Assistant Secretary of Interior touts Montana infrastructure investment at Helena event | State and Region


Tommy Beaudreau, President Joe Biden’s Assistant Secretary of the Interior, touted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and how it will benefit Montana during a press event in Helena on Friday.

The law, signed by Biden on November 15, 2021, provides more than $1 trillion for infrastructure investments across America. It includes funds for internet access, rebuilding roads and bridges, improving public transportation, and providing clean water to Americans who don’t have it, among other infrastructure developments. Montana should receive billions from the law.

“This is truly an opportunity to spark resilience initiatives, the work of the (Montana Conservation) Corps, but also to demonstrate to all of us real common ground when it comes to meeting the basic needs of the American people. around basic infrastructure, resilient landscapes, and well-paying jobs and opportunities to rebuild America better than ever,” said Beaudreau.

Friday’s event highlighted the bill’s investment in Montana’s wildfire preparedness infrastructure. The law sets aside $23 million in funds for wildfire protection in Montana over the next five years, according to a state backgrounder on the bill.

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Green vegetation covers the ground at the site of the North Hills Fire, a man-made blaze in late July 2019 that burned just over 5,000 acres.

THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc

Beaudreau spoke at the site of the North Hills Fire in July 2019. That fire burned approximately 5,000 acres of land just outside of Helena.

Beaudreau and Jono McKinney — the president and CEO of the Montana Conservation Corps — highlighted the Corps’ efforts to rebuild more than four miles of a fence that burned in the North Hills Fire. Montana Conservation Corps is an organization that gives young people the opportunity to engage in service by conserving state public lands.

“Part of the recovery effort was accomplished through partnerships with MCC to bring in a team of young people to repair the fence so that this infrastructure would be replaced,” Beaudreau said.

He said the Corps’ partnership with the Bureau of Land Management to rebuild the fence was an example of the type of work provided by the Infrastructure Act funds.

McKinney also highlighted the impact of the Corps’ partnership with BLM in rebuilding the fence.

“Our Corps members will leave MCC with a love for public lands, trained with valuable job skills, skilled in leadership and teamwork, and ready to become the diverse and inclusive workforce of the 21st century,” said said McKinney. “And they will leave our public lands in better condition, like the project you visited today.”

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins speaks during Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau’s visit to Helena on Friday.

THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins, who also spoke at Friday’s event, said summer recreational activity in Montana has slowed in recent years due to more intense wildfire seasons. States At Risk – an organization that strives to show the impact of climate change on all 50 US states – found that over the past 45 years, “Montana has seen a greater percentage increase in the number of large fires than any other western state”.

Collins said the bill provides a welcome investment in forest restoration, which would help prevent wildfires in Montana in the future.

“This bipartisan infrastructure law is historic and a great start to leaving our communities better for our children and grandchildren,” Collins said.


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