Who We Are
Northern Plains is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group that organizes Montanans to protect our water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life.
Northern Plains believes people working together can make a difference.
- Organize Montanans to protect our water, land, air, and working landscapes,
- Support a healthy, localized, and sustainable economy in farm and ranch country and in our towns,
- Build strong grassroots leaders, always considering the next generation.
We are from the plains and mountains, cities and towns. We are everyday Montanans who love where we live. We stand up, shoulder-to-shoulder, to protect this place we all call home.
We believe that true prosperity begins with healthy land, water, and air. We believe that our families, farms, ranches, schools, businesses, governments, and communities thrive when we are good stewards of these resources. We believe that if we look beyond our fences, listen to one another, and keep our minds open, we will find creative solutions to secure a clean, healthful environment for all.
We are working toward a future where we live in harmony with nature, where our economy serves the people rather than the people serving the economy, where neighbors work side-by-side to build a world that lives up to our ideals of fairness, inclusion, and justice.
To create this future, we must act now. The actions we take today will determine the world that our children and grandchildren inherit. Working together, right now, we can ensure true prosperity for generations to come.
What We Do
On a fundamental level, Northern Plains is about environmental protection, economic justice, rural self-determination, democracy, and accountability for the decisions made by corporations and government entities. These principles show up throughout our work, though the issues themselves change over time to meet members’ needs.
To achieve these principles, we use a range of strategies that include:
- Community organizing, research, and public education to help us elevate public understanding of the issues and people’s desire to be part of the solution;
- Trainings and leadership development to help us strengthen the voices of Montanans;
- Legislative lobbying, litigation, and agency work to help us hold public officials and corporations accountable.
We aim to build power among everyday Montanans so their voices are heard when decisions are being made that affect their lives.
Northern Plains Resource Council was formed by ranch families who were concerned about the threat industrial-scale coal mining would have on their land, livelihood, and ability to make a living from ranching.
In 1972, local ranchers and co-founders of Northern Plains, Boyd and Anne Charter, hosted members of two local rancher groups – the Bull Mountain Landowners Association and Rosebud Protective Association – at a meeting in their living room in the Bull Mountains. This meeting would lead to the formation of Northern Plains Resource Council. Later, members filed articles of incorporation with the Montana Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State filed a certificate of incorporation on September 22, 1972. In October of that year, Northern Plains met under its newly-adopted charter, and elected its first officers and directors.
Throughout the 1970s, Northern Plains worked with other citizens groups and played a key role in the passage of Montana’s basic environmental protection laws including the Major Facility Siting Act, Hard Rock Mining Impact Act, Water Use Act, Strip Mining and Reclamation Act, Coal Conservation Act, Coal Severance Tax Act, as well as the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
In 1979, Northern Plains joined forces with two other citizen groups – the Dakota Resource Council in North Dakota and the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming – to form the Western Organization of Resource Councils, based in Billings, MT. Today, WORC has member groups in seven Western states, and assists those groups by coordinating work on shared issues, providing training, and conducting issue research.
Since those early days, Northern Plains has worked on a wide variety of issues that affect family agriculture, land, water, air, and our communities.
Northern Plains sought to find ways to keep family ranching viable even when a coal mine moved into the neighborhood. The mines are still there today, but so are the ranches. Retaining this agricultural land would not have been possible without the work of Northern Plains.
Fossil fuel development is hard on nearby farms and ranches, and the effects of fossil fuel development have devastating consequences for our climate. Northern Plains is committed to remaining involved with these issues. All the while, we will continue working to ensure that the voices of the people can be heard, and that everyday Montanans will always be able to make a difference in how we treat our land, air, water, and climate.