Commentary

Legislature working on infrastructure, conservation projects

April 9, 2021 4:20 am

Montana Legislator Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula (Legislative Services, State of Montana)

In recent weeks the Montana Legislature has advanced bills to support critical infrastructure and conservation projects across the state. Starting with House Bill 632, Republicans committed to investing the latest round of federal COVID relief dollars in infrastructure, telecommunications, and economic stabilization which will support our economy for future generations.

While it was fiscally irresponsible for Congress to pile up more national debt, we invested the funds wisely.

Several other major infrastructure bills recently passed the House to address long-range planning, reclamation, and resource management. Within the bills is funding for conservation programs to enhance Montana’s outdoor heritage and the industries associated with it. House Bills 5, 6, 7, 8 11, and 14 passed with strong bipartisan support.

These bills provide funding for infrastructure improvements such as municipal wastewater, sewage, stormwater drainage, dams, irrigation, regional water authorities, and more. In addition to traditional infrastructure, major investments in rural broadband is a top priority. The future of agriculture, as well as rural business, education, and healthcare, is dependent on reliable broadband access.

The projects touch every county in our state; from the Lockwood Water and Sewer District, to the Milk River Irrigation Project, to the City of Harlowton water system, and the Rattlesnake Creek Dams Project in Missoula. These are just a few examples of state and federal allocations helping to compound local funds and produce tangible services for Montana communities.

The bills also include conservation projects to enhance habitats and public access. Specific programs assist fisheries, bird & big game habitats, livestock management, river and lake access, and state park maintenance. Additionally, there is funding for forest and resource management and the programs under Habitat Montana.

These conservation efforts are funded through a variety of state, federal, and special revenue sources. They reflect Montana’s long-standing support for conservation infrastructure, our state’s outdoor heritage, and the opportunities they provide our citizens and the tourism industry. Like the infrastructure projects, the conservation projects will benefit communities in every corner of Montana. FWP and DNRC are under new leadership and the Legislature has provided them with the tools they need to expand opportunities in the Treasure State.

This opinion piece was written by Rep. Mike Hopkins and others in the leadership of the Montana House of Representatives including, Speaker of the House Wylie Galt (R-Martinsdale), Casey Knudsen (R-Malta) the Speaker Pro Tempore, and Sue Vinton (R-Lockwood) the Majority Leader. Hopkins is the chairman of the long-range planning subcommittee.

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