The Montana Army National Guard (MTARNG) operates Fort William Harrison, and its associated Limestone Hills training area, as a National Guard and military training site. Fort William Harrison is located in Lewis and Clark County, one mile east of Helena, and encompasses 6,387 acres, of which 3,010 acres are Army owned and licensed to the MTARNG. The associated Limestone Hills training area consists of 20,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and State owned land, and is located in Broadwater County approximately 41 miles southeast of Fort Harrison. Mostly private land holdings surround the installation and its training areas.
Fort William Harrison is a Maneuver Training Center Light, sustaining an average of 120,000 man-days of military training each year. It is one of four major training centers in the Northwest and one of a few training sites in the Northwest that can handle the type and size of units necessary for pre-deployment maneuver and range training opportunities. The installation is vital for all basic platform training and training progression in Montana. Fort Harrison provides military maneuver areas, helicopter training, facilities, and ranges for multiple battalion sized units and it is used by the Montana Army National Guard as well as other active and Reserve Component personnel from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. In addition, Fort William Harrison hosts several military schools year round and supports several military tenants including a Navy Reserve Center.
Joint Land Use Study Planning Process
The Army has identified residential and mixed-use development near the installation boundaries, helicopter and live fire range noise, dust migration, and preservation of natural resources and critical habitat as key compatible use concerns. Growth in Helena and the two counties of Lewis and Clark and Broadwater continues to outpace that of other areas in Montana. Residential and commercial development proposals for large tracts and parcels adjacent to or near Fort William Harrison and Limestone Hills training area have threatened training opportunities in recent years and are likely to have an adverse impact on training operations in the future. Lewis and Clark County serves as the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) sponsor, initiating the project in November 2012. The County organized various jurisdictions, including Broadwater County and the cities of Helena and Townsend, with other key stakeholders to form the JLUS Policy and Technical Advisory Committees.
The JLUS provides an opportunity for the local jurisdictions to adopt compatible use planning doctrine to prevent development from further adversely impacting the military operations, particularly proposed residential development adjacent to the installation on the northern, southern, and eastern boundaries. The overall goals of the JLUS are to:
- Identify current and potential land use issues that may impact the operational utility of Fort Harrison and Limestone Hills Training Area;
- Identify actions that Lewis and Clark and Broadwater Counties and the cities of Helena and Townsend can pursue to ensure that incompatible development does not impact the operational utility of Fort Harrison and Limestone Hills Training Area;
- Protect the viability of current and future missions at Fort Harrison and Limestone Hills Training Area, while at the same time guiding growth, sustaining the economic health of the region, and protecting public health, safety and welfare; and
- Create an action plan to guide future planning that benefits all parties involved.
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