Montana’s natural resource industry faces challenges

Posted: August 29, 2016

Source: Great Falls Tribune

Main_Street_MontanaMontana’s Natural Resource Industry Faces.Challenges

The year 2016 has unfolded as an extremely challenging one for Montana’s natural resource industries.

Whether talking about challenges facing timber, how the situation in Colstrip and coal country affects families and state coffers, or how mining, quarrying, and cement can continue to contribute to our economy, Montana’s natural resource industries face tough obstacles, some of which are beyond our control.

As the co-chairs of the Natural Resources Key Industry Network (KIN) for Gov. Steve Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project (MSM), we bring a unique perspective to the discussion.

MSM, launched in 2013, convened Montana business leaders to collaborate with state officials and to share our ideas with Bullock. Partly through this process, the governor has come to clearly recognize the challenges facing our industries and he has committed the state’s time and resources to addressing them. Are we solving the issues?

Frankly, Montana natural resource companies face a difficult and multi-layered reality that the state is unable to solve completely. However, our KIN recommendations suggest steps to protect jobs and preserve natural resources as a driver for Montana’s economy.

These range from greater advocacy for increased timber harvests and clean coal technologies to improving balance on state oversight boards and commissions. Bullock listened to these recommendations and is making progress to address them.

Utilizing both the 2014 Farm Bill and state funding and resources, Montana now has 15 timber and restoration projects that will produce over 55 million board feet. Under his Forests in Focus initiative, the governor recently announced projects that will produce 100 million additional board feet. In addition, Montana just signed a Good Neighbor Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. Efforts like these help create opportunities for Montana’s timber industry and forest management.

The governor recognizes the importance of global trade to Montana commodities and has expressed his concern to Washington state officials about their opposition to coal export terminals. In partnership with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Bullock has led other energy-producing states to promote low-carbon technologies that would allow our power plants to emit fewer CO2 emissions.

Through MSM, we have seen a commitment to our hard-rock mining workforce with the opening of the Underground Mine Education Facility at Montana Tech. This is one of the few underground facilities for mine education and research located on a college campus.

While the governor has made progress and been supportive, additional action remains.

We believe Montana industries “do it right” and that oversight agencies, boards and commissions should look for ways to support, rather than frustrate, responsible natural resource development.

And because Montana businesses “do it right,” we asked the governor to push federal agencies to find more workable solutions to their mandates, exploring ways to support natural resource industries against litigation from environmental extremists and work with us to streamline the Montana Environmental Policy Act.

On behalf of the Natural Resources KIN, we thank Gov. Bullock for convening MSM and including our businesses in that discussion. We appreciate the steps taken so far to implement some of those recommendations and trust serious consideration will be given of the remaining recommendations.

For more information about MSM and the Natural Resources KIN recommendations, please visit