Montana is a state defined by its natural resources. The state’s motto is “Gold and Silver,” and it is known as the “Treasure State,” both phrases illustrating the importance of natural resources to the state’s history, identity and economy. With the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Great Plains to the east, today the majority of Montana’s major industries thrive on the state’s natural resources.
Federal and state governments own 13 million acres of commercial forests in western Montana. Logging and the processing of the lumber is a large industry in Montana.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Montana’s valleys contain fertile soils that are good for cultivation of major livestock and crops such as “beef cattle, sheep, grain, sugar beets, potatoes and fruit.” Wheat and barley are grown on the dryer eastern side of the state.
Very large portions of the state are used by ranchers as grazing rangelands for beef cattle and sheep.
Coal mining is a large and growing industry in Montana. Coal mines are located in the eastern Great Plains region of Montana.
Gold has historically been a very important mineral in Montana. Discovery of gold in the 1860s was quickly followed by the first European-American settlement in Montana, as people rushed out West to pan for this precious mineral in the state’s rivers. Gold mining continues to this day.
Petroleum and natural gas are pumped from the ground, while talc, phosphate, vermiculite, clay and gravel are mined. Precious stones and minerals, such as copper, platinum, sapphires and garnets, are also mined.
The powerful rivers of northwestern Montana have been harnessed to produce one-third of the state’s electricity.
Scenery and Wildlife
People flock to Montana to enjoy its natural beauty, especially in the rugged Rocky Mountains. Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks are very popular destinations, where tourists might see “grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose and gray wolves,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Outdoor recreation and the service sector are major contributors to Montana’s economy. Real estate is also a growing industry in the state.