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Montana is growing, but not proportionately. Here's how rural communities are coping with population decline

January 24, 2018View for printing

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of jobs in Montana grew 20 percent. But just five counties -- Missoula, Flathead, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark and Yellowstone -- account for three-quarters of it. In much of rural Montana, residents are slipping away -- especially the children and families that towns need to support their schools.

So, last year, journalists from the Missoulian and newsrooms throughout western Montana, as well as High Country News and the Solutions Journalism Network, got together to ask the question: What are Montana communities, especially rural ones, doing to respond to this trend? And what could they learn from the experiences of others?

The result is a series of stories called The Montana Gap, publishing over the next month, that examines how places like Choteau, Seeley Lake and Libby, as well as Missoula's nearby neighbors in Frenchtown, Lolo, Bonner and East Missoula, are grappling with their uncertain future.


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