Protective bull

A bull elk stands guard over a small group of cows at the Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area in northeastern Montana.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

Northeast Montana's arm of the state's tourism office has about $9,000 in funding to partner with local organizations on projects to promote visitation to the eight counties that make up "Missouri River Country."

The cooperative marketing funds, part of the overall lodging tax collections reditributed to the region last fiscal year, are offered on the basis of a 50-50 match with partner organizations to produce promotional materials, said Missouri River County Executive Director Carla Hunsley.

"We like to target non-residents, but with us being so far up in the northeast corner, we also are targeting Western Montanans," Hunsley said. "You'd be surprised some people have never been to our area who have lived in Montana all their lives."

Missouri River Country is a nonprofit organization that receives funding based on the share of bed-tax collections the region contributes to the state total. Montana charges a 7 percent facilities use tax on purchases made at hotels, motels and other lodging businesses in the state. Three percent goes to the state's general fund, while most of the remainder is divvied up between the Department of Commerce and the state's six geographic tourism regions.

The Missouri River Region is less of a tourism hot spot than most of the other regions in the state. Hunsley said the boom in the oil fields had previously directed a substantial amount of bed-tax revenue to the state's coffers.

With the slowdown in the Bakken over the past few years, the Missouri River Breaks, Lewis and Clark Trail and the four dinosaur museums have become some of the biggest drivers of visitation to the region.

"Our tourism is about stable," Hunsley said. "I kind of go by our Dinosaur Trail visitation. Some stayed about the same, some were up a little, some were down a little, so on average I think we've been pretty stable."

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for cooperative marketing funds find more information, including applications and guidelines, by visiting www.missouririver.visitmt.com.

To contact the Missouri River Country tourism office, call 1-800-653-1319 or write to P.O. Box 118, Fort Peck, MT 59223.

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