Department of Revenue Announces New Online Service for Reporting Livestock

HELENA – Livestock owners can now go online to report the number of livestock they own, the Montana Department of Revenue announced Thursday. Montana law requires all livestock owners to report by March 1 of each year the number of livestock they owned as of February 1. Livestock owners who report online this year will be able to pull up their history for next year’s report, which will make reporting faster, more efficient, and more accurate.

The secure online service is free to use and can be found at ReportYourLivestock.mt.gov. “Even if you own just one horse and have a few chickens, or owned and reported livestock last year but no longer do, you still need to report,” said Cynthia Monteau Moore, administrator for the Department of Revenue’s Property Assessment Division. Livestock per capita fees will be due November 30. The ability to pay these fees online will be available later this year.

Livestock includes all poultry and bees, swine three months of age or older, and all other livestock nine months or age or older including cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules, asses, llamas, alpacas, bison, ostriches, rheas, emus, and domestic ungulates.

Everyone benefits from programs funded by per capita fees. Livestock producers benefit from programs to monitor animal health, monitor and restrict livestock imports, track animal movements, prevent and investigate livestock theft, and manage predators. The general public benefits from programs that prevent the spread of animal diseases to humans.

Livestock owners are welcome to contact the department’s call center at 1-866-859-2254 or, in Helena, 444-6900 with any livestock reporting questions.

The online livestock reporting service is the result of an alliance between state government and the private sector. It was cooperatively developed and is supported by the Montana Department of Revenue, the Montana Department of Administration’s State Information Technology Services Division, and Montana Interactive, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of eGovernment provider NIC (Nasdaq: EGOV).

Online reporting improves effectiveness in the delivery of public services, which is a key component of Governor Steve Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project.

via Montana Department of Revenue

Addressing Antibiotic Resistance and Livestock Use

Antibiotics Use Livestock ResistanceFor many Americans purchasing food products at local grocery stores and retailers, there has been a growing movement to learn more about where our food comes from. Many food consumers have been asking to know who produces their food and under what conditions it was raised. Many people are asking for more transparency from food companies in order to learn more about the farming and ranching practices in place. As members of the farming and ranching community, we have a vital role in providing that information.

One of the more frequently discussed topics among food customers today is about the role of antibiotics use in livestock systems. As livestock producers, we understand there are variety of tools used on farms, ranches and feedlots which include vaccines, good nutrition programs and proper housing to keep animals healthy. Antibiotics are only one tool in a plan of good production practices to raise healthy animals. We also understand the importance of judicious use of these tools to keep them effective for animal health, food safety, costs, and proper management.

Last week, PBS Frontline aired an episode focused on the use of antibiotics and questions surrounding the cause of increasing antibiotic resistance in the human population. Though there are several possible sources for this medical trend, livestock were focused on as a possible cause. As members of the livestock we understand the continual to improve the way we utilize tools such as antibiotics, but we may not always communicate that clearly. It is a cooperation between local producers, veterinarians and federal officials who collaborate to improve our methods with food safety in mind.

With that in mind, we have a few points to address on the issue of antibiotic use in food animals and it’s relation to food safety. To learn more about these topics, be sure to consult your local veterinarian and be sure to share examples of how you ensure judicious and responsible antibiotic use on your livestock operation.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is incredibly complex and it’s rare for a strain of bacteria from our food supply to be resistant to antibiotics. 

  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics attack the majority of bacteria but a few may survive and “mutate” or adapt to the drugs in ways that help them resist treatment by the same drug in the future.
  • The vast majority of antibiotic resistant bacteria are non-foodborne, emerging decades ago in hospital settings or communities and are not linked to animals in our food system.
  • There are occasional cases of antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria, such as antibiotic resistant salmonella, but those cases are rare.

The chance a person becomes ill from antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria and not being able to be treated with alternative antibiotics is slim, with many safeguards built in to keep it from happening, such as responsible antibiotic use, research and surveillance.

  • In order for foodborne bacteria to become resistant and impact human health, the bacteria would have to develop a resistant animal strain, survive food processing and handling, proper cooking and find a human with an illness/weakened immune system as the host, survive the human’s body (which will naturally fight the bacteria) and result in a human seeking treatment with the same antibiotic that was used to treat the animal. If antibiotic resistant bacteria were to cause human illness, it means that the standard treatment doesn’t work and that other treatments may have to be considered. So, people becoming ill from antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria and not being able to be treated in some manner, is extremely rare.  

Farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and animal health experts work together to make sure they’re using antibiotics responsibly, in order to reduce the chances of antibiotic resistance forming. 

In the animal agriculture industry, we work hard to stop the potential formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria by using antibiotics responsibly:

  • Identify the right illness that the animal has by consulting with animal health experts and veterinarians when necessary
  • Pinpoint the right treatment and dose needed to treat that specific illness, condition or concern
  • Administer the antibiotic for the right amount of time by following the law and clear label instructions (not stopping antibiotics early, which is a threat for antibiotic resistance in humans)
  • Conduct the right research to make sure that we continue to protect both animal and human health

Continued research on antibiotic resistance is needed to fully understand antibiotic resistance and address questions about multiple resistance, or co-resistance, which is when bacteria become resistant to several different types or classes of antibiotics and the agriculture community is committed to being part of this important research and dialogue.

  • The agricultural community is proactively working to minimize future risk and continuing to conduct research to look at this important topic.
  • Everyone – farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, doctors, the government, researchers and companies working in animal or human medicine – needs to work collaboratively to protect animal and human health.
  • The agricultural industry is committed to looking at any and all opportunities to mitigate antibiotic resistance in order to make sure we’re continuing to improve the way we use these very important tools.

Antibiotic Use in the Livestock Industry

We can all agree that healthy animals are the basis of a healthy, humane and safe food supply.

  • When antibiotics are used, they are used judiciously to keep the potential risk extremely low of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria that is harmful to people.
  • The beef community has invested in quality assurance programs, research and education designed to maintain high standards of animal care and health and to help us continuously improve how we use antibiotics.
  • Farmers and ranchers have no reason to overuse antibiotics but rather every reason to use them as selectively as possible. For one, it’s the law, but antibiotics also are a costly input for the small business men and women who raise cattle for beef.
  • If farmers did not treat sick animals, many would suffer and die.  This would be inhumane.

The livestock community, including farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, the federal government and the animal health companies that make antibiotics, proactively are working together to continuously improve the way we responsibly use antibiotics in livestock.

  • Changes in FDA Guidance 209 and 213 that will eliminate growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics and extend veterinary oversight.
  • Within about four years, any medically important antibiotics used in animals will only be for therapeutic purposes and under the supervision of a veterinarian.

To learn more about the use of antibiotics in livestock production, visit with a local veterinarian or find a farmer or rancher in the area to ask their perspectives. You can also find more online tools and information at these links:

Longevity of Ladies and Livestock

LL Book Promo Banner2

(By Lauren Chase, author of the new photography book, Ladies and Livestock, to be released October 1 exclusively on the Apple iBooks store.)

When I began traveling across Montana and collecting content for the Montana Family Ranching Project, I had no idea what all I would get to see and experience on the ranches. I went from knowing absolutely nothing about cattle production to being able to discuss topics like heterosis without just nodding along. Beyond gaining knowledge of beef and a better understanding of agriculture, something else stuck me as important: the longevity of Montana’s ranches. While many Americans can no longer relate to multi-generational family businesses, it’s still viewed with high esteem and awe.

Vicki Olson on her family's ranch near Malta, Montana.

Vicki Olson on her family’s ranch near Malta, Montana.

It’s hard for me to comprehend what fifth and sixth generations actually mean. However, many of the women featured in Ladies and Livestock wear that title with pride. Their ranches have been within their families for more than 100 years…through droughts, fires, blizzards, poor economic times, and even differences in opinions on how the ranch should run. They have gone from log cabins and no electricity to some of the largest and most efficient ranches in the country…and all kept in the family name.

“We have had parts of the ranch in the family for almost 100 years. Each generation has loved it and the lifestyle as much as the next,” said Vicki Olson of Malta, Montana.

This attitude of ranch life is shared by women all across Montana.

“I get to spend every day with the love of my life and together we raise our children to appreciate this life as much as we do. Breeding good black cattle, riding great ranch horses and conserving the beautiful nature around us is not what we do…it’s who we are,” said Lori Swanson of Chinook, Mont.

Ladies and Livestock coverReflecting on stories from grandparents and parents, women learn to appreciate their heritage and livelihood on the ranch, and work hard to raise their children with the same upbringing and passion for cattle ranching. It’s important to remember that beef production is a business, but ran by families who hope that for many generations to come will still be raising healthy, wholesome and nutritious beef for the world.

You can read more stories about Montana ranch women in the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s new digital photo book, “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” which will be available for download on the Apple store for $14.99 starting October 1, 2014. Be sure to flip through the pages to watch video interviews with some of the ladies and follow MSGA’s social media sites for daily updates about Montana ranchers.

New Digital Photography Book to Feature Ladies of Montana Ranching

LL Book Promo BannerHelena, MT – “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” the second book in the Montana Family Ranching Series, from the Research and Education Endowment Foundation of the Montana Stockgrowers Association (REEF), is set to be released on October 1. The digital book is a pictorial explanation of Montana women and their roles in the ranching community.

“Women are often described as the ‘backbone’ to the ranch and we want to capture what that means in this book,” said Lauren Chase, author and photographer.

Ladies and Livestock is leading the way in multimedia technology and storytelling as it will be released in digital format instead of print. Available in the Apple iBook store beginning October 1, 2014, readers will be able to download Ladies and Livestock to their iPads and flip through the vivid imagery with the swipe of their fingers.

This book features over 130 pages of stories, photographs and video features of the ladies who raise livestock, care for the land, and build their families’ legacies on Montana ranches. Not only are these Montana women working on the ranch, many have jobs in town, volunteer in their communities, and are involved in the legislation process of issues affecting agriculture.

Ladies and Livestock is the second in a series of book featured in the Montana Family Ranching Series. The first edition, Big Sky Boots, released in 2012, features the working seasons of the Montana cowboy and is available in print edition from the Montana Stockgrowers Association by visiting bit.ly/BigSkyBoots.

 “This series is meant to help people understand what it takes to make a Montana ranch operate successfully and also, to show the wonderful ranch families that make it possible. Creating the book for the iPad is really exciting for us because we can reach new audiences much easier through digital means,” said Chase.

By utilizing the digital technology, “Ladies and Livestock” adds a new dimension to reading a book. Included on nearly 30 of the pages are video features that play with the touch of the finger. These videos show interviews of the ladies speaking on their ranch history, family life and how they feel about being part of Montana’s agriculture.

This book is a multimedia journey through the life of a woman on a Montana ranch. Not only can readers see photographs, but can hear the woman tell her own story and see the emotion on her face as she talks about how important her family is to her.

The book can be downloaded for $14.99 in the Apple iBook store by searching title: Ladies and Livestock. Proceeds from the sales of the book contribute to the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation to help support educational programs and scholarships for youth.

To learn more about this project and the author, visit www.mtbeef.org. You can also follow along with this story-telling project on MSGA’s Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram and Pinterest pages.

The Research and Education Endowment Foundation of the Montana Stockgrowers Association is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization established to provide resources for education and research that support the Montana Stockgrowers Association in protecting and enhancing the ability of the Montana ranching community to produce healthy and environmentally responsible beef. To learn more about REEF programs or to donate to the Foundation, visit mtbeef.org/REEF or contact the Montana Stockgrowers Association, (406) 442-3420.
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Cattle Health and FDA rule changes for antibiotics labeling | Podcast

MSGA 2nd Vice President, Bryan Mussard, helped attendees learn more about the services MSGA offers Affiliate members across the state.

MSGA 2nd Vice President, Bryan Mussard, helped attendees learn more about the services MSGA offers Affiliate members across the state.

On today’s podcast, we’ll follow up on discussions held during the recent summer cattle industry conference held in Denver Colorado. In this section we’ll focus on several issues related to cattle health.

The Cattle Health and Well-Being committee passed policy regarding foreign animal diseases, which could cause a widespread quarantine and possible massive depopulation of the U.S. cattle herd. A resolution was passed to oppose the importation of live cattle, beef, and/or beef products into the U.S. from foreign countries with histories of significant chronic animal diseases and lack of strict animal disease control and eradication measures.

This committee also focused on discussion and explanation of changes in FDA rules regarding feed through antibiotics use in livestock production. This would include label changes on antibiotics, feed additives and veterinary feed directives, which would make access to these medications more difficult for ranchers. MSGA’s 2nd Vice President, Bryan Mussard from Dillon attended the meeting and has more comments in the podcast below.

Conference attendees also had the opportunity to receive an update from CattleFax senior market analyst, Kevin Good, which described the industry as transitioning from a liquidation to an expansion phase. Good said the industry is accelerating the rate of expansion, and “it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the trend.” However, while the fundamentals are “friendly,” he said, “the market will have a correction.” And that correction could be soon. “Something needs to give,” he said. “You have to be prepared for that ceiling.”

Bryan also provides us with a great take-home message coming out of the meetings in Denver which should serve as an encouragement for Montana ranchers working with MSGA. Find out more about these topics in the podcast below, and be sure to listen to parts 1 and 2 shared in posts earlier in the week.

Board of Livestock Creates Budget Subcommittee, Encourages Industry Participation

Montana Department of Livestock DOL(The following is a press release from the Montana Department of Livestock after their Board meeting on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Minutes from the meeting will be available on the DOL website. The Montana Stockgrowers encourages ranchers and members to provide us with feedback. Please contact us through email or call (406) 442-3420.)

In an effort to address funding issues for the Department of Livestock, the Montana Board of Livestock has created a subcommittee for budget oversight, guidance and planning.

Board chair Jan French, a cattle rancher from Hobson, appointed board members John Scully (Ennis/cattle), Brett DeBruycker (Denton/cattle) and John Lehfeldt (Lavina/sheep) to the subcommittee at yesterday’s Board of Livestock meeting, and encouraged industry groups to take a seat at the table and help find solutions to recent funding shortfalls.

“It’s clear that we have some issues with the budget, and that industry is concerned,” French said. “So the best way to move forward is by communicating and working together.”

Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stock Growers Association, said the state’s oldest industry group plans on playing a prominent role and hopes that other groups will also get involved.

“It’s a positive move,” Rice said of the subcommittee. “We’re looking forward to working with the board members and representatives from other livestock industry groups on issues like the budget, cash flow and the diagnostic laboratory. We have to keep looking forward.”

French said the one-day meeting was busy and productive, including the formation of the subcommittee.

In other board news:

  • Market audit compliance officer Laura Hughes reported on the pending sale of Headwaters Livestock Auction in Three Forks.
  • The Animal Health Division proposed administrative rule changes for tuberculosis testing on elephants (ARM 32.3.227); for handling anthrax-infected carcasses (ARMs 32.3.1002 and 32.3.1001); for tuberculosis testing on cervids (ARM32.3.221 and 32.3.602a); and for repeal of a rule requiring brucellosis vaccination for imported cattle (ARM 32.3.212a and 32.2.212).
  • Attorney Rob Stutz updated the board on the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to reaffirm the board’s 12-day milk labelling rule after a lengthy legal battle.

The next board meeting has been scheduled for September 29-30.

Calculating Calving Distribution to Evaluate Reproductive Performance

Rachel Endecott, Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle SpecialistBy Dr. Rachel Endecott, MSU Extension, Beef Cattle Specialist

Calculating calving distribution is one way to evaluate the previous year’s reproductive performance for the cowherd. Calving distribution follows how cows are calving during the calving season, split into 21-day periods (the length of a cow’s estrous cycle). The starting date of the calving distribution can be determined in a couple different ways. The first is to add 283 days (average gestation length) to the breeding date or bull turnout date, and the second is to assign the starting date as the day when the third mature cow calves.

In herds where cow age can be identified along with calving date, calving distribution can be calculated for young cows separately from older cows, which may provide information about breed-up performance that might not otherwise be easily observed. Here is an example calving distribution from the Beef Improvement Federation Guidelines publication.

What is a good benchmark number for calving distribution? One example comes from the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software (CHAPS) program. The CHAPS benchmark for the first 21-day calving period is 63.4%. The benchmarks for 42 and 63 days are 88.8% and 95.6%, respectively.

table calving period evaluating calving performance

From this chart, do you see a group of cows you might be more concerned with compared to another? Perhaps the 3-year-olds? Check out a graph of this data for a more visual perspective.

Chart calving period for reproductive performance

In this format, the 3-year-old cows really jump out. All other age groups have the largest percentage of cows calving during the first 21 days, but the largest percentage of 3-year-olds calved during the second 21 days. Many beef cattle producers find that getting first-calf heifers to breed back well is a challenge. Some strategies to improve young cow reproductive performance include implementing proper heifer development and pre– and post-calving nutrition programs.

Some producers start the yearling breeding season 2-3 weeks ahead of the mature cows in an effort to give the heifers more time to recover before breeding season. On the other hand, some producers implement a shortened (say, 30-day) breeding season for yearling heifers in an effort to put selection pressure on reproduction. In this scenario, pregnancy rates will be lower than in a longer breeding season, so more potential replacement heifers may need to be kept back to ensure an appropriate replacement rate for the cowherd.

Keeping young cows separate from older cows before and after calving (if conditions allow) might also be a good young cow reproductive management strategy. Since young cows are still growing, their nutrient demands are higher than mature cows. Managing them separately allows for more targeted feeding to meet nutrient requirements. When managed together, feeding to meet mature cow requirements will result in a nutrient shortage for the young cows, while feeding to meet young cow requirements will result in overfeeding the mature cows, which could be a fairly expensive proposition.

Have you started planning for the 2014 breeding season? Or is it already well underway? An evaluation of calving distribution might give you some good insight on how last year’s management environment impacted cowherd reproductive performance.

Montana Rancher Q&A Feature: Curt Pate on Stockmanship

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Curt Pate at Stockmanship Clinic.

Many of us have had the pleasure of attending one of Curt Pate’s stockmanship and stewardship clinics, and today, we would like to feature him in our Montana Rancher Q&A spotlight. Curt has a keen eye for handling livestock, but also, a great ability to teach. He is a blessed with a wonderful family that supports him and has passion for cattle, too.

Tell us about your family’s history with ranching in Montana. 

My grandfather, Leonard Frank, was a cattle trader and a butcher in the Helena Valley, and owned several different small places there.  My wife Tammy’s kinfolk all ranched in the Ryegate area, and we currently own and live on a small place their along with a small place in Texas.

Please tell us about your current work in the cattle industry.

My focus and work is stockmanship and stewardship demonstrations and clinics.  I work in the U.S. and Canada.  I contract with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to help promote Beef Quality Assurance practices.

How did you become interested in livestock stewardship practices?

I have always worked with horses to get them to handling better, and when I started hearing about some things with cattle, it just made sense to get better. It has become a passion.  The two go so well together.

Why is it important for Montana’s ranchers, and ranchers across the country, to implement safe livestock handling procedures?

Profit, safety, and marketing to the consumer.  In that order.

Do you think working with family in business is a good idea? Why?

Mesa and Tammy Pate

Mesa and Tammy Pate

I think it is good if it is done right.  Ranching properly is very challenging.  There must be discipline and direction, and time management is so important.  It is a business that requires traditional skills that take time to develop, and technology to keep up with the world we are trying to keep up with and market our products.

What other work is your family involved with? 

My son Rial is one that stays out of the spotlight, but really cares about tradition, the environment, and working properly with animals. (And having a good time while he is doing it).

Mesa is very involved in the bucking bull business and has become very well known.  The thing that people don’t know is how hard she works.  She can do anything from drive a semi to rope bulls and drag them out of the arena.  She likes to write and is real good at promoting the western lifestyle.

My wife Tammy does horsemanship/yoga clinics, helps run my business and also is very involved in the bucking bull world.  She also builds boots, remodels houses, and is a great cook.

What would you say about the value of growing up on a ranch?

I just can’t see how anyone not growing up on a ranch or in agriculture can learn all the lessons needed to live a full life.  I think it may be why we have so many challenges facing society today.

What is one piece of advice you can offer to Montana’s young ranchers about running a successful business?

9Make sure your skill level is higher than your debt level.

What is one thing you wish beef consumers knew more about?

I wish they knew how important grazing animals are for sustaining our environment.  I can’t understand why something that nature has been doing for so long can be looked at as bad.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I think ranchers must remember that we are selling to a customer of our product.  We need to listen to what the customer is saying and provide what the customer wants.  We should all remember that people don’t have to eat beef, but want to eat beef.  It’s our job to produce what they want.  I think we can use tradition, technology and the strong moral values that Montana ranchers have to do just that.

For more information on Curt’s clinics, please visit his website by clicking here.

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Townsend Rancher Completes Foundation Chair Term

By Dusty Hahn, Outgoing Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation Chairman

Dusty Hahn of Townsend, Montana.

Dusty Hahn of Townsend, Montana.

It’s been an honor to have served as the Foundation chairman for the last 5 years. In my 9 years as a Trustee, I’ve gotten to help evolve the Foundation from one that had a handful of small projects into one that tackles larger, more complex projects. I really feel that the Foundation has helped Montana Stockgrowers become a more proactive organization, and that has been a great benefit to our membership.

The two programs that I feel are a great benefit to MSGA, and I’ve been proud to be a part of, are the Young Cattleman’s Conference (YCC), and the multimedia outreach campaign. The YCC has been part of the Foundation since before I came on board. The multimedia campaign is a relatively new program. Both programs serve to educate MSGA members and enhance the image of our business. The YCC is an integral part of producing new leaders in the livestock industry. The multimedia campaign is putting consumers back in touch with producers in the country, allowing them to put a human face with the products in the store. The Foundation is the vehicle that allows great projects like these to come to fruition.

MSGA and agriculture in general continuously needs talented new leaders to guide us through the challenges the future presents. It is imperative that we not only provide tools for our younger members to excel , but challenge them to make themselves the best leaders they can be. One of the Foundation’s goals is to equip our younger members to meet the future’s challenges head on.

I’m looking forward to continued prosperity in the ranching business, and I’m excited about the many opportunities for the next generation to return to the country and the ranch. I think that even though we are a small percentage of the population, our voice is well respected. And I am excited to have consumers worldwide wanting to learn, see, and interact with Montana ranchers. It will benefit everyone to have the actual producers relaying information about what we do to the end consumers of our products.

Comment Period Opens on DSA Boundary Adjustment; Public Meeting Set for July 2

DSA-map2_closeupPublic comment on expanding the state’s Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) for brucellosis to include a 365-square mile chunk of land between Norris and Three Forks (see map) opened late last week.

The Montana Board of Livestock at its last meeting approved putting the proposal out for review after learning that 10 of 60 elk in the corresponding elk hunting district (HD311) recently tested positive for exposure to brucellosis. State veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski said brucellosis-positive elk were not previously known to exist in the area, which is home to about 50 cattle producers and 12,000 head of cattle.

Created in 2010 with extensive input from the livestock industry and USDA-APHIS, the four-county (Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park) DSA is designed to prevent the spread of brucellosis and protect the marketability of Montana cattle. Cattle within the DSA are subject to additional testing, vaccination and identification requirements.

If approved, the boundary adjustment would be the third since the DSA was implemented in January 2010. Other adjustments occurred when brucellosis-positive elk where found in 2011 and 2012 on the western edge of the DSA in Beaverhead County.

The department will host a public meeting at 10 a.m. on July 2 at Headwaters Livestock Auction in Three Forks to discuss the proposal. Public comment will be accepted at the meeting, or can be submitted via email at MDOLcomments@mt.gov or via US postal mail at Christian Mackay, 301 N. Roberts St., Room 308, P.O. Box 202001, Helena, MT 59620-2001.

The public comment period closes July 12.