The Solution To Montana’s Longest Running Problem
"While decades of attempts to address this problem have come up short, one thing has become evident, if leaders want to prevent young Montanans from leaving then they must continue to make Montana a sanctuary for freedom and opportunity."
Since its founding in 1889, Montana has faced a litany of challenges, but one issue in particular might be Montana’s longest running problem: brain drain.
In the context of Montana, “brain drain” describes the phenomenon when young professionals, often ambitious and entrepreneurial, leave an area en masse for greater opportunity elsewhere. The result is aging communities robbed of the potential that accompanies young ambitious adults.
Montana newspaper articles dating all the way back to the early 1900’s debated what is causing young people to leave, as well as ways to stop it from happening. But a 1986 newspaper writer put it best when they said, “if something isn’t done Montana’s leading export in the next decade will be people.” Sadly, their warning became reality as more and more young Montanans left during the 21st century.
Despite being a big political talking point for decades, little has stopped the constant outflow of Montana’s youth to states with more opportunities – but that may be changing.
Thanks to recent reforms which aim to address the problems many young people are facing, such as increasing professional opportunities and expanding the supply of affordable housing without destroying the things that make Montana special, more young Montanans may opt to stay.
Take for example a 2022 Department of Labor & Industry rule change which has gone a long way towards increasing the number of apprenticeship opportunities for Montanans. Or perhaps the 6+ bills which expanded healthcare professionals’ ability to practice to the full extent of their training in Montana.
Still other reforms slashed the red tape that hurts small businesses, while other reforms opened the doors for new entrepreneurial innovations and protected new nascent industries from government overreach.
While decades of attempts to address this problem have come up short, one thing has become evident, if leaders want to prevent young Montanans from leaving then they must continue to make Montana a sanctuary for freedom and opportunity.
Strict Regulations For Thee, But Not Me
This legislative session Frontier worked with legislators to pass a law which prevents duplexes from being penalized with stricter regulations than single family homes. Despite not going into effect until January 1st, the new law is already making a big impact. In Whitefish, the new law is discouraging the city from adopting strict landscaping requirements that apply to duplexes but not single family homes. You can see the Whitefish City Council discuss this below.
In Case You Missed It
Frontier President & CEO, Kendall Cotton almost broke the internet this week when he published a column in Lee Newspapers discussing how we can protect the environment while still being “pro–innovation, pro–private property and yes, even pro–family.” Click here to learn more.
Addressing The Forest Management Paralysis
In a recent column that appeared in the Helena Independent Record, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation called the “Cottonwood Decision” a major step backwards for forest management. They characterized the Cottonwood Decision as creating “a never-ending loop where lawyers can slow down or stop projects that already completed ESA consultation each time there is a shred of new information, much of which is redundant or irrelevant but still used to stop the process.”
Our Take: Montana has nearly 9 million acres that are at high to very high risk of wildfire. This is the time when we should be scaling up forest management projects, not bogging them down with endless red tape. Leaders should continue to work to address the barriers standing in the way of the projects that make our forests healthier and more resistant to catastrophic wildfires.