Tester, Baucus push fix to ensure Montana Guard, Limestone Quarry both continue using land outside Townsend
Senators' fix passes committee with unanimous support, head for floor as part of defense bill
(U.S. SENATE) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus have secured unanimous support from a key Senate Committee to fix a glitch in the law that could kick the Montana Army National Guard off of their primary training site northwest of Townsend, Montana, and threaten mining rights of a local employer in the area. The Tester-Baucus bill will ensure both the Guard and the quarry can continue to use the federal land, known as Limestone Hills, just as they are today.
After passing the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week, the bill is now set to be included in the larger Defense Authorization bill scheduled for debate on the Senate floor this week.
“Our bill cuts through federal red tape to ensure that Montana’s Guardsmen can continue to train for any conditions while also preserving economic development in Broadwater County,” Tester said. “It’s a win-win for Montana that I am proud to support.”
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The Montana Guard and limestone quarry have operated just fine together for years, and this bill will allow them to keep doing what they’ve been doing without federal bureaucracy getting in the way,” Baucus said. “It’s a commonsense solution to support both the Montana Guard and Montana jobs.”
The Montana Guard has used parts of Limestone Hills land since the 1950s, and it currently serves as the state’s primary training facility. Limestone Hills is also used by Graymont Western US Inc., which owns and mines a limestone quarry in the area that employs about 50 Montanans and is a major taxpayer in Broadwater County. Graymont depends on the Guard operating in the area to ensure explosives from past training exercises are cleaned up and the quarry is safe. And the two have operated together in the area for 32 years.
But, the current right-of-way that allows the Guard to operate on the federal land is inadequate. And due to a glitch in the law, Congress must act to allow the Guard to continue operating while also protecting Graymont’s mining rights and the Montana jobs that rely on them.
The Tester-Baucus bill will protect mineral leasing rights and allow both the quarry and the Guard to continue using the land, just as they are today.