Teepees at First People's Buffalo Jump

Photo Courtesy: Big Sky Country NHA. This image shows teepees at the First People's Buffalo Jump in Ulm.

A national land recognition proposal could potentially bring more money into Montana, but some counties and residents aren't backing the initiative. 

A National Historical Area has been hotly disputed across much of North/Central Montana for over 5 years. There's still progress but not everyone's on board.

"There's opportunities throughout Central Montana for us to do some wonderful things that will bring in new businesses and new economic development and even tourism," explained Jane Weber, Chair of the Big Sky Country National Historic Area.

She says the projects would show off Montana's rich history by preserving cherished parts of town, and would even create more jobs.

"It's not guaranteed but there is federal funding that can be made available," said Weber.

For now, small steps are in motion. According to Weber, "The feasibility study is a document that takes a look at what you have in your area that are actually significant to our national heritage."  So far it reads 130 pages long. 

Some parts of Cascade, Chouteau, and Fergus counties still support the proposal. 

Fort Benton and Belt both decided to stop moving forward with plans and they're not alone. Some private land owners feel left in the dark and are concerned about potential land disputes if the proposal is passed. 

Vicky O'Hara owns land in Fort Benton and says she'll do everything she can to stop the N.H.A. 

"I found when I was researching about it there just wasn't a lot of transparency. When I finally saw the map then I became alarmed," said O'Hara. 

Private land owners would be able to opt into the agreement if they wish, according to Weber.

November's election could also shape the future of this proposal, depending on whether Matt Rosendale (R) or Kathleen Williams (D) wins the Congressional race.

O'Hara says opposition is simple because "Basically, we're Montanans. We want to be left alone." 

Public comment is still being heard in Cascade and parts of Fergus counties. Then the 130 page feasibility study will be submitted to Congress. So far there's no set timeline.

If approved by Congress, the Big Sky County National Historical Area would mark the 56th in the United States. 

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