Keystone XL Talking Points


Background: This April, a Montana Judge canceled a national permit for the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline giving blanket approval to construct the pipeline across hundreds of rivers and streams. This was a substantial blow to pipeline construction, but not a final end to this dangerous project. In September, TransCanada applied for a more specific water certification from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. If approved, this certification would permit construction of the pipeline across 201 wetland and waterbody features including the Milk, Missouri, and Yellowstone Rivers.

The DEQ is accepting public comment specifically on the project’s impact on waterways, NOT the climate at large. Email comments to:

Wondering what to say or how to say it?

Start out with an introduction:

Dear Montana Department of Environmental Quality,

My name is ________ and I am a [something about yourself, a student, public lands user, parent, your job title if applicable]. I believe that the Keystone XL pipeline would put Montana’s waterways at risk and should not be built.

Leverage your story of self:

Center your own experience. Why does water quality for Montana communities matter to you? Do you recreate in public waters or public lands? Will your drinking or irrigation water be affected? Have you experienced limited access to drinking water? Might someone you care about be affected?

Support your personal concerns with some of these points:

  • Instead of rushing this review, the Department of Environmental Quality must thoroughly study and assess the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline project on Montana Communities
  • This project has not been adequately reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) nor have independent studies on the risks and impacts been done. Industry funded studies are biased and cannot be the basis to claim that the project is safe.
  • Market conditions for tar sands oil transport and export have changed in the decade since KXL was first proposed and the current market analysis does not support further extraction or transport. KXL is not needed and the development of the tar sands is not inevitable.
  • The tar sands oil is some of the dirtiest oil in the world and also the most difficult to clean when it spills. The risk of oil spills is too great for this project to move forward, threatening waterways at more than 770 water crossings through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska — with over 200 water crossings in MT alone, including at least 26 wetlands.
  • The route crosses the Missouri River and the Ogallala Aquifer, sources of drinking water and irrigation intake. A spill in these waterbodies threatens the drinking water, food sources, and livelihoods of millions of people.

Say no to the certification for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline due to the irreparable harm it could cause communities and ecosystems along the route.


This information was initially prepared by staff at the Sierra Club and modified by staff at Forward Montana. 

2020 Post-Election Statement

Please see the below statement from Kiersten Iwai, Executive Director and Amara Reese-Hansell, Program Director:


As an organization that fiercely believes in a just and equitable world where all Montanans can thrive, we’re disappointed in this week’s statewide election results. We’re grappling with the fact that our generation is now represented by Montana politicians who dismiss COVID-19, reject climate science, and oppose the protections our organization, and many others, have fought for for decades.

Words alone cannot adequately describe the pain and grief that we’re feeling. And we know we’re not alone. If you’re feeling confused or scared about what this means for our state, please know it’s normal and we’re right here with you. And to our young queer, trans, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) friends, we see you and acknowledge the pain and distrust you may be feeling.

So how do we move forward in the face of adversity? At Forward Montana, we’re taking care of ourselves. We’re giving ourselves the time to grieve and sit with our pain. The progressive movement needs us more than ever and we can’t move forward unless we’ve replenished our souls.

And then we’ll do what we do best: organize. Social change doesn’t stop with voting, we know that. Change is made everyday in our communities when we show up to a city commission meeting, write a letter to the editor, or engage with our family over uncomfortable topics. Each and every one of us are an activist and voting is just one tool of many in our toolbox. We’re committed to doubling down, leaning in, and using creative tactics to make sure your voices are heard throughout all of our democratic processes, every step of the way. No matter what.

For those of you who are looking to engage, need to vent and voice your frustrations, or just have an issue or topic you’d like to engage around, we encourage you (if you feel comfortable) to fill out this form. As we build out our plans for the next several months, we want all of our members to have opportunities to weigh in.

This chance is one of many. You’ll also hear from someone on our team who’ll be reaching to check in and see how you’re holding up. We are in this together.

We see you. We hear you. And we’re not going away. 

In solidarity,

Kiersten and Amara

2020 Post-Election Follow Up

For those of you who are looking to engage, need to vent and voice your frustrations, or just have an issue or topic you’d like to engage around, we encourage you (if you feel comfortable) to fill out the form below. As we build out our plans for the next several months, we want all of our members to have opportunities to weigh in.

We see you. We hear you. And we’re not going away. 

A Note from Michael

It has been 7 years since my first day as an FMT intern. Since then, I have served as a volunteer, field fellow, field organizer, and field manager. I have organized dozens of community events, mobilized thousands of voters, testified in public hearings, met hundreds of incredibly passionate organizers across the country, and so much more. As I reflect on these experiences I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for my mentors, volunteers, and colleagues. We have persevered through turbulent times and grown together as people and leaders. It is in this troubling time that I will be saying goodbye to Montana, and leaving my post as Billings Field Manager.

I will be moving to Washington D.C. to continue my professional journey. As we all know, at FMT we value leadership development, and the time has come for me to hang up my clipboard and grow in my capacity as a leader and advocate for transformative social change. 

It is a bittersweet end to a very rewarding tenure. I am so proud of what I have accomplished in my time as field manager. The Billings office has grown exponentially, we have registered and turned out thousands of people to vote in Yellowstone County, advocated for equal rights and movements that center those most affected, and made it abundantly clear that young people “give a shit” about Billings. Furthermore, we have graduated 28 interns who have gone on to lead campaigns, start their own movements, and serve as FMT staff and board members. I could not have done any of this without them (Shout out to #teambillings).

I want to give special thanks to my mentors. Lucy Perino, thank you for recruiting me to be an intern, you taught me to never settle for second best and to set and achieve ambitious (and sometimes audacious) goals! Kiah Abbey, you taught me self reliance, courage, and authenticity. Thank you for pushing me towards bravery and reminding me that I am DAMN GOOD at my job. And to Rachel Huff Doria, you saw in me my full potential and trusted me to grow into my role, I cannot thank you enough for that trust and for your support.

I wish I could leave FMT in more certain times. However, I am certain of this, this organization gets better, faster, and stronger every day, and all of my colleagues at FMT are going to continue to kick so much ass in the coming years. I expect great things from y’all. I am so proud of this team and I will miss you all very much. 

This is by no means goodbye, Montana will always be home, I’ll see you all soon,

Rock on FMT,

Michael Nelson


Forward Montana 2020 Board Elections

Forward Montana 2020 Board Elections
Forward Montana 2020 Board Elections

One of the best things about Forward Montana is that we are a cooperative organization: our Board of Directors is made up of and elected by Forward Montana members each year.

Well, folks, the time for Board Elections is now (June 8th through July 3rd) – and whoa do we have some GREAT candidates. 

REMEMBER: Only Forward Montana members can vote in the Forward Montana board election. To be a member you must have donated $10 or volunteered for 2 hours in the last year.

Want to cast a vote, but don’t think you’re a member? Contact Terry at

We’re filling 5 seats on the Forward Montana board in the 2020 board election. You can take a look at our current board members here.


Forward Montana and Forward Montana Foundation denounces the white supremacy and police violence that is killing Black lives. We proudly support the #BlackLivesMatter uprisings and actions across the nation and state of Montana

In 2004, the founders of our organization believed in an equitable Montana where all people could thrive. They believed Montana would be stronger, more just, and a better place to live if the diverse voices of our generation were elevated across our state. Our own organization has had to deal with its own inequities and harmful behavior and we remain deeply committed to this journey of anti-racism. Some steps we are taking include working with a consultant to integrate anti-oppression into every aspect of the organization, creating space for our team to be involved in local racial justice efforts in their communities, and providing staff and Board members with anti-racism training.

We are deeply disappointed by elected leaders inciting terror in the communities they claim to serve by allowing state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protestors. From the enslavement of people from Africa to the genocide of Indigenous peoples, this state-sanctioned violence built our nation. As a country, we must come to terms with this violent racism and recognize how that trauma continues today. We must recognize that slavery and Jim Crow laws have taken on a new form of life. We must recognize that this is our generation’s chance to pave a different reality for ourselves and for our children. This is our moment to take a stand for what is right.

Sometimes the traditional ways of doing things no longer work. Sometimes the traditional ways of doing things never worked. The simple truth is that when our country’s Founding Fathers drafted our founding documents, they purposefully ignored non-White landowning men and purposefully declared Black slaves as not human enough. By layering in white supremacy to our nation’s founding, they ensured that racism would be ingrained into all our nation’s systems, allowing it to stand the test of time.

For too long many of us have been complicit and ignored this truth. And like many truths that are buried deep within, there comes a time when we have to face it head on. We must recognize that we can still hold onto the values of a democracy while reckoning with this past.

As a civic engagement organization that deeply believes in our democracy and the rights the Constitution guarantees, we know that the health of our republic is only as strong as the people who can fully participate in it.

And so the other simple truth is that while voting is one of our greatest tools to create change, it isn’t enough. Our society’s biggest transformations only came after intense periods of mass mobilizations and yes, even riots and civil disobedience.

The uprisings are a response to the centuries of oppression Black people have faced and are currently facing. The uprisings are a response to the racist policies that oppress Black people, Indigenous peoples, and people of color.

Now is the time to reimagine a society that truly works for everyone. Young people represent the most diverse generation in our country’s history. The strength of our generation not only lies in this diversity; but it lies in our unwavering belief in equity and justice.

At Forward Montana and Forward Montana Foundation, we are committed to supporting solutions that create a safer and more equitable society. We are committed to supporting racial justice organizations and affinity spaces for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

If you are a non-melanated person wondering what you can do, check out this link.

As a start, we suggest giving to the Montana Racial Equity ProjectUniversity of Montana’s African American Studies department (indicate the Diana Riley Fund to go directly to the Black Solidarity Summit), Montana State University’s Black Student Union and Western Native Voice.

If you’re in Bozeman, join the rally THIS Friday, June 5. We will keep our pages updated with Black-led rallies across the state.

When the media attention dies down, when the Instagram stories fade away, how will you actively continue to show up? Will you? 

Unsure how to support racial justice in Montana?

Here’s some things you can do.

In our experience, we have found that many (well-intentioned) white people often conflate Montana’s whiteness with a lack of diversity and racism. This harmful rhetoric erases the thousands of years Indigenous peoples who have stewarded the land and communities of color who call Montana home. It also ignores the changing demographics of our state. That’s why it’s deeply important we support actions that center and are led by the people impacted most.

For white folks who want to move towards active allyship, think about the space you’re taking up. Are you centering your feelings and your guilt? It doesn’t matter if you have good intentions if you’re ultimately causing harmful impacts. There are many ways to show up during this time:

  • If you’re in Bozeman, join the rally THIS Friday, June 5. We will keep our pages updated with Black-led rallies across the state.
  • Give your money to BIPOC-led organizations, directly to protestors, and to bail funds.
  • Clean out your Instagram feed by thinking about the profiles you consume. Follow BIPOC accounts like @rachel.cargle, @melaninbasecamp, @earthtoneoutsidemt, @blkandgrn, @tsalani, @thegreenevan, @mvmnt4blklives, and @outdoorafro.
  • Read the books and watch all the films. Here are some must reads:
    • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    • How to be an Anti-Racist, Stamped from the Beginning, or anything else by Dr. Ibram X Kendi
    • Anything by Angela Davis
    • White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • If your finding yourself still confused questioning if white privilege is a thing, check out Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person by Gina Crosley-Corcoran
  • Most importantly — call your neighbors, peers, loved ones, and family members when they make a racist joke, tone police, or deny their own participation in racism and racist structures.


Governor Steve Bullock announced on March 25th that counties would have the option to move to an all mail election for the June Primary. Wondering what that means for you? It means if you’re a registered voter, you’ll be receiving a ballot in your mailbox come June. You’ll fill out your ballot and mail it back in — you don’t even have to pay for postage!

Not registered to vote at your current address? YIKES. Make sure you update your voter registration — especially if you’re a college student currently living somewhere else temporarily (like back home with your family) due to COVID-19. Our friends at MontPIRG have made it so easy — use this form to request a postage paid voter registration application. Not sure if you’re registered to vote? Check here or slide into our DM’s

Still looking to exercise your civic duty at a polling location and vote in person this June? You still can (although it’s WAY easier to vote earlier by mail but #YouDoYou). Just make sure you’re using social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Montana Mutual Aid and Support Resources

We here at Forward Montana Foundation are concerned about keeping our friends, neighbors, and loved ones safe, and it’s okay to be worried about COVID-19 because it’s a public health threat unlike any we’ve faced in a long time. AND we can’t let our fear distract us from the truth about how to fight it: We all have to come together, locally in our community and in our state, nationally and even internationally and all do our part to stop it’s spread.

What Each of Us Should Do:
Stay at home and please urge others to do the same. As Governor Bullock ordered staying home: 1) protects your health, family; 2) protects community health; 3) flattens the curve for health care workers; and 4) limits longer-term impacts to area economy.

We have compiled the following list of resources for aid and support from across the state. As new resources come up, the list will be updated. If you know of any additional resources, not listed, please contact Terry, our Development Manager, at to have it added. 



Aid and Support: 

Montana Works Unemployment: If a person cannot work because their employer has temporarily closed or decreased services (such as a restaurant only providing take-out or drive-through), you can receive unemployment benefits. A person does not need to quit their job in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19. Contact the Montana Department of Labor at 406-444-2840 and they can help file a claim or go here to file.

Online AA Meetings 

Montana 211 Volunteer Opportunities

Black Student Academic Fund- COVID-19 Crisis Request Form: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the cancellation of universities throughout the state, The Montana Racial Equity Project will be offering resources from their Black Student Academic Fund as long as funds are available. Disclaimer – the funds that are they able to send you may not be all that you need.

Montana Legal Services Association 

Montana Tip Jar: Are you a service industry employee? Register here to receive support directly to your Venmo account. If you would like to support service industry employees by tipping, please go here.

Want to support local businesses? Purchase local gift cards here.

News and Updates: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Department of Public Health and Human Services



Local News and Updates:

Yellowstone County Health Department

For survivors of domestic violence:

YWCA Billings



Aid and Support:

Butte Mutual Aid



Aid and Support: 

Bozeman Mutual Aid: Includes sign-up form to volunteer or request aid

Bozeman Salvation Army Sack Lunches: For those parents who will be trying to figure out extra meals for their homebound kids due to spring break and school closures, The Salvation Army has free sack lunches Monday through Friday 9:00AM – 12:0 PM and 1:00PM – 3:00PM. We also have hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, and some toilet paper. Address: 32 S. Rouse Avenue 59715

HRDC Volunteer Opportunities and rental assistance

Gallatin Valley United Way Volunteer Opportunities

Supporting local businesses

Southwestern COVID-19 Response Fund

Want to make masks?

Masks for Heroes

For survivors of domestic violence:

Haven: 1-406-586-4111

Local News and Updates: 

Gallatin County Health Department

A call center is available from 8am-5pm every day: 548-0123. After hours, the Health Department main number, 582-3100, is available for urgent questions. These are the most accurate local sources for information.



Aid and Support: 

Missoula COVID-19 Mutual Aid Organizing Facebook Group

Local News and Updates:

Missoula City-County Health Department


Great Falls 

Aid and Support:

Periodic “Seniors Only” Shopping Hours at Target, Smiths, and Albertsons

Double Barrel Coffee House Cafe: Offering free sack lunch to all children from 11 am to 2 pm until further notice. 

Local News and Updates: 

Cascade City-County Health Department


Hill/Blaine/Liberty County area: 

HRDC District 4 is lifting up their domestic violence hotline, as social distancing and quarantine can put some folks at risk. The number is: 406-265-2222



Aid and Support:

COVID-19 Resources for Undocumented Communities

24hr National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 or online chat at

24hr National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233, text LOVEIS to 22522, or online chat at

National Disability Covid-19 Healthcare Support and Advocacy Hotline: 1-800-626-4959

Internet assistance for low-income families

Low-income households may qualify for free or discounted internet services, computers, mobile plans, and phones.

FMT’s Response to COVID-19

When I stepped into the Executive Director’s role at Forward Montana, I could not have anticipated the global challenges we would be facing less than four months later. When I started, my mind was filled with questions like “How often should I communicate with my Board,” and “How do I figure out my budget gap”? Despite some self-doubt, I knew that with my hard work ethic, intuition, and leadership skills, I would be ready to take on the challenges that 2020 would bring.

Of course, none of those potential challenges included a global pandemic. Then again, who is prepared for that?

These extraordinary times call for us to rise up. In light of the recent updates on COVID-19, Forward Montana is stepping back from our face-to-face field work. We do not take this decision lightly, and the recent announcement from the university system to move instruction online starting March 23rd confirms our need to be prepared. We care about our community, and are ready to do our part.

This does not mean we’ll be stopping our work. We’ll be using this time as an opportunity to enhance our digital presence, grow our membership, and to prepare for the biggest election of our lifetime. I am also confident that we will still be able to bring folks into the civic process and get them prepared to vote in the upcoming elections.

We are taking this route because as young people who participate primarily in field work and interact with a large number of people, we could be unknowing carriers or compromise the health of others. As an organization, we feel an obligation to do what’s right for the health and safety of our team and communities we serve. We are all concerned about keeping our families and loved ones safe, and it’s okay to be worried.

We recognize that this pandemic is feeding off of and exposing the injustices in our systems that we’re fighting against, including racism, ableism, and ageism. We all have a role to play in consciously working to make sure we’re not contributing to the harm amidst this virus by adding more prejudice. We are saddened by the dismissive jokes made by some our peers that further isolate and stigmatize the older populations of our communities. And of course, as we know, the fact that COVID-19 is fueling and/or revealing anti-Asian racism is only the latest in a long history of how immigrant groups, marginalized groups, and/or people of color have been labeled with “disease” imagery: exactly the kind of bigotry we’re working to fight against.

We also recognize that our local economy may be negatively impacted; many businesses depend on visitors and social gatherings. This may impact our friends who work in the tourism and service industries. While we hope it will not get to this point, we know that we need to be prepared and do our part in preventing an outbreak so that our local economy and healthcare system can remain resilient.

From an extremely important Census count to COVID-19 and surprising shake ups in the upcoming ballot, 2020 has hit us in the face with so many challenges and opportunities. The times call for creativity, adaptability, and flexibility. Forward Montana has always risen (and will continue to rise) to this challenge.

Over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing more from us, whether that’s via email, phone, or text. We’re going to do what Forward Montana does best; meeting people where they’re at through creative and quirky tactics to make the world a better place.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for your support,

Kiersten Iwai
Executive Director
Forward Montana