Landmark Victories & Accomplishments

Since 1972, Northern Plains has played a role in achieving several landmark victories for Montana’s precious natural resources. Some of these victories include:

  • Northern Plains was founded in 1972 when Montana ranchers began working together to protect their land and livelihoods from huge energy corporations with plans to strip mine huge swaths of private land for coal. Photo by Terrence Moore

    2010-present: Playing a major role in the struggle to stop massive coal ports from being developed, bringing the voice of Montana into an otherwise Washington state-centric fight. Five of six ports proposals have been scrapped.

  • 1977-2016: Winning an outright dismissal of the construction permit for the Tongue River Railroad, a major coal infrastructure project. A diverse campaign, dogged persistence, and effective strategy won this 38-year campaign in April 2016.
  • 2016: Winning the withdrawal of the largest coal mine project ever proposed in Montana (Otter Creek).
  • 2011: Winning a federal court of appeals decision requiring a new EIS for the proposed Tongue River Railroad due to its many deficiencies.
  • 2009: Defending Montana water rights law in a successful state court case.
  • 2007: Upholding the integrity of the EIS process and the applicability of environmental laws to coal bed methane development.
  • 2005-2016: Renovating an old grocery store into our new headquarters and Montana’s first LEED Platinum building (2005-2007); improving its production in 2016 with the installation of an additional solar array – we now generate 100% of our electricity and our headquarters serves as a model for people who want to learn about green building.
  • 2000: Negotiating the unprecedented Good Neighbor Agreement between the Stillwater Mining Company and two communities affected by the mine’s operations.
  • 1991: Holding off proposed mega-landfills in three eastern Montana communities.
  • 1980s: Counseling over 1,500 family farmers and ranchers faced with losing their land and homes during the farm crisis of the mid 1980s. As a result of Northern Plains trainings on the rights and responsibilities of lenders and borrowers, over 500 families were able to resolve their debt problems without losing their farms and ranches.
  • 1972-1977: Facing down huge energy corporations and their plans to strip mine coal in Montana.  This work resulted in congressional passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. Northern Plains was a national leader in gaining this important legislation, which was sponsored by Montana Senator John Melcher.
  • 1972 & 1975: Shaping and passing Montana’s landmark environmental laws.