Governor Announces $628 Million To Expand Broadband Access
Submitted by Governor Gianforte’s Office
Governor Greg Gianforte today announced the State of Montana will receive more than $628 million in federal funding to expand access to reliable broadband in unserved and underserved Montana communities. “Lack of broadband access shouldn’t stand between Montanans and opportunities for a good-paying job, greater education, and affordable, high-quality health care,” Gov. Gianforte said. “This generational funding will support Montana as we close the digital divide and open the doors to greater opportunities for all Montanans.” The funding is made available through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, which the Montana Department of Administration (DOA) began planning for in May 2022. Shortly after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the funding opportunity, Governor Gianforte issued Montana’s letter of intent to apply for the planning grant, and DOA submitted the BEAD planning funding application packet. On Dec. 12, 2022, DOA Director Misty Ann Giles, who leads the state’s broadband program, was notified of a $5 million BEAD planning grant award, with the planning process already well underway. This month, the Communications Advisory Commission approved Montana’s 5-Year Action Plan, which DOA will submit to NTIA in July.
Months of local outreach and coordination activities – including two statewide roadshows, a tribal summit, a statewide internet survey, and one-on-one interviews with community leaders, telecommunication providers, and other parties – informed the action plan. “Access to reliable and affordable broadband in today’s economy is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Montana lags behind other states in access to broadband, largely due to our state’s vast size and our beautiful, yet unique topography, making the cost of deployment significantly higher in comparison to other states,” Director Giles said. She continued, “This historic investment will allow us to close the gap and reach unserved and underserved Montanans with reliable high-speed internet. Montana has been ahead of the curve with its planning efforts in anticipation of today’s announcement, and we’ll keep the pace to receive the necessary approvals from our partners at the NTIA to successfully deploy these dollars. ”Last fall, Governor Gianforte announced a separate, historic $309 million broadband investment to expand access to reliable broadband for 62,000 families, small businesses, farms, and ranches in Montana. According to the Montana Broadband Office at DOA, 5 percent of Montanans live in underserved areas and 13 percent of Montanans live in unserved areas. Expanding access to reliable broadband is a central element of Governor Gianforte’s Montana Comeback Plan.
Conservation License Required to Access Most State Lands
Submitted by MTFWP and DNRC
Working with the 68th Legislature, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) simplified licensing requirements on state lands as part of Governor Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief Task Force.
The two agencies consolidated the conservation license and state lands recreational use license into one annual conservation license, supporting the maintenance of places like fishing access sites (FAS), wildlife management areas (WMA). On Montana school trust lands, conservation license sales will help fund Montana schools and other state institutions. Effective July 1, Montanans who access state lands will be required to have a conservation license. Hunters, trappers, and anglers in Montana who have purchased licenses and tags this year already possess this license.
“Fishing access sites and wildlife management areas represent some of the most amazing outdoor recreation opportunities we have in Montana. Access to all these sites for a small annual fee is a tremendous bargain,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Dustin Temple. “By requiring an annual conservation license for everyone 12 and older who uses these sites, we’re ensuring the cost of maintenance is shared by all users, not just hunters, anglers, and trappers.” Increased use on FAS and WMA sites has led to increased maintenance costs. Much of the increased use is from people who come to these sites to enjoy outdoor recreation, not necessarily to hunt, fish, or trap. With the requirement of a conservation license for everyone, that cost of maintenance is shared by all users.
On Montana state trust lands, the conservation license replaces the required State Lands Recreational Use License for general recreation on legally accessible state trust lands that are not otherwise closed or restricted. Recreational use fees are part of the revenue generated from state trust lands and help fund Montana schools and other state institutions.
“Conservation license purchases help fund Montana schools,” said Montana DNRC Director Amanda Kaster. “State trust lands are working lands and now it is even easier for residents and visitors alike who recreate on state-managed lands to do their part to support the education of Montana’s students.”
Hunters, anglers, and trappers are already required to purchase a conservation license along with their hunting and fishing licenses from FWP. However, for those people who enjoy recreation on any of Montana’s more than 330 FAS and 77 WMA sites, wildlife habitat protection areas, or legally accessible state trust lands, and don’t already buy a hunting or fishing license, they will need to have a conservation license to access those lands. These licenses, which cost $8 for residents, $4 for resident youth ages 12 to 17 and seniors 62 and older, and $10 for nonresidents can be purchased at any FWP office or online at ols.fwp.mt.gov/. A Special Recreation Use License is still required for trapping, commercial or concentrated recreation, outfitting, or special events on state trust land. Information on access and licensing for special recreation on state trust land is available at dnrc.mt.gov/recreation.
Montana State Parks do not require a conservation license.
LOR Supports Meals on Wheels Program
Submitted by Libby LOR Foundation
The Meals on Wheels program, operated in Libby by the Senior Citizens of Lincoln County, is an essential community resources from which elderly and homebound residents in receive frequent food deliveries to their homes.
However, the computer the organization uses to store confidential information recently began failing, which puts the future of the program—and its 176 clients—at risk. To address the issue, a member of the Libby Senior Center reached out to the LOR Foundation, which ultimately made a grant for the amount of $1,276 to help the center purchase new computer hardware, a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, as well as essential software programming to keep the Meals on Wheels program in motion—quite literally.