burn under controlled conditions had been highly successful in reducing the area lost annually to wildfires. However, by 1988, Yellowstone was overdue for a large fire, and, in the exceptionally dry summer, the many smaller "controlled" fires combined. The fires burned in a mosaic pattern, leaping from one area to another, while some areas were completely untouched. Large firestorms swept through some regions, burning everything in their paths. Tens of millions of trees and countless plants were killed by the wildfires, and some regions were left looking blackened and dead. However, more than half of the affected areas were burned by ground fires, which did less damage to hardier tree species. Not long after the fires ended, plant and tree species quickly reestablished themselves, and natural plant regeneration has been highly successful.

Thousands of firefighters fought the fires, assisted by dozens of helicopters and airplanes which were used for water and fire retardant drops. At the peak of the effort, over 9,000 firefighters were assigned to the park. With fires raging throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and other areas in the western United States, the staffing levels of the National Park Service and other land management agencies were inadequate to the situation. Over 4,000 U.S. Military personnel were soon assisting in fire suppression efforts. The fire fighting effort cost $120 million. No firefighters died while fighting the fires in Yellowstone, though there were two fire-related deaths outside the park.

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Louis Riel

Louis Riel (October 22, 1844 – November 16, 1885) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and Sir John A. Macdonald that sought to preserve Métis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence.

The first such resistance was the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870. The provisional government established by Riel ultimately negotiated the terms under which the modern province of Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation. Riel was forced into exile in the United States as a result of the controversial execution of Thomas Scott during the rebellion. Despite this, he is frequently referred to as the "Father of Manitoba." While a fugitive, he was elected three times to the Canadian House of Commons, although he never assumed his seat. During these years, he was frustrated by having to remain in exile despite his growing belief that he was a divinely chosen leader and prophet, a belief which would later resurface and influence his actions. He married in 1881 while in exile in Montana, and fathered three children. He became a naturalized American citizen and was actively involved in the Republican party.

Riel returned to what is now the province of Saskatchewan to represent Métis grievances to the Canadian government. This resistance escalated into a military confrontation known as the North-West Rebellion of 1885. It ended in his arrest, trial, and eventual execution on a charge of high treason. Riel was viewed sympathetically in francophone regions of Canada, and his execution had a lasting influence on relations between the province of Quebec and English-speaking Canada. Whether seen as a Father of Confederation or a traitor, he remains one of the most complex, controversial, and ultimately tragic figures in the history of Canada.

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Grant Marsh
  • ... that Montana riverboat pilot Grant Marsh has been described as "Possibly the greatest steamboat man ever"?

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