Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced today that they successfully fought to include a provision critical to the Montana Army National Guard in the National Defense Authorization Act. The Baucus-Tester bill would ensure the use of the Limestone Hills federal land by the Montana Army National Guard and a local quarry. The bill fixes 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 House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday including the Baucus-Tester bill. The NDAA will now be sent to the Senate for approval. If passed by the Senate, the NDAA will then go to the President to be signed into law.
"This bill is a big win for the Montana Army National Guard and Montana jobs. It's a common sense solution that lets the Guard and limestone quarry continue to do what they have done for years," Baucus said. "I fought tooth and nail to make sure the National Defense Authorization Act makes our country more secure and was responsive to the needs of Montana, and I'm proud that Senator Tester and I were able to get that done."
"Our bill cuts through federal red tape to ensure that Montana's Guardsmen can continue to train for any condition while also preserving economic development in Broadwater County," Tester said. "It's a win-win for Montana that I am proud to support."
"The Montana National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are the best trained and equipped in the nation," Bullock said. "By working together, we were able to ensure our guardsmen continue to get the best training, while protecting jobs in Townsend."
The Montana Guard has used parts of Limestone Hills land since the 1950s, and the area 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. The Guard and quarry 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 Baucus-Tester bill will protect mineral leasing rights and allow both the quarry and the Guard to continue using the land, just as they are today.