Montana is “The Last Best Place” for good reason. There’s open space, big skies, and a sense of determined individuality and freedom. While many people dream about moving to Montana, the state’s population increase—about .8% annual growth-- is average for the United States. In 2012, Montana finally surpassed a million in population, with only Alaska and Wyoming having fewer people per square mile. There’s still only one area code (406) for the entire state while most major metropolitan cities have two.
If you move to Montana, chances are that you’ll land in Gallatin Valley, home to Bozeman and a vigorous 4.2% annual growth rate. Missoula, the Kalispell area, and Great Falls are also attracting high numbers of transplants. Urban areas in Montana are growing, while rural areas are declining. The state’s geography of rugged mountain ranges, lakes and wetlands, and national parks create barriers to large developments and help funnel people to the cities.
I moved to Montana 14 years ago and have never regretted the decision. When it comes to the basics elements of life, Montana is impossible to surpass. Here are my Top 5 Reasons why you should consider the move.
Water: Look at a map of Montana and the rivers, streams, and creeks resemble the arteries, veins and capillaries of a human body. The state is alive with beautiful, clear water. Montana is the birth place of the Missouri River, the largest river system in North America. We enjoy hundreds of miles of Blue Ribbon rivers and streams, with countless small tributaries and numerous lakes. We fish, raft, kayak, canoe, float, and drink from these waters. They are home to water fowl and eagles, help irrigate our vast wheat fields, and quench the thirst of migrating animals. In the winter, our water begins as snow. Montana has 15 official ski areas, with Big Sky Resort boasting some of the top-ranked terrain in North America. There are more acres per skier than anywhere else in America. We cross country ski, snow shoe, and do other winter sports with pure joy. Over 80% of Montanans engage in outdoor activities, and our snow offers prime reasons to play.
Air: Whenever I arrive back in Bozeman from a trip, I head out the airport doors and breathe. The air is crisp, fresh, my lungs expand and it just feels right. There is a sweet quality to it. Yes, we have altitude, with Bozeman just shy of 5,000 feet, so the air is thinner. We also have few businesses and industries that pollute the air. It is rare to see smog or haze. Rather, there is clarity that opens vast views. Often the mountains are silhouetted with the immense sky and outlines seemingly drawn by a Disney artist rather than Montana nature. Sunsets and sunrises fire the heavens and set the snow-covered mountains alight with alpen glow of pinks, oranges, impossible purples. The sun has a brightness that shimmers in aspen leaves and ripples the rushing waters. On many a postcard-perfect day there is an aching blueness to the pure, clear sky.
Earth: Montana means mountain in Spanish. There are a minimum of 100 named mountain ranges and sub ranges in the state. 30% of the land is owned by the public and 3.7% of this is protected wilderness. We enjoy wide swathes of open spaces due to 64% of the state being either farm or ranchland, and 65% of this land being used for pasture or to range cattle, our largest livestock crop. Wheat is our major crop—comprising over 25% of everything grown in the state-- and it is glorious when rippling golden on a late summer afternoon or just growing in green in the spring.
Wildlife: Our air, water, and earth creates an ideal habitat for over 100 species of mammals. Major animal migrations occur throughout Montana, from mountain goats in Glacier National Park, to bison, bears, bighorn sheep, eagles, blue birds, and even pronghorns that head about 125 miles south each winter from Canada to reach their winter grounds in the Montana Missouri River Breaks. We have herds of elk, antelopes, many varieties of deer, and numerous critters appreciating the space they enjoy due to there being, on the average, only 6.8 people per square mile in Montana.
Lifestyle: Everything comes down to how you spend your time. Montanans love the outdoors, year-round. We tend to be healthy, active, engaged. We know nature and appreciate its bounty and power. We give each other space and come together in times of need. We are generous people, involved in non-profits, caring for the planet, nurturing our wildlife, earth, air and water. Not everyone belongs here. And, that is a good thing. You’ll have to figure out for yourself if this is the place to call home. Come visit and check it out.
Sally Uhlmann is a real estate agent and co-owner of SU Platinum Real Estate residing in Bozeman, Montana. Since 2003, my family and I have enjoyed life in Montana. Throughout my life, there are constants: loving my family, friends, and community, enjoying trekking to remote places in the world, being involved in non-profits, gardening, and always cooking. Most of my clients end up at my house, enjoying fine wine and dining on organic vegetables straight from the garden, eggs from our chickens, and sunsets that rival any in the world. In my opinion, there is no place better than Bozeman, Montana.