Missoula County Seeking Nominations for Land Stewardship Award

Missoula County Community and Planning Services is now accepting nominations for the annual Land Stewardship Award. The award recognizes landowners and residents who are taking stewardship of land and water seriously and embarking on projects and practices that make a difference for land, water, forests, wildlife and communities.  

Community members and organizations are invited to nominate landowners and residents who are restoring, protecting or enhancing land and natural resources to ensure natural systems are maintained and strengthened. The nomination form is due Friday, April 30, and is available on the CAPS Open Lands website at http://missoula.co/stewardshipaward.  

The award program, through the leadership of the county’s Open Lands Citizens Advisory Committee, recognizes the critical role private landowners and residents play in resource conservation through their stewardship activities.  

Missoula County has presented the award annually since 2011 to show appreciation to tireless, voluntary stewards for the work they do to protect our lands. The county uses the recipients’ successes and challenges to highlight tools and programs landowners and residents can take advantage of to restore, enhance and protect land and water resources.  

The award has recognized previous recipients for their innovative and cooperative land management of forests, ranches and properties throughout the county. An interactive map highlighting past recipients is online at http://missoula.co/stewardshipmap.  

The Community and Planning Services Open Lands Program focuses on connecting communities, private landowners, local organizations and agencies with resources and opportunities to conserve the diverse mix of forests, grass lands, agricultural lands and water resources throughout Missoula County. More information about the Open Lands Program is online at http://missoula.co/openlandsprogram.

Public Encouraged to Comment on Draft Plan to Advance County, City Clean Electricity Goal

Missoula County and the City of Missoula today released a draft Implementation Plan that identifies collaborative projects to advance the city and county’s goal of 100% clean electricity for the Missoula urban area by 2030.

The city and county developed the plan with NorthWestern Energy in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed by the three entities last year. The draft plan includes several projects to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state. Among these are the development of a “green tariff,” which will give NorthWestern Energy customers the choice to purchase power from newly developed solar or wind farms; a community solar project in the Missoula area; and pilots of new rate structures that have the potential to facilitate the transition to a clean, modern electric grid.

The county and city invite input from the public on the draft plan. The document is available for review at https://www.engagemissoula.com/missoulas-100-clean-electricity-initiative. Comments on the draft plan are requested by 5 p.m. Monday, March 1. There will be an additional opportunity for public comment once the plan is scheduled for consideration at a meeting of the city council and board of county commissioners.

“Our 100% clean electricity goal was driven by our obligation to address climate change in order to protect our public health, safety and quality of life in Missoula County,” Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. “This Implementation Plan is an essential step toward that goal.”

The county and city jointly established the goal of 100% clean electricity in 2019, and subsequently signed an MOU with NorthWestern Energy committing the three entities to work together to pursue that goal. The MOU also committed the three entities to develop an Implementation Plan and to report on progress annually.

All the projects identified in the plan will require the collaborative efforts of NorthWestern Energy, Missoula County, the City of Missoula and other stakeholders, and some will also require approval by the Montana Public Service Commission.

“The projects identified in this plan have great potential to accelerate the shift to a cleaner electric grid,” Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg said. “However, they aren’t enough on their own, to reach 100% clean electricity. We look forward to advancing these projects with NorthWestern Energy while also actively seeking additional partners and opportunities to achieve our goal.”

Missoula County, Missoula, Bozeman and Helena Partner in 100% Clean Electricity Effort

Missoula County, the City of Missoula, the City of Bozeman and the City of Helena this week entered into an interlocal agreement pledging to pursue a green tariff to advance their shared clean energy goals. Over the past two years, all four local governments have adopted resolutions committing to 100% clean electricity by 2030. 

The interlocal agreement authorizes the four local governments to jointly hire a consultant with technical expertise in green tariffs and utility rate design to work collaboratively with NorthWestern Energy and inform the development of a green tariff that most effectively advances the local governments’ 100% clean electricity goals. All four local governments had previously allocated funds in their FY21 budgets to support this effort. 

A green tariff is not a tax. Rather, it is a mechanism by which customers of regulated utilities have the option to buy power from newly developed renewable energy sources through a special rate (or “tariff”) on their utility bills. In 2019, the Montana Public Service Commission directed NorthWestern Energy to initiate a stakeholder process to explore the development of a green tariff. This stakeholder process is currently underway, and Missoula County and the cities of Missoula, Bozeman and Helena are participating in it.  

The Missoula City Council approved the interlocal agreement on Feb. 1; the Bozeman City Commission on Feb. 2; the Missoula Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 4; and the Helena City Commission on Feb. 8. 

Elected officials from all four local governments expressed enthusiasm for the partnership. 

Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier: “We’re so pleased to be partnering with the cities of Missoula, Bozeman and Helena. The green tariff is an important step in the right direction, but it’s only the first step. I look forward to our partnership continuing beyond this interlocal agreement as we continue to pursue our shared 100% clean electricity goals.” 

Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg: “It is eminently clear that Montanans value clean energy. And anyone looking forward sees we have the innovative expertise and resources to meet that vision. We invite other communities to join our collaborative effort to build the statewide energy portfolio Montana’s future demands.”  

Bozeman City Commissioner Terry Cunningham: “Bozeman’s ability to meet its stated goals is dependent upon a rapid transition to renewable energy sources by the utility. Together, our communities represent about a quarter of NorthWestern’s customers, and this partnership is our best chance to exert the collective influence that will be required to facilitate this transition.”  

Helena City Commissioner Sean Logan: “This agreement represents a novel and promising approach to advancing clean energy in Montana. We are optimistic that this historic collaboration between the communities and NorthWestern Energy will deliver important environmental and economic benefits to the citizens of our state.” 

Appointments to Open Online, By Phone on Thursday for Next Public Vaccine Clinic

The Missoula County COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team, in partnership with the University of Montana, will hold another public vaccination clinic from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at UM’s Adams Center. 

Approximately 800 first-dose vaccine appointments will be available, and individuals who meet Phase 1b, Tier 1 criteria can make an appointment starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4. The link to make an appointment will be available on the Vaccine Information page at covid19.missoula.co.  

About 20% of the appointments will be reserved for those without Internet access or who are not proficient online. People can call 406-258-INFO to schedule an appointment over the phone starting at 1 p.m. Organizers request that people who have the ability to schedule online make an appointment on the website instead of calling so the call center can help those most in need of assistance.  

This clinic is free, regardless of whether people have health insurance. However, people who do have health insurance should bring a copy of their insurance card as insurance will be billed an administrative fee to help cover costs associated with the clinic. This fee will not result in an out-of-pocket cost to insured people. Those who make appointments can ensure the process goes smoothly by taking the following steps:  

  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment to give yourself enough time to park and walk to the Adams Center. 
  • Park in Lot P or Gym Lot (these lots are reserved for the vaccination clinic and you will not have to pay for parking). 
  • Enter the Adams Center five minutes before your appointment. 
  • If possible, bring a COPY of your insurance card (staff will be able to make a copy for you if you do not have a copier). 
  • Print and bring your COMPLETED paperwork titled “Screening Questionnaire for COVID-19 Vaccine.” 
  • Wear loose clothing. Short sleeves are helpful, but not required. 

Be prepared to wait the REQUIRED 15 minutes AFTER your vaccination to monitor for adverse reactions. Should you have an adverse reaction, medical staff will be present to assist. 

The Vaccine Coordination Team is also working to plan vaccine clinics in outlying areas of Missoula County. Details on those clinics will be announced when they’re confirmed.  

Several area healthcare providers also continue to administer vaccine as supply allows, and people can find information on their provider at covid19.missoula.co or by calling 406-258-INFO. Residents can help providers by refraining from calling them directly and using the website instead. 

Missoula County has more than two dozen vaccine providers registered to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. However, availability of vaccine continues to be the limiting factor to getting more residents vaccinated. The vaccine scarcity is not unique to Missoula County or to Montana; the shortage is nationwide. Health department leaders continue to advocate for more doses at every opportunity. While we wait, they encourage people to continue to take the standard precautions against transmission of the virus: masking, social distancing, washing hands and keeping their social circles small.  

The Missoula County COVID-19 Vaccine Coordination Team is managed by the Western Montana All Hazard Incident Management Team under the Office of Emergency Management. The team formed in January at the request of the Missoula County commissioners and the mayor of Missoula to coordinate the distribution of vaccine in Missoula County. The team aims to reduce public anxiety by providing timely, accurate information and to identify and address barriers to administering the vaccine to all who wish to receive it. 

Agencies to Host Listening Session on Temporary Safe Outdoor Space

The local agencies and organizations that have partnered to stand up Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space will hold a listening session this week to share how the project is going and to answer questions and address any concerns from community members.

The virtual forum will take place from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, via Microsoft Teams. Members of the public and news media can join the session using the following information:

Microsoft Teams meeting
Click here to join the meeting on your computer or mobile app
Or call in (audio only) +1 406-272-4824
Phone Conference ID: 940 454 833#

The listening session will feature Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of United Way of Missoula County; Eric Legvold, director of impact at United Way; Jim Hicks, executive director of Hope Rescue Mission; and April Seat, the Mission’s director of outreach. County officials, including the three commissioners, will also attend the forum and answer questions as needed.

The TSOS is a safe, healthy, secure area on private land, staffed 24/7, that is currently supporting 24 unsheltered people during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is being offered during the public health emergency because no local providers of food, shelter or services are able to operate at full capacity. It is a project of United Way and Hope Rescue Mission with logistical support through Missoula County.

Since the space opened in mid-December on private land just south of Missoula, staff have already helped TSOS residents connect to regular case management services; acquire identification documents, such as photo IDs and birth certificates, that are often needed to secure housing and employment; and obtain employment, housing or housing vouchers. Officials will provide more details on TSOS operations during the listening session.

The costs to set up the temporary space are being reimbursed through federal CARES Act money, so no local taxpayer dollars are involved. United Way and Hope Rescue Mission continue to seek additional funding to sustain the site through the end of the county’s emergency declaration adopted last March in response to the pandemic. An FAQ about the project can be found online at missoula.co/tsos.