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Montana

Montana

Official language(s) English

Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of the state contains numerous mountain ranges; other 'island' ranges are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name, derived from the Spanish word montaña (mountain).

Montana's nickname is the "Treasure State." Other nicknames include "Land of Shining Mountains," "Big Sky Country," and the slogan "The Last Best Place." The state ranks fourth in area, but 44th in population, and therefore has the third lowest population density in the United States. The economy is primarily based on ranching, wheat farming, oil and coal in the east; lumber, tourism, and hard rock mining in the west. Millions of tourists annually visit Glacier National Park, the Battle of Little Bighorn site, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park. Montana is bordered by Idaho on the west, Wyoming on the south and North Dakota and South Dakota on the east.

 

Geography
 
Map of MontanaWith a land area of 145,552 square miles (376,980 km2) the state of Montana is the fourth largest in the United States (after Alaska, Texas, and California). To the north, Montana and Canada share a 545 miles (877 km) border. The state borders the three Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, more than any other state. To the east, the state borders North Dakota and South Dakota. To the south lies Wyoming and to the west and southwest is Idaho.

The topography of the state is diverse, and roughly defined by the Continental Divide, which runs on an approximate diagonal line through the state from northwest to south-central, splitting it into two distinct eastern and western regions. Montana is well known for its mountainous western region, most of which are geologically and geographically part of the Northern Rocky Mountains. The Absaroka and Beartooth ranges in the south are technically part of the Central Rocky Mountains. About 60% of the state is prairie, part of the northern Great Plains. Nonetheless, even east of the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountain Front, there are a number of isolated "island ranges" that dot the prairie landscape. This island range region covers most of the central third of the state.

The Bitterroot Mountains—one of the longest continuous ranges in the entire Rocky Mountain chain from Alaska to Mexico—divide the state from Idaho to the west, with the southern third of the range blending into the Continental Divide. Mountain ranges between the Bitterroots and the top of the Continental Divide include the Cabinet Mountains, the Missions, the Garnet, Sapphire, Flint Creek, and Pintlar ranges.

 
Montana terrainThe northern section of the Divide, where the mountains give way rapidly to prairie, is known collectively as the Rocky Mountain Front. The front is most pronounced in the Lewis Range, located primarily in Glacier National Park. Due to the configuration of mountain ranges in Glacier National Park, the Northern Divide (which begins in Alaska's Seward Peninsula) crosses this region and turns east in Montana at Triple Divide Peak. It causes the Waterton River, Belly, and Saint Mary rivers to flow north into Alberta, Canada. There they join the Saskatchewan River, which ultimately empties into Hudson Bay.

East of the divide, several parallel ranges march across the southern half of the state, including the Gravelly Range; the Tobacco Roots; the Madison Range; Gallatin Range; Big Belt Mountains; Bridger Mountains; Absaroka Mountains; and the Beartooth Mountains. The Beartooth Plateau is the largest continuous land mass over 10,000 feet (3,000 m) high in the continental United States. It contains the highest point in the state, Granite Peak, 12,799 feet (3,901 m) high.

 
St. Mary Lake in Glacier National ParkBetween the mountain ranges are many scenic valleys, rich in agricultural resources and rivers, and possessing multiple opportunities for tourism and recreation. Among the best-known areas are the Flathead Valley, Bitterroot Valley, Big Hole Valley, and Gallatin Valley.

East and north of this transition zone are expansive, sparsely populated Northern Plains, with rolling tableland prairies, "island" mountain ranges, and scenic badlands extending into the Dakotas and Wyoming, as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. The isolated island ranges east of the Divide include the Castle Mountains, Crazy Mountains, Little Belt Mountains, Snowy Mountains, Sweet Grass Hills, Bull Mountains, the Pryor Mountains south of Billings, and—in the southeastern corner of the state near Ekalaka—the Long Pines and Short Pines.

The area east of the divide in the north-central portion of the state is known for the Missouri Breaks and other significant rock formations. Three stately buttes south of Great Falls are familiar landmarks. The three: Square, Shaw, and Crown buttes, are made of igneous rock, which is dense and has withstood weathering for many years. The underlying surface consists of shale. Many areas around these buttes are covered with clay surface soils. These soils have been derived from the weathering of the Colorado Formation. Farther east, areas such as Makoshika State Park near Glendive and Medicine Rocks State Park near Ekalaka also highlight some of the most scenic badlands regions in the state.

The Hell Creek Formation is a major source of dinosaur fossils. Paleontologist Jack Horner, of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, brought this formation to the world's attention with several major finds. For example, in 2001 he discovered Jane, the world's most complete juvenile tyrannosaurus rex, in Hell Creek.

Rivers
Montana also contains numerous rivers, many of which are known for "blue-ribbon" trout fishing, while also providing most of the water needed by residents of the state, and hydropower. Montana is one of few geographic areas in the world whose rivers form parts of three major watersheds (i.e. where two continental divides intersect). Its rivers feed the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay, and the watershed areas are divided atop Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.

 
Missouri Breaks region in central MontanaWest of the divide, the Clark Fork of the Columbia (not to be confused with the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River) rises in the Rocky Mountains near Butte and flows northwest to Missoula, where it is joined by the Blackfoot River and Bitterroot River, and further downstream by the Flathead River, before entering Idaho near Lake Pend Oreille. It meets the Columbia River there, which flows to the Pacific Ocean. The Clark Fork discharges the greatest volume of water of any river exiting the state. The Flathead and Kootenai rivers also drain major portions of the western half of the state.

East of the divide, the Missouri River—formed by the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers—crosses the central part of the state, flows through the Missouri breaks and enters North Dakota. The Yellowstone River rises in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, flows north to Livingston, Montana, where it then turns east and flows through Billings, continuing across the state until it joins the Missouri River a few miles east of the North Dakota boundary. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed, free-flowing river in North America. Other major Montana tributaries of the Missouri include the Milk, Marias, Tongue, and Musselshell rivers. Montana claims the disputed title of possessing the "world's shortest river," the Roe River, just outside Great Falls, Montana. Through the Missouri, these rivers ultimately join the Mississippi River and flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Northern Divide turns east in Montana at Triple Divide Peak. It causes the Waterton River, Belly, and Saint Mary rivers to flow north into Alberta, Canada. There they join the Saskatchewan River, which ultimately empties into Hudson Bay.

In addition to its rivers, the state is home to Flathead Lake, the largest natural fresh-water lake in the western United States. Man-made reservoirs dot Montana's rivers, the largest of which is Fort Peck Reservoir, on the Missouri river, contained by the largest earthen dam in the world.

 
Pompey's Pillar National Monument Flora
Vegetation of the state includes lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine; douglas fir, larch, spruce; aspen, birch, red cedar, hemlock, ash, alder; rocky mountain maple and cottonwood trees. Forests cover approximately 25% of the state. Flowers native to Montana include asters, bitterroots, daisies, lupins, poppies, primroses, columbine, lilies, orchids and dryads. Several species of sagebrush and cactus and many species of grasses are common. Many species of mushrooms and lichens are also found in the state.

 Parks
Montana contains Glacier National Park, "The Crown of the Continent"; and portions of Yellowstone National Park, including three of the Park's five entrances. Other federally recognized sites include the Little Bighorn National Monument; Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area; Big Hole National Battlefield; Lewis and Clark Caverns; and the National Bison Range. Montana has ten National Forests and more than 20 National Wildlife Refuges. The Federal government administers 36,000,000 acres (150,000 km2). 275,000 acres (1,110 km2) are administered as state parks and forests.

 
Quake Lake was created by a landslide during the 1959 Yellowstone EarthquakeAreas managed by the National Park Service include:[3]

Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Fort Smith
Glacier National Park
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site at Deer Lodge, Montana
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Yellowstone National Park
Several American Indian reservations are located in Montana: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Crow Indian Reservation, Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and the Flathead Indian Reservation.

See also: List of Montana counties, List of rivers of Montana, and List of cities and towns in Montana
 Climate
 
Temperature and precipitation for Montana's capital city, HelenaMontana is a large state with considerable variation in geography, hence the climate is equally varied. The state spans from 'below' the 45th parallel (i.e. the halfway line between the equator and the 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 semi-arid continental climate. The Continental Divide runs north-south through the western mountainous half, and has a great effect on the climate. It restricts the flow of warmer air from the Pacific from moving east, and cooler, drier continental moving west. West of the divide, the climate is described as modified northern Pacific coast climate, with milder winters, cooler summers, less wind, and a longer growing season. In the winter, valley fog and low clouds often form in the valleys west of the divide, but this is rarely seen in the east.

Average daytime temperatures vary from 28 °F (−2 °C) in January to 84.5 °F (29.2 °C) in July. The variation in geography leads to great variation in temperature. Hot weather occurs in the eastern plains on occasion, the highest observed being 117 °F (47 °C) at Glendive on July 20, 1893, and Medicine Lake on July 5, 1937. Throughout the state, summer nights are generally cool and pleasant. Temperatures decrease with altitude, and hot weather is unknown above 4,000 ft (1,200 m) Snowfall is not unknown any month of the year in the central part of Montana, but is rare in July and August.
 
The Big Drift covering the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park as photographed on March 23, 2006.The coldest temperature on record for Montana is also the coldest temperature for the entire continental U.S. On January 20, 1954, −70 °F (−56.7 °C) was recorded at a gold mining camp near Rogers Pass. Temperatures vary greatly on such cold nights, and Helena, 40 miles (64 km) to the southeast had a low of only −36 °F (−37.8 °C). Winter cold spells last a week or so, and 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 (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°F (28°C) - 60°F (33°C).

Loma, Montana is the location of the most extreme recorded temperature change in a 24-hour period in the United States. On January 15, 1972, the temperature rose from −54 °F (−47.8 °C) to 49 °F (9 °C).

 
The Grinnell Glacier gets 105 inches (2,700 mm) of precipitation per year.Average annual precipitation is 15 inches (380 mm), but great variations are seen. The mountain ranges block the moist Pacific air, holding moisture in the western valleys, and creating rain shadows to the east. Heron, in the west, receives the most precipitation, 34.70 inches (881 mm). On the eastern (leeward) side of a mountain range, the valleys are much drier; Lonepine averages 11.45 inches (291 mm), and Deer Lodge 11.00 inches (279 mm) of precipitation. The mountains themselves can receive over 100 inches (2,500 mm), for example the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park gets 105 inches (2,700 mm).Perhaps the driest is an area southwest of Belfry that averaged only 6.59 inches (167 mm) over a sixteen-year period. Most of the larger cities get 30 to 50 inches (760 to 1,300 mm) of snow each year. Mountain ranges themselves can accumulate 300 inches (7,600 mm) of snow during a winter. Heavy snowstorms may occur as early as September or as late as May, though most snow falls from November to March.

The climate has become warmer in Montana and continues to do so.The glaciers in Glacier National Park have receded and are predicted to melt away completely in a few decades.Many Montana cities set heat records during July 2007, the hottest month ever recorded in Montana. Winters are warmer, too, and have fewer cold spells. Previously these cold spells had killed off bark beetles which are now attacking the forests of western Montana. The combination of warmer weather, attack by beetles, and mismanagement during past years has led to a substantial increase in the severity of forest fires in Montana. According to a study done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, portions of Montana will experience a 200% increase in area burned by wildland fires, and an 80% increase in air pollution from those fires.

 History
Main article: History of Montana
 
Assiniboine family, Montana, 1890-91Various cultures of indigenous peoples lived in the territory of the present-day state of Montana for thousands of years. Historic tribes encountered by Europeans and settlers from the United States included the Crow in the south-central area; the Cheyenne in the southeast; the Blackfeet, Assiniboine and Gros Ventres in the central and north-central area; and the Kootenai and Salish in the west. The smaller Pend d'Oreille and Kalispel tribes lived near Flathead Lake and the western mountains, respectively.

Montana east of the continental divide was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Subsequent to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and after the finding of gold and copper (see the Copper Kings) in the area in the late 1850s, Montana became a United States territory (Montana Territory) on May 26, 1864, and the 41st state on November 8, 1889.

The first permanent European (white) settlement in Montana was founded by French Jesuit missionaries. From interactions with Iroquois between 1812 and 1820, the Salish Indians learned about the missionaries (nicknamed "blackrobes" for their habits) who worked with native peoples teaching about their methods of agriculture and medicine, and Roman Catholic Christianity. The Salish interest in these “blackrobes” grew and, in three expeditions to St. Louis between 1831 and 1837, Salish emissaries requested a “blackrobe” to come to their homeland. Initially the Salish were directed to William Clark (of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame), who was the territorial administrator at the time. Through Clark, they were introduced to St. Louis Bishop Joseph Rosati, who assured them that missionaries would be sent to the Bitter Root Valley when funds and priests were available in the future. After several more entreaties by the Salish, Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet arrived in western Montana near present-day Stevensville in the fall of 1841. He developed a settlement known as St. Mary’s Mission. Together with the Salish, he built a chapel, followed by other permanent structures including log cabins and Montana’s first pharmacy.

In 1850 Major John Owen arrived in the valley and set up camp north of St. Mary’s. In time, Major Owen established a trading post and military site called Fort Owen, which served the settlers, Salish, and missionaries in the Bitterroot Valley.

 
The headwaters of the Sun River, just below Gibson ReservoirFort Shaw (Montana Territory) was established in Spring 1867. One of three posts authorized by Congress in 1865 to be built, it is located west of Great Falls in the Sun River Valley. The other two posts in the Montana Territory were Camp Cooke on the Judith River and Fort C.F. Smith on the Bozeman Trail. Fort Shaw was named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first all African-American regiments during the American Civil War. It was built of adobe and lumber by the 13th Infantry. The fort had a 400 square feet (37 m2) parade ground and facilities including officers' barracks, enlisted men's barracks, a hospital, and a trading post. It could house up to 450 soldiers. Completed in 1868, it was used by military personnel until 1891.

After the close of the military post, the government established Fort Shaw as a school to provide industrial training to young Native Americans. The Fort Shaw Indian Industrial School was opened on April 30, 1892. At one time the school had 17 faculty members, 11 Indian assistants and 300 students. The school made use of more than 20 of the buildings built by the Army.

The revised Homestead Act of the early 1900s greatly affected the settlement of Montana. This act expanded the land provided by the Homestead Act of 1862 from 160 acres (0.6 km2) to 320 acres (1.3 km2) per individual. When the latter act was signed by President William Howard Taft, it also reduced the time necessary to "prove up" (i.e. to improve a land claim) from five years to three years, and permitted five months' absence from the claim each year.

In 1908, the Sun River Irrigation Project, west of Great Falls was opened up for homesteading. Under this Reclamation Act, a person could obtain 40 acres (16 ha). Most of the people who came to file on these homesteads were young couples who were eager to live near mountains where hunting and fishing were good. Many of the homesteaders came from the Midwest.

Montana was the scene of warfare as the Native Americans' struggled to maintain control of their land. The last stand of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was fought near the present day town of Hardin. Montana was also the location of the final battles of the Nez Perce Wars.

Cattle ranching has been central to Montana's history and economy since the late-19th century. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge Valley is maintained as a link to the ranching style of the late 19th century. Operated by the National Park Service, it is a 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) working ranch.

 Demographics
 
Montana Population Density MapHistorical populations
Census Pop.   %±
1870 20,595  —
1880 39,159  90.1%
1890 142,924  265.0%
1900 243,329  70.3%
1910 376,053  54.5%
1920 548,889  46.0%
1930 537,606  −2.1%
1940 559,456  4.1%
1950 591,024  5.6%
1960 674,767  14.2%
1970 694,409  2.9%
1980 786,690  13.3%
1990 799,065  1.6%
2000 902,195  12.9%
Est. 2009 974,989  8.1%
Montana ranks 44th in population; only six states (Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont and Delaware) have fewer people. As of 2009, Montana has an estimated population of 974,989, slightly less than either Rhode Island or Hawaii, which is an increase of 72,799, or 8.1%, since the year 2000 and a 22% increase since 1990. Growth is mainly concentrated in Montana's seven largest counties, with the heaviest growth in Bozeman's Gallatin County, which saw a 78% increase in its population since 1990.

According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the population of the most populous metropolitan/micropolitan areas are:

Billings 152,005, Missoula 107,320, Bozeman 89,824, Kalispell 88,473, Great Falls 82,026, Helena 72,180, Butte 32,803.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 94.8% of the population aged 5 and older speak English at home.

The center of population of Montana is located in Meagher County, in the city of White Sulphur Springs.

While German ancestry is the largest reported European-American ancestry in most of Montana, residents of Scandinavian ancestry are prevalent in some of the farming-dominated northern and eastern prairie regions. There are also several predominantly Native American counties, mostly around each of the seven Indian reservations. The historically mining-oriented communities of western Montana such as Butte have a wider range of ethnic groups, particularly people of Eastern European and Irish ancestry, as well as people who originally emigrated from British mining regions such as Cornwall and Devon. Montana is second only to South Dakota in U.S. Hutterite population with several colonies spread across the state. Many of Montana's historic logging communities originally attracted people of Scandinavian, Slavic, and Scots-Irish descent. Montana's Hispanic population is particularly concentrated around the Billings area in south-central Montana, and the highest density of African-Americans is located in Great Falls.

Demographics of Montana (csv)
By race White Black AIAN* Asian NHPI*
2000 (total population) 92.79% 0.50% 7.36% 0.79% 0.12%
2000 (Hispanic only) 1.74% 0.05% 0.28% 0.04% 0.01%
2005 (total population) 92.52% 0.62% 7.47% 0.82% 0.11%
2005 (Hispanic only) 2.22% 0.07% 0.23% 0.03% 0.01%
Growth 2000–05 (total population) 3.42% 28.09% 5.19% 7.11% -4.46%
Growth 2000–05 (non-Hispanic only) 2.87% 25.58% 5.91% 8.07% -0.82%
Growth 2000–05 (Hispanic only) 31.85% 52.36% -13.46% -13.52% -39.22%
* AIAN is American Indian or Alaskan Native; NHPI is Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

 Religion
The religious affiliations of the people of Montana

Christian – 82%
Protestant – 55%
Lutheran – 15%
Methodist – 8%
Baptist – 5%
Presbyterian – 4%
United Church of Christ – 2%
Other Protestant or general Protestant – 21%
Roman Catholic – 24%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) – 5%
Other Religions – <1%
Non-Religious – 18%
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 169,250; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 50,287; and as of Dec. 31, 2008 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 45,517.

 Economy
 
Montana ranks 3rd nationally in craft breweries per capita.
Welcome sign.The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Montana's total state product in 2003 was $26 billion. Per capita personal income in 2003 was $25,406, 47th in the nation. However, this number is rapidly increasing. According to the Missoulian, the economy has grown rapidly since 2003; in 2005, Montana ranked 39th in the nation with an average per capita personal income of $29,387.

The economy is primarily based on agriculture, and major crops include wheat, barley, sugar beets, oats, rye, seed potatoes, honey, cherries, and cattle and sheep ranching.[citation needed] Montana is also a relative hub of beer microbrewing, ranking third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita. There are significant industries for lumber and mineral extraction; the state's resources include gold, coal, silver, talc, and vermiculite.[citation needed] Ecotaxes on resource extraction are numerous. A 1974 state severance tax on coal (which varied from 20 to 30 percent) 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 millions of 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.

Montana's personal income tax contains 7 brackets, with rates ranging from 1% to 6.9%. Montana has no sales tax. In Montana, household goods are exempt from property taxes. However, property taxes are assessed on livestock, farm machinery, heavy equipment, automobiles, trucks, and business equipment. The amount of property tax owed is not determined solely by the property's value. The property's value is multiplied by a tax rate, set by the Montana Legislature, to determine its taxable value. The taxable value is then multiplied by the mill levy established by various taxing jurisdictions – city and county government, school districts and others.

Transportation
 
Train running parallel to Interstate 94 in Montana See also: List of Montana railroads and List of Montana numbered highways
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.

In addition, Amtrak's Empire Builder train runs through the north of the state, stopping in the following towns: Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Havre, Malta, Glasgow, and Wolf Point.

Montana's three largest commercial airports serve Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula; smaller airports at Great Falls International Airport, Kalispell, Helena, and Butte also serve multiple commercial carriers. Eight smaller communities have airports designated for commercial service under the Essential Air Service program.

Historically, the primary east-west highway route across Montana was U.S. Route 10, which connected the major cities in the southern half of the state. Still the state's most important east-west travel corridor, the route is today served by Interstate 90 and Interstate 94. U.S. Routes 2 and 12 and Montana Highway 200 also traverse the entire state from east to west.

Montana's only north-south Interstate Highway is Interstate 15. Other major north-south highways include U.S. Routes 87, 89, 93 and 191. Interstate 25 terminates into I - 90 just south of the Montana border in Wyoming.

 Law and government
See also: List of Montana Governors
The current Governor is Brian Schweitzer (Democrat) who was sworn in on January 3, 2005. Its two U.S. senators are Max Baucus (Democrat) and Jon Tester (Democrat). Montana's congressional representative is Denny Rehberg (Republican).

The state was the first to elect a female member of Congress (Jeannette Rankin) (Republican) and was one of the first states to give women voting rights (see suffrage). Despite its sizable American Indian population, Montana is one of the most homogenous states — nearly 90% of its residents are of European descent, with a large number of immigrants of German, Irish, Welsh, Slavic, English, Italian, Slovak and Scandinavian heritage arriving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A significant portion of Chinese (Cantonese) immigrants also came and left an indelible mark on the state, especially in the mining cities of Helena, Butte, and Anaconda.

 Politics
 
State capitol in HelenaHistorically, Montana is a swing state of cross-ticket voters with a tradition of sending "liberals to Helena (the state capital) and conservatives to Washington." However, there have also been long-term shifts of party control. During the 1970s, the state was dominated by the Democratic Party, with Democratic governors for a 20-year period, and a Democratic majority of both the national congressional delegation and during many sessions of the state legislature. This pattern shifted, beginning with the 1988 election, when Montana elected a Republican governor and sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate for the first time since the 1940s. This shift continued with the reapportionment of the state's legislative districts that took effect in 1994, when the Republican Party took control of both houses of the state legislature, consolidating a party dominance that lasted until 2004. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a plurality victory. Overall, since 1889 the state has voted for Democratic governors 60% of the time and Democratic presidents 40% of the time, with these numbers being 40/60 for Republican candidates.

In recent years, Montana has been classified as a Republican-leaning state, as the state supported President George W. Bush by a wide margin in 2000 and 2004. However, the state currently has two Democratic U.S. Senators and a Democratic governor (Brian Schweitzer), elected in 2004. In the 2006 midterm elections, Democratic candidate Jon Tester narrowly defeated (by only 3000 votes) incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns ,one of several crucial races that allowed the Democratic Party to win the majority in the U.S. Senate. Montana's lone US Representative, Republican Denny Rehberg, easily won reelection in 2006 as well as in 2008. Long time Senator Max Baucus won reelection in 2008 with a massive majority of votes. The state Senate is, as of 2009, controlled by the Republicans. The State House of Representatives is tied with the speaker of the house coming from the Democratic Party. In the 2008 presidential election, Montana was considered a swing state and was ultimately won by Republican John McCain, albeit by a narrow margin of two percent.

On April 17, 2007, Montana became the first state to pass legislation against the federal government's Real ID Act. Gov. Schweitzer signed a bill banning the Montana Motor Vehicle Division from enforcing the new regulations.

Montana is an Alcoholic beverage control state.

Further information: Political party strength in Montana
 Important cities and towns
 
Montana's largest city, Billings
Billings skyline & Sacrifice Cliff, 2005Some of the cities in Montana are:

Billings
Bozeman
Butte
Great Falls
 Helena
Kalispell
Missoula
 

Some of the major towns in Montana are:

Anaconda
Belgrade
Colstrip
Columbia Falls
Conrad
Cut Bank
 Deer Lodge
Dillon
Glasgow
Glendive
Hamilton
Hardin
 Havre
Laurel
Lewistown
Libby
Livingston
Miles City
 Polson
Red Lodge
Shelby
Sidney
Whitefish
Wolf Point
 
 Counties
Main article: List of counties in Montana
The State of Montana has 56 counties.

Montana Counties Ranked By 2008 Population Rank County Population   Rank County Population
1 Yellowstone County 142,348 29 Valley County 6,892
2 Missoula County 107,320 30 Blaine County 6,491
3 Gallatin County 89,824 31 Teton County 6,445
4 Flathead County 88,473 32 Pondera County 5,852
5 Cascade County 82,026 33 Chouteau County 5,225
6 Lewis and Clark County 60,925 34 Toole County 5,141
7 Ravalli County 40,664 35 Broadwater County 4,704
8 Silver Bow County 32,803 36 Musselshell County 4,498
9 Lake County 28,690 37 Phillips County 3,904
10 Lincoln County 18,971 38 Mineral County 3,862
11 Hill County 16,454 39 Sweet Grass County 3,790
12 Park County 16,189 40 Sheridan County 3,283
13 Glacier County 13,297 41 Granite County 2,821
14 Big Horn County 12,841 42 Fallon County 2,716
15 Jefferson County 11,255 43 Judith Basin County 2,014
16 Fergus County 11,195 44 Wheatland County 2,010
17 Custer County 11,149 45 Meagher County 1,868
18 Sanders County 11,034 46 Liberty County 1,725
19 Roosevelt County 10,089 47 Powder River County 1,694
20 Carbon County 9,657 48 McCone County 1,676
21 Richland County 9,270 49 Daniels County 1,643
22 Rosebud County 9,190 50 Carter County 1,234
23 Beaverhead County 8,903 51 Garfield County 1,184
24 Deer Lodge County 8,843 52 Golden Valley County 1,081
25 Stillwater County 8,687 53 Prairie County 1,064
26 Dawson County 8,490 54 Wibaux County 866
27 Madison County 7,509 55 Treasure County 637
28 Powell County 7,041 56 Petroleum County 436
 Education
 Colleges and universities
The state-funded Montana University System consists of:

Flathead Valley Community College
Dawson Community College
Miles Community College
Montana State University - Bozeman
Montana State University - Billings
Montana State University - Northern - Havre
Montana State University - Great Falls College of Technology
University of Montana - Missoula
Montana Tech of the University of Montana - Butte
University of Montana Western - Dillon
University of Montana - Helena College of Technology
Major Tribal Colleges in Montana include:

Fort Peck Community College or Ft. Peck Community College
Little Big Horn College
Salish Kootenai College
Stone Child College
Major Private Colleges and Universities include:

Carroll College
Rocky Mountain College
University of Great Falls
 

 Sports
 Professional sports
There are no major league sports franchises in Montana, due to the state's relatively small and dispersed population, but a number of minor league teams play in the state. Baseball is the minor-league sport with the longest heritage in the state, and Montana is currently home to four Minor League baseball teams, all members of the Pioneer Baseball League:

Billings Mustangs
Great Falls Voyagers
Helena Brewers
Missoula Osprey
The Billings Outlaws are a professional indoor football team affiliated with the United Indoor Football league.

 Collegiate and amateur sports
All of Montana's four-year colleges and universities field a variety of intercollegiate sports teams. The two largest schools, the University of Montana and Montana State University, are members of the Big Sky Conference and have enjoyed a strong athletic rivalry since the early twentieth century. Most of the smaller four-year schools in the state belong to the Frontier Conference.

Football and basketball are the two most popular sports at the high school level. Montana is one of the few states where the smallest high schools participate in six-man football leagues.

Numerous other sports are played at the club and amateur level, including softball, rugby, and soccer.

Since 1988, the Montana High School All Class Wrestling Tournament has been held in Billings at MetraPark. This event remains one of the most popular high school events each year in Montana.

There are five junior hockey teams in Montana, all affiliated with the Northern Pacific Hockey League:

Billings Bulls
Bozeman Icedogs
Butte Roughriders
Helena Bighorns
Missoula Maulers
 Ft. Shaw
In 1904 a group of young Native American women, after playing undefeated during their last season, went to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis and defeated all challenging teams and were declared to be world champions. For this they received a large silver trophy with the inscription "World's Fair - St. Louis, 1904 - Basket Ball - Won by Fort Shaw Team.

 Montana in popular culture
The protagonist in Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), Robert Jordan, is a native Montanan. The book was adapted as a film in 1943, starring Gary Cooper, a native Montanan himself. Although he was from Illinois and had ties to Idaho and Michigan, Hemingway also traveled to Montana extensively, and much of his family still lives in the state today.
The 1990 film Silence of the Lambs with Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Scott Glen, Clarice Starling (Foster) lives in Montana after she is orphaned in West Virginia at age 10. She then goes on to the U.S. FBI academy.
The 1994 film Legends of the Fall which stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Aidan Quinn takes place in remote Montana and briefly in Helena . It is about a family's struggle to live through World War 1, the Prohibition 1920s and the 1930s. Directed by Edward Zwick.
The 1992 film A River Runs Through It takes place in and around Missoula, Montana, although much of the filming was done on the Gallatin and Madison rivers south of Bozeman. The film is about the Prohibition era of the 1920s. It stars Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer and Tom Skerritt. Directed by Robert Redford.
In the movie 'Star Trek: First Contact', Montana is the location of the fictitious first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans. Star Trek producer Brannon Braga is originally from Bozeman, Montana. However, no Montana locations were used in the shooting of the film. Other Montana references occasionally dot various Star Trek films and television episodes, including one starship named the "Bozeman."
 Miscellaneous topics
The planned battleship USS Montana was named in honor of the state. However, the battleship was never completed, making Montana the only one of the 48 states during World War II not to have a battleship named after it. Additionally, Alaska and Hawaii have both had nuclear submarines named after them. As such Montana is the only state in the union without a modern naval ship named in its honor. However, in August 2007 Senator Jon Tester made a request to the Navy that a submarine be christened USS Montana.
Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.
Montana's triple divide allows water to flow into three oceans: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Mexico), and the Arctic Ocean (Hudson Bay). This phenomenon occurs at Triple Divide Peak in Glacier National Park.
In 1888, Helena (the current state capital) had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world.
[edit] State symbols
 
Montana's state quarter, released in 2007.State flower: Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), since 1895
State tree: Ponderosa Pine, since 1949
State animal: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), since 1862
State bird: Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), since 1931
State fish: Westslope cutthroat trout, since 1977
State Song: "Montana", since 1945
State Ballad: "Montana Melody", since 1983
State Gemstones: Yogo Sapphire & Agate
State Fossil: Maiasaur ("Duck-billed Dinosaur") (Maiasaura peeblesorum), since 1985
State Butterfly: Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), since 2001
State Grass: Bluebunch wheatgrass, since 1973
State Motto: "Oro y Plata" (Spanish: Gold and Silver)
Ski areas
 
The Big Sky ResortMontana has several ski areas including:

Bear Paw Ski Bowl near Havre, Montana
Big Sky Resort near Big Sky, Montana
Blacktail near Lakeside
Bridger Bowl Ski Area near Bozeman
Discovery Basin near Philipsburg
Great Divide near Helena, Montana
Lost Trail near Darby, Montana
Lookout Pass near St. Regis, Montana
Maverick Mountain near Dillon, Montana
Moonlight Basin near Big Sky, Montana
Red Lodge Mountain near Red Lodge
Showdown Ski Area near White Sulphur Springs, Montana
Snowbowl Ski Area near Missoula
Teton Pass Ski Area near Choteau
Turner Mountain Ski Resort near Libby
Whitefish Mountain Resort near Whitefish

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