Montana is a very large, very rural state. We are the fourth largest state in land mass – the equivalent of D.C. to Ohio – with only 1 million people. Montana is very geographically diverse, from temperate rainforest in the far northwest to dry prairie and badlands in the east. Most of our communities are very small, with a population under 1,000. Our largest city has only 100,000 people. Montana is home to seven federally recognized Tribal governments, with over 2.7 million acres of land and living within a tribal reservation. Montana experienced presidentially-declared disasters in 2011, 2012, and 2013 involving extensive flooding and wildfire in 45 of Montana’s 56 counties. Response to these events was exacerbated by the rural nature of our communities, the lack of consistent communication across state agencies, and between state and local agencies, and a failure to provide the expertise and support necessary to help our communities rebuild in more resilient ways.
The State of Montana’s proposal for the HUD CDBG National Disaster Resiliency Competition is to create a collaborative program at the state level to shift the culture of Montana communities to resilient thinking. The program will create and rely on an interagency resiliency team across state agencies and the public and private sector that will work one-on-one with communities to help them identify the local impacts of severe manmade and natural events, brainstorm more resilient ways of minimizing or avoiding those impacts during future events, and execute projects aimed at strengthening local independence, stability, and sense of community.