Gianforte set to return to Montana on Thursday evening, tour Gardiner on Friday

In the midst of historic floods Gianforte has been out of the country, per his office

By: - June 16, 2022 5:19 pm

Gov. Greg Gianforte addresses fire and land managers on May 2, 2022 (Screenshot of briefing live stream/Arren Kimbel-Sannit)

Gov. Greg Gianforte is set to return to Montana on Thursday night and tour Gardiner on Friday, according to his office.

On Wednesday, Gianforte’s office said the governor and his wife, Susan Gianforte, were on a “long-scheduled personal trip,” but it provided little additional information.

Starting on Sunday, floods washed across portions of the state, devastating some small communities and closing entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

Thursday, Newsy reporter Maritsa Georgiou broke the news on Twitter that Gianforte was vacationing in the Tuscany region of Italy. In a story the same day, Newsy reported that it obtained a photo of Gianforte and the first lady at a restaurant time stamped 9:31 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Newsy also reported the governor’s private plane flew on Saturday to Colorado and returned to Bozeman the same day, citing reporting by the Bozeman Chronicle.

“In an email Wednesday, sent about 12 minutes before the photo in Tuscany was taken, his office said he was returning home ‘early and as quickly as possible,'” said the Newsy story.

The Governor’s Office had not responded to an earlier request from the Daily Montanan or other outlets for his whereabouts. As late as Thursday morning, Newsy noted the Governor’s Office said it would not reveal the Gianfortes’ location due to security reasons but would “share more information upon their return.”

However, the Governor’s Office provided details in a news release of Gianforte’s involvement this week in responding to the emergency. For example, on Monday, Gov. Gianforte verbally authorized a state disaster declaration and has been in been in regular communication with local elected leaders (including commissioners and legislators), local law enforcement officials, and state and local disaster and emergency services personnel, according to his office.

During his absence, Montana, specifically the south-central part of the state, was decimated by historic flooding that caused an estimated $29 million in infrastructure damage and will take years to recover. The state was also placed under a disaster declaration during Gianforte’s absence.

The Governor’s Office and Montana’s congressional delegation asked President Joe Biden for an expedited presidential major disaster declaration on Wednesday.

On Thursday, that request was granted.

“Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Montana and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe storm and flooding beginning on June 10, 2022, and continuing,” a press release from the president’s office read.

The federal aid that accompanies this major disaster declaration will supplement state and local resources being used to offset widespread damage because of the flooding.

Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras has been acting for Gianforte during his time abroad. On Tuesday, she signed the executive order declaring the state of disaster and has been on the ground in Red Lodge.

In the request for federal aid, the Governor’s Office outlined the economic impacts the flooding had on gateway towns to Yellowstone National Park, which was forced to close its northern half for the rest of the season.

Carbon County brings in $68 million from tourism and sees 500,000 to 600,000 visitors annually and Park County benefits from more than $200 million in tourism annually, according to the letter sent to Biden.

This story was updated to note the governor also planned to tour Gardiner on Friday.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .