During the 2019 Legislature, Gov. Steve Bullock, legislators, and Montanans across the Treasure State worked tirelessly to keep history alive in a variety of ways.

Senate Bill 338, also known as the Montana Museums Act, is best known for providing a portion of the funds to build the new Montana Heritage Center. But the legislation also creates an ongoing historic preservation grant program for counties, incorporated cities or towns, tribal governments, associations and incorporated nonprofit groups.

Feb. 28 is the deadline to apply for the first round of grants, which are administered through the Montana Department of Commerce and provide up to $500,000 for improvements to historic sites, societies and museums, which can include building repairs and renovations, security and fire protection upgrades, or even infrastructure work.

The grants are meant to increase economic development, revitalize communities and enhance tourism statewide while adding jobs, expanding businesses and improving local tax bases. The 2021 legislature will determine grant recipients, with funds being distributed in 2021 across Montana.

The money for the grants and for some construction costs for the Montana Heritage Center doesn’t come from general tax revenues. Instead, the law increases by 1% the state lodging tax, which will add only $1 per $100 to a night’s lodging costs.

The new Montana Heritage Center will be adjacent to the existing Montana Historical Society building and directly across the street from the State Capitol. Its estimated $53 million construction costs include $10 million in private donations, with about $4 million already raised.

Everyone benefits from this farsighted legislation, which hopefully will last into perpetuity. The Board of Trustees and Director Bruce Whittenberg appreciate both your support and contributions to this “Program for the Ages.”

This letter was undersigned by the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees: Bruce Whittenberg (director); Kent Kleinkopf, Missoula (president); Bob Brown, Whitefish; Cliff Edwards, Billings; Ed Jasmin, Helena; Chuck Johnson, Helena; Steve Lozar, Polson; Douglas MacDonald, Missoula; Thomas Minckler, Billings; Thomas Nygard, Bozeman; Sam Phares, Clyde Park; Sara Scott, Missoula; Jude Sheppard, Chinook; Mike Shields, Helena; Crystal Wong Shors, Helena; Hal Stearns, Missoula.

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