|(APRIL 22, 2011) OPINION: EARTH DAY PROJECTS BENEFIT MONTANANS|
|by Matthew Jones, USDA Rural Development Montana State Director|
|Bozeman, MT, Apr 22, 2011
@@Spring is in the air and Earth Day is upon us yet again. For over forty years, our nation has recognized the importance of responsible environmental stewardship and commemorated that responsibility through community events and celebrations on April 22 – Earth Day.
Recognizing our role in promoting a healthier environment, USDA Rural Development designates a portion of our projects nationwide as 'Earth Day' projects. These are community improvements that will have a direct impact on our environment and the health and well-being of our towns. In Montana, we've provided the funding for several Earth Day projects over the years.
As a financing arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development provides financial investment in rural communities in Montana and across the nation. We cover three main project areas: Housing and community facilities, business and cooperative, and rural utility and infrastructure development.
This investment in rural Montana has real impact, and we've seen great results from our Earth Day projects in past years. A housing project in Pablo on the Flathead Indian Reservation constructed twelve environmentally-friendly duplexes that not only provided affordable homes to low-income families; it did so using ecologically friendly materials and energy-efficient construction to reduce the monthly energy costs to the tenants and the energy draw on the regional power grid.
Rae Water & Sewer District in Gallatin County built both a wastewater treatment facility and a water storage tank using USDA Rural Development loans and grants for Earth Day. The wastewater facility replaced leaking storage lagoons with a state-of-the-art collection and treatment system, and a later project constructed a water storage tank to provide adequate pressure for fire hydrants in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In Brady, just south of Conrad, Montana in Pondera County, Rural Development financed a new wastewater collection system for our 2008 Earth Day project. The over fifty-year-old system was leaking badly and had been flagged by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for its potential negative impact on the health and safety of the small farming community along Interstate 15. Today, Brady has a safe and functional wastewater treatment system that will support the residents and businesses well into the future.
Currently, over thirty-five water and wastewater projects in Montana are in planning stages or under construction and financed through USDA Rural Development. Over 28,000 rural Montanans will benefit from this investment in their community.
One of the gems of our 'Treasure State' is the environment around us. Stretching from the mountains to the plains, opportunities exist for all of us to enjoy the splendor in which we live. Earth Day is a conscious reminder that we need to protect that splendor for our future generations so they too can enjoy Montana as we do, and USDA Rural Development is proud to be a part of that investment in a clean environment; and we're proud to do it every day, not just Earth Day.