Melissa Holt was born and raised in Glendive. She lives in the home her maternal grandparents bought after moving to the Montana town generations ago. Her family was later surprised to learn that this property goes all the way back to land once owned by her great grandparents on her father’s side. “My family is very rooted here,” says Melissa, and it’s clear that her love for eastern Montana is just as deeply rooted. Protecting her home is what led her to Northern Plains through her local affiliate, Dawson Resource Council (DRC).

Several years ago, Melissa saw a Facebook post from a former high school classmate, Seth Newton. Seth had posted a Northern Plains petition about a radioactive waste facility in the area that had the potential to pollute the groundwater essential to his ranch. Melissa signed the petition and was soon contacted by a Northern Plains organizer. They set up a meeting to get to know one another, and she joined Dawson Resource Council right there, on the spot. She has been a stalwart leader for DRC ever since, going on to become one of the affiliate’s representatives to the Northern Plains board of directors, a vice-chair of DRC, and now, the affiliate’s chair. But she admits to facing some fears along the way.

“I was so in awe of the leaders of DRC and Northern Plains when I started and would never have seen myself in a position of leadership,” Melissa noted. After hearing her former classmate Seth talk in-depth about the technical issues related to radioactive oil waste, she thought, “There’s no way I’m going to understand this.” But it wasn’t too long before Melissa delivered a powerful, impassioned, and deeply informed testimony about radioactive waste during a Glendive public hearing. She was nervous about speaking in front of the crowd but felt empowered once it was over.

“Every new step in this work has been daunting and scary, but Northern Plains gives you so many tools to do it,” she says. “Through our campaigns I have found a voice and learned that together, even small groups of people can make big change.” This became evident when DRC and Northern Plains were instrumental in getting Montana’s first ever radioactive waste disposal rules passed into law.

Melissa went on to be a leader in other DRC campaigns, including a successful effort to bring recycling back to Glendive after the city’s local facility burned down while she was away at college in North Dakota. That campaign spawned a new nonprofit organization – Glendive Recycles Our Waste (GROW) – where Melissa somehow finds the time to serve as vice-chair.

Most recently, Melissa has been one of the most outspoken leaders fighting a predatory rate increase for customers of Montana Dakota Utilities, the region’s monopoly energy utility. She sees the campaign as a “monumental opportunity for DRC” to show leadership on “an issue that affects everyone in our town and surrounding community.” She’s standing up for the economic prosperity and dignity of the place she loves.

“I care about the people in my community, and this place is worth protecting,” Melissa says. “Eastern Montana has a unique way of life, and I want us to maintain that.”

Stand up with us to protect this place we all call home.

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