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By Cari Kimball

The sun isn’t up ’til 6:45am, the breeze through the aspens sounds like the rush of a river, and the school supply shelves of Target have been fully decimated – whip out that “bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils,” y’all. It’s back to school time!

My days in academia are behind me, but if memory serves, a lot of good educators begin a new school year with a quick review of what was covered in last year’s curriculum. In the spirit of that beginning-of-the-school-year review session, we at MEIC would like to provide the Gianforte Administration with a quick reminder about their responsibilities to Montanans, especially the leadership of state agencies dedicated to protecting Montana’s environment, our natural resources, and the health of our communities. 


Montanans have a right to know what our government is up to and how this administration is weighing the pros and cons in their decisions. As many of you know, MEIC is legally challenging the Gianforte Administration’s failure to produce public documents relevant to its decision to let Phillips S. Baker, Jr., and Hecla Mining Company run roughshod in our state. Montanans deserve to know why Gov. Greg Gianforte decided that Baker is above the law. If there are valid reasons that corporate polluters should get a free pass, the Gianforte Administration should be more than willing to transparently share that information, right?

Responsiveness to Public Input

Montanans have a constitutional right to participate in government decision-making. We saw very bad legislation passed last session that weakened public input in opencut mine (gravel pit) permitting, and now we’re seeing Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) take the ball and run with it, while people across Montana are experiencing major impacts from noisy, dusty operations next door that drain well water. Is it Rep. Steve Gunderson or DEQ who deserves the lion’s share of blame for this bad policy? Ultimately they both do, and MEIC is working with communities to hold both legislators and the DEQ accountable to fix the problems.

Hold Corporations Accountable

We all know the Montana history of Copper Kings, wealth hoarding, and abuse of workers, our landscapes, and our waters. We need government agencies to keep that context in mind. Public employees have a responsibility to bring some healthy skepticism to messaging from extractive industry executives who are here to get rich and then get out (leaving the rest of us with a mess). Permitting decisions for mining and fracking projects should meaningfully grapple with how projects worsen the climate crisis or impact streams and habitat; bonding and reclamation requirements should reflect the true costs of this important, expensive work. And if our government fails to do its due diligence in holding corporations accountable, you can bet that MEIC will be there applying pressure.

This week as I packed up Ruby’s lunchbox, and she rode her little strider bike to preschool, I felt super grateful that MEIC’s staff, members, and our partners are working tirelessly to protect what we love about this coming fall. Ruby and her generation deserve to know the joys of the golden glow of cottonwoods flanking the banks of the Yellowstone, the crisp scent of a chilly morning surrounded by ponderosas, and the special feeling of savoring these small wonders with our friends and family.


This article was published in the September 2022 issue of Down To Earth. 

Read the full issue here.


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