Montana

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Montana

Montana is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. It is bordered by Idaho to the west; North Dakota and South Dakota to the east; Wyoming to the south; and by the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north. It is the fourth-largest state by area, the seventh-least populous state, and the third-least densely populated state. Its state capital is Helena. The western half of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges, while the eastern half is characterized by western prairie terrain and badlands, with smaller mountain ranges found throughout the state. In all, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains.

Etymology

The name Montana comes from the Spanish word montaña, which in turn comes from the Latin word montanea, meaning “mountain” or more broadly “mountainous country”. Montaña del Norte was the name given by early Spanish explorers to the entire mountainous region of the west. The name Montana was added in 1863 to a bill by the United States House Committee on Territories (chaired at the time by James Ashley of Ohio) for the territory that would become Idaho Territory.

The name was changed by representatives Henry Wilson (Massachusetts) and Benjamin F. Harding (Oregon), who complained Montana had “no meaning”. When Ashley presented a bill to establish a temporary government in 1864 for a new territory to be carved out of Idaho, he again chose Montana Territory. This time, Rep. Samuel Cox, also of Ohio, objected to the name. Cox complained the name was a misnomer given most of the territory was not mountainous and a Native American name would be more appropriate than a Spanish one. Other names such as Shoshone were suggested, but the Committee on Territories decided that they had discretion to choose the name, so the original name of Montana was adopted.

Geography

Montana is one of the eight Mountain States, located in the north of the region known as the Western United States. It borders North Dakota and South Dakota to the east. Wyoming is to the south, Idaho is to the west and southwest, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan are to the north, making it the only state to border three Canadian provinces.

With an area of 147,040 square miles (380,800 km2), Montana is slightly larger than Japan. It is the fourth-largest state in the United States after Alaska, Texas, and California, and the largest landlocked state.

Topography

The state's topography is roughly defined by the Continental Divide, which splits much of the state into distinct eastern and western regions. Most of Montana's hundred or more named mountain ranges are in the state's western half, most of which is geologically and geographically part of the northern Rocky Mountains. The Absaroka and Beartooth ranges in the state's south-central part are technically part of the Central Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain Front is a significant feature in the state's north-central portion, and isolated island ranges that interrupt the prairie landscape common in the central and eastern parts of the state. About 60 percent of the state is prairie, part of the northern Great Plains.

The Bitterroot Mountains—one of the longest continuous ranges in the Rocky Mountain chain from Alaska to Mexico—along with smaller ranges, including the Coeur d'Alene Mountains and the Cabinet Mountains, divide the state from Idaho. The southern third of the Bitterroot range blends into the Continental Divide. Other major mountain ranges west of the divide include the Cabinet Mountains, the Anaconda Range, the Missions, the Garnet Range, the Sapphire Mountains, and the Flint Creek Range.

Climate

Montana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, topography and elevation, and the climate is equally varied. The state spans from below the 45th parallel (the line equidistant between the equator and North Pole) to the 49th parallel, and elevations range from under 2,000 feet (610 m) to nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m) above sea level. The western half is mountainous, interrupted by numerous large valleys. Eastern Montana comprises plains and badlands, broken by hills and isolated mountain ranges, and has a semiarid, continental climate (Köppen climate classification BSk). The Continental Divide has a considerable effect on the climate, as it restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and drier continental air from moving west. The area west of the divide has a modified northern Pacific Coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season. Low clouds and fog often form in the valleys west of the divide in winter, but this is rarely seen in the east.

Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 °F or −2.2 °C in January to 84.5 °F or 29.2 °C in July. The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. The highest observed summer temperature was 117 °F or 47.2 °C at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state, summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Extreme hot weather is less common above 4,000 feet or 1,200 meters. Snowfall has been recorded in all months of the year in the more mountainous areas of central and western Montana, though it is rare in July and August.

The coldest temperature on record for Montana is also the coldest temperature for the contiguous United States. On January 20, 1954, −70 °F or −56.7 °C was recorded at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass. Temperatures vary greatly on cold nights, and Helena, 40 miles (64 km) to the southeast had a low of only −36 °F or −37.8 °C on the same date, and an all-time record low of −42 °F or −41.1 °C. Winter cold spells are usually the result of cold continental air coming south from Canada. The front is often well defined, causing a large temperature drop in a 24-hour period. Conversely, air flow from the southwest results in “chinooks”. These steady 25–50 mph (40–80 km/h) (or more) winds can suddenly warm parts of Montana, especially areas just to the east of the mountains, where temperatures sometimes rise up to 50–60 °F (10.0–15.6 °C) for 10 days or longer.

Cities and Towns

Montana has 56 counties and a total of 364 “places” as defined by the United States Census Bureau; the latter comprising 129 incorporated places and 235 census-designated places. The incorporated places are made up of 52 cities, 75 towns, and two consolidated city-counties. Montana has one city, Billings, with a population over 100,000; and three cities with populations over 50,000: Missoula, Great Falls and Bozeman. The state also has five Micropolitan Statistical Areas, centered on Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Kalispell and Havre.

Collectively all of these areas (excluding Havre) are known informally as the “big seven”, as they are consistently the seven largest communities in the state (their rank order in terms of population is Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Kalispell, according to the 2010 U.S. Census). Based on 2013 census numbers, they contain 35 percent of Montana’s population, and the counties in which they are located are home to 62 percent of the state’s population.

Demographics

The United States Census Bureau states that the population of Montana was 1,085,407 on April 1, 2020, an 9.7% increase since the 2010 United States census. The 2010 census put Montana’s population at 989,415. During the first decade of the new century, growth was mainly concentrated in Montana’s seven largest counties, with the highest percentage growth in Gallatin County, which had a 32% increase in its population from 2000 to 2010. The city having the largest percentage growth was Kalispell, with 40.1%, and the city with the largest increase in actual residents was Billings, with an increase in population of 14,323 from 2000 to 2010.

According to the 2020 census, 88.9% of the population was White (87.8% non-Hispanic White), 6.7% American Indian and Alaska Native, 4.1% Hispanics and Latinos of any race, 0.9% Asian, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and 2.8% from two or more races. The largest European ancestry groups in Montana as of 2010 were: German (27.0%), Irish (14.8%), English (12.6%), Norwegian (10.9%), French (4.7%), and Italian (3.4%).

Languages

English is the official language in the state of Montana, as it is in many U.S. states. According to the 2000 Census, 94.8% of the population aged five and older speak English at home. Spanish is the language next most commonly spoken at home, with about 13,040 Spanish-language speakers in the state (1.4% of the population) in 2011. Also, 15,438 (1.7% of the state population) were speakers of Indo-European languages other than English or Spanish, 10,154 (1.1%) were speakers of a Native American language, and 4,052 (0.4%) were speakers of an Asian or Pacific Islander language. Other languages spoken in Montana (as of 2013) include Assiniboine (about 150 speakers in Montana and Canada), Blackfoot (about 100 speakers), Cheyenne (about 1,700 speakers), 

Plains Cree (about 100 speakers), Crow (about 3,000 speakers), Dakota (about 18,800 speakers in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota), German Hutterite (about 5,600 speakers), Gros Ventre (about 10 speakers), Kalispel-Pend d’Oreille (about 64 speakers), Kutenai (about six speakers), and Lakota (about 6,000 speakers in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota). The United States Department of Education estimated in 2009 that 5,274 students in Montana spoke a language at home other than English. These included a Native American language (64%), German (4%), Spanish (3%), Russian (1%), and Chinese (less than 0.5%).

Religion

According to the Pew Forum, the religious affiliations of the people of Montana are: Protestant 47%, Catholic 23%, LDS (Mormon) 5%, Jehovah’s Witness 2%, Buddhist 1%, Jewish 0.5%, Muslim 0.5%, Hindu 0.5% and nonreligious at 20%.

The largest denominations in Montana as of 2010 were the Catholic Church with 127,612 adherents, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 46,484 adherents, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 38,665 adherents, and nondenominational Evangelical Protestant with 27,370 adherents.

Economy

As of 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated Montana’s state product was $51.91 billion (47th in the nation) and per capita personal income was $41,280 (37th in the nation).”Personal Income for Montana”. BEARFACTS. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016.

Montana is a relative hub of beer microbrewing, ranking third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita in 2011. Significant industries exist for lumber and mineral extraction; the state’s resources include gold, coal, silver, talc, and vermiculite. Ecotaxes on resource extraction are numerous. A 1974 state severance tax on coal (which varied from 20 to 30%) was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609 (1981).

Tourism is also important to the economy, with more than ten million visitors a year to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, the Missouri River headwaters, the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

Education

Schools

The Montana Territory was formed on April 26, 1864, when the U.S. passed the Organic Act. Schools started forming in the area before it was officially a territory as families started settling into the area. The first schools were subscription schools that typically met in the teacher's home. The first formal school on record was at Fort Owen in Bitterroot valley in 1862. The students were Indian children and the children of Fort Owen employees. The first school term started in early winter and lasted only until February 28. Classes were taught by Mr. Robinson. Another early subscription school was started by Thomas Dimsdale in Virginia City in 1863. In this school students were charged $1.75 per week.

The Montana Territorial Legislative Assembly had its inaugural meeting in 1864. The first legislature authorized counties to levy taxes for schools, which set the foundations for public schooling. Madison County was the first to take advantage of the newly authorized taxes and it formed the first public school in Virginia City in 1886. The first school year was scheduled to begin in January 1866, but severe weather postponed its opening until March. The first school year ran through the summer and did not end until August 17. One of the first teachers at the school was Sarah Raymond. She was a 25-year-old woman who had traveled to Virginia City via wagon train in 1865.

To become a certified teacher, Raymond took a test in her home and paid a $6 fee in gold dust to obtain a teaching certificate. With the help of an assistant teacher, Mrs. Farley, Raymond was responsible for teaching 50 to 60 students each day out of the 81 students enrolled at the school. Sarah Raymond was paid $125 per month, and Mrs. Farley was paid $75 per month. No textbooks were used in the school. In their place was an assortment of books brought by various emigrants. Sarah quit teaching the following year, but she later became the Madison County superintendent of schools.

Culture

Many well-known artists, photographers and authors have documented the land, culture and people of Montana in the last 130 years. Painter and sculptor Charles Marion Russell, known as “the cowboy artist”, created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Native Americans, and landscapes set in the Western United States and in Alberta, Canada. The C. M. Russell Museum Complex in Great Falls, Montana, houses more than 2,000 Russell artworks, personal objects, and artifacts.

Many notable Montana authors have documented or been inspired by life in Montana in both fiction and non-fiction works. Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Earle Stegner from Great Falls was often called “The Dean of Western Writers”. James Willard Schultz (“Apikuni”) from Browning is most noted for his prolific stories about Blackfeet life and his contributions to the naming of prominent features in Glacier National Park.

Outdoor Recreation

Montana provides year-round outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors. Hiking, fishing, hunting, watercraft recreation, camping, golf, cycling, horseback riding, and skiing are popular activities.

Fishing and hunting

Montana has been a destination for its world-class trout fisheries since the 1930s. Fly fishing for several species of native and introduced trout in rivers and lakes is popular for both residents and tourists throughout the state. Montana is the home of the Federation of Fly Fishers and hosts many of the organization's annual conclaves. The state has robust recreational lake trout and kokanee salmon fisheries in the west, walleye can be found in many parts of the state, while northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass fisheries as well as catfish and paddlefish can be found in the waters of eastern Montana. Robert Redford's 1992 film of Norman Mclean's novel, A River Runs Through It, was filmed in Montana and brought national attention to fly fishing and the state. Fishing makes up a sizeable component of Montana's total tourism economic output: in 2017, nonresidents generated $4.7 billion in economic output, of which, $1.3 billion was generated by visitor groups participating in guided fishing experiences.

Winter sports

Both downhill skiing and cross-country skiing are popular in Montana, which has 15 Big Sky Resort and Whitefish Mountain Resort are destination resorts, while the remaining areas do not have overnight lodging at the ski area, though several host restaurants and other amenities. Snowmobiling is popular in Montana, which boasts over 4,000 miles of trails and frozen lakes available in winter. There are 24 areas where snowmobile trails are maintained, most also offering ungroomed trails. West Yellowstone offers a large selection of trails and is the primary starting point for snowmobile trips into Yellowstone National Park, where "oversnow" vehicle use is strictly limited, usually to guided tours, and regulations are in considerable flux.

Transportation

Railroads have been an important method of transportation in Montana since the 1880s. Historically, the state was traversed by the main lines of three east–west transcontinental routes: the Milwaukee Road, the Great Northern, and the Northern Pacific. Today, the BNSF Railway is the state’s largest railroad, its main transcontinental route incorporating the former Great Northern main line across the state. Montana RailLink, a privately held Class II railroad, operates former Northern Pacific trackage in western Montana.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the busiest airport in the state of Montana, surpassing Billings Logan International Airport in the spring of 2013. Montana’s other major airports include Missoula International Airport, Great Falls International Airport, Glacier Park International Airport, Helena Regional Airport, Bert Mooney Airport and Yellowstone Airport. Eight smaller communities have airports designated for commercial service under the Essential Air Service program.

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