CHESTER — Governor Greg Gianforte continued his 56-county tour of Montana on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, with stops along several Hi-Line communities.
Gianforte’s visit to Chester in Liberty County marked the first time he’d been to the community since the September 2021 train derailment. “I just remember the resiliency of this community, your heart in caring for these folks,” said Gianforte when reflecting on the deadly incident.
The town hall at the Liberty County Senior Center addressed the topic of bringing people back to places like Chester. “So we’ve identified 120,000 people that graduated from Montana high schools and colleges that don’t have a Montana address.” said Gianforte. “We’ve been carpet bombing them with direct mail and social media.”
Ron Gleason, the interim director of Liberty Medical Center, pointed out that housing was not a concern only in areas in areas like Bozeman and Missoula, but also in rural Montana: “For us, recently, we recruited two people to come here and they had no place to live so they couldn’t come here."
Ginaforte said the state is using the devastating Denton Fire in December 2021 as an example of how to help rebuild rural Montana. “We created a program in the Governor’s office called 'Rebuild Denton,'” said Gianforte. “ We’ve been working with local officials and community leaders and we set a goal in January of this year to get ten houses under construction by the end of June.”
Gianforte also addressed concerns about public access.
Liberty County resident Toby Tabor said, “I’m kind of seeing that in your administration, I’m worried that there’s some privatization of the natural resources, particularly elk management."
Gianforte said his administration wants to increase access for the public and pointed to a previous legislature’s approval of what is known as 454 agreements to help control growing elk populations on private land. “What these 454 permits do is allow FWP to enter into an agreement with a private landowner and in exchange for some elk permits they have to provide public access to their property,” said Gianforte. ”I think sportsmen and women win when we have agreement like that.”
Earlier in the day, the governor visited Glacier Family Foods to discuss economic development and job creation on the reservation with the Tribal Council.
In the afternoon, Gianforte met with Cut Bank High School students participating in the school’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program.
In Shelby, the governor honored John Alstad, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the 2021 Montana Governor’s Veteran Commendation, in a ceremony at the Montana Veteran’s Memorial Flag and Park.
The governor's office said in a news release that Alstad received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, and was instrumental to creating the Montana Veteran’s Memorial Flag and Park in Shelby as a tribute to our Armed Forces.
The governor also visited Siyeh Communications in Browning, which provides voice and broadband services to the Blackfeet Reservation.
“Deploying broadband to Indian Country and our rural communities is foundational for our new and evolving economy, whether it’s ag or high tech,” the governor said. “Our priority with expanding broadband access is directing investments toward underserved and unserved areas throughout Montana.”
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